Get the best news in paid search marketing - published every week together with Search Engine Land.
6 Dos And Don’ts Of Client Relations For Paid Search (Or Any Digital Marketing Discipline)
How do you maintain strong, long-term relationships with your pay-per-click clients? Columnist Matt Umbro offers up some tips.
For many things in life, there is a right way of doing things and a wrong way. Pay-per-click client relations are no different, as account managers need to remain professional and steadfast in their management of paid search efforts. The best relationships can sustain dips in performance if account managers are honest and forthcoming with clients.
The following are the six “Dos and Don’ts” of client relations from the account manager’s prospective. These recommendations come from my best (and worst) relationships over the years as well as from client feedback.
Though these recommendations won’t apply to all account managers 100 percent of the time, they provide a good basis for long-term and successful client relations.
Let’s start with a basic principle that is perhaps the most important for a solid foundation.
1. Don’t Treat All Clients Alike; Do Adapt To Your Clients’ Tendencies
Simply put, every client is different. This sentiment isn’t exactly breaking news, but I’ve seen many account managers treat all clients in the same manner. Some clients want to know every detail going on in the account while others only need an executive summary.
It’s also about picking up on the smaller details. For example, you may be a big proponent of multi-channel attribution, but your client isn’t. Pitching an idea with the core components of “brand awareness” and “conversions will come in time” probably won’t go over well.
Instead, pitch a small testing budget with a lower ROI than existing campaigns that you believe the client will find acceptable. Reassure the client that your primary concern is showing the acceptable ROI. That’s not to say that you can’t also mention attribution, but making it the primary focus is going to upset the client.
At the end of the day, we want to make our clients look good and for them to know that their trust in us is warranted. Adapting to their personalities is part of the equation. The better light they see you in will lead to more productive meetings and interactions.
2. Don’t Just Provide Options; Do Offer Recommendations
Like any specialist, we know more than the average person about properly running a paid search account. A carpenter knows more than me about fixing a door, and a mechanic is going to understand car repair more than I ever will.
My point is that our clients hire us because we know paid search inside and out. That’s why with every option we should also be giving a recommendation backed by strong reasoning.
Recently, I was working with a client who wanted to expand into new channels to accrue more traffic, but didn’t have specific goals in mind. Instead of just providing different channels and ad ideas, I explained what we could expect.
As an example, we started a Facebook campaign with messaging around a March clearance sale. Instead of creating a general ad, the sale messaging would present the attractive offer. Visitors would see much lower prices than normal and also be introduced to the new line of products. Even if they didn’t buy, they would know that new products are available (which we used in our remarketing messaging).
3. Don’t Take Things Personally; Do Empathize
We take pride in our work, so when something is questioned or criticized, often our first instinct is to take it as a personal attack.
Perhaps a client doesn’t like the ad messaging, or an individual campaign cost per conversion is too high. Or there may be an instance where something had been previously agreed upon between both parties, but the client is now saying something different. These are all instances that can make us question how well we are doing the job.
It’s important to remember that clients aren’t attacking you personally, but are frustrated with the situation. They may be getting pressure from their bosses to turn things around — or perhaps company goals or focus have suddenly shifted.
Instead of getting mad at clients, understand where they are coming from. Oftentimes the first line of my response to clients is to thank them for their email and let them know that I appreciate their thoughts. I’ll then provide background and my thoughts regarding the specific situation, which leads into the next section.
4. Don’t Place Blame; Do Defend Your Work
Sometimes negative client claims against account managers are unfounded. The most common example is when clients ask why an initiative hasn’t started, even though the ball is in their court to get a code implemented, a payment method entered, and so forth.
As an account manager, the easy answer is to place blame on the client. However, that does no one any good, as what accounts to a sibling rivalry will ensue. In other words, no matter who is in the right, playing the blame game doesn’t build long-term trust and will deteriorate the relationship.
Having made this statement, you should still defend your work in a professional manner, as lying down can have just as negative consequences.
When clients claim that I haven’t started an initiative, I’ll recap the initial conversation (and forward the email thread if necessary). I’ll then close the message by asking how I can help. For example, if code needs to be implemented, I’ll ask if the client wants me to email the developer directly.
I’ll also set expectations at the beginning of an engagement. When the clients share their goals for the next six months, I’ll make sure to discuss and document our concerns and potential roadblocks if initiatives aren’t met. For example, if the revenue goal is X I would tell the client that we need remarketing fully set up and running correctly before agreeing to the number.
5. Don’t Blindly Say Yes; Do Your Research
We are ambitious and want to do everything we can for our clients, even if that task is beyond our control or knowledge level. If during the course of client interaction something you aren’t sure about is asked of you, err on the side of caution. Don’t immediately say that the task can be completed, but rather provide a response that the matter will be looked into.
The most common example I see is for reporting. Clients ask for reports that:
- May not be available;
- Will be time consuming to run;
- Aren’t relevant to the project.
By saying, “yes” to running these reports, you blindly commit yourself to potentially hours of work (hours that could be used optimize the account). The better answer is to tell the client you will spend 15 to 20 minutes researching the scope of these reports and then provide feedback.
Our president, Jeff Allen, refers to interactions like the one above as upfront negotiating. By being too willing to help clients, you can end up hurting the relationship.
Properly research and then set expectations with clients. Upfront negotiating may mean countering a request with what you believe will be an initiative that makes more sense. Or, it can be as simple as extending the timeline by one day. Make sure you are properly researching the project or request before giving a final answer.
6. Don’t Silo Your Knowledge To PPC; Do Understand The Digital Marketing Landscape
Just because you are a PPC professional doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be keeping up to date about the latest in other digital marketing outlets.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the SEO “Mobilegeddon” update was released. Even though this update was related to SEO, all my clients asked about it and wanted my feedback. My response was that in one way or another, mobile-friendliness would soon impact performance (if it wasn’t already) via quality score and ad rank.
There have also been cases where clients have asked my opinion on SEO and email providers. Knowing the general principles of these channels, I’m able to give my feedback related to various strategies. More importantly, clients want to know which vendors have good names within the industry.
You don’t have to know the ins and outs of every digital marketing channel, but you need to have a working knowledge.
I can’t reiterate how important it is to remain professional when working with clients. Through the ebbs and flows of client relations, being an account manager who can be counted upon at all times is paramount.
Work hard for your clients, be honest and manage with integrity, and the relationship will remain strong.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.