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Foster Better Campaign Performance Through Superior Client Relations
You may be a pro at tactical campaign management, but columnist Matt Umbro says you'll never reach your potential unless you're also cultivating a strong agency-client relationship.
The best performing accounts are defined by two elements: top notch management and stellar client relations. Both are integral to long-term fruitful partnerships. However, without effective client communication, even well performing accounts can suffer from poor agency/client relationships.
(I’m focusing in this column on PPC, as that’s what I know best, but many of these observations apply to any type of agency/client relationship.)
I argue that the tactical management side of PPC is easier than client relations. I’m more in my element diving into the data and making optimizations versus the human side of PPC.
Finding reasons for poor PPC performance is less stressful than telling a client why numbers are down. But alas, client management is a core component of successful PPC account management, and we must always strive to be better.
In order to ensure an ongoing and smooth partnership, I’ve developed tactics that help keep both account managers and clients accountable. No relationship will ever be perfect, but these techniques have helped me set better and more realistic expectations with clients.
Set Expectations At The Start
From the beginning of the relationship, even in the contract if you can, preach that the success of the PPC account will be a holistic effort. From the technical side, development and design resources will occasionally be needed for tasks such as:
- Conversion and remarketing code placement
- Product feed implementation and troubleshooting
- Landing page development
- Image ad creation
- Making sure leads are properly attributed to PPC in the back end system
From a strategy standpoint, clients need to communicate information such as product margins and lead quality. An account manager can help guide these discussions, but needs client insight.
When discussing the resources that will be needed, it’s also important to forecast potential problems. For example, I’ve worked with many nutritional supplement clients. At one point or another, all of these clients have had their product feeds suspended as is par for the course in this vertical.
At the beginning of the relationship, the message to clients should be that the account manager will periodically review the feed diagnostics, but it’s possible that the feed will be disapproved. In the event of suspension, the account manager will contact Google and/or Bing and provide next steps to the client. Turnaround time for getting the feed back up is generally no less than three business days.
The example above is just one situation where you can use your own experiences to alert clients of potential roadblocks. If the issue does arise, then it won’t come as a surprise. Either way, this forecasting can help build trust from the beginning of the relationship.
Give Your Clients Deadlines
We often discuss setting reasonable timeframes for delivering work to clients, but what about the other way around? Just because you are considered the PPC vendor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect feedback and deliverables on time.
Going back to the notion of a partnership, it takes both sides to achieve success. Whether through a Google Doc or a simple Excel document, you can share project responsibilities and due dates.
Having shared my view, I understand that not all projects are created equally. On items for which I only need feedback, such as reviewing new ad copy, I’ll plan to implement unless I hear otherwise.
For example, I might tell a client that unless I receive feedback by a certain date, I will be pushing these ads live. In this case, you are presenting your work and giving the client an opportunity to provide feedback while still going live at the desired time.
For projects that require client involvement and/or resources, persistence is key, but rationale is paramount. When checking in with clients, it’s necessary to explain why the specific task is important.
For example, let’s say you have requested that your client implement remarketing code. The client says that the project is in the developer’s queue but won’t be completed for another two weeks. In order to speed up the process, your response may speak to how the lack of remarketing is hurting the overall conversion process.
You are running top of funnel keyword campaigns that are meant to increase traffic. You expect that many of these visitors are in research or comparison mode, so remarketing will be pivotal to win them back. Without remarketing in place, you are capturing visitors but not making all available efforts to close the deal.
Always Have A New Initiative Up Your Sleeve
Clients look to us for PPC strategy. If the account is performing well, they want to know what can be done to continue the momentum. If it isn’t, they need to know what we are doing to turn things around. Either way, we need to come to the table prepared to discuss new ideas.
When performance is going well, always be prepared to speak about new channels or ideas. As an example, Promoted Pins just came out of beta, which may be a good channel for e-commerce clients. Or, if remarketing is going well, consider expanding into other platforms and/or channels (e.g. Facebook and Twitter).
These are just two ideas that can help the account move forward. Even if the client doesn’t want to implement, you will get the discussion started and show that you are thinking ahead.
On the flip side, when you are seeing poor performance, get out in front of it. No matter what, it’s stressful to speak with clients when results aren’t good. It’s much better to be proactive by both addressing the issues and providing solutions.
This proactivity helps to show clients that you are just as invested in the well being of the account as they are. Though this interaction can be tense in the short term, it will help improve the long-term partnership.
Adhere To The Sundown Rule
Just as you get frustrated when a service provider doesn’t return your message in a prompt manner, so do clients. The sundown rules state that you should respond to client messages by the end of the day (sundown). It doesn’t mean you have to provide a complete answer by end of day, especially if the inquiry involves research, but you should confirm receipt of the message and when you will be providing a more in-depth response.
I would even go as far to say that all emails sent during work hours should be responded to within no more than two hours. Take for example a client who emails at 9:30 a.m. and doesn’t receive a response until 4:00 p.m. That client has now waited all day for your response, potentially impacting other initiatives. Perhaps the client had a question about last month’s PPC spend as he compared marketing budgets across all channels. Or, waiting on your response may not have been a deterrent at all, but it would have been nice to receive.
By responding in a prompt manner, you acknowledge that your client’s time is valuable and, again, show that you are just as invested in the account.
No matter how good you are at tactical PPC management, superior client relations will always remain the main driver for improving partnerships. As I mentioned at the beginning, both the account manager and client are accountable for improving the experience.
As an account manager, you should be looking out for your clients’ best interests and showing that you genuinely care about account success. You should also be setting expectations for how they can best help you.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.