3 Agency Tips to Wow Your Clients Before You Send Them PPC Reports

3 Agency Tips to Wow Your Clients Before You Send Them PPC Reports

It’s 3:15pm and you’re just wrapping up your budget optimization plan for the week. You get a ping from sales informing you of a brand new client – time to break out your trusty onboarding plan. Beyond the basics of onboarding, of course, is the challenge of connecting with your new client in a quick and impactful way. Please forgive the cliche, but there really is only one chance to make a positive first impression.

First impressions aside, there are plenty of other controllable factors that go into a successful professional relationship. In the first few months of your client’s lifecycle with your agency, it’s crucial to build trust and camaraderie. You can do so in a number of ways, but it all comes down to communicating as equals. Here are 3 ways to build effective relationships with your current and future clients.

1. Be a teacher

Businesses hire PPC agencies for one central reason: they don’t have a digital advertising master on board. While many team members may be savvy to bits and pieces of the full PPC marketing journey, there is still a lot of negative space to be filled when it comes to the nitty-gritty details of a successful paid digital campaign.

We, as humans, are characteristically afraid of the unknown. This fear leads to frustration and distrust. Ultimately, the PPC knowledge gap between you and your client can lead you both down the rabbit hole to an unsatisfactory relationship. While this seems like a bit of a slippery slope fallacy, the best way to build a positive and collaborative client relationship is to create a solid foundation of knowledge and shared understanding of the service you’re providing. Now, I’m not advising you to give each new client a full crash-course in digital advertising to the point where it eliminates their need for outside marketing. More rather, it’s important to give each new client a very high-level understanding of the following:

  • KPIs you’ve deemed important to their marketing goals
  • Benchmarks for these KPIs
  • The why’s and how’s behind your strategy for them

Additionally, one of the reasons your new client has hired your firm is to be set up with a marketing strategy that most other marketers aren’t using. Simply put, they want to be confident in your ability to come up with and execute innovative marketing strategies to boost their business. In order to properly communicate to the client that you can meet this need, it’s important to teach them not only about strategy basics but also about the innovations you layer on top of your strategy to make it unique. This involves laying the groundwork with a few basic building blocks of campaign strategy and checking in with your client to ensure they understand the difference between the two.

Quick tip: Create a PPC Playbook template that you can customize for each new client that includes KPI definitions and examples for each. This serves as a reference guide for your client throughout their lifecycle.

Beginning an agency-client relationship with education not only shows that you care about your new client but also lays a foundation for trust. It eliminates the barrier of understanding what you’re doing for them while mitigating the risk of potential mistrust down the road.

2. Communicate with transparency

Of course, communication is key to building any type of new relationship. We know this going into new client onboardings, but a lot of the time, this is much easier said than done. Some of us have clients who will email seventy-five times per day, every day. At least this is what it feels like. With this kind of volume, we can fall into the trap of putting transparency and open communication on the back burner, send a quick surface-level throwaway response, and get on with business as usual.

While this method takes care of the immediate question at hand, it’s can lead to a loop of placing band-aids on broken arms. The best way to combat the negative consequences of poor or non-transparent communication is to do so proactively. Let’s break this proactive communication model down into 3 parts: setting proper expectations, performance reporting, and follow-up.

Set proper expectations

Ideally, expectation-setting should be done throughout the sales process, and then again during onboarding. This process should go both ways, as well. It’s important to solidify what your new client expects from you as an Account Manager, but it’s just as important to communicate your expectations for your new client. Do you need certain information from them on a monthly or quarterly basis? Do you expect them to be available for calls on a regular basis? Get this out of the way first so there are no surprises down the road. two-way expectation-setting is also a great way to hold your client accountable for what you need now and in the future.

Send timely reports

Reporting is the next step in our transparent communication model. Sending visual representations of your agency’s performance to your clients is by far the best way to maintain transparency throughout the entire client lifecycle. With a regular reporting cadence, your client will feel that they are in the know and up-to-date with the advertising you are doing on their behalf, which will lead to fewer check-in emails down the road. A solid reporting structure that focuses on the KPIs and performance goals identified during onboarding is the best way to consistently and transparently communicate your progress with any client. It’s important to note that different clients require different types of reports. Some businesses prefer table-style data like you would see in a spreadsheet, while others digest the info easier with time-based charts and graphs. Find out what works best for you client, and show them what they need to see in the way they want to see it each week, month, or quarter.

Quick Tip: Set a regular, predictable cadence for all your reports, and customize them based on each client’s needs, including choosing the type of visuals they prefer. Consistency builds trust.

Be consistent in follow-ups

Lastly, following up on these reports with a quick email detailing what you gathered from it shows a level of accountability from you to your client. Instead of only showing your client a chart with a conversion count that exceeds your goal line, send them a 2-3 sentence email explaining what you believe the cause of their campaign’s excellent performance was. This is not only a great way to subtly brag about your PPC management skill, but also helps your client up to your level of understanding. It is equally as, if not more important to follow-up with your client when a campaign underperforms. If you send out a report with potentially disappointing news, you should always follow up with your deduction of what went wrong, and how you plan on shifting your strategy to adapt. While this is a tough email to send, it shows that you are holding yourself accountable, and are not trying to hide any shortcomings from them.

Voilà! You’ve set the standard for transparent communication with your client, and likely built a little trust along the way.

3. Build empathy

This is a big one. As an Account Manager, your number one job is to, well, manage your clients’ accounts. You do this job because you are a highly-skilled PPC advertiser who also has some client-facing experience under your belt. Of course, customer service isn’t always top-of-mind, but treating your client with empathy will only help you foster a more positive and effective relationship.

Now, when I say “empathy”, I don’t mean catering to your client’s every whim. Nor do I mean being hyper-conscious of every word you send their way as not to offend them. Here, “empathy” means changing your mindset about how you treat your clients; you should be working with your client, not for them. This holds true especially when your client calls you frantically demanding explanations for underperforming campaigns. No one likes fielding these types of questions, and it can create a divide in an otherwise positive client relationship. It’s important to keep in mind the factors on the client’s side that have led up to this moment. Chances are, there’s someone above them demanding answers even more frantically, and someone above them, and so on.

The easiest and most consistent way to show empathy toward your client is to communicate in a way that puts you both on the same level. Kent Pearce, Director of Customer Success at AdStage, who’s also my boss, gave me the following advice when I once asked him how he builds such great relationships with all of his clients: “Just talk to them the way that you would want someone to talk to you.” At first, I didn’t believe it was that simple. The more mindful of this type of empathetic communication tactic on my calls and emails, the easier it was to build and nurture relationships with my clients.

Quick tip: Communicate with your client like you would a team member. If you treat your client as an equal, they will return the favor.

Leveling with your client is the foundation upon which a positive relationship is built, and layering education and transparency on top of it make it effective and mutually beneficial – even when things go wrong.

What are your best tips for managing client relationships? Tell us in comments.

10 Ways Digital Agencies Can Scale Customer Acquisition

Posted by in Agency
10 Ways Digital Agencies Can Scale Customer Acquisition

Most digital agencies devise creative strategies for their B2B clients to capture website leads. Yet if you look at the primary customer acquisition channels for agencies, you’ll see that most of them rely on just three things: networking, referrals, and the good ol’ “Contact Us” form.

While it’s true that most of the new agency business still comes from offline activities, no digital strategy is a very bad strategy as you scale your agency business.

Source: WebDesignerDepot. Growing an agency business will require a scalable customer acquisition strategy.

So how should an agency start scaling their customer acquisition online? I looked at the websites of top digital agencies to gather some competitive intel on how they build their email lists. What I’ve found is that these agencies use most of the tactics of their B2B clients:

  • Partnership with an industry publication
  • Offline-to-online email capture through events
  • Network partnerships
  • Blog and newsletter sign-ups
  • Proprietary data reports

This article will share examples of how top agencies including Catalyst, Forward 3D, iProspect, Merkle, Performics, Acronym, and SapientRazorfish capture email leads on their websites. I’ll also suggest a few more ways for agencies to grow their business online.

1. Catalyst: Partner Up with an Industry Publication

Catalyst, a digital agency focused on search, captures contact information through gated white papers. Catalyst partnered up with ClickZ to cover Amazon advertising — the hottest topic for e-commerce marketers this year. The white paper shares tips on optimizing Amazon strategy and seizing the voice search opportunity.

whitepaper download

Source: Catalyst

Best Practices

Why write a white paper if you can have the experts do it for you? Media giants and industry publications from the New York Times and HBR to ClickZ and MarketingProfs monetize their audiences through branded content — whether it’s a webinar, white paper, or sponsored article.

branded content

2. Forward 3D: Offline-to-Online Email Capture via Events

Forward3D captures new leads by hosting private roundtables for current clients and their wider network locally — and promoting them online. The event promotion features previous attendees from Fortune 50s. While offline activities are not necessarily “scalable,” Forward 3D makes it work by keeping the format (and online invite forms) standard across all of their locations globally. Whether your website visitor is from London or San Francisco, you can customize which events to show based on the incoming IP address.

online events for lead generation

Source: Forward 3D

Best Practices

Take it offline for an immersive experience that will drive high-quality engaged leads. To boost attendance, experiment with different event formats and bring in industry thought leaders as speakers. Plan out your post-event strategy (such as a closed online community or bonus content for attendees) to maximize the return on investment.

3. iProspect: Engage Your Network Partners

To capture more whitepaper downloads (and email form-fills), iProspect partnered up with Pinterest to share the insights the agency learned by marketing on the visual search platform. Most agencies that work closely with advertising networks run co-marketing initiatives to build thought leadership and generate new leads.

gated white paper with network partners

Source: iProspect

Best Practices

Agencies that have close partnerships with Google, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other ad networks have the opportunity to tap into the partner’s data and resources and collaborate on initiatives to drive awareness and revenue for both parties.

4. Merkle: Put Your Proprietary Data to Work

Each quarter, Merkle runs its Digital Marketing Report with key metrics across a variety of digital channels, including SEO, paid search, traditional display advertising, and paid social. (We do that at AdStage, too — check out our latest Q4 PPC Benchmark Report).

Merkle quarterly data report

Source: Merkle

Best Practices

Digital agencies often store troves of data that could be aggregated, anonymized, and distilled into meaningful insights. The best reports are timely, have comparative data to benchmark trends, and are structured for easy scanning and quick access to the most important data.

5. Performics: Showcase Third-Party Endorsements

Performics gates the latest Forrester report which features the agency’s leading position in the Search Marketing Agencies Wave for Q4’2017. Third-party buyer’s guides and reports build authority and trust — and help capture the information of those who are actively researching and ready to buy.

forrester download page

Source: Performics

Best Practices

Granted, to capture email leads from such reports, you need to first get on the “Wave,” which is Forrester’s evaluation of vendors in a software, hardware, or services market. According to Forrester’s VP, the analyst is “an objective voice in the marketplace,” and “not influenced by client relationships or solicitations.” The criteria for evaluation vary from “Wave” to “Wave.” Melinda Byerley of TimeShareCMO says “it all depends on how much revenue your company makes and how well you can leverage the personal influence/leverage/credibility you have with the analyst.”

Forrester is not the only resource for such purposes (albeit one of the most influential). G2Crowd, self-reported “Yelp for business software” asks real customers to rank software in exchange for a gift card and captures emails of prospects who opt in to learn more about your company.

Check out AdStage’s reviews on G2Crowd.

6. Acronym: Sign Up for Blog Updates

Acronym, a digital agency with a bold claim of “pioneering the science of search since before Google was a word,” captures email leads from its website through its blog. Titled “Insights & News,” the blog relies on internal experts who publish articles or “checklists.” For example, the most recent one features Acronym’s head of analytics who shares trends and strategies for 2018.

sign up for newsletter page

Source: Acronym

Best Practices

Blogs are generally seen as a top-of-the-funnel marketing tactic with the goal to drive a conversation, not leads. Yet a study of 2,300 HubSpot customers revealed that businesses that blog witness their monthly leads rise by 126% more than those who don’t.

business that blog generate more leads

Source: HubSpot

7. SapientRazorfish: Gated Articles

SapientRazorfish actually gates every single article on their blog. The digital agency owned by Publicis Groupe requires users to leave their contact information if they want to read beyond the first paragraph of their blog articles. Once you leave your email, you can download articles in a PDF format.

Download as pdf

Source: SapientRazofish

form fill email capture sapient razorfish

Best Practices

There’s a book to be written on the topic of “to gate or not to gate” your B2B content. Sirius Decisions wrote (and gated) a whole white paper about it. Giving away content for free could mean passing up expensive lead data. It could also mean you’ll generate less inbound links and social shares that build domain authority — and your brand awareness, too. Content strategists recommend a mix of free and gated content for the best ROI.

More Ways to Generate Email Leads for Agencies

8. Customize Opt-in Messages Based on Visitor Behavior

Use personalized pop-up widgets (such as BrightInfo, Nosto, Optimonk, Personyze, and tons of others) to segment your audiences by location, time on page, or specific site pages they visited.

9. Use Email Sign-Up CTA on Social Media

Customize your Facebook business page to include a “sign up for our newsletter” button to capture social media leads.

10. Add a Sign-Up Link to Your Email Signature

Offer your email contacts to sign up for your email list by adding a CTA to your signature.

Keep It Short

Don’t ask too much information. In many cases, email is enough, and you can always ask more questions, or “progressively profile” your users later.


As you scale online customer acquisition for your agency, here’re 10 tried-and-true tactics from top agencies for you to copy:

  • Partner up with industry publication that shares the same target segment
  • Organize private events and round tables. Promote them online to capture contact information
  • Leverage network partnerships and collaborate on mutually beneficial content initiatives
  • Blog well and often to entice website visitors to opt in for weekly/monthly updates
  • Share first-party aggregated and anonymized data
  • Consider context and segment your website users if you choose to add pop-ups
  • Collect emails from your social media pages
  • Add a sign-up CTA to your email signature

How are you building your agency’s email list? Let me know in the comments.

How to Generate More Agency Leads in 2018 [Report]

Posted by in Agency
How to Generate More Agency Leads in 2018 [Report]

Growing new business is vital for agencies looking to stay competitive and financially stable in 2018. But as the ad budgets get tighter, and the competition tougher, which new channels should agency directors and CMOs prioritize in 2018?

In this article, you’ll learn which lead generation channels performed best for agencies last year.

The data and advice we’ll share are based on a recent report from RSW, a lead generation firm. The report features survey results from over 5,000 agency executives and 10,000 marketing decision-makers across the United States and presents comparable stats from 2016-2017.

Are New Business Opportunities for Agencies Decreasing?

As even the biggest ad companies experience the slowest revenue growth since the recession, it’s a challenging time to be in the agency business. Agencies compete on tighter margins in the industry with a high rate of employee turnover. More often than ever, clients now choose consulting firms over agencies, or bring media buying in-house to protect brand safety.

Yet agency marketers are optimistic: 54% of those surveyed by RSW in 2017 expect new business opportunities to grow.

agency marketers predict that new business opportunities will increase

Source: RSW

To succeed in 2018, agencies will need to figure out their unique positioning in the crowded market, hire and retain the best talent, and be extremely adaptive.

Lead Gen in 2018: the Battle for Your Prospects’ Attention (and LinkedIn Conversion)

According to the RSW survey, 60% of marketers are getting 6-10 calls a week from agencies. Clearly, even with the growing number of opportunities, it’s harder to reach your ideal prospects and capture their attention.

agency challenges: obtaining new business

Source: RSW

Marketers are busier than ever. They juggle a lot of responsibilities and simply don’t have the time to engage with a sales rep — unless they’re actively looking for an agency at the moment.

So what can an agency do to grow new business? Paid marketing channels — LinkedIn specifically — remain part of user acquisition strategy for most agencies. “LinkedIn advertising has proven to be the most effective channel in reaching qualified leads at the most efficient rate within our B2B manufacturing & software clients,” said Eric Ramos, Director of Analytics at BusinessOnline. Last year, BusinessOnline quadrupled their LinkedIn spend as they saw great results on the platform.

But even though LinkedIn proves to be a great source of quality leads for many agencies, the RSW data shows that digital acquisition channels are not enough.

1. To Win More New Business, Take It Offline

Last year, most new agency business came from referrals (64%), networking (56%), and existing clients (50%). Paid online marketing came last with the same percent as direct mail (2%). Phone calls as a lead generation channel grew from 8% in 2016 to 12% in 2017, proving that offline channels could bring more return on ad spend. And in-person meetings are particularly useful, as more business this year came from speaking engagements, conferences, and networking.

the most effective lead generation tactics for agencies

Source: RSW

2. Hire and Retain Top Talent; Set Realistic Expectations

Marketers cite “finding good talent” as one of the biggest agency challenges in 2018. In the age of automation, people who can solve problems and grow client relationships are a rare and valuable find.

The advertising industry has a higher employee turnover than related industries. For example, the turnover for the position of a New Business Director at most agencies, according to the RSW survey, is less than 2 years on average.

So why do agencies struggle to hire and then keep top performers? AdWeek called agencies’ New Business Chiefs “the most dangerous job at an agency,” with the high expectations that are hard to live up to. And when things don’t work out, according to RSW, agencies should try hiring more experienced people: “Bringing young kids that have ‘a lot of energy’ simply doesn’t pan out.”

3. Double Down on Data Analytics and Measurement

87% of marketers state that marketing data and analytics capabilities are an important factor when considering a new agency partner. This number is up 14% from last year, and growing as companies hope to close the loop of ad spend reporting and understand the real impact of their advertising, as well as master advanced segmentation for a more sophisticated personalization strategy.

how important are data analytics capabilities for an agency?

Source: RSW

Marketers expect agency partners to help them accurately measure the ROI, and say that most agencies can’t deliver.

agency measuring roi

Source: RSW

And as you can see on the graph above, agencies and marketers disagree about the agencies’ effectiveness at measuring ROI. 38% of agency executives stated they are “very effective” at measuring ROI, compared to only 15% of marketers who felt the same way about their agencies.

4. Have a Well-Organized Methodology for Prospecting.

The number one reason outbound marketing fails, according to this survey, is lack of a well-organized methodology for prospecting. To set your team up for success, you need the tools and processes in place first.

new business director factors hindering success

From setting qualifying criteria to the first connection and discovery call, to evaluation and closing, a solid methodology also needs the software tools and strong leadership in place to implement the processes and drive the adoption.

5. Keep Ahead of the Technology with Automation

The reason to keep up with the changing tech (and automating what can be automated) is simple: you can generate more revenue with fewer employees.

At the end of the day, when agency employees spend half of their time on manual, tedious work processing the business they already have, how much time is left to work on new business or cross-sell?

Businesses looking to get ahead in 2018 will need to invest in PPC automation and other software tools to optimize workflows and save time for deeper, more meaningful work that will set your agency apart.

6. Be a Strategic Partner

To be competitive long-term, agencies will need to be skillful in both tactical execution and strategy. Clients no longer rely on agencies for just the keyword research or scheduling and monitoring paid social campaigns. The majority of marketers come to agencies for strategy (74%) and innovative ideas (84%).

strategy vs execution

Source: RSW

AKQA’s general manager said in an interview to CMO.com that “the job of agencies today is to be somewhat of a future/growth hacker” and look years, not months ahead to devise solutions to make clients successful in the long run.

7. Find Your Niche and Own It

As marketing guru Seth Godin said, “fitting in is a failure.”

Whether it’s a category, an approach, or your technical expertise, finding a high-potential niche that will make you stand out in the competitive market will be key to relevance.

For example, B2Linked became the leading LinkedIn advertising agency primarily because of their focus on just one paid channel.

How do you find your niche? With new channels, social media platforms, approaches, technologies emerging at a rapid speed, advertising offers more niche opportunities than ever before. As Seth Godin said, “if you can’t find your niche, just wait, it’s coming.”

Grow your marketing expertise in 2018. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.



10 Slack Apps to Boost Your Team’s Productivity

Posted by in Agency
10 Slack Apps to Boost Your Team’s Productivity

As a PPC agency director or team manager, you know that your team’s productivity is one of the most important assets. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that could be draining productivity inside your company. It’s not social media or office politics.

I’m talking about meetings. Online or offline, agency meetings can become more of a time waste for your team than a productive task.

Slack, the popular team chat tool, changes the way you can hold meetings. And it’s not just the chat; it’s the wide range of apps you can integrate on Slack.

The hundreds of Slack apps for marketers can help you find the availability of every meeting member, rent a meeting room, and make the call — all without leaving the chat.

Here’s a list of the best Slack apps you can use to make your team productive.

1. Trello

slack apps - trello

Image Source: Trello

Trello is a visual collaboration tool that allows you to organize the projects discussed in your meetings in a simple manner.

By integrating Trello with Slack, you can add new Trello cards to boards directly from Slack with the “/trello add” command. You can also join Trello cards and boards, change deadlines, and attach conversations, among other things. All this can help you get started on your projects right away while you carry out your meetings.

Cost: Free, $9.99 for the Business Plan, and $20.83 for the Enterprise plan, priced per user.

2. GoodTalk

slack apps for meetings - goodtalk

Image Source: Soapboxhq.com

GoodTalk is a bot that allows managers and employees to add things to the agenda between meetings. GoodTalk allows you to follow up on everything that’s discussed at the meetings, whether it’s after a client call or an all-hands meeting, fostering high-performance habits and a culture of open feedback.

GoodTalk can also assist you to prepare your one-on-ones and team meetings, keep you updated with the action items and outcomes of your meetings, keep you aligned with your team’s goals and objectives, and give better feedback to your team’s members.

Cost: Free

3. Google Calendar

Slack meetings for productive meetings -- google calendar

Image Source: Slack.com

Google Calendar is one of the most popular calendar tools that help your team stay organized with shared calendars, event reminders, and more. With the Google Calendar integration, you can send reminders to the members before an event starts, share the summary of the current day’s and week’s events, and update any changes to the event.

A shared calendar can help you organize your meetings with greater efficiency. You don’t waste time emailing people and asking questions; you simply check their calendars and book the meeting right away.

Cost: Free

4. Meekan

Slack productivity apps - Meekan

Image Source: Meekan.com

With the help of Meekan, which the company calls the “world’s smartest AI scheduling assistant,” you can match everyone’s calendars in seconds. After you integrate Meekan with your Slack chat, you can discover everyone’s availability and preferences to set the best time to meet. This can allow you to work out any time differences and find time to meet.

Cost: Free.

5. Geekbot

apps for productive meetings - geekbot

Image Source: Betalist.com

Daily standup sessions can help your agency members keep each other accountable. Carrying out those sessions, however, can be harder when done online.

Geekbot can help you run asynchronous standup meetings in Slack. As soon as you integrate it with your Slack chat, you will be able to add transparency to your meetings and stay focused on the tasks that matter.

Cost: $3 per user, per month, paid monthly, or $2.50 paid annually.

6. Meeting Room Ninja

slack productivity apps -- meeting room ninja

Image Source: Meetingroom.nija

It’s a common practice to schedule meetings well in advance. Sometimes, however, meetings happen ad hoc, and conference rooms can be hard to find.

With the help of Meeting Room Ninja, you can check your organization’s Google Calendar for the meeting rooms available for the next 60 minutes. You only need to use the command “/meetingroom,” and the bot will provide you with the time options, ranging from 15 to 60 minutes. You then select one of the time slots, and the meeting room is instantly booked for you in your organization’s Google Calendar.

Cost: Free.

7. Trackmeet

slack productivity apps -- trackmeet

Image Source: Gotrackmeet.com

Trackmeet is a Slack bot that lets you run meetings with purpose. By integrating Trackmeet with Slack, you can post virtually any content you’ve created in Trackmeet to a Slack channel or direct message. Not only can you push the meeting’s agenda to a channel in advance, but you can also create notes summarizing the meeting and provide the participants with actionable steps.

Cost: Free.

8. TimeShow

slack app for productive meetings - timeshowapp

Image Source: Timeshowapp.com

If you run a remote PPC agency or company, a common problem you likely have is coordinating the timezones of every member before scheduling a meeting.

The TimeShow Slack App saves you time by eliminating the challenges associated with users in multiple time zones. You only type the “/timeshow” command in one of your channels, and the bot lists all time zones and current times of all members of a group or channel, grouped by time zones. Not only that, TimeShow automatically instantly shows you the best “meeting windows” that work for all members.

Cost: Free.

9. Ahoy.ai

slack apps for meetings -- ahoy ai

Image Source: Techcrunch.com

Finding the right time for a meeting can be an exhausting process. Ahoy.Ai is a meeting scheduler that helps you find the perfect time to meet with just one email or Slack command. Ahoy.Ai combines NLP (natural language processing) with ML/AI (machine learning and artificial intelligence) to find the best time to meet.

You only need to type “/meet [@person1, @person2, …] Text about why you’re meeting, and Ahoy.Ai will automatically send out the invites. Once the invites are accepted, or 12 hours have passed, the meeting will automatically show up for everyone who has confirmed their calendar.

Cost: Free.

10. AdStage

slack apps -- adstage

Running PPC campaigns in different ad networks takes a lot of time. For every report you create, you have to access each of the ad networks you advertise on, find the report you want to use for your analysis, and export the data.

AskAdStage gives PPC managers the ability to access and share reports right from the Slack chat. It’s perfect for when the CMO asks for a trend or number you didn’t have handy.

You can use AskAdStage to compare performance metrics across the most important search and social networks, including Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, and Google Adwords, among others. You can see the performance of your campaigns with the help of visualized data, including bar, line, and pie charts.

Finally, you can use AskAdStage to pause or enable your ad campaigns, ad groups, or individual ads.

Cost: From $749 for companies with up to $50k in ad spend, with a 14-day free trial.


Before closing, let me give you one last suggestion: don’t install all these apps right away.

Pick two or three apps, install them, and test them in your next meetings. Once you see how these apps work for your team, you can measure their effectiveness and try new ones.

How PPC Managers Can Work With Other Departments

How PPC Managers Can Work With Other Departments

Step one to getting anyone to believe and trust what you’re saying is to prove your credibility. The same rules apply when PPC managers reach out to other departments to sync up on how to best work together. Depending on your organization, justifying your expertise may be a challenge. Compile some of your best case studies to share at the initial meeting, so your colleagues have a clear understanding of how you’re impacting the company’s success.

You may also want to pull a few relevant and recent articles about the power of PPC to give some context to how other companies (especially competitors) are using PPC to their advantage. From there, building alignment with sales, email marketing, product marketing, creative, and other teams should feel like a natural partnership for everyone.

Find a Common Language

CPA, CPC, CPM, CTR. Even the term “PPC” might intimidate teams who don’t play in this world. You know the ins, outs, and industry acronyms of what you do every day, but for those who don’t, a barrage of unfamiliar lingo can be a frustrating turn-off. Use terms everyone can understand, or offer a simple explanation for more complicated but necessary terms or concepts. Include helpful term definitions when sharing PPC reports via email to make sure the recipient fully understands the data and doesn’t have to go looking for help elsewhere.

In any language, visuals speak volumes. PPC reporting tools can help distill intricate information into digestible data. A complicated cross-channel campaign summary of PPC metrics becomes a clear bar graph everyone can understand.

adstage report cross network spend bar chart

Understand Shared KPIs and Show Overlaps

In a healthy, streamlined company, colleagues work side by side toward the same goals, performing different tasks and carrying out various projects, depending on their job function. But some companies suffer from siloing, when departments work independently, rarely sharing information or resources with other teams.

At this year’s Advertising Week, Google’s Americas president, Allan Thygesen, encouraged marketers to push for a single KPI across all their teams. While maybe overly ambitious for some organizations, his point is that every department in the business should be on the same page, and actively working together to hit shared numbers.

Where goals overlap, PPC managers and leads in other departments should work together on strategies and ideas to help each other be successful. One area where PPC teams can be especially effective and helpful is quick and cheap testing. For example, if the email team is debating a few subject lines, PPCers could throw the lines into a simple AdWords campaign and report back on which performed best.

ppc ads

Where goals overlap, PPC managers and leads in other departments should work together on strategies and ideas to help each other be successful.

Deliver Helpful and Useful Information

It’s one thing to share information with other teams; it’s another to offer suggestions on how to apply it. Let’s say a campaign revealed that ads mentioning a certain product attribute outperformed any other messaging. Instead of sharing a report that shows Ad #3 yielded the lowest CPC, call out to each team the qualitative findings and how they might be applied to that team’s work.

Because PPC reporting tools make drafting reports quick and easy, consider tailoring reports and conversations to various teams so they can best understand how PPC efforts and results can help their own work. For example, when working with the copywriting and search teams, pull a report that shows keyword results specifically. PPC can help deliver useful info on what’s working and what’s not, much faster than wider SEO site changes.

Accept and Utilize Other Teams’ Data

Don’t reinvent the wheel when someone else has done the work! Just as you’re sharing your findings with other teams, no doubt they have vital data to share as well. PPC managers should listen to what other teams have already discovered and see how they can incorporate it into their own work whether as a way to bypass double work or to help refine and excel what’s already been accomplished. Not only does information sharing save time, it gives PPC managers and other department heads the opportunity to have equal conversations where both sides are as invested and involved as the other. Which leads us to…

how ppc managers should work with other departments

Communicate Constantly

Put a (non-annoying) bug in everyone’s ear so they’re aware of what you’re up and can better identify opportunities to partner up. Hold casual lunch and learns to keep everyone up to speed on what you and your team are working on. As we know, the PPC world is changing quickly, and there’s always an interesting topic or trend to bring to the table that is relevant to everyone in the organization.

Again, simple info sharing like what’s available through Adstage’s Report capabilities make it easy to deliver relevant information in little bites. Send out a brief weekly/bi-weekly/monthly recap and schedule short recaps with the teams you think could most benefit from the information in the reports.

PPC is awesome. We all know that, and by showing your colleagues how powerful this form of advertising can be, hopefully, they’ll soon share the same feelings.

An Agency Director’s Guide to Preventing Team Burnout

Posted by in Agency
An Agency Director’s Guide to Preventing Team Burnout

The national unemployment rate is down 50% since 2012, yet employees are still overworked and stressed. How can that be if there are more people to share the workload and how can management and leadership help combat the inevitable burnout? And as an agency director, or manager of any kind, is it possible to manage, grow, and retain talent when there’s the hovering possibility of work-halting dissatisfaction?

To find solutions, you have to know the cause. Reasons people feel burned out can range from anything to feeling over-worked, undervalued, isolated, not challenged, uninspired, and more.

Ashley Dennison, a former agency director who has led multiple teams over her 10-year communications career and now runs her own consulting business, PR Pinch Hitter, says it shouldn’t be hard for observant managers to spot someone who’s burning out.

“If a normally cheerful and talkative team member stops greeting his or her cube mates when she arrives in the morning or stops stepping out to grab lunch with colleagues — she may be quietly burning out. Or if a normally productivity and results-focused employee is spotted slumped in his chair, texting or playing games on his iPhone — that’s an indicator that something is amiss and worth checking up on.”

With so many sources for burnout, for an agency director, or anyone responsible for teams, it can sound like your full-time job is making sure everyone is happy and productive. But it’s much simpler than that to help build a workplace employees like coming to.

Take a Look at Your Organization

As companies work quickly to grow and hit goals, they can often fall into bad habits that affect the entire staff. Turnover, unhappy employees, and slowed productivity are all warning signs that changes need to be made. Eric Garton, coauthor of Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power said in his Harvard Business Review article that when he and his research team studied companies with high burnout rates, the three common culprits were excessive collaboration, weak time management disciplines, and a tendency to overload the most capable with too much work.

Knowing this, take a look at the impact you can have in your organization or what you can do to improve the everyday for your team. If you’re able to smooth out the basics for your employees, the other suggestions in this article should be bonuses.

Provide Enrichment Opportunities

No, it doesn’t mean blowing a bunch of the department’s money on goof around offsite excursions. Though outside of the office trips can do wonders for morale, there’s a lot you can do within the office that can provide a bump for spirits and keep employees engaged.

  • Hold lunch and learns where team members can present activities they’re experts in, like how to write in calligraphy, how to always be at inbox zero, or how to win at poker. Though not always directly related to day-to-day business, these types of meetups get employees talking and interacting in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily do in a work day.
  • Invite external experts in for interactive talks and presentations. This approach is more likely to support the company’s daily activities, but provides a nice breakout opportunity for employees to extend their knowledge and get away from their desks for awhile.

Get Out of the Routine

Work should never feel monotonous. But it will if the team is coming in and performing the same tasks day in and day out. What better way to kill motivation than to simply be going through the motions 8+ hours per day.

  • Where possible, mix up teams after a big project concludes. It’ll give everyone an opportunity to work with different personalities and hear new ideas and techniques.
  • Consider taking on a pro-bono project and let team members play outside their normal roles. Let the social media manager design some of the work, let your accounts lead try his hand at copywriting.
  • As Eric Garton mentions, instead of stretching your star team members across multiple projects, put them all together on a particularly tricky project.

encourage people to be creative outside of work [how to prevent team burnout]

Encourage Side Projects

No matter who you are and how much you say you love your job, it’s impossible to come to the office five days a week and do nothing but perform the exact functions of your role. Humans need creative, extracurricular stimulation. Allowing staff to participate in a passion project for part of their day or week will go so far in amping up dedication and productivity when it comes to getting back to “real work.”

  • Though some say Google’s 20% time policy, which allowed employees to spend that amount of time on side projects, is dead, the original idea remains. Encourage employees to form their own teams to work on what interests them.
  • Some companies dedicate a whole sprint week to these efforts, culminating in presentations to the rest of the company.
  • Surface some of the company’s challenges at a starting point to keep employees thinking about ways they can flex their creative muscle but still impact the organization. Maybe it’s testing out a new technology that could later be applied to help a client’s business.
  • You never know when an inspired employee could come up with the next product iteration. Crew, a freelance-for-hire marketplace credits side projects with helping them save their business when they inadvertently created a stock photo site while building their main business’s home page.

Make the Office Fun and Flexible

Before you start building a gourmet cafeteria and mapping out where to put the indoor fire pit a la Google, keep in mind Bagel Tuesdays can offer a big boost in morale and not sink the company’s budget.

  • Consider allowing occasional work from home days to give employees more flexibility while maintaining productivity. A 2016 survey cited in this Forbes article found American workers felt they’re more productive, more satisfied with their jobs, and happier overall when working remotely. You don’t have to allow employees to work from home every day to get the benefit. Mostly, employees just want to feel they have some flexibility and say in how their schedule looks Monday to Friday.
  • Plan simple surprises. Get fresh baked cookies delivered on a Thursday afternoon and invite everyone to take a milk and cookies break.
  • Sync up with a charity and invite employees to take a break during the day to participate. Girls Love Mail facilitates hand-written letters to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

Make Everyone’s Lives Easier

There’s the manager who makes every day hard, and then there’s the manager who understands (and cares about) supporting and encouraging his or her team to do the best work. Be the latter! All of the below are great ways to show staff you value and appreciate them and their time.

  • Whether it’s introducing a new tool to make pulling PPC reports a breeze, or finding the budget to hire a new job function to take that task off everyone’s plates, a great manager is always looking for ways to increase productivity while lightening workloads.
  • Think of little ways you can improve touch situations, like getting lunch or dinner catered when the team is heads down on a big project.
  • Work with HR to find partners to provide discounted laundry/cleaning services, entertainment, tickets, etc.

an performance agency director's guide to preventing team burnout

Check in and Listen

Sometimes (actually, oftentimes), employees just want to be heard. A little attention from senior management can go a long way in making employees feel valued and engaged. When meeting with staff, do your best to make them feel comfortable so they can open up about their satisfaction and needs. Let them know this is the right time to flag if their workload is too much, too little, too beginner, they don’t have access to the right tools, etc.

  • Schedule one-on-ones with the appropriate staff members, letting them know what the time is for. The last thing you want is people running around nervous they’re getting called to the boss’s office.
  • Ashley Dennison, the communications professional, says, “In the past, I’ve made off-campus vent sessions mandatory for my teams. After many days or weeks of nonstop production and activity, team members need to let their hair down in a safe space. Setting a “meeting” to take off at 4:00 p.m. for margaritas, chips, and guac with a small group of like-minded team members can work wonders to hit the refresh button.”
  • On a collective level, poll employees to see what perks or benefits they might enjoy. While you might be thinking they’ll ask for the moon, maybe what they’d love is to be able to knock off an hour early for Summer Fridays.

Give Feedback Often

Feedback may have a negative connotation, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. If someone doesn’t know what’s expected of them or is unclear on what they should be doing for their position, it can quickly lead to burnout. Opening up a direct line of communication is a great way to build employee engagement both when times are great, and when they become more challenging.

  • Employees want to hear when they’re doing a good job, but they also want to hear how they can get better (at least the ones worth keeping around do!). The Balance has some great tips on giving feedback to help employees improve.
  • When appropriate, call out great work in a public forum. It’s great to feel like an asset to the company, but it’s awesome to be able to show your colleagues your impact without bragging on your own.
  • The Office of Personnel Management mentions specificity, timeliness, and manner as the most important elements of effective feedback. If you’re already meeting with staff members on a regular basis as suggested above, you’re in a great position to knock out at least ⅔ of those.

Wrap Up

It’s easy to fall into the overworked, non-unified rut that leads to burnout, but it can be just as easy to right the ship, too. Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to make every change listed above. Start with what feels like it matters most and adjust from there. You can even enlist the help of employees to carry out some of the above. No doubt there’s someone on the team who would love to facilitate guest speakers or make sure there are fresh bagels on the cafeteria table every Tuesday morning.

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter.



An Agency Director’s Guide to Surviving the Digital Data Jungle

Posted by in Agency
An Agency Director’s Guide to Surviving the Digital Data Jungle

What’s giving agency directors headaches these days? Rising CPC costs and slimmer margins? Grim outlook for global ad spending? Ad tech startups aggressively chasing the direct-to-advertiser relationship? Perhaps, all of the above?

The truth is, things are never going to get easier for an agency marketer. But as our performance advertising industry grows more complex, agencies can find more opportunities to add value to clients. The one caveat: this will require going a lot deeper with client data.

Dustin Engel of PMG says that now is the perfect time for agencies to fill key technology gaps for brands. Engel, who heads up analytics at PMG, a digital marketing agency serving brands such as Sephora and J.Crew, recently told eMarketer that “bringing a technical acumen” will be a key point of differentiation for agencies.

CMOs and agency directors, take heed: To win in the digital performance agency world, you now don’t just offer a lower cost per lead and higher conversion; you meet your clients’ needs in automation, data blending, and cross-network audience activation.

Agencies >> DSPs: Data Integration Needs a Trusted Partner

Why should agencies suddenly become the new analytics technology providers? What about DSPs? Existing tools, Engel argues, may offer solutions, but they lack the knowledge of the market and all the nuances of media buying.

Data by itself has little meaning. What matters is the ability to formulate the right questions and knowing where and how to extract the right answers. If agencies can solve that for their clients, a competitor’s promise of a lower CPL will never steal their business.

Integration: the Final Piece in the MarTech Jigsaw Puzzle

Top CMOs across industries see technology as the savior to key marketing challenges such as transparency and accurate attribution. Michelle Engle, VP of product marketing and management at MaxPoint, recently said to SmartBrief:

“There’s a lot of untapped possibility that, with the right focus and investment in developing powerful technology, we can unlock as an industry in 2017”

But marketers at small and large companies already have impressive technology stacks. The 2017 Marketing Technology Landscape features 5000 vendors. Obviously, adding more technology isn’t going to solve the problem. What’s next?

marketing technology landscape. data integration -- the final piece of the martech puzzle.

Marketing Technology Landscape 2017. Source: ChiefMartech

The Next Frontier: Tailoring Tech to Client’s Unique Needs

“Traditional marketing and advertising technology will typically cover roughly 70% of a brand’s needs, but 30% of those are unique to the company,” Engel said. “Agencies can fill a lot of those gaps, especially in areas such as data automation, data blending, and audience activation.”

Big data has turned into a big problem for marketers who are trying to connect multiple sources: site analytics data, cross-network user acquisition data, sales, and customer scoring. One-size-fits-all solutions can’t handle the complexity of each client’s unique needs.

This is a great business opportunity for agencies, Engel argues, because no product and engineering team understands the context of media better than agency media strategists.

Agencies Can Tackle Data Tasks Better than Ad Tech Players

Agencies understand all the nuances of user acquisition and customer lifecycle. If they take on the task of activating all data sources and helping clients survive and thrive in the data jungle, they’ll get customers for life.

Going from clicks and conversions to deeper, more meaningful metrics can be daunting, but you don’t have to go it alone. It’s been our mission at AdStage to connect marketers to the data they need to understand holistic campaign performance and take action at scale. Our Universal Data API allows to send all paid search, paid social, web analytics, and custom business data from a single pipeline, unlocking actionable insights that could transform your client’s business.

If your advertising agency doesn’t already have a data integration strategy, now might be the time to start exploring one.

advertising data integration

Should You Hire an Agency or In-House PPC Expert?

Posted by in Agency
Should You Hire an Agency or In-House PPC Expert?

Whether you have a large or small PPC budget, you need to have someone who knows how to manage your campaigns for maximum performance. Most companies follow two schools of thoughts:

  1. They hire an in-house PPC specialist.
  2. They hire a PPC agency.

In either case, you delegate your PPC management to someone else, saving time in the process. But before you decide which route to take, it’s important to consider all options.

In this article, you’ll learn whether you should hire an in-house PPC specialist or outsource the work to an agency.

Hiring a PPC Specialist In-House

An in-house PPC specialist gives a company two attributes: focused expertise and attention to detail. When you have an expert who knows her craft and focuses it on your business alone, you can expect nothing but great results.

What’s more, an in-house PPC specialist knows all the intricacies of your company, which helps create campaigns that target your audience more precisely and effectively.

An in-house PPC expert focuses all the time and knowledge in your business, which makes her flexible to react to sudden changes. Imagine it’s Christmas season, the most important holiday season for your company, and one of your competitors increases their bids on December, 21st. You can’t let this situation get out of your hands. If you don’t fix it fast, you can lose all your traffic and see a sharp decrease in revenue.

In such situation, with little to no bureaucracy or waiting times, an in-house PPC specialist can quickly change your PPC campaigns bidding strategy — or even rebuild your whole campaign from scratch. Thanks to their commitment and flexibility, they can save the situation where an agency wouldn’t have been able to deliver.

Having more than one specialist working in your marketing team (i.e., you have one for SEO, another one for email marketing, and so on), you can capture value from collaboration among different experts. Someone who focuses exclusively on PPC can learn a lot from other members of your marketing team. For example, a content strategist can help improve the targeting of the copy, while an SEO specialist can help optimize the keyword bidding to reduce the cannibalization and optimize the cost effectiveness of your campaigns.

One commonly overlooked aspect of hiring someone is all the cost associated with it. According to the MIT, the costs of hiring an employee are 25% to 40% higher than the base salary range. That means, if you want to hire a PPC specialist at a $50k yearly salary, the final costs will be around $62k to $70k, which include:

  • Life insurance
  • Health coverage
  • Long-term disability insurance
  • Dental plans
  • Dependent care assistance
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Retirement plans.

Hiring is a skill in itself; it takes more than an ability to know the skills or credentials of a potential candidate. Even if you are experienced in hiring or have an HR person in your company, you must be careful.

To start, you must take into consideration the cultural fit of the candidate. Your organization has a culture; if you hire someone who doesn’t fit in, you may end up creating problems down the road.

A study done by the University of Iowa found that when an employee fit in an organization, both coworkers and supervisors reported greater job satisfaction, were more likely to remain with their organization, and showed superior job performance. Another study from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found poor culture fit can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary due to the increase in employee turnover.

Finally, you must know what you want from a PPC specialist. That may seem obvious, but if you want someone who’s in charge of “managing your PPC” without knowing what exactly you want—like how many leads or traffic you expect to get—you may not be able to successfully manage that person.

Outsourcing to a PPC Agency

You probably have heard the phrase “two brains think better than one.” If you work with a PPC agency, you won’t work with just one expert; you would have a large team of experts helping you manage your PPC campaigns.

The benefits of working with an agency are plenty:

  • Save time by outsourcing the majority of the day-to-day management.
  • Reduce the complexity of managing your marketing team.
  • Get professional help from a group of experts.
  • Save money by avoiding all the labor costs previously mentioned.

Working with an agency comes with certain challenges. To start, you need to be clear on exactly what you need from an agency. If you have a marketing team with a few generalists but no dedicated PPC specialist, will the agency fill that space for you? Or will they complement your existing team?

It takes time for an agency to understand your company, your products or services, and the goals of your campaigns. How fast do you want to see the desired results? If you are in a hurry because there’s an upcoming holiday season, you may want to make sure you take these delays into consideration.

In contrast with working with an in-house specialist, communicating with an agency takes more time. You may need to set aside time for regular check-ins and phone calls, get every stakeholder involved, and make sure everyone understands what’s being discussed.

Most PPC agencies tend to work with companies with monthly budgets above the five-figure range, leaving most companies outside the minimum working threshold. If you want to work with an agency, you need to know what’s the investment you need to make above your PPC budget as well as what you get from your investment, which includes:

  • How many hours they will dedicate to your account;
  • Who will be working with your account;
  • What the deliverables are;
  • What the communication channels will be.

Before you commit to working with an agency, make sure you have a clear idea of the results you expect to get from the agency and what they can actually provide. Talk to your CFO to make sure the numbers make sense to you.

Finally, don’t let any agency tell you the industry is growing too fast for you to keep up. With the help of tools like AdStage, even a non-expert can manage a PPC campaign with a good level of success. Gone are the days where agencies had custom-made tools no one else had; software has democratized the way companies and agencies work.

Which Option You Should Choose

When it comes to choosing whether to hire in-house or work with a PPC agency, there’s no easy answer. As it always happens, it depends on your situation. Let’s see the two most common cases: a company with a small budget and one with a large budget.

If You Have a Small Budget

If you have a small monthly budget (i.e., below $10,000), you won’t likely benefit from working with an agency. Even if the agency is honest and upfront about the work they will deliver and results you can expect, they won’t likely be able to provide the time needed to deliver the results you need.

According to Payscale, the yearly salary for a PPC manager is $48,233—or $4,019 per month. With less than half the cost of an agency, you can get a full-time PPC expert working for your company.

PPC agency vs in-house : median salary and cost

Source: Payscale

If you have a small budget because you haven’t found the traction necessary to grow your business with PPC, you may also want to wait until you hire a specialist. An online marketing generalist may be able to hit your goals.

Once you know PPC is working well for you (i.e., it’s one of the main acquisition channels) and your budget grows, you can consider hiring a PPC specialist full-time or work directly with an agency.

If You Have a Large Budget

Businesses with large budgets have more options available; they can either hire a full-time PPC specialist or work with an agency. If your company already has someone who manages your PPC in-house but has too much work, an agency may help them lower their workload. Alternatively, with the help of the right PPC automation tools, in-house marketers may optimize their time better and deliver the same results.

Whether you hire a full-time member or an agency, make sure to ask around for referrals and testimonials. You want to make sure both the specialist and the agency are up for the task and will bring the desired ROI.

If you end up working with an agency, it doesn’t mean the specialist who used to be in charge of your PPC won’t manage the channel anymore. With an agency, the only difference is that the specialist doesn’t need to do all the work. Rather, she just manages it with the agency. Don’t make the mistake of thinking think that working with an agency is a hands-off process. On the contrary, you must consider their work to be part of your own organization.


If you have the options of hiring a full-time PPC specialist or working with an agency, you need to stop and think about what would work best for your company.

With tools like AdStage, it’s easier than ever to automate your PPC campaigns. But sometimes, there’s too much work an executive or one marketing generalist can possibly manage. As you make the decision to outsource your PPC management, consider the pros and cons for your specific case. If your PPC campaigns are starting to drive growth,  choose one option and get started today.


automate your paid search advertising


How to Become a PPC Expert

Posted by in Agency
How to Become a PPC Expert

How does one become a PPC expert? You don’t need a formal degree to run ads. In fact, many of today’s brightest paid search marketers say they “just landed into it.” Some transitioned to PPC from copywriting, like Susan Wenograd, Partner at Five Mill; others applied their natural analytical prowess and learned by trial and error on local SMBs, like AdStage’s Mike McEuen.

I sat down with AdStage’s PPC experts, Michael and JD, and asked them what it takes to become a PPC pro. Turns out, it’s not about getting that Bing certification or passing the Facebook Blueprint exam.

Here are the seven things you need to do to become a PPC expert.

1. Build a Deep Expertise in One Area

PPC experts know the ins and outs of Google AdWords, Bing Ads, or Facebook Ads – but rarely all the networks at once. Why go niche? It’s the only way to go from good to remarkable. Most PPC skills are transferable, but a niche strategy makes easier to stay on top of the latest changes.

2. Think Beyond Metrics

Clicks and conversions vary across networks, and most PPC specialists know how to track metrics in each. But only a few experts can report on these metrics in a way that makes sense to the board, business owners, and senior-level executives. The best marketers don’t stop at CTRs, CPAs, leads, and conversions. These rare professionals tie campaign results to revenue and customer lifetime value. They are not afraid to bid higher – and will confidently ask for a bigger budget if they think it’s best for the business.

3. Get Some Agency Experience

Many PPC experts started on the agency side. In-house marketers often get a firmer grip on the strategy wheel and develop a broader range of marketing skills, but agency folks learn certain technical skills a lot faster. Externally-driven deadlines taught them to structure their time for maximum productivity and output.

4. Become an Excel Ninja

From charting to pivot tables, Excel skills are critical for any marketer working with large datasets. The ability to wrangle Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets with ease and confidence speeds up and improves business decisions. PPC pros use Excel to create dynamic URLs in bulk, slice data, or animate a scatterplot chart for an ad hoc report.

5. Fail Faster

The risk of failing when you test a different approach gets in the way of finding new original solutions. It’s common (and not wrong) to do what worked well in the past, but the best learnings come out of mistakes and failures. (Check out JD’s post on the mistakes he made while testing Quora Ads). PPC experts try new things and stop the campaign if it falls off track.

6. Understand the Guts of Tracking

Whether they inherit an account or start a new one from scratch, great PPC marketers understand the critical steps of setting up Google Analytics. These experts will get the right code in place to collect all the necessary insights. Chances are, they’ve dabbled in some code and understand the limitations and hidden opportunities of Google Analytics tracking.

7. Be a “Doer” And Never Stop Learning

Even the best PPC experts can quickly go back to being newbies if they don’t work on their craft. Many former individual contributors find it hard to sustain their expertise when they start to manage large teams: “dual-track” (manager + individual contributor) is a tricky career path.


Bringing it all together

Yes, all the 25 PPC experts on the PPC Hero list this year speak at conferences and often have thousands of social media followers, but building a reputation as an industry specialist starts with the basics. The best PPC experts go niche, love data, take risks, and keep learning.

Want to start automating PPC ads like a pro? If you haven’t yet, sign up for our free trial.

Is SEM An Effective Growth Channel For Startups?

Posted by in Agency, Search
Is SEM An Effective Growth Channel For Startups?

SEM is undoubtedly one of the most effective digital marketing channels that exist. When the right elements come together – a great product with good unit economics, relatively few competitors, and high search volumes – paid search scales very nicely.

But startups rarely have all these elements working in their favor at once, and they usually face a set of unique challenges when trying to build out SEM as a scalable channel. As a digital marketing agency that has worked with more than 100 startups of all shapes and sizes on SEM, we have seen and navigated these issues and want to share some insights about how to overcome them.

The Challenges

Startups have a set of unique challenges above and beyond the typical challenges faced by companies advertising on paid search channels like Google AdWords and Bing Ads.

The first big challenge is that many startups have unknown or unproven customer LTVs (lifetime values). Knowing your LTVs is the most important first step when considering doing any kind of paid advertising. If you don’t know how much money you’re making from a customer over their lifetime, you won’t know how much you can afford to spend to acquire them.

But for startups with relatively little operating history and low customer volumes, it becomes very difficult to accurately project LTV. A lack of LTV data is a bit of a chicken and an egg problem, since LTV can only be established once you have acquired customers. You have to expend some combination of time, effort, and money to acquire customers from any channel.

This is very important to understand – SEM can be used to help validate or establish LTVs, but if this is your goal then make sure you are clear on what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes a startup thinks they are trying to see if SEM is scalable for their business, but they realize they don’t have the right LTV data to assess the efficiency of the channel in the first place. It’s an important distinction that will change the approach and the resources needed to manage your SEM accounts.

One way to get around this catch-22 is to get industry comparisons by talking to VCs or people at similar companies who can augment any customer data you have. While customer LTVs for other companies will likely differ from yours, it’s a relatively good measure that can at minimum help you establish a benchmark for developing a target CPA.

How much you can afford to spend to acquire a customer (called a target CPA) is directly related to how much scale you can achieve from SEM. The higher your target CPA, the more scale you can achieve.The reason for this is diminishing returns. As you start increasing your SEM spend, CPAs also increase as you saturate the low-hanging, high-intent keywords that typically convert well and you reach for new keyword opportunities. Eventually your actual CPA will start bumping up against your CPA target and you will be forced to stop scaling spend until either you determine you can afford to pay a higher CPA or you are able to achieve lower CPAs with optimization.

Another challenge for startups using paid search is heavy competition from established companies. Because these incumbents know their LTVs and also typically have much larger budgets to work with, they can afford to be more aggressive with their bids on SEM and this can squeeze out startups trying to break in. In addition, sometimes these companies ensure they show up in a certain position – regardless of how inefficient it may be. This can make it very difficult for scrappy, unit-economics-driven startups to compete. This can be exacerbated for high-funnel keywords that are already very expensive and have relatively low conversions rates.

For an eCommerce startup selling subscription clothing boxes, a generic high-funnel keyword like “mens jackets” is unlikely to back out to a target CPA that’s based on their average customer LTV. However, when searching for this term you’ll notice Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, and Michael Kors bidding aggressively:

mens jackets search example

Even for these companies, it’s unlikely that the CPA from these keywords backs out for them directly, but they continue to spend millions of dollars per year to show up in the top positions for these keywords. Such companies may be bidding on the belief that the brand exposure they receive from showing up for generic keywords makes up for CPA inefficiency, or they may be bidding on these keywords purely due to a fear of missing out since their competitors are bidding on them. Regardless, this is not a battle that a startup is going to win unless their LTV, and thus target CPA, allows them to compete.

The best way to get around this is to bid on a variety of long-tail keywords, which will have lower competition and likely higher intent, but will also be cheaper. The more extensive your list of long-tail generic keywords, the more traffic you can drive without relying on competitive, generic keywords. Google’s Keyword Planner and third-party tools like SpyFu can help you find long-tail keywords with low competition that are relevant to your business.

Another common obstacle for startups looking to leverage paid search is that they’re often operating in nascent or emerging markets, leading to low search interest. This can limit the amount of relevant search volume available, which is a critical aspect to scaling paid search.

People have to know something exists before they can search for it, or at least something closely related to it. If a startup is selling a whole new class of product or service, this poses a challenge. For example, in the early days of Uber and Lyft, no one knew what on-demand ride sharing was, so no one was searching for it. Only as the market matured did search interest start to skyrocket, as shown below:

Historical interest in “ride sharing” via Google Trends

Historical interest in “ride sharing” via Google Trends

How can you access search volume at scale when your industry is so new that people don’t even know it exists yet? This can be a daunting obstacle, and it takes some creativity to get past it.

Targeting competitor keywords and tangential products is one way to do this. For example, in the early days Uber could have bid on competitor keywords like “avis car rental” and “yellow cab taxi”, or tangential products like “quick transportation” and “call a taxi” to build awareness of its product and drive conversions via SEM.

However, the relevancy of a keyword to the product at hand will determine the conversion rate and so again it comes down to what CPA you can afford to pay for these keywords. Waiting for your market to develop is sometimes necessary in order to truly achieve scale from SEM while hitting your CPA target.

The Advantages

We’ve addressed the challenges in making paid search a profitable and scalable channel for startups, but what about the light at the end of the tunnel for those companies that are able to overcome those challenges?

The most obvious and most important advantage of paid search is the value of intent. Users are telling you exactly what they’re looking for when they type in a search term, which usually indicate higher levels of purchase intent than indirect signals like audience targeting that are available for other paid acquisition channels. As a result, no paid advertising channels come close to paid search conversion rates.

Intent-based search ads allow you to capture the low hanging fruit. Someone searching for “ride sharing app” is already generally aware of your product and is probably deep enough in the marketing funnel to download the app and use it. Search ads let you maximize demand capture.

But intent is also valuable for capturing higher-funnel interest. Someone searching for “quick transportation” is sending a direct signal that they’re looking for a fast way to get around, even if they’re not aware of the existence of ride sharing. This goes to show that you can find conversion volume from keywords that are not directly related to your product or service offering, assuming the unit-economics work out when comparing LTV to CPA.

Brand keyword coverage plays an important role in all SEM programs, but it’s especially critical for startups who should be capturing everyone searching for them. All the effort and resources expended driving awareness of a startup can be wasted if a potential customer searches for your brand on Google and gets poached by a competitor’s search ad. Branded search ads can help you protect your investment in other channels.

Given how valuable these earned branded search queries are, it should come as no surprise that bidding on competitors’ keywords can be a very effective way to reach potential customers at the bottom of the funnel who are ready to make a decision. This can be especially beneficial for startups who are in markets with well-known incumbents (i.e. lots of customers searching for their branded keywords).

While established companies may have larger budgets and more brand name recognition working in their favor, startups also have some things working in their favor.

For one, startups are able to move very fast and learn quickly due to their small size and lack of red tape, allowing for high-tempo testing and optimization, which is for scaling a paid search program. For another, startups can prioritize growth over profitability in pursuit of capturing a market, allowing them to better compete with established companies in ad auctions.

Finally, startups tend to have new and refined product offerings compared to their older competitors, creating the potential for higher conversion rates and customer LTVs. This can make it easier to compete with established competitors.

A Word to the Wise – Don’t Ignore Paid Search

Startups eventually have to acquire new customers efficiently and at scale in order to become mainstay businesses. In the early days that’s no easy task, as even defining efficiency goals based on LTV benchmarks can be arduous. Succeeding with SEM as a startup requires being nimble with testing and learning, and it sometimes necessitates sacrificing short-term efficiency in favor of long-term growth.

There will always be established competitors with much larger budgets trying to box out startups trying to break into their market, but there’s a huge opportunity for the startups that are able to successfully overcome the challenges associated with SEM. People expressing their intent through a search query is arguably the most powerful marketing signal that exists. And tapping into that signal using paid search engine marketing can be the source of a highly scalable customer acquisition channel.