For our first installment in the April PPC management series, I’m going to focus on something that may not initially come to mind when thinking about how to start off a new account on the right foot: client services.

All paid search account managers understand the importance of data and performance. However, the thing many account managers forget to put at the forefront of their priority list is the importance of building a strong client relationship from day one. Not one of us is perfect, but it’s much easier for a client to forgive minor performance dips if you’re showing that communication with them is on the top of your list.

I’m going to tell you a story, because the best way to learn is to know something has happened to a real-life human being…and they LIVED!

Angry Client Yelling

I was assigned to a new account that came in to Hanapin last year and the client was going to be starting in the paid search market for the first time. We were working with a 5-figure budget and were certainly in for a long haul, as competition in the space was incredibly high. Being that this was a new account, the client was fairly unsure of any lead or CPL goals to put in place, so we agreed that we would determine goals together after the initial launch was complete and some traffic came in. There was some unrest from the client side about starting without goals, but I quickly assured them I was still only bidding on the keywords that had been approved, and that daily budgets would be set to keep the monthly budget spread through the entire month.  We also discussed the threshold for impressions, clicks and leads that we would call the cutoff point to have enough data to at least determine initial goals.

At the expense of boring you with all the details, the first 3 weeks in the account went great. We were sending through leads at a decent rate, CPL wasn’t far out of line with other advertising mediums the client had employed and our budget was pacing nicely. In week 3, I had my weekly performance update call with the client (standard frequency for the first month at least, around here at Hanapin). While on the call, the client expressed an interest to begin bidding on a new segment of long-tail keywords to help qualify leads even further. Easy enough! It was a great expansion opportunity and I was excited to implement something for the client that they had directly requested, which would likely be successful, especially with proper optimization. Broke out a new ad group to house these keywords, wrote the ad copy and launched.

Ready for the big bang? I put that new ad group in a campaign that wasn’t meeting its daily budget. It took a few days for the new ad group to gain traction, but then…it took off. I overspent the budget by about $1500 with two days left in the month. No excuses, because I should have thought of it. But here I was: no more budget and a brand new client to explain it to. Awesome sauce, right? I had about an hour before my supervisor was going to be in and I had to have a strategy ready for how to handle the situation. I came up with a few options for offsetting the overspend and presented to my supervisor and he helped me pick the best two to present to the client. This was the really sucky part: this was not news to deliver over email. “Hey Brand New Client! I totally overspent your budget, but here’s what happened and here’s what we can do. Love, Kayla”

You know how that email actually read? “Dear Brand New Client, I messed this thing up that you gave me responsibility for and I’m way too chicken to call you live and risk a verbal lashing. Forgive me, pretty please? Love, Kayla”

It was phone call time, and I knew it wasn’t going to be fun. More than that, it was the first bad news I had to deliver to a client in my tenure at Hanapin and I was less than thrilled to have broken my streak. Shame and guilt. Ick.

I took about a half hour to gather my thoughts and prepare myself for the call and then just picked up the phone. When my client contact answered, I did the usual “hey, how are things?” and then dove right in to what happened. With full explanation for how the slip-up occurred in the first place, the possible solutions and how I would keep the situation from happening again…I braced for the yelling.

To my very, VERY happy surprise, there was no yelling. Not even a cross word, really. Don’t get me wrong, I got a slap on the wrist and a “we have to be sure this doesn’t happen again,” but there was no jump reflex as I had anticipated. The client accepted one of my two solutions and we moved forward. I sent a follow-up email after we wrapped the call, so that there was a hard copy of the issue that had occurred and the solution to be carried out, for future reference. The client responded, and not only said thank you for being so upfront about the issue and what had happened, but for taking initiative to not just shut off the account and assume the solution they wanted.

Now, is this always going to be the case? Of course not. There will be times when no amount of consistent communication can save you management rear-end, however I will argue to the death that most clients are also human. Report to them on occasion when you don’t have to, check-in when things are good and aren’t going so great, and always come up with a plan when you are responsible for a mistake. Communicate and report until they say “uncle.” Maintain transparency of your decisions and process and keep the client in the loop if anything changes. You would really be surprised how receptive your client can be to bad news if you’re upfront and honest about it…and don’t make it a habit. J

Tell our team about some of your client experiences! Have you had some bad news to deliver and got a better response than expected? Or maybe you made a mistake and when you reported it, found out you hadn’t been keeping such a great client relationship after all? Share your experiences in the comments section below and thanks for reading!