These kinds of posts are always dangerous.

I try to avoid them, to be honest, because it’s difficult to walk the tightrope of tact and truth. You either end up sounding like a giant jerk that hates everyone, or you fearfully dance around feelings so much that you don’t ever really say what is on everyone’s mind.

The purpose of this post is not simply to gather constituents from the various PPC agencies out there who want to moan about poor relationships around beers in a dimly lit pool hall. The purpose is to genuinely attempt to speak to people who are selling PPC, as well as to speak to those looking for a new PPC agency. I want to encourage us to avoid certain methods of communication that will prevent us from having long and fruitful relationships with our clients/agencies.

As I have done my fair share of PPC selling over the past 6 years, I’ve come to identify certain statements made by potential clients that make me run for the hills. No seriously, when I see these traits, I am immediately on guard because I have found that getting rid of a difficult client can be far more costly than potentially losing out on a what could have turned into a legitimate client.

What are these potentially partnership-killing statements? Read on!

8 Partnership-Killing Statements To Be Wary of When Selling PPC

1) “…just one more question… (590 later)”

QuestionsQuestions are an important part of any beginning partnership as they facilitate better communication. Do we see eye to eye on this? Am I understanding you correctly? These questions (and many more) are absolutely essential when considering a client for PPC… and when considering an agency as a client!  But at some point, I began to be wary when someone won’t stop asking questions. You know the type, they are afraid to commit and are praying you blow their mind, or reveal your idiocy with each new question. They don’t care what happens, they just want to be convinced they are making the right decision!  OH THE AGONY.

Moving deeply: getting beyond poking a little fun at this personality type, the problem here is that it reveals indecision and an inability in the client to take normal levels of information (there are *always* important questions/discussion that happens in any sales process) and use that to make an informed decision, and then own it. Unfortunately, landing this type of client doesn’t make the questions go away… it will instead further emphasize the indecision and anxiety felt on the client’s part. You may find your billable time (and the time of your client) begun to be spent more in explaining random account intricacies, then in actual account management. That is bad news for both parties!

Beware of the prospect who fears committal, which comes through in an exhausting number of questions pre-sale.

2) “I don’t have specific goals in mind, I just want to see how things go first.”

NeutralThis may seem innocent at first, but it is an omen of disaster. Sure, if you knock it out of the park because competition is low and there is high demand and great profit, then everyone is happy (well, maybe not even then). The problem is when reality kicks in and it turns into a, you know, normal account. This provides prime real estate for bitterness and irritation to seep into the relationship since the client is “not happy” but they have given you no direction as to how to make them happy.

Moving deeper: if we move past the initial concerns shared above, the bigger picture here is that you are thinking about partnering with a client who does business in a way that promotes mushy numbers and feelings of happiness as success. Note that I’m not riffing on people who like being happy. I’m riffing on people who have such an unclear understanding of their own business goals, that they are potentially ignorant (I don’t know how to think this through) or lazy (I don’t want to think this through). Both of those speak at a deeper level as to why this should be a warning statement when you are talking to a prospect. Trouble ahead!

Beware of the prospect who doesn’t know what success on your part will look like.

3) “We have no history of goals, but here is the exact ROI you will have to hit in 2 months.”

Hitting target goals and objectivesThis is the flip side of the previous statement! Whereas the previous prospect was noncommittal, this one moves forward with confidence, asserting exactly what needs to happen in the account… whether realistic or not.

Admittedly, this one is a bit subjective, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I’m not concerned by someone who wants their advertising account to be profitable, since, you know… that’s what we’re trying to do here.  What I’m talking about is the prospect who is going to be unwilling to learn of the intricacies of search and gathering data/spend over time (especially in new accounts), and has an arbitrary timeline in his mind.

Moving deeper: the core problem here is that this is revealing a lack of general understanding in this new client of the fact that marketing is complicated, and always risky. There are certain new accounts that behave differently than the way Keyword Planner projected the CPCs, and no one can prophesy exact conversion rates. The good client understands the risks, and intricacies involved to fighting for profitability in a PPC account and is willing to (with excellent, and ongoing communication) adjust expectations and goals based on how the account is actually performing. This doesn’t mean the account should always be kept open if profit is not reached. It does mean that it’s far more complicated than assigning an arbitrary deadline to the agency and holding their feet to the fire without being willing to learn from them if things change in the account.

4) “I need you to get back to me ASAP.” or “You’ll find we move pretty quick around here.” or “I know it’s the weekend, but I need an answer today.”

Communicating with a clientI expect push-back on this one, but hear me out. In targeting this statement, I’m *not* discussing an account in which a client had their agency leave unexpectedly by breaking their contract, or an in-house employee left in a huff yesterday, or actual emergency scenarios. Though, let me pushback on that pushback since, often, even emergencies can be indicative of poor original planning (how locked down was the contract you signed with the previous agency? Did the employee leave in a huff because your management is crappy and thus you have bigger problems then your unmanaged PPC account?).  Even then, these are the exceptions, not the rule to these type of statements from my experience (I’m curious to learn from your experience on this one, BTW).

What I am referring to is a scenario involving an inflated ego of the prospect that demands the agency serve them and their time-table.  Whenever I hear a prospect talk in terms of pushing me hard to make a decision, it sends up major warning bells.

Moving deeper: as I noted above, my primary concern here is that the individual demanding specific timing is (1) showing signs of being the type of client who will always prioritize all of their questions as emergency status (2) treating their agency partner as an employee rather than a partner.

#1 above is an issue because the number of times something in an account is actually an emergency is so minute, to be laughable. Thus so, the decision to find and hire a new agency is one that should be well-thought through and researched. I much prefer to deal with a prospect who is willing to take things slow in the beginning to ensure we are a good fit, rather than someone who just needs to dive in right away, and by the way what is your lowest offer we are ready to sign now. I think this stems back from a valuable lesson I learned from my parents growing up, and that is if someone pressures them into a hurried “deal” situation, it will 99 times out of 100 be something they didn’t actually need or want anyway.

#2 above is an issue because it is that prospect revealing that they don’t have a realistic view of the relationship they will have with an agency. If they want someone who they will have 8 hours a day, who will have to pull every report for them, and say yes, ma’am, no ma’am” whenever they ask anything then they need to hire an employee. The reason an agency can be a smarter decision for certain clients in certain price-ranges is because it offers them expert knowledge, or a team of experts, at a price that avoids the additional employee costs associated with an actual employee.

5) “We’ve tried a lot of other agencies, but just haven’t found what we’re looking for yet.”

Hopping from agency to agencyQualifications aside (sure there are some who have legitimately been burned by multiple agencies), this statement usually causes warning bells to ding all over my mind (and from talk around Twitter, I’m not the only one). As the PPC industry has begun to mature, it has become apparent that there is an evasive creature out there known as the “agency hopper”. This agency hopper can be either timid and easily frightened, or ferocious and vengeful. Regardless of the type, both creaturely behaviors are dangerous to agencies as they jump from agency to agency, trying to find the perfect one.. always frustrated and never satisfied.

Moving deeper: The reason the agency-hopper is so dangerous to partnerships is because they tend to never find fault within their own methods or business. It is always the vendor’s fault. Profitability wasn’t achieved because the vendor failed in some way. While this is certainly possible, and can even happen more often than not, at some point after the agency body count rises one begins to wonder if there is not more to the puzzle than simply the fact that this poor helpless client can’t find a decent agency. As a sidenote here to other agencies, one way to sniff out whether this is a legitimate prospect, or whether you are on the phone with the dreaded agency-hopper, is to learn the names of the previous agencies. If those agencies tend to all be well-regarded and reputable types around the web, then it’s possible you are talking to an agency hopper.


InterruptingThis is a personal pet peeve of mine and since this is my (long) blog post, I get to add it in. This statement to be aware of is less of a statement, and more of a habit. When you were a kid, did you ever tell this Knock-Knock Joke?

Sarcastic Adult: “Knock-knock.”

Unsuspecting Kid: “Who’s there?”

SA: “Interrupting cow.”

UK: “Interrupting cow, wh—“

SA: “MOOOOOOOOOOO” (bonus points for annoying volume).

With this prospect in the statement above… how do I put this.  This is the person who just won’t let you finish your freaking sentences. It’s someone imperceptible, until it happens the 23rd time, and then it gets annoying!

Moving deeper: the reason this prospect is one to be wary of, is because someone who constantly interrupts you during your meet and greet is often revealing ego issues, and refusal-to-partner issues.  When I am looking for a client, I am looking for someone who will treat ZATO as trusted partners, not someone who refuses to even let us finish our sentences.

Think I’m being overly sensitive? Go ahead and tweet me your thoughts, and while you’re trying to type I will keep interrupting you with “MOOOOOOOOOOOOO”  and we’ll see how long that stays fun 😉  I’m being snarky, but I hope you understand my point. We don’t need more people in our lives that don’t value our input, so why would you willingly partner with someone like that?

7) “We can’t afford your fees, but would you consider some sort of share in revenue?”

Where's the money?See also “We don’t actually have enough money scraped together to make this thing work, but we’d like to sink you with us.” Ok ok, maybe that was a little harsh. I do realize everyone has to start somewhere, but what I’ve discovered is that promises of massive growth explosion rarely ever happen and you may find yourself doing a lot of work for an account that will never take off. In the meantime, you still have your own mouth(s) to feed and bill(s) to pay.

Moving deeper: as I alluded to in my opening salvo on this one, there is a very real concern here that the client is not financially stable enough to handle the inevitable ups and downs with marketing. You know who will get blamed in those down-times, right? Hint: startup founders rarely blame themselves. As an aside, this statement is different than you working out some sort of bonus structure as an incentive for good work with your clients. Clients who say “how can I pay you well, and then reward you for doing an even better job” are not the type I’m referring to in this section. It is the client whose starting mindset is “how can I get the most work possible for the least amount paid out since I don’t really have any cash on me” that concerns me.

8) “PPC isn’t complicated, I could do it I just don’t have the time.”

Last but not least, we have the most tricky of the statements to wrestle with. This one is tricky, because I’ve never actually heard anyone explicitly utter the first part of it, but it comes through in a million ways. The short of it is that you are dealing with (probably a business owner) who doesn’t understand the intricacies of search and who believes it’s really not that difficult when it comes down to it.

Moving deeper: the reason this is such a deadly statement is because it can reveal an arrogance that will poison your future dealings with this client. I have found the best clients to work with are the ones who understand that they have value in their industry knowledge, and ZATO has value in our PPC knowledge, and strives to work together using everyone’s strengths. Partnering with a person who thinks your job isn’t really that difficult but that “I just don’t have time” is setting you up for many future conversations in which you will have to either (1) constantly defend your actions in an account or (2) constantly communicate around non-essential account intricacies that the client thinks are important and so demands an explanation. This is a thin line, because there are of course people who in the right circumstances with the right CPCs and competition and products and offers, can make an account successful. The danger, in my opinion, is their unwillingness to see you as the expert. If they genuinely feel that way, then why the heck did they hire you in the first place?!  Humorously enough, I have found this mentality goes hand in hand with an unwillingness to pay an expert what they are worth.

Wrapping Up

So, there is my confession of what I watch for in client calls. What about you, anything you would add or something you vehemently disagree with? Tweet it to me at @PPCKirk.