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Beyond PPC Account Management: Becoming a PPC Strategist


Casey Walrath

February 11, 2015

Why you need a Strategist, with a capital S.

At Disruptive Advertising, we don’t want to manage your pay per click accounts.

In fact, PPC account management is overrated.

That doesn’t sound like a great sales pitch, does it? Let me explain. PPC platforms like AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook, etc are complicated. For most companies using an agency is more efficient than hiring in-house.

But PPC management companies are a dime a dozen and are often attached to other services like SEO that get the majority of the attention. At Disruptive we only do paid advertising. So why would I say we don’t want manage your PPC?

Because we believe we can offer more than that. We want to be your online marketing Strategists.

What does it mean to be a Strategist and not just an account manager? Here’s a broad outline for how I try to approach my work, which should help business owners looking for PPC management evaluate agencies, and also help people who do PPC set their own priorities.

An account manager sticks to what he or she knows. A Strategist is always learning.

It’s important to become an expert in a few specific aspects of online marketing and PPC management. Whether that’s display remarketing, Bing Ads, newsletter writing, or something else, everyone should try to specialize in a few things that set them apart.

But what a Strategist can’t do is stick his or her head in the sand and refuse to learn new things. “Sorry, I can’t help you with Bing. I only do AdWords.” “I can’t do Analytics.” “I only know Facebook, not Twitter.” This attitude is a problem.

[Tweet “PPC account management is overrated. Here’s why you need a PPC Strategist instead.”]

Every PPC Strategist should become familiar with every major ad platform, learn Analytics, and be able to write a competent sentence. Knowing the basics of html and code are also important. That won’t happen overnight, but it means being curious about areas outside your expertise and being willing to try new things when you have the opportunity.

If a client asks about something I don’t know, I want to have enough experience to say “You know, I haven’t used X, but I based on what I know about Y here’s how I think it could work. Let me do a little research and see how that might benefit you.” By developing a broad range of skills over time account Strategists add value for clients and for themselves.

An account manager gets directions to follow. A Strategist comes up with new ideas.

Most companies work with a PPC agency because managing day-to-day account activity is important, but tedious and time-consuming. If they have ideas, they can have the account manager implement them and troubleshoot problems.

I’m happy to do that too, but that’s not all I want to do. I want to be the one coming to clients with new ideas for campaigns, with new offers to test, and new platforms to try. Not just “Hey, let’s try this and see what happens,” but “Here’s what I recommend, here’s what I think will happen, and here’s what we need to make it work.”

The more I can do that, the more clients can focus your energy where they want—on running their business. Speaking of coming up with new ideas, there’s a right way to do that as well…

An account manager asks what others think. A Strategist gives recommendations.

If you’re a business owner, you might have heard some variation of the following before: “Hey, I’d like to test this new checkout thing. It’s supposed to increase conversions by 20% and it should only cost $400 a month. What do you think?”

Wait a minute…why are you the one who has to think about this? Didn’t you hire a marketing company because of their expertise? How long will it take to implement? What if it fails? Why is this better or worse than what you’re already doing?

An account Strategist should develop plans and make recommendations, not just toss out ideas. The right way to present an idea is like this: “Here’s a new thing we should test. Based on my best predictions it should increase conversions by 20% because it streamlines the checkout process significantly. I recommend setting aside $1200 to test it for three months, and then we’ll take a look at its effectiveness. I will get it setup by next Tuesday, and I’ll just need you to add this code to a page to get started!

[Tweet “An account Strategist should develop plans and make recommendations.”]

See the difference? The idea might be the same but in one case the client is left to weigh the decision themselves, and in the other they’re presented a concrete plan. I’ve found that most clients appreciate that approach much more than vague requests for feedback. The way I see it, the client hired me for my expertise so I should be the expert!

Of course, for this to work I actually do need to know what I’m talking about, which leads us to…

An account manager focuses on PPC only. A Strategist learns the entire marketing/sales strategy.

One of the things I’ve learned is that in order to be an effective PPC Strategist I need as much general knowledge as possible. It’s not enough to know PPC: a Strategist should also understand a client’s business.

I might setup ads and landing pages to send leads, but what happens when clients receive them? What’s the sales process? Do they have an email drip follow-up campaign? How are they marketing themselves on SEO? What about offline channels? For that matter, how does the product or service actually work?

The more I know about your business from click to close, the better I can run your PPC.

I might hear from the sales director that leads seem worse and use a their CRM to learn that too many leads are going cold before they’re contacted. I might be able to use an email newsletter to create matching remarketing ads. I might use what I’ve learned from Google ads to help a client review a yellow pages ad.

[Tweet “It’s not enough to know PPC: a Strategist should also understand a client’s business.”]

A Strategist should try to learn as much as possible from other marketing channels. I may not do SEO, but if a client wonders why their natural search traffic suddenly tanked last month and I can use analytics to find an answer, then I’ve provided additional value beyond account management. I don’t make videos, but I can make recommendations based on what I’ve read about viral marketing.

The possibilities change depending on the client, but I’ve found that the more I know about effective business and marketing practices in general, the more I’ve been able to apply those insights to clients across industries, even if it’s outside PPC management.

That’s how we envision account strategy at Disruptive Advertising, and why we try to provide more than just PPC account management. Let me know in the comments what you think, or what you’re looking for in a PPC agency!

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