Why do some people prosper and others struggle in this industry? What is it about those people that makes them so successful in PPC Account Management? And is it something you can learn or practice to get better? We really believe you have what it takes already, and the traits that don’t come naturally can be developed. Take a look at what we believe are the most important aspects you need to have, or to work on in order to become really good at what you do.
So far so boring. But what sets apart the really good account managers?
You know you’ve developed a good working relationship with your client when you have the confidence to be truthful, when you feel able to honestly say when something will work and when it won’t. Without knowing your client, you won’t be able to anticipate their needs and be able to communicate well with them.
Research them to begin with – garner as much info as you can from their LinkedIn account or news snippets. Make a list of questions to ask them at your first meeting. Ask lots of open ended questions such as how and why – so you can work out what they want and how they want to achieve that. What are their toughest challenges? Where do they see the business in a year’s time, in five year’s time?
Find out about their team – who do they have to support them and what are their roles. Are there people who can resolve issues in their absence, what is their seniority?
Don’t make assumptions about your client –
“Assumptions with regard to the customer’s preferences and beliefs must be discarded as it is not considered as a smart marketing strategy. Any tactic that might have been successful one year may not be as successful the next.” Arvind Rongala, CustomerThink
You could think about having a questionnaire that you send out to new clients. It may seem a little formal or impersonal, so only use it as a basis for asking further more personal questions.
The Marketing Agency Growth Report 2018 revealed that acquiring new clients has been one of the big pain points for almost 60% of the agencies and 16% of them face client retention problems. While 79% of agency owners are confident about closing new deals and clients, 23% of them fail to meet client goals and expectations. Hubspot have put together a massive list of 90 questions you could consider asking clients. They are segmented into Previous Marketing Goals & Performance, Understanding Client’s Business Strategy, Identifying Brand’s Audience & Industry, Digging into Client-Agency Relationship.
Questions to help you get to know your client better include things like:
Above all, the more communication you have with your client, the better you’ll get to know them. Relationships take time to develop, and as with most things in life, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
They understand the business and they treat it like their own – right down to the budget. Take the time to learn about the business, its competitors and the industry. It’s not always easy, and if you’re having to be a jack of all trades, it might not seem worth the time, but it really is. It shows the client that you’re committed and it’ll make it easier to spot threats and opportunities.
Setting Google Alerts for your clients’ industry news will help you to keep on top of this. Just looking at the headlines will help you to understand what they’re dealing with.
Understanding your client’s specific business is easy when you follow the money…
“In any industry there is a natural flow of money, and understanding that flow helps you know what the business drivers are. Knowing where a customer’s business fits into this flow and how their revenue model works is crucial. This knowledge allows us to bring new ideas to the table that will complement the customer’s own approach.” JC Grubbs
Understanding your client’s customers will help you to understand them too. Ask questions about their end user – who is their ideal customer, why would they choose this product or service over that of their competitors? Again, that list of questions from HubSpot is a great starting point for getting to know your client’s business better:
Previous Marketing Goals & Performance
Understanding Client’s Business Strategy
Identifying Brand’s Audience & Industry
Try and have a chat with frontline employees:
“Gather data from those who deal with customer experience on a daily basis — employees on the front lines. They hold valuable insight into common questions and issues, and they also have the inside scoop on the unique areas that get swept under the rug.” William Craig, Forbes
Let’s say you completely and utterly balls something up – we’ve all done it. What do you do? Panic? Sure, have a little panic, it’s human nature. But after a little scream, successful managers immediately work out what happened and figure out how to fix it or at least find a solution that will get them back on track. Then they’re super brave and ring the client to tell them what’s happened, why, and what they’re doing to solve it.
So how can you prepare for future crises?
Jacqueline Whitmore, Business Etiquette Expert, suggests doing these 8 things:
We would add to that having a crisis communication plan in place with clients. It was one of the questions suggested earlier. That way you know who to call and what the process will be from their perspective. You’ll know what they need to know and when. Preparing for solutions in advance will help you when things do go wrong.
What does responsiveness mean? Andy Paul in Brand Quarterly, defines it thus:
“Responsiveness has a specific definition in sales. It’s the combination of two inseparable elements: value and speed – take away one of those two elements and you’re no longer responsive.”
This applies to dealing with accounts and also clients. Clients need to know that when they get in touch, they will be replied to. Even if it’s just a quick ‘Can’t talk right now, but will look into this and give you a call back in 30 mins’.
William Vanderbloemen of Vanderbloemen Search Group, suggests putting together a “Communication Code”, that is a rule of thumb for the maximum amount of time to respond to communications. His team works to the following:
He goes on to say,
“This internal code sets expectations and boundaries for our team which overflow into responsiveness to our clients. Once you have an internal communication code, you can set expectations for your employees’ interactions with clients and leads. Your expectation for client response might be different from team to team. For example, as the data states above, you would be wise to institute a 5-minute or less response time to your incoming sales inquiries, whereas your client emails might need more time for a helpful and thorough response.”
It’s Down To You
Andy Paul suggests that “Every individual, from top level management to each salesperson, is in complete control of their own ability to be responsive. It doesn’t take any prep work. It doesn’t require support from anyone else – just a personal commitment to do it.”
He also goes on to say,
“Here is a key point to remember: responsiveness requires a personal response. Don’t fool yourself into believing that an auto-generated email to a customer request is responsive. It isn’t (because it only contains one of the two required elements of responsiveness). Create sustainable sales-based differentiation by incorporating personal responsiveness into every step of your selling process.”
Yes, being responsive is important – but being proactive as well as reactive is important in any job, not least account management. You need to constantly be looking at the bigger picture. Are the actions of today helping towards the yearly goals – not just in terms of quick monetary gains, but also looking at the client’s long term aims and strategies? If you want to keep a client successful and on board for a number of years, think ahead! It’ll help you to keep on track with your daily activities too.
To illustrate the importance of taking time out to look at the big picture, it’s worth remembering the story of the three stonecutters:
One day a traveler, walking along a lane, came across 3 stonecutters working in a quarry. Each was busy cutting a block of stone. Interested to find out what they were working on, he asked the first stonecutter what he was doing. “I am cutting a stone!” Still no wiser the traveler turned to the second stonecutter and asked him what he was doing. “I am cutting this block of stone to make sure that it’s square, and its dimensions are uniform, so that it will fit exactly in its place in a wall.” A bit closer to finding out what the stonecutters were working on but still unclear, the traveler turned to the third stonecutter. He seemed to be the happiest of the three and when asked what he was doing replied: “I am building a cathedral.”
Peter Drucker had a slightly different take on the story:
When asked what they were doing, the first stonecutter replied: “I am making a living”.
The second kept on hammering while he said: “I am doing the best job of stone cutting in the entire country.”
The third stonecutter, when asked the same question said: “I am building a cathedral.”
If you’re a details sort of person, it can be difficult to take a step back and look at the big picture. But there are suggested strategies to help you develop this skill. One great idea we came across was from a forum on Guild that asked this very question. One respondent, Barry Zweibel, a leadership coach/mentor said:
“A good way to differentiate the “forest” from the “trees” is to think in terms of the precedence or implications of a decision or recommendation.
“Trees” (more tactical decisions/recommendations) are typically one-and-done — good for the particular circumstance/situation, but not much more. “Forests” (more strategic decisions/recommendations) are more “one-and-some,” meaning they address both the current circumstance/situation AND future choices relevant to it or that may arise as a result of it.
To get a better feel for the difference, look at a decision one of your more strategic coworkers recently made. Consider its depth and breadth. Why THAT decision? What sort of precedence does it establish or work within? Buy them a cup of coffee and ask them about it, how they approached the matter, identified possible options, vetted those options, and ultimately came to a conclusion. Ask them to explain their thinking in as much detail as is helpful to you.
Now look at one of your more tree-like decisions and ask yourself the same questions. Compare and contrast the two and notice the differences in approach and methodology. Now ask another coworker. And another — until you start to recognize some patterns behind big-picture skills and how you can incorporate them into your own decision-making.”
You might start off your PPC career only managing one or two accounts, and that allows for plenty of time to set up, review, optimise and report for each of the accounts. With a larger portfolio you have an opportunity to work with different verticals, different sized clients and various budgets. More things to change, improve, analyse, review, more opportunities to make the clients happy. In a nutshell – more fun.
The challenge is limited time resources. With the same number of hours available each week, you have to cope with the bigger number of tasks to deal with – and in order to be successful you need to be dealing with them efficiently and effectively.
There are plenty of time management apps and resources out there. But if you want to get down to the nitty gritty of exactly how much time you can afford to spend on each client, you could try this neat trick as advised by Broadplace’s very own Michal…
Create a spreadsheet with a list of all your clients, their budgets, management fees, reporting days. Sort the list by the client size by budget, fee – whatever is more relevant to you as the account manager. Add all the days of the week (Monday to Friday) and I was pretty much there. Then allocate how many minutes I could allocate per client. And, this could be spread across the whole week, just added to one day only.
At the bottom I applied the total minutes per day (Google Account Manager Tip: If you divide it by 1440, it will give you the total in hours:minutes). This allows me to see straight away if I have enough spare time on that day to deal with the client.
Michal says, “It’s all on one page, everything to see at a glance, filters easy to apply and sort by – I love it. I know, this solution is very basic, but it works surprisingly well for me. Better than other popular systems! Sometimes going back to basics works better than over-complicating things.“
Why do checklists work? Well, the psychology behind them is pretty simple – when you achieve something, your brain releases dopamine which is a delicious hormone that links pleasure, learning and motivation. It’s quite addictive and helps with something called self-directed learning.
Checkists should use SMART goals (that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound). Smaller, bite size goals work best for short-term accomplishments. This helps with your motivation.
Bethany Hay, shared her PPC Task Checklist which is a great starting point to really narrowing down your daily, weekly, monthly tasks. She suggests the following tasks:
Bi-Weekly PPC Tasks
Remember the phrase “the carrot or the stick”? Most people would choose the carrot over the stick, right? Well, yes and now there’s proof that it does increase productivity. So when you’re given praise, listen to it. We’re so caught up with what we’re doing wrong that we forget to take in what we’re doing right. So, whatever praise you receive, take it on board. Don’t just take note of the negative but really appreciate the positive.
A study by Harvard Business School found that implementing a tool called ‘reflected best self exercise‘ (developed by the University of Michigan. Dr. Jooa Julia Lee, one of the co-authors said,
This narrative-based exercise allows employees to learn about their positive impact and contribution to others through the eyes of their social network (family, friends, colleagues, etc). Our study found that activating one’s best self concepts via reflections (which was done as part of corporate onboarding) can predict better performance outcomes and reduced emotional exhaustion and turnover, one year after the onboarding.
If you don’t have any reflected best self exercises in place at your company (and let’s face it, most won’t), there are some simple things that you can put forward for management to implement. One of them is to place more emphasis on effective criticism in performance reviews. The ideal balance would be praise and recognition as well as corrective feedback. In a Harvard Business Review survey, respondents said they would actually prefer corrective feedback (57%) over praise/recognition (43%). It’s still a pretty tight contest between the two though and having both will help you to know where you’re going right and what to change to correct things that are falling behind.
Failing that, you can get help from your own social circle, colleagues or family. Following the steps in the diagram below you can ask for direct feedback. It’s positive so you should receive responses without anyone feeling awkward.
In this industry things are always changing. Resting on your laurels won’t work in the long run. Google, Bing, Facebook and the others all provide training and resources for you to be able to get to know new product launches. There’s no reason to get left behind. But really successful Account Managers are the ones that stay ahead of the game and know which advances are coming up.
There are various training courses you can go on to get started in PPC and they can be a good way to refresh your skills. In this every changing industry, what you learnt when you first trained probably needs updating now. Your company should provide on the job training and want to develop your skills further. Google, for instance, has a range of online training courses for developing your career, mindset and well-being, in addition to all the usual Google certification. These include “Conflict Transformation“, “Business Writing“, “Improving Communication Skills“, “Work Smarter, Not Harder” and various others that will help you to develop the skills mentioned in this article.
It’s important to get involved at work too. Sign up to be a ‘champion’ or point of contact for particular suppliers (Facebook, Google, Bing etc.) this will give you the inside track on latest developments and you can carve out a niche for yourself. Volunteer for client pitches, networking opportunities, events and more. This skillset is valued by senior management and could propel your career forward. June Gil, PPC Manager at McCann Connected suggests that you should:
“Consider the skill set you’ll need with each promotion – if you’re fairly junior, learning as much as possible about the technical side should be your priority. When you get to manager level, skills like knowing how to manage clients, pitch to new leads or manage junior members of the team become increasingly important, so focus on those via internal/external training and by asking for more responsibility – those who go the extra mile usually have the advantage.”
Have an idea about what you want to do in the future. Easier said than done, but it will give you focus. Knowing where you want to go will help management to know where you want to progress to.
What’s the point of a great idea or strategy if you can’t articulate it to your managers or your clients? This is where communication skills are so vital. It’s having the confidence, the great relationship, the skills and being able to persuade people that you have what it takes to make an idea take off.
Verbal – you’re going to be in face-to-face as well as telephone meetings with clients, so you’ll need to be able to speak with them.
Written – it’s important to remember that emotions don’t always come across in the intended meaning in emails and letters. Sarcasm has no place here!
Curiosity – asking lots of questions
Listening – hearing the answers to those questions
And finally, acting upon what’s been said.
1. Listen, listen, and listen.
People can tell when you’re truly listening – not just working out what you’re going to say next. Equally, when you’re on the phone, don’t write an email at the same time. Ask questions that show that you are listening.
2. Who you are talking to matters.
Stop and think before using informal language. Clients and the boss will expect professional written communications. But even things like acronyms can be a minefield. The best bet is never to use them, or use explain the meaning the first time you use it in an email or conversation (e.g. “PPC” – Pay Per Click). Tailor the way you speak depending on who you are speaking to.
3. Body language matters. If you have face-to-face or video conferencing meetings with your clients, make sure you have open body language. That’s no crossing your arms, or facing your body away from them, maintaining eye contact and an interested expression on your face.
4. Check your message before you hit send. If you have difficulties with written communications – spelling and grammar checks are good, but with the really important stuff, get a colleague to look things over for you.
5. Be brief, yet specific. Get to the point – no-one wants to read a rambling email, they want to know the information you are relaying.
6. Write things down. Take notes while you are talking to another person or when you are in a meeting, and do not rely on your memory. Send a follow-up email to make sure that you understand what was being said during the conversation.
7. Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone. If you’ve got something that really needs a conversation, don’t get into a lengthy email exchange – get on the phone and talk things through. It’ll allow for a more natural flow of conversation and bouncing ideas around quickly and efficiently.
8. Think before you speak. Always pause before you speak, not saying the first thing that comes to mind. Take a moment and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it. This one habit will allow you to avoid embarrassments.
9. Treat everyone equally. This is especially relevant for PPC account managers – avoid using jargon, but don’t speak down to customers just because their grasp on internet marketing isn’t as good as yours. Imagine you’re explaining it to your grandparent or mother in law.
10. Maintain a positive attitude and smile. A smile changes the way your voice sounds even on the telephone, so portray an approachable, upbeat manner even when you’re having an off day and you feel like you could just throw your computer out of the window.
As a bonus, if you can tell a story with your words, even better. Storytelling is such a big part of marketing these days. Whether that is in your ad writing or trying to use persuasive writing to upsell products to clients.
When you tell a story, people are better able to remember what you’ve told them. Fast Company sum it up really well:
What grabs your attention more: a list full of ingredients like acacia gum, oligiosaccharide, and glutemate or a story about one company’s mission to bring the tangy sweetness of a blueberry and the warming power of a bowl of oatmeal to kitchen tables around the world? Fast Company
If you’re just reading cold, hard facts, it’s just the language parts of our brains working to decipher the meaning of the words. When you read a story, however, parts of your brain start working that would as if you were experiencing what you’re reading.
What this means is that it’s far easier for us to remember stories than the cold hard facts because our brains make little distinction between an experience we are reading about and one that is actually happening.
In addition to this, our brains are insanely greedy for stories. We spend about a third of our lives daydreaming–our minds are constantly looking for distractions–and the only time we stop flitting from daydream to daydream is when we have a good story in front of us. Fast Company
According to the infographic below, from One Spot, 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story. The science behind storytelling applies to many aspects of work, including how you talk to customers.
Here’s that video we mentioned earlier. Warning, there’s some swearing, but we’re all grown ups here…
You can use it to improve your reporting. It’s part of the problem solving process. When you follow the diagram below, you can see the flow of the ‘story’ is really just resolving a problem. This can be applied to reporting. By explaining in this way, rather than trotting off some numbers and showing a graph, you’ll be able to better explain the PPC process to your clients.
You can increase the impact of successes and reassure about failures. In his article for PPCHero, Kevin Klein describes it thus
Show not tell is the mantra of good storytelling. And indeed, instead of telling you what it means, I’ll show you.
The woman’s knees creaked as she knelt to pick up her cane.
The woman was old.
He goes on to explain that you already have everything you need to tell your story – you have the performance of your PPC account and a captive audience (the client).
“Showing instead of telling can be the difference between comprehension and confusion in your client. Comprehension in your client can be the difference in understanding the impact you, the PPC account manager, are making. Be appreciated. Show, don’t tell.”
This seems so obvious. A decimal point can mean the difference between a £2.56 bid and a £256.00 one. Earlier we talked about looking at the bigger picture, but it’s also vital to be able to look at things microscopically at times. The ‘devil is in the detail’, as they say.
For you to successfully become better at noticing the details, you’re going to have to form a habit. It’s said that habits take 66 days to form. But what can you do to kickstart your improved attention to detail. Chris at Attention to Detail has these 3 quick suggestions:
Mariliza Karrera suggests 10 ways that you can improve your attention to detail:
As a PPC Account Manager, you’ll be faced with data all day every day. But what does it all mean? Are you someone who has a naturally analytic mind? Or do you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed with the sheer volume of numbers in front of you? Being able to think analytically is crucial in all sorts of jobs. It helps you problem solve, manage crises, make rational decisions and summarise data. All stuff that you’ll come across in PPC.
It’s the ability to apply logical thinking to break down complex problems into smaller components in order to solve a problem. Analytical skills allow you to solve complex problems by filtering through to the relevant information and identifying patterns or trends. In fact, it’s an important skill for people of all ages in order to achieve success at school, in the workplace, and throughout life more generally. MentalUp
You might not even realise that you are practising analytical thinking in your daily life already.
Learn how PPC works, don’t just go through the motions.
Ask questions. A curious mind is able to get to grips with how things work and being interested in problem-solving means you’ll practice it more and improve. Another way of doing this it to regularly play brain training games, as we mentioned before. Try chess, su doku, scrabble, any games that involve maths and having to think about possible next steps.
Practice reviewing your decisions. This will help you to start weighing up pros and cons before taking a decision in the future.
Make a habit of learning one new thing a day. Research a topic – it doesn’t have to be work- or PPC-related but something that interests you. Ever find yourself Googling something completely random and ending up reading more about it on Wikipedia? That is helping your analytical thinking skills.
Read. Just read. Anything and everything. Books, fiction, historical events, anything! Better still, join a book club. Because it involves delving deeper into something and analysing it, you’ll pick up some great habits through this exercise.
You can always take an online course to improve your analytical skills.
There’s nothing worse than a client ringing up with a crisis that you didn’t predict. Or telling you about the latest Google product before you’d even heard of it. This is what sets apart the great AMs from the run-of-the-mill ones. Part of marketing is the art of anticipation. You need to anticipate your clients needs before they even realise they need them. You need to be more up-to-date on your accounts than the clients. But how can you do that without being focused on all your accounts at once?
First of all, you need to take a look at the client’s account and what would affect it. Whether that’s
What can help you to know about this before the client? Easy – notifications. Get yours in order today to be a winner tomorrow. You can set up email notifications from Google News for your client’s industry and Google Ads Custom Alerts (you can learn how to set these up here).
10 Specific Alerts you should set up, according to Sasha Freidkin:
You are surrounded by a team, whether that’s other PPC Account Managers, Client Services, Creatives, Copywriters, Managers etc etc. You have access to a wealth of knowledge. AMs who get ahead in this game tap into that wealth and use it to their advantage. If you try and go it alone all the time you won’t get very far. This relates to many of the previous points, about professional development, analytical thinking and building relationships. It’s all inter-connected and that’s why to achieve great things in PPC, you should aim to be doing all 15 things on this list.
It depends on what you need. What are your weaknesses? Is it difficulty with spelling which is affecting your ad copy?
If you’re not sure what your weaknesses are, make this part of your reflected best-self exercise – ask for those positives but also areas that people think you need to improve. You might not be aware that people don’t rate your public speaking and meeting style. Perhaps they think you could improve on
Most of the time, you’ll find that people are happy to help you. As long as they don’t feel like you’re offloading your work onto them. You can but ask, and they can say now. But you’re no worse than off than you started and can always ask someone else. Dominique Rogers, writing for Monster, suggests these ways to ask for help without being annoying:
A good rule of thumb is to say yes to others’ requests for help and they’ll be more likely to help you in the future. A good team should work this way anyway. You’re all working towards a common goal, to grow your clients’ businesses and your agency’s and enjoy the rewards that success brings.
Try to Solve the Problem Yourself
In a few different ways. Then if you still need help, tell your helper that you’ve tried these ways so they don’t waste their own time on them. You won’t come across as lazy, either.
Stay Engaged With Your Helper
Don’t just ask for help and then leave them to get on with it and come and find you when they’ve finished solving your problem! Stick around – you might learn something (i.e. how to do it yourself next time!) Ask if there’s anything you can do to help.
If you ask your co-worker a broad or vague question, it may appear you’re dumping the entire project at their feet. If there are 27 steps in your project and you’re stuck on step 14, tell your colleague you need help with that one item, not the whole thing. Asking specific questions about your problem helps show your colleague that you’re totally engaged and actively trying to resolve the issue alongside them. Once you get the precise help you need, be ready to take back over immediately—it’s your project and your colleague has other things on their plate. Geoff Scott, a career adviser and resume expert.
Ask For Help Quietly, But Praise Loudly
Be discreet in asking for help, you don’t want to publicise that you are stuck. However, once you get the help you need, go ahead and share praise for your co-worker with their supervisor. Your colleague will get credit for their teamwork and you’ll look confident enough in your ability to praise others for helping you.