This post is part of the Hero Conf Los Angeles Speaker Blog Series. Jamie Smith will join 50+ PPC experts sharing their paid search and social expertise at the World’s Largest All-PPC Event, April 18-20 in Los Angeles, CA. Like what you read? Find out more about Hero Conf.

If you are in search marketing or work with a search agency, your pool of eligible clients is big but the competition is fierce.  How do you differentiate your agency services?

I owned a search agency for 15 years and learned the hard way how to get clients. This post will share my experience, and you can also read these 8 lessons on owning an agency that I wrote on Search Engine Watch.

Keywords associated with a Search Agency

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In a recent analysis I did using The Search Monitor I saw 30,431 AdWords advertisers in the U.S. who spent more than $30k in Q4 2016, up 135% from last year.  With this many advertisers spending over six figures annually you would think there are plenty of leads and clients to go around.

However, if you chat with a business-development person at a search agency, they’ll tell you three things:

  1. Everyday there are more agencies and consultant who offer search marketing services (PPC/SEO)
  2. Pitching is very intensive in terms of labor, time and money, so they can only focus on prospects they are most likely to win; and
  3. Just winning a pitch isn’t enough. If they invest heavily in setting up a new client and learning their business, they don’t want to lose them after 6 months due to poor results. Profitability comes from carefully selecting new clients that the agency can help to create a win-win.

Before Big Data, an agency’s business development department would assess “fit” by learning as much as possible about a prospect’s search activity.  Are they ecommerce or lead generation?  Is the business B2C or B2B?

This is a time-intensive process of manually searching and conducting a detailed analysis of things such as the keywords for PPC / SEO, average position, ad copy, popular offers, new promotions and top landing pages.

While the search engines do provide biz development teams with a few tools for keyword-level insight, most tools do not shed light on an individual advertiser’s performance. By the way, some of these basic tools can be found here.

Enter Big Data, which in this example means programmable crawling tools that perform searches and capture everything they see in a giant, easy-to-access database. These monitoring tools provide marketers with four essential benefits:

  1. Quick keyword and website analysis
  2. PPC activity at the specific advertiser level
  3. SEO data to reveal their content marketing strategy; and
  4. The ability to group together specific competitors to create relevant performance benchmarks

Here’s an example of PPC spend and impression share (desktop versus mobile), plus average position.

Desktop vs Mobile impression share and average position

And here’s an example of market share for paid, organic and shopping with top threats and offer types.

Paid, organic and shopping market share insights

These two examples hopefully show you what you can quickly get from these tools to include in your analysis.

Now, I’m going to show agency business development teams how Big Data search tools and analysis can rig the deck in their favor to identify and win new business. Let’s dive right in.

Step 1: Identify your good-fit prospects

The phrase ‘good fit’ is incredibly vague. It clearly depends on factors such as an agency’s employees, analytic tools or software, client portfolio, reputation, and desired direction for their business.

I’ll share four ways that we assessed ‘good fit’, and let you choose the most effective ones for your agency.

1. Vertical-Good Fit: Many agencies prefer to work in verticals (i.e., industries or sectors) where they have unique expertise versus other agencies, or have demonstrated prior success.

With Big Data ad monitoring tools, you can create a list of every advertiser appearing on a given set of keywords to find possible leads. If desired, you can even narrow this list by geography, such as country, state or city.

2. Budget Fit: A great way to filter your vertical list is by monthly PPC spend, especially if your revenue model is a percentage of total spend. Some keyword monitoring tools capture enough info to provide rough estimates of an advertiser’s monthly spend.

For example, we would use this data to exclude advertisers spending, under $10K per month, or to identify ones who have been ramping up spend sharply in recent months.

3. Performance Fit: At this point you’ve created a new business target list of high spenders in the perfect vertical(s) for your agency. But what if they are already doing well in PPC and don’t need your help? You would prefer to target advertisers who are struggling with PPC, where an agency can come to the rescue.

Big Data ad monitoring tools can estimate key performance indicators (KPI) such as click thru rate (CTR) and market share for any advertiser, and then compare to competition. Very quickly, an agency can identify advertisers who significantly underperform their peers and know they can improve results.

4. Tracking-Analytics-Good Fit: One of the biggest issues with new clients is that often they do not correctly set up their tracking. Some agencies have realized that targeting companies that are already measuring marketing efforts correctly or using a bid management tool can be a better fit. These agencies will use scraping technology to capture which scripts or tags are on a website in order to target companies using Marin, Kenshoo, Aquisio, and DoubleClick DART, for example.

Focus business-development efforts on good fit prospects using the checklist above.

Good client and agency fit

Step 2: Craft the winning pitch

You’ve identified a list of advertisers where you have a high chance of winning. Now it’s time to translate that knowledge into a winning more contracts.  I love to win!

While I’m not here to offer you design advice (you’re the agency), I will recommend three data layouts used successfully in my experience:

  1. Benchmarks: Create a series of simple bar charts showing the prospect’s search visibility in comparison to their top competitors.
  2. Trends: Including a trend chart (usually 1-2 months) showing PPC market share for them and their peers during key sales periods. This reveals opportunities to gain share.
  3. Keyword & Ad Effectiveness: Lastly, many tools rank the effectiveness of offers used in ad copy and which keywords are working for the competition.

Step 3: Knock their socks off at the final presentation

You’ve done it. You found the best-fit prospects for your agencies and sent in a proposal. They’ve invited you to make a final in-person presentation, and now it’s time to seal the deal.

At this point, you have provided compelling data points, but you haven’t fully convinced the prospect that you know PPC activity in their industry. Perform these Big Data ad monitoring actions in advance of your in-person meeting, and you’ll be prepared for any questions that might arise.

In order to close the engagement, you must drive home the value or ROI you will provide for the fee you are going to charge. Here are three ways to do that:

  1. Set up automatic alerts on your prospect’s competitors for important KPIs such as ad rank, market share, and keywords. This arms you with the latest performance data in your prospect’s industries.
  2. If they use affiliate marketing, create a list of their top partners, and learn how they’ve been performing to gleam any insights. This can make for a lively discussion of ways to reach new audiences.
  3. Pull data on their organic listing rankings as well. Use this to make the point that SEO results can boost PPC clicks – – overall page visibility should be their goal.

Final Thoughts

I’ve learned that the most successful pitches demonstrate that the agency truly understands the clients industry, business, customer, competitors, and marketing needs.

Big Data is an agency’s new friend. No longer does it just benefit the bean-counters but your business development teams too.

Sales teams can use Big Data to target better prospects, craft better pitches, and wow them at the final presentation with their industry knowledge. Essentially, they’ll waste less of their time, and attract clients that will be more profitable for your agency in the long-term. Big Data means Big ROI for agency business development.  Please share your thoughts or any tools you use in your agency proposal process.