Are you an agency struggling to juggle multiple clients’ paid search accounts simultaneously? Or perhaps your agency also manages PR, video production, and social advertising in addition to PPC? Agency life is tough! There needs to be a Zen-like balance between generating results to keep your current client base happy, but also bringing on new clients to keep your agency’s revenue on an uphill slope.
We at WordStream feel your pain! We know the pressure to generate results in a limited time for so many clients is creating knots in your back and wrinkles on your forehead. Luckily, we’re here to help, because we don’t want your face to fall off before you reach 40! At WordStream, not only do we work closely with hundreds of agencies of various sizes, models, and strategies, we also have an agency team right in our Boston office.
The WordStream experts have spoken, and with their shared wisdom I’ve created this comprehensive agency guide to help make your paid search agency-life more effective.
Agency Tip #1: Recruit Superstar PPC Talent
Now, I’m not saying that you need to hire Perry Marshall replications for each and every one of your staff members, but hiring game-changing PPC talent is the first check that needs to be knocked off the list in order for your agency to grow and thrive. Erin Sagin, Customer Success Manager at WordStream, spent a huge chunk of her year in 2014 recruiting and hiring killer talent. Erin grew her team from approximately 5 to 40 people, and as a past member of her team (see photo below), I can safely testify that she’s a true wizard at this. Erin provided the below tips to drastically improve your PPC talent:
Define a Required Skill-Set
What skills are necessary to succeed in paid search? What is important when it comes to working with your client-base? Perhaps your agency works exclusively with legal firms, and it’s critical for your hires to know industry jargon and have some form of past legal experience. What personality traits help someone thrive in your work-environment? Does your culture cater more to a youthful demographic? Spend time asking these critical questions, and really defining specific characteristics and pre-qualifications, which you would like potential candidates to have.
“We’ve gone the extra mile to define exactly what we’re looking for,” says Erin. “We make that abundantly apparent in our job postings. We want to ensure that we’re not talking to people outside of the realm of what we’re looking for.”
So do yourself a favor, create a list of required skills, and weed out anyone looking for an unrealistic salary or with past experience that isn’t relevant.
Don’t Obsess Over Experience
If someone coming in for an interview can’t tell you what PPC stands for that’s one thing, but you shouldn’t rule out candidates who are relatively new to the paid search game. As Erin explains, there are certain traits that are more important than already being a PPC master, for instance being a more analytical or technical thinker. “There’s tons of material to teach someone PPC, but you can’t necessarily teach someone how to be analytical or how to communicate effectively with clients,” says Erin.
Randi Lucius, WordStream Senior Paid Search Specialist, has over 6 years of experience and manages over $220k/month across multiple accounts, and she agrees that PPC can be taught, but skills like learning Excel can be a bit more challenging. “It’s much easier to teach someone PPC than it is to teach someone how to use Excel properly,” says Randi. “Excel is the biggest program we use, outside of AdWords and Bing.”
Erin and Randi also agreed that culture fit should be a main focus during the hiring process. Randi suggests asking, “Do they fit with the company? Are they going to get along with your team? Are they going to work as hard as everyone else?”
WordStream employees enjoying a company outing
Utilize References in the Decision-Making Process
I know what you’re thinking, isn’t this tip out of the recruiting 101 handbook? But, you might be surprised by how many hiring managers get a step ahead of the game and offer the job without checking references. This is a huge mistake! We know you’re busy, but take a few minutes to make these phone calls because, as Erin explains “Calling references can be the final straw to either push you one way or the other.”
Agency Tip #2: Identify and Attain Quality Clients
Now that you’ve got the talent, you need the work to keep your PPC talent busy. All too often agencies source their clientele with customers that are stubborn, difficult to work with, or just clearly not a fit for the services being provided.
Another issue with agency-life is carving out the time to actually bring on new clients. Elliott Reid, WordStream’s Agency Sales Team Manager, knows this challenge all too well. “It’s sort of a catch 22. As a growing agency you put all your time, energy, and resources into growing your business, but every client you bring on just means more work, which takes away the focus from going out there and generating new business,” says Elliott. “Agencies are not the best at generating business for themselves.” So how can agencies get better at this? Follow these tidbits of wisdom from Elliott:
Make Business Development a Focus
The key here is allocating a specific amount of time to this. “You cannot forget about making this a priority,” Elliott explains. Whether it is one day-per-week, one hour-per-day or eight hours-per-month, set aside a chunk of time that is mandatory to hunting for clientele because it can be easier to let this slip through the cracks then you may think.
Tap Into Your Existing Network
At WordStream we’ve noticed that the majority of agencies we work with aren’t solely focused on PPC. More than likely they have expertise in other areas whether that be SEO, print advertising, or web development. Reach out to these clients to introduce them to the concept of PPC, emphasizing the huge potential for ROI. If they came to you with advertising needs, there’s no reason they shouldn’t want to expand their presence and increase their conversions with paid search tactics.
Did you know that people spend more time on social networks over any other internet activity, including email? But, what does this mean for you personally? Well, your prospective clients are 100% going to socially stalk you before agreeing to sign a commitment. This means you need to leverage your social profiles to prove that you’re the Tom Brady of paid search. Dedicate time to building up your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ profiles. Have your colleagues or favorite clients endorse your skills and write you recommendations on LinkedIn. Get involved with your industry’s Twitter community by joining industry chats like #ppcchat, following, favoriting, and retweeting content from big names in the PPC world (like @LarryKim, @GinnyMarvin, and @Matt_Umbro).
Contribute to your company’s blog or start a personal business blog to validate and share your knowledge. “The more stuff that you can put under your belt, in terms of being an industry expert, the more value and credibility you’ll be able to bring to the table,” says Elliott. “I don’t encourage you to write a blog to win a client, but if you’re consistently blogging and sharing your thoughts, over-time you’re going to develop this base of thought leadership, and that’s going to boost your professional credibility.”
Get to Know Their Business
This step is critical because if you can’t speak intelligently about your prospective or current client’s business then all trust is going to fly out the window. Of course, they will never expect you to know as much as they do, but having a baseline knowledge will help build a foundation for a positive business relationship. “Understand where you’ll be able to provide value. It’s all about them, what they’re looking for, understanding their industry so you can speak intelligently to them,” says Elliott.
Huh? Value? As in dollar value? Well, sort of. Prospective clients need to understand how your agency can provide value to their business whether that be via an uptick in leads, higher brand awareness, an increase in store visits, or whatever it is that that potential client is looking to achieve. You need to have those pivotal conversations to really understand your prospect’s PPC goals, and then speak to these during the selling process.
“What type of conversions do they want? What type of phone calls do they want? What is a qualified lead? Really zero in on that. If you focus on value for every customer, you’ll be bound to win a couple deals,” says Elliott. Figure out exactly what they want and how you can help them achieve this. The key is to not make unrealistic promises, but find common ground where what you promise to achieve is realistic.
But what about identifying clients that are the wrong fit? Check out Erin’s post to identify these red flags, so you’ll know when to just say no to a new client.
Agency Tip #3: Keep Your Clients Happy
So you’re closing deals left and right. It’s time to celebrate! Or is it? Hold the cork on your champagne and pause the order of endless wings and pizza for the entire office. Winning the deal is only a small fraction of the job. At the end of the day, your agency is never going to succeed if you’re ignoring your clients and your churn rate is off the roof. This might sound obvious, but all too often agencies will say, “Oh, well, that client has been with me forever. They’ll never leave!” As Elliott points out, this is not true! “We talk to people every day that are unhappy with their agency.” So do you improve client retention?
Be Transparent and Communicate Effectively
You need to keep your clients in the loop so they know where their money is being productively spent. If you put them on the backburner and then randomly reach out, a huge mess could erupt in your face. “Show them what you’re doing in their account and show them the data,” says Elliott. “Manage your client list as if every one of them has 10 referrals for you, if and only if, you’re doing a good job.”
Agency Tip #4: Kick Off the Customer Relationship on the Right Foot
We’ve learned that keeping clients happy is absolutely critical, but where do you start? Funny you should ask: the start of your relationship with your client is a key time in the customer’s journey. If the client’s experience declines from the start of their contract, trust is going to vanish instantly, and your chances of keeping that client are going to diminish. Luckily, Randi has been starting off thriving relationships for over six years now. She recommends that you:
Get to Know the Client and Their Business
This loops back into a point made in #2, but if the client is being passed on from sales to an account manager, a new relationship needs to be built. To ease the client from having to repeat themselves, connect with the sales rep who sold the account to learn as much as you can about the new client. This will give you leverage to quickly impress your client, proving that you took the time to learn about their business before even speaking with them.
When first connecting with the client put them at ease by asking to learn a bit more about their professional background. If they chose to share personal information with you write it down and remember it (unless the client is guilty of over-sharing)! For example, if a client informs you that they’re traveling to the Bahamas, during a follow-up call you can ask about their trip. People genuinely appreciate it when you remember these small details and take interest in them. During your first call with your client ask the critical questions, which you couldn’t get answers to through the client’s history with sales.
Randi recommends asking about their sales process, for instance how long does it take to sell a product? If their sales cycle takes 3-6 months then you know that there’s going to be that lag time for conversions. Ask them how much they make on a product to find out what can be spent to get a return. “You need to ask all of these in-depth business questions because it’s going to help you either achieve the goals or help improve the goals that they currently have and fine-tune them even more, as well as know what your testing and performance cycles are going to be,” says Randi.
Set Clear Expectations from Day 1
We’ve all had that dreaded call; the red-faced, deep-voiced client screaming into the phone that they’re not seeing immediate results. Meanwhile, you find yourself submerging into a little ball under your desk, hoping the issue will vanish into thin air. Setting expectations from the very start is the easiest way to avoid these torturous, mood-ruining phone calls. Setting realistic milestones is extremely vital to maintaining a positive long-term client relationship. Be confident and ensure them that you’re the expert in PPC and they’re the expert in their business. “Don’t promise immediate results, but steady improvement. Tell them they’re not going to see conversions quadruple in two days,” says Randi. Set up a project plan to set realistic deadlines so you’re both always on the same page.
Take Notes and Keep Records of All Calls
Prepare for every call with a list of questions and write down the answer so you physically have the initial goals, plans, and projections in place. Then a few months down the line, if the client changes the goals you can look back and remind them of your initial plan and if you’ve reached those starting goals or not.
Agency Tip #5: Effectively Manage Multiple Accounts Simultaneously
Gosh all mighty, so many clients, so many emails, so many goals to be reached, is it too early to retire? Take a deep breathe. We’re aware managing multiple paid search accounts can seem unbearably stressful, but we’re here to teach you that it’s not that bad if you follow these tips to stay focused.
Don’t Get Weighed Down with Busy Work
It’s far too easy to get hung up on adding keywords, adding negatives, changing match types, tweaking ads. Yes, sometimes these tasks are necessary, but instead of eating up you entire day with small tweaks here and there, step back and look at the big picture. Once you’ve figured that out, enlist help with the busy work so you don’t spend all your time pulled down by laborious tasks.
Touch all of Your Accounts Every Day
But hold up, doesn’t Google frown upon too many changes at once? Yes, but touching each account does not mean making changes. Instead take a look at each account to make sure nothing shocking is going on. For instance, perhaps one of your clients just expanded to Google’s Search Partner Network, but their impressions went way up and conversions plummeted. Wouldn’t you want to catch this as early as possible?
“I personally do reporting every day. It just leads me to make sure that nothing crazy is going on,” says Randi.
Schedule Time to Respond to Email
Are you one of those people who always has their email up on their second monitor? Stop that! You know that your clients can be needy (sorry clients) so don’t let immediate responding become a habit. It sounds wrong, but it’s not only going to drastically help with your productivity, but in the long run it will help with your client’s success. Set a scheduled time each day to respond to emails so that you give your clients the communication they need while also making full use out of your time.
Implement an organization system to prioritize your tasks in order of highest to lowest importance. Whether that be using a tool to help organize (Randi uses Wunderlist) or keeping a written list on a pad of paper.
Purchase an Automated Solution
As Erin explains, “Not everyone has the resources to hire a coordinator to help them do their job or the time to jump into every single account each day.” If this is the case, naturally, I’m going to recommend trying WordStream’s PPC Advisor. After working with several agencies for over a year within our software, I can genuinely testify that this set of tools is a huge time-saver and productivity increaser for agencies! Our set of tools gives you a tightly-packaged list of items that you need to take care of in each account to do things such as cut wasted spend, optimize your ads to receive higher CTR’s, change bids, and find new keyword opportunities. It’s seamless to hop from one account to another and make these changes critical changes each week that can save your clients bundles of money and pull in greater results as well. And the best part is that you’re going to save a huge chunk of your own time, which can be utilized to focus on other important components of your agency. Try out software for free or schedule a demo with one of our paid search experts to see what WordStream’s PPC Advisor can do to increase your agency’s efficiency.
Agency Tip #6: Share Success with Your Clients
Brag your little heart out! You’ve worked hard, and your clients are going to be thrilled with all the leads running in the door. The problem is sometimes your clients might be oblivious to what’s going on. After all, they hired you for a reason! It’s your job to report back. Find a report that works for your client, whether it be an Excel template or a more visual PowerPoint style.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of WordStream’s Success Report. Erin agrees, “It’s not fun to look at an Excel spreadsheet, but this report is fun and visual,” says Erin.
Agency Tip #7: Stay Up-to-Date with the Ever-Evolving PPC Industry
Lastly, we all know that PPC is consistently changing. Google just loves to roll out updates without much headway so don’t let yourself fall behind on industry news. Some quick ways to stay ahead of the game include:
- Use a news aggregator to follow PPC blogs (like Feedly)
- Become a #ppcchat regular. It’s the best way to learn, make new connections, and build relationships with others in the industry
- Get involved in SEM conferences like SMX, PubCon, and HeroConf
- Build positive relationships with leaders in the industry
- Watch PPC webinars