Whether you work in-house or at an agency, there is no escaping the core client-consultant relationship. If you were to ask the most successful pay-per-click experts around, they’d tell you that in addition to “knowing your stuff” well, what really makes the difference to success is learning to manage management effectively.
In your role, you report to either upper management in-house or to stakeholders on the client side, with essential job areas such as setting goals, talking strategies, getting buy-in, communicating results, and prioritizing workflow applying to both.
If you’ve ever felt micromanaged by management or felt ignored by them, if you’ve felt passionately about strategies but couldn’t get buy-in for them or if you’ve ever felt your heart sink at the thought of relaying bad news, then these tips will help you go back to doing the things you love best even more effectively.
Here are five in-depth tips to creating and retaining a strong, trust-filled client-consultant relationship.
1. Let’s All Speak the Same Language
What does management care about? Simple answer: company growth and increased profits. Thus, to get attention and earn trust when speaking to management about goals and strategies, couch everything in terms of profitability.
For example, if you're considering testing Interest Category Marketing on the Display Network, first do some research and then you can approach management to make your case:
"I’ll be testing out Interest Category Marketing on the display network. We can still fit this campaign within our monthly budget. From our estimations, I have found that with the increased order volume and expected CPAs, we’ll likely see an increase of 10 percent profits from this channel."
If you can back up your proposed strategies with analytics research on expected outcomes, your suggestions will be well-received every time.
At the start of each month, sit down with management to jointly agree on strategy, goals and timelines for the month. This way everyone is on the same page on what to expect, what resources will be needed and how much time it will take.
Far too often great ideas or ad concepts get delayed because design resources or IT resources on the client end are unavailable. By letting management know what will be needed that month, these resources can be better planned in advance.
Often clients or management expect AdWords to be like turning on or off a switch. Setting expectations from the start helps you avoid questions such as why you’re implementing certain strategies or why there may be some fluctuations if you're doing a lot of testing. Additionally, clients will greatly appreciate having deliverables they can properly track each month, and they’ll grow to have a lot more faith in your abilities.
Now that you better speak their language, you also need them to speak your language. Educate management more on the workings of PPC in small chunks at a time.
Any manager with a good understanding of PPC will be a powerful ally in your efforts. This is also a great way to get the team to focus on the right set of KPIs too.
Often management team members hear of different buzzwords and then one manager will be excited about impression share, another keen on quality score. But you can put it all together for them and guide them to what really matters in terms of profits.
2. Set the Right Communication Schedule
You know how it is. Team leaders have questions, C-levels have questions, designers have questions; it’s time-consuming for you. Rather than dealing with ad hoc requests for updates or details from different people, take control of your schedule by setting fixed times and methods for updates.
Two simple tactics can make a big difference.
Set up a fixed weekly meeting and invite all the stakeholders involved, from senior management to other team leads. Usually 60 minutes will suffice, but no more than 90 minutes at a time is recommended.
All invitees don’t have to attend, but by having a specific agenda with critical items of interest you’ll likely find that most senior management will look forward to attending these meetings. Use this time to cover:
- Performance: Review reports on performance to date and monthly trends. Explain, on a top level, key highlights on what’s working and also touch upon items that need more current focus.
- New Initiatives: Talk about new tests or initiatives, reviewing reports on tests currently running, sharing how close they are to reaching statistical significance.
- Q and A: Answer questions and get feedback from all key players since they’ll have this time already blocked off on their calendars to think about PPC.
- Brainstorming: With all the bright minds in the room, take some time to have a brainstorming session for copy or ideas on what to test next. Different perspectives will give you some great ideas, plus, with all the key people in the room, it will save you having to approach them for approval later. Win-win!
- Other Channels: If team leaders or managers of other channels are present, get an update on what is going on with their channels. You never know when the slightest thing could have a big impact on PPC. For example, if you knew your call center had an extremely high phone conversion rate, and that for this one month they were experiencing some slow days, wouldn’t you want to test a click-to-call campaign? These are additional ways to help you meet your monthly goal.
- Timelines: This is also the time to set reasonable timeframe expectations. If, for example, you’re running an ad test, explain that you’re testing it on a campaign that receives 10 percent of the total impressions in a bid to reduce the testing risks and costs, and that with this volume it will take two weeks to reach statistical significance. This way you can avoid dealing with the “are we there yet?” questions and also reassure management that you are indeed on top of things.
So whether you’re looking for management to be more hands-off or more hands-on, setting these weekly meetings will be the biggest thing you can do to help yourself.
In between meetings you can and should send out periodic updates via email. Be proactive when anticipating questions you could be asked by management.
A good practice is to send out one daily report first thing each morning showing day-by-day performance for the month to date as well as the trend for the month. Add in a short notes section for any updates you may have made through the month so everyone gleans a proper top-level understanding of efforts underway and progress being made.
Additionally, if you’re running any type of test, be it landing page or ad, send out a few reports on test progress each week, including the hypothesis of why you're running the test and how statistically significant the results are so far.
By setting the tone for communication, you’ll gain immense trust from upper management and also save your precious time from all their interruptions.
3. Get Buy-In
Now you already know that with management you need to talk about everything in terms of profit. It’s all about how you ask the question.
When you want buy-in for a new strategy, especially if it requires additional budget, do the legwork first and showcase your research. For example, if you want extra budget to test ads that will improve profitability, do the quick math to estimate about how much the test could cost you.
If you know that you require a week’s worth of impressions to reach click-through rate (CTR) significance, and then another week’s worth to reach significance for profit-per-impression, you can fairly accurately calculate the costs needed. When reporting on the media costs needed, it’s imperative to not only point out the profits you may lose from these tests but also what you stand to gain once you fully roll out new ads that improve both the CTR and conversion rate.
Next, in addition to presenting management with these metrics, be prepared for every question they could ask. A good way to go about this would be to think in terms of the “so what?” question to every statement you will make to them. If you’ve ever played the “why?” game with a child, you’ll be a pro at this.
You could say, "I’m testing remarketing and will commit time and resources toward optimizing the campaign." OK, but why? It isn’t enough to just say “for more profits.” Really break it down into the simplest problem-solution answer.
You could say:
- I noticed our conversion rate is only 3 percent. So what?
- It means we’re losing 97 out of every 100 customers we’ve brought to our site. So what?
- They have already expressed a level of interest by visiting our landing page. So what?
- So by serving them more ads catered to their interests, we could get a 5 percent CTR at a third of our normal CPA and thus we will gain more profits each month.
There’s no arguing with that! Getting the buy-in will be much simpler when both you and your managers are clear on the end benefits.
We’re faced with many options when optimizing PPC campaigns. You could be optimizing either search campaigns or display campaigns and have multiple products vying for attention, not to mention mobile, international, reporting…the list goes on. Each one takes love, care, and time.
If you’re expected to deliver on many things and your to-do list is bursting, what’s the best way to prioritize your time? How do you decide which strategy to work on first while still meeting goals?
Consider the 80-20 principle, wherein you prioritize the things that take the least amount of time and effort but will yield the maximum result. Once you get the big wins out of the way, you can reprioritize the next steps and move onto the next items on the list.
A simple five-minute exercise with Excel can help here. List the opportunities, with additional columns that show the:
- Estimated profits generated.
- Estimated time it will take to achieve.
- Costs and resources estimated.
- Degree of risk involved.
Next, to prioritize, simply rank the items in order based on maximum opportunity size that are fastest to achieve and have the least degree of risk.
For example, upping the maximum CPA bid by 10 percent in AdWords takes all of 10 seconds, is low-risk and could yield high rewards, whereas improving CTRs could improve profits too, but would take rounds of testing and media budget and likely need a designer to create the banner ads. Thus, the bid optimizations would go first on the list, and ad testing would go below that. This five minute exercise at the start of each month can be a big help to you and to management.
5. Delivering Bad News
The best strategy for occasions when you have bad news to deliver is to be honest and upfront as soon as you discover it. Detail how large the damage is and the steps you’ve outlined to turn things around.
For example, you were all expecting Display Campaign Optimizer to be a huge success. Instead, CPAs are through the roof, profits are tanking, and you won’t be able to make goal this month. It’s not the best news to deliver, and as the messenger, you really don’t want to get shot.
Don’t worry; with the right approach you are fine. Follow these simple steps to turn a negative into a positive:
- Send out a detailed email to the team and then, depending on the severity of the situation. Set up a meeting to discuss.
- Prepare your notes, following this outline:
- A summary of the problem.
- How much it is costing you.
- What you have done about it.
- What the next steps are to turn things around.
- In what timeframe you expect recovery.
- Also mention the silver lining; even if something didn’t work, there was learning gleaned from the exercise that can better guide future efforts.
By taking ownership of the bad news, bringing it to light quickly, and showcasing your proactive approach to problem solving, you’ll have averted the crisis situation while helping to actually improve the client-consultant relationship.