There are plenty of instructional tools and posts that outline the best ways for PPC agencies to communicate with their clients. That content tends to put the onus on the agency, and certainly as the client you can (read: should) anticipate your agency taking the bulk of responsibility when it comes to setting up recurring meetings, bringing proactive PPC strategies to the account, etc. However, client/agency communication is a two-way street and both parties need to be active and engaged if long-term success is the ultimate goal (and when is it not?).
So let’s flip this topic around and outline some tips that you, as the client, can keep in mind when it comes to working and communicating with your current or future PPC agency:
Maintain Meeting Schedule & Frequency
I’m listing this tip first because you can’t communicate the right way if you don’t have the channels open in the first place. As I mentioned very briefly above, your agency should be setting up recurring meetings, calls and reporting points at the onset of your engagement. Those times/days may change throughout the relationship, but they should be set on everyone’s calendars. You would truly be surprised how many meetings I would have missed if it weren’t for the handy pop-up from my email calendar reminding me that there’s something starting in 5 minutes (spoiler alert: no one’s perfect!).
Now this isn’t to say there are not completely valid reasons why you may not be able to attend a preset meeting or call – there certainly are! If you do need to cancel or can’t make it, reach out to your agency and let them know. The most important step is to make sure you provide reschedule times or options. It’s incredibly easy to forget this part, but your agency is preparing reports, agendas, presentation materials, etc. You could help them effectively prioritize and pause that preparation if the meeting won’t happen, but more importantly you need to make time to reschedule so that you can review those materials.
Our team comes to client meetings with specific items to discuss around performance, strategies, and items needing approval. When these items aren’t communicated to the client, projects can become stagnant or lose the capability to move as quickly. The reschedule is key!
Clarify Data (Goals, Metrics, KPI, Performance…)
This item tends to receive the most attention in the beginning stages of a client/agency partnership, but it should also be revisited as necessary.
Let’s say you have a kickoff call with your PPC agency and you supply them with a $40 cost per lead goal. Hopefully the agency asks some qualifying questions around what that goal means but let’s keep focused on the client side for now. Fast forward three months and your agency comes to a weekly call with reports that show they’ve achieved your $40 CPL target and they’re eager to continue improving that metric. This win is big for your agency, but what they didn’t know was that the $40 CPL goal, from your perspective, also needed to include the agency fees for management. We call this a ‘fully-loaded CPL’ around the Hanapin offices. No one in this situation was wrong by definition – the agency hit the $40 goal and the $40 goal was what was supplied. The error came in the clarification of that goal.
Not all agencies default to measuring CPLs on a fully-loaded scale and not all clients require CPL goals to be fully-loaded in the first place, so both parties probably made some assumptions in this case.
When you’re delivering, requesting or reviewing data with your agency, make sure those data points are clearly communicated and all facets of those numbers are clarified before moving forward. Which brings me to my next point…
Going back to the example situation above, the way the confusion over goal clarity can be eliminated is if you take a moment to ask – “Does that reported CPL include your fees or is it interface-level only?” In a perfect world, we all read each other’s minds and know exactly what the other person is saying or trying to say. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and asking questions of your agency is crucial.
You know what’s more awkward than a client call where the agency is about to deliver poor performance changes? A client call where the agency is reporting positive performance changes but the client is silent. It’s easy to ask questions when performance is down, but be sure to also ask questions when things are going well. There is plenty of knowledge to be gleaned from successes and failures and the more you know and understand about what your agency is doing – the better.
The only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask and I promise you, your Account Manager would rather give you 5 more minutes on a call to explain exactly how Quality Score effects click costs than to have you put in notice down the road because you didn’t understand why time was being spent on Quality Score improvements.
Take Advantage of Transparency
Another practice our team follows that isn’t necessarily standard in the PPC agency world is to provide client-side access to as many of the tools we’re using on their account. This ranges from maintaining the client’s administrative access to their AdWords and Bing accounts, all the way to giving them logins to Basecamp, Acquisio, Optimizely, etc. Now, the whole point behind hiring an agency to manage PPC is that you need the expertise and you also don’t have the time, so we don’t intend for our clients to spend hours logging in to these accounts to view what we’re doing. We send weekly and monthly reports that roll this activity together, but it’s important to us that our clients be able to check in if they want. This check in could be via email or call, but our transparent method of account access also allows for a day to day opportunity for the client to take a look at optimizations we’re making, projects that are rolling out, tests that have completed and so on.
As the client, it’s well within your rights to want to know what your agency is up to, so if they’ve supplied you with a project management dashboard that logs their daily activity or something similar – use it!
Don’t Hold Back Concerns Or Sore Points
I know, you’re thinking: “well obviously, Kayla.” I think you’d also be surprised how often clients tell us when they put in notice that there was something that sat wrong with them months ago. The real kicker is that it usually isn’t even performance or goal-based. When something becomes a problem or concern with your agency, don’t hold back or wait until later. That small splinter in your thumb will get infected and your entire hand will fall off…and you may not notice until it’s too late to get it back.
Working with an agency is just like being in a relationship. You shouldn’t go to bed angry and you shouldn’t keep frustrations or worries from your agency.
The bottom line comes down to this – you’re the expert when it comes to your business, and (hopefully) your agency is the expert on PPC optimization and strategy. Both variables need to participate to solve the PPC performance formula. The client and agency should feel like true partners, not a purchaser and vendor. If everyone keeps that in mind at all times – you should be staring down the barrel of a crazy successful and engaged relationship.
What else do you do as a client to help maintain communication with your agency? To the agency readers – are there things your clients do in terms of communication that you feel really help push the relationship in the right direction? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!