Post 11/30: The Evolution Of The PPC Account Manager

By Jeff Allen | @JeffAllenUT | President at Hanapin Marketing

This is part of a 30 posts in 30 days series chronicling my first 30 days in my new role as President of Hanapin Marketing.


In the early days Account Managers didn’t exist. Someone in the IT department who knew how the Internet worked typically ran PPC. No one really knew what they did so they received a budget and occasionally reported on things like impressions and clicks.


Then we moved to picking someone in marketing and tacking PPC on to the bottom of her job description. It was evident at this point that there was money to be made online and that it was a marketing function not a technical function. Reporting increased but still focused more on reach and frequency than conversions and ROAS.


Once companies saw more users go online and budgets increased, and agencies started to form, people started hiring people who stumbled into the industry to be account managers. That was the first point where people really spent all day every day working in accounts and had accountability for how the money was spent. They honed their ability to use logic to make sure every keyword and placement was profitable through painstaking hours staring at Excel.


Engineers and mathematicians were then hired to automate that logic and automation software was born. It was sold as the wave of the future, and has made many multi-millionaires, but it has dehumanized PPC when marketing is at its core the ability to communicate in a meaningful way with consumers and business decision makers.


We’re just now riding that wave and I am finding that it is taking us to an interesting place. That is that Account Managers are now more marketer than lever puller. They have to better understand consumer behavior. A cohesive strategy is more important that just tactics. This could actually be part of why the crowd-sourced agency/platform Trada failed. They had a lot of smart people in accounts pulling levers in the right way but they had no idea if they were the right levers in the first place.


The SVPs and C-Level folks have 5-10 years of updates from their digital advertising departments or vendors and so they better understand it. Their questions are no longer vague or silly but poignant and cut through the fluff. It’s great for those who can substantiate their strategies and/or claims but really bad for anyone who is used to being in the computer closet running PPC the way they want to and only feeding information back up to the boss that they wanted to.


For account managers to evolve into directors and executives they need to learn the art of marketing. For most this will be stacking that acumen on top of their digital background. They have to understand why something worked versus just identifying what works. The language they use will shift from technical things like Impression Share to strategic such as Share of Wallet. And the time spent on accounts will shift from pulling levers to understanding the business, what creates the most value and how to steal customers from the competition.


If you are interested in reading all posts in this series you can start with post 1 about what I am focusing on as president of a PPC agency. The next post in the series is about the 1 trait that your boss feels like you are missing.