August 18, 2014
This month’s blog series is all about why we do what we do in paid search. We’re always talking about best practices, methodologies and strategies we utilize, but why are those methods the standard? Why do those methods and strategies work? We’ll discuss anything and everything – ad copy, mobile, account structure, projections, bid changes, keyword match types, conversions and conversion rate optimization in the coming days so stay tuned!
It’s always exciting when a potential client comes to our team and is looking to make a PPC account management decision. As an agency, it’s important to keep that momentum and give the client the opportunity to do just that – especially if they need to. What you can’t do, however, is jump in to the new account pool without knowing how deep it is. For that very reason our team has implemented something we call a Solutions Blueprint in our sales process. The Blueprint is essentially a mini account audit that allows our team to take a look under the hood before we roster on new business. So why do we mandate this step? Let me explain!
The Audit Process
For starters, this account analysis is a win for both sides of the situation. It allows the agency to get a solid introduction to the campaigns they may end up managing, while the client can learn more about the agency’s potential strategy and capabilities.
In most situations, the client is coming to us with concerns over a particular performance issue. Getting access ahead of fully taking on management gives the agency team an opportunity to unpack that issue and be certain they can help. Occasionally, while verifying and digging in to the concern the client brought to the table, the agency can also discover other performance troubles. The clients tend to appreciate those added eye openers because it builds further trust that the agency isn’t going to simply check items off a list. Rather, they’ll be proactively seeking opportunities to improve and push to goals and beyond.
There are also times when the client comes to the agency and does not perceive any performance issues. Maybe the reason they’re leaving their current agency or outsourcing from in-house management has nothing to do with the account not hitting goals or running to expectations. The account analysis in this case can sometimes be even more exciting. Our team has uncovered completely unknown issues and upon reporting those, started an incredibly productive dialogue on how to fix it, how they’ll catch similar trends in the future, and overall methodology for improving performance even further. After all, a 3 to 1 ROAS is good, but a 5 to 1 ROAS is even better.
In either situation, the agency comes out knowing what they need to do and the client knows how it’s going to get done.
There may also be occasions when the client has gone agency hunting, performance on target or not, and aren’t necessarily sold on selecting a new partner. I can say with complete honesty that we’ve turned around Blueprints that serve as confirmation that the current management is doing a good job. The goal here is not to rip the other agency or account manager apart. Generally there can then be a discussion through this analysis about how the scope of paid search could be expanded, perhaps in to other engines (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) or untested segments (video, Display…). The client may very well have come in to the conversation knowing performance was acceptable, more looking to hear the expertise in growing beyond the current scope.
Finally, it’s important to remember that not every agency and client will agree. There may be testing strategies that the client is uncomfortable with or can’t permit for one reason or another. In these situations, the client needs to seek out the agency that is the right fit.
My favorite part of this step in our sales process has always been the dialogue. Even the pieces that look obvious and make perfect sense could have a more detailed explanation that actually make the situation completely different. For example, we often review year over year stats on particular KPIs in our Blueprint process (CPA, conversion rate, average CPC, etc.). You can quickly look at a 30% decrease in CPA and assume it’s a positive trend.
You will also discover that when you request confirmation of that assumption from time to time, the client will tell you they would rather bump the CPA goal back to what it used to be if it means higher quality leads. Maybe the previous management focused too much on the superficial layers of performance and didn’t look beyond interface metrics. Driving business is the goal, which may mean allowing for higher CPAs to improve bottom line revenue. Simply mentioning the agency’s view of this trend and getting the client’s side of the story can be enlightening.
Ultimately, the hope is that both the agency and the client come out of the account analysis portion of the sales process with complete alignment and understanding of expectations. The beginning of a new client/agency relationship is the most crucial and that transition should be smooth with everyone on the same page before the agreement is even signed.
Tell us what you think! If you’re on the agency side, how do you handle pre-sale account audits? Do you find them necessary or think you can move forward without them? How about you clients in the audience? Do you find yourself annoyed by the slow down for an analysis in the sales process or appreciate the thoroughness? A little of both? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!