What Kind Of Agency Is Best At PPC? It Depends…

It seems like there have been a flurry of posts in the past couple of weeks about what kind of provider is “best” at providing PPC services. Admittedly, we are all probably at least a little biased that our particular setup is superior, at least in some ways. There are valid arguments that can be made to choose just about any type of provider for your PPC needs.

As a small consultancy, I can sometimes face the challenge of being considered “too small” when viewed against larger outfits. Clients may think “well, if there is just her, then maybe she won’t be able to handle all of our work”. Conversely, they may think “if we hire her, we will always get her – not some junior account person” and everything in between. What it really comes down to, or should come down to, is this – are you comfortable with this provider to handle the work you want them to handle?

The difficulty in navigating this process is further complicated by the fact that we work in an industry that is not well understood by people not working in the industry (and who also happen to be the people making the hiring decisions for outside agencies or consultants). Client representatives may have anywhere from a deep understanding of PPC strategy and management or know “just enough to be dangerous” or know almost nothing at all about what it is that we do. That can make it even tougher to get your message across effectively.

I always bristle when it is implied or outright said that I might not be able to handle a project because I’m not a bigger agency. I feel like there are plusses and minuses for each scenario. And the ultimate right answer or right fit is as individual as each project. Sometimes I am a great choice for a project, even if it is large in scope. And, sometimes I am not. The way I run things, if I am not the right fit for a project, I will say so and do what I can to help the potential client find someone else (consultant or agency) who is. But, if I am quoting your project, then it is something that is in my wheelhouse and I am comfortable in my ability to deliver what is being asked.

How Can You Figure Out Your Best Fit?

The first and most important step is to figure out EXACTLY what it is you need from an outside provider. Some questions to ponder as you start this process should include:

  1. Are you looking to completely outsource your PPC or only outsource certain parts?
  2. Are you looking for a one time outside input/strategy or ongoing work?
  3. If seeking ongoing management, what is the minimum or maximum time period you wish to work with outside resources?
  4. What is your internal structure and how will implementation and management be divided among internal and external resources?
  5. Do you have a defined time period for which you want outside help?
  6. What are your goals for bringing in outside expertise?
  7. What kind of reporting will you require?
  8. How hands on/off would you like to be in this process?
  9. Do you have any preconceived notions about what it takes to manage PPC effectively (does it take a team of several, do you want a dedicated expert in each platform, etc.)?
  10. What compensation models are you comfortable with (project flat fees, hourly, percentage of spend or some combination of all)?

I have found over the years that when clients have a true sense of what they are really looking for in outside PPC help, they and the potential providers can make better decisions about who might be a good fit.

Get To Know Potential Providers A Bit

No matter what type of PPC help you opt for, you will still be working with people. The best results happen when the people who are working together actually work together well. To really do PPC effectively, requires a tremendous amount of trust between clients and PPC pros. Clients need to trust that what they tell you is completely confidential and that you will always act in their best interest (even if it is not in your best interest – see % of spend). Pros need to trust that clients will share information with us that allows us to perform most effectively. We need to know what is happening with the leads we are getting. Are they the right kinds of leads? Are the leads good, but the salespeople are lazy? Are there big changes happening in the company that are impacting PPC efforts?

The best case scenario should be that clients and providers spend some time talking, in person or on the phone or video chat, and see if they hit it off. Does the client feel comfortable with the provider’s PPC knowledge and philosophy? Are you able to talk to each other and feel like you’re communicating effectively? Does the client get defensive when you ask questions about their setup or goals? You are trying to find members of what will be a team, so being able to communicate well and work together toward common goals is critical. You don’t have to find your potential new BFF, but you do need to feel like you can work together well.

Calibrate Your BS Meter

One of my biggest professional pet peeves is when people in technical fields victimize clients. They talk fast with tons of industry buzzwords and make it seem like they are the most super fantastical bestest solution out there cause they can string together a lot of talk with no real substance. Often times they top that off by offering what seems like a deal that is too good to be true. And the poor clients can just not know better and get taken in by a charming personality or an offer to set up all of the PPC for free.

It is best to remember that you want more steak than sizzle with your outside providers. Sizzle doesn’t move the needle – hard work, knowledge and experience do. Providers of all sizes can provide this. And, solo consultants can be just as full of BS as a large agency.

Some questions to ask to help filter out BS:

  1. How many clients do you (or a team if you’re talking to an agency) typically service each month?
  2. How long have your worked with your current clients?
  3. What is the typical length of your engagement with your clients?
  4. How many clients have terminated their relationship with you in the past year?
  5. If they terminate, why do they terminate?
  6. Do you have sales people? If so, how are the compensated?
  7. Why should we consider hiring you?
  8. What would your current clients say is the best part about working with you?

The Bottom Line

There are probably several different providers who could be a great fit for any situation. The one you choose may vary based on circumstances at any given time. Pricing can vary widely for the same scope of work. Billing models and structures can also vary widely. No matter what route you ultimately chose for your outside PPC provider, make sure you feel comfortable with the provider’s expertise, personality and price.

Pros – are there things you wish potential clients would take into consideration when hiring outside PPC help? Clients – are there things you wish PPC pros did differently during the sales/proposal process? As always, sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).

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