February 2012

You’ve decided to run a PPC campaign, and established that you need to hire a marketing agency to manage the campaign. After meeting with several agencies, you have selected the firm that best fits your needs. You’re ready to launch the campaign and start generating conversions. Before you jump into running a campaign, it is important to review strategies to help you manage your PPC agency.

Principal and Founder of 360Partners, Jim McKinley has several key strategies to develop a successful partnership. Jim will be discussing these strategies and more in his upcoming presentation “How to Manage Your PPC Agency” at the LeadsCon Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 27, 2012.

Many companies assume that their work is over once they have selected an agency to manage their PPC campaigns. However, properly managing your PPC agency is crucial to ensuring success of both your PPC campaigns and your overall marketing goals.There are three keys to effectively managing a PPC agency: setting goals, open and honest communication, and challenging the agency.

Setting Goals

Unachieved goals are one of the biggest causes of friction between the client and agency. But much like sales forecasting, setting realistic search marketing goals is an essential part of developing successful campaigns. For example, it is nearly impossible to generate 1,000 leads in a month with a budget of $5,000 if the market dictates a cost-per-click (CPC) greater than $5.00.

You may need to adjust your goals periodically to accurately reflect changes in your business, competition, and search demand. However, changing goals frequently (i.e. more than once per quarter) is not recommended because it is difficult to see important long-term trends when you have a constantly moving target. The best strategy is to identify a realistic growth plan ahead of time and build gradual goal changes into a 12-month timeline.

In addition to setting realistic goals, you should avoid giving your agency false deadlines and/or benchmarks. A common example of this occurs when a company has an internal goal of a $40 cost-per-lead (CPL), but sets the agency’s CPL goal at $25 in order to guarantee a $40 CPL. In this instance, it is more difficult for the agency to achieve your desired level of clicks because they may be forced to implement low keyword bids due to a CPL target set well below the market average. The result may be that the campaign that fails to acquire the target number of leads.

The final step in setting goals is holding your PPC agency accountable for hitting those goals. It is impossible to achieve your PPC goals overnight, so it is important that you and your agency agree upon a reasonable deadline for hitting those goals. To ensure that your agency is on pace to meet that deadline, your agency should send you weekly PPC performance reports that will allow you to track long-term trends. If after several weeks your PPC trend lines are still not headed in the right direction, speak up. Talk to your agency about your concerns and be clear about what the consequences are for the agency not meeting your goals. There is little incentive for improvement without accountability.

Communication

We’re all friends during the sales process, but the atmosphere changes once the work begins. A critical aspect of communication is to share concerns early and often. Any confusion or issues should be discussed as soon as they arise to prevent small miscommunications from turning into large conflicts.

These kinds of misunderstandings often occur with reporting. For example, a client may not understand some of the metrics provided in his weekly reports. Rather than asking for an explanation, he simply ignores that metric on the report. After several weeks, he wants to know his PPC campaigns’ return on investment (ROI). When the agency explains that ROI data can be found under the heading “ROAS” (return on ad spend), the client becomes upset because those numbers are not what he was expecting. But because the client never mentioned any concerns about the ROAS numbers, the agency assumed the client was flexible with regards to that specific performance metric. Unfortunately, a simple miscommunication such as this can lead to critical conflicts that damage the overall relationship.

Another important factor in establishing client-agency communication is to immediately disclose emergencies and other factors that could have a major impact on your business or website. If you know your website is going to be down to perform site maintenance, you should inform your agency ahead of time so that they can pause your PPC campaigns during that time. Every dollar spent on a click is wasted if the ad is sending users to a non-functioning website. Furthermore, sending users to broken landing pages can negatively impact Google quality scores, which in turn can raise your PPC costs. Avoid unnecessary problems by providing your agency with adequate notice of website repairs, updates, or any A/B tests that will be conducted.

Challenge Your Agency

It is important to challenge your agency to provide insight in addition to reports. You should discuss with your agency the strategy behind their PPC recommendations to ensure that it aligns with your overall marketing and business objectives. Be sure to follow up with your agency once their recommendations have been implemented to determine whether their efforts resulted in the outcomes expected. Additionally, ask your agency to explain the reasons behind any fluctuations or performance trends, rather than just reporting the numbers.

Finally, challenging your agency to provide insight into PPC performance is a great way to identify opportunities for other areas of your business. PPC can help your sales team identify certain geographies that have strong sales potential. Additionally, using the wealth of data provided by PPC also helps identify the messaging and value propositions which generate the highest response rates.

Properly managing an outsourced PPC agency should result in a partnership dedicated to constantly improving results. The best agency/client relationships rely on open and honest communication between both parties and on working together to achieve clearly identified, realistic goals that change infrequently. When both teams operate as partners, tied to each other’s successes and failures, the result should maximize the return on investment and provide useful insights into other areas of your business.

If you need help with strategy or your online marketing accounts in general, contact us to find out if 360Partners is the right SEM partner for you!

Elizabeth Crinejo

Elizabeth Crinejo

Director of Client Operations at 360Partners
Elizabeth Crinejo has been a PR account executive, a programmer, and a consultant -- and a professional chef. Since joining 360Partners in 2009, Elizabeth has simultaneously managed data-oriented detail and top-level thinking to make impressive strategic and tactical differences for our clients.
Elizabeth Crinejo

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