It all comes down to transparency during the sales process. The more honest the conversation, the better the potential relationship will be, because proper expectations have been set. This statement leads to my first missing area: what happens when performance suffers.

1. Overcoming Poor Performance

I’ve never managed a PPC account that didn’t have at least one period of declining results. Hopefully, that decline will be minimal, but every account goes through its rough patches. That’s why it’s important from the beginning to discuss the process for dealing with negative results.

From the client perspective, I want to know what policies are in place to identify troublesome areas. An answer of, “We’re in the account on a daily basis and make optimizations as needed” isn’t good enough.

I want to know specifics. Are automated rules being run to identify poor performance? If so, what metrics do these rules review? Is someone pulling the numbers every day and comparing to my goals? These are just a few questions for which an agency should be able to provide answers.

There should also be some sort of account review protocol in place. When performance is trending in the wrong direction for an extended period of time, it helps to get others involved.

A fresh set of eyes looking at the account from a different perspective may suggest new ideas. If for nothing else, having others look at the account is a means to jump-start activity where there have been stagnant results.

2. Analyzing The Agency Case Studies

Agencies rightfully tout their best work through case studies. These case studies present a problem, the solutions the agency employed, and the ensuing positive results.

However, the specifics of the solution generally aren’t revealed. For example, the case study may say that Client A was seeing poor remarketing results so the agency cleaned up the audience lists and created better-targeted ads. That’s great and all, but how is that solution different from what anyone else would do?

I would ask for more details about the solution. Questions might include:

  • How segmented did you go with your audience lists?
  • How were the ads better targeted?
  • Were you only targeting visitors to your site or those who converted?
  • What platforms and strategies did you use for remarketing?

I understand that not all prospective clients are going to fully understand the scope of the work. That’s OK. I encourage them to at least ask questions beyond what the agency presents to get an idea of the work that can be expected.

That also forces the agency to prove that it knows what it’s talking about. From the agency side, the “secret sauce” doesn’t need to be given away, but a taste should be shared.

Agencies should also present a good mix of case studies. With so many paid search platforms and client goals, the case studies should showcase problems with unique and interesting solutions. They can be anything from Twitter Advertising to AdWords Scripts.

I want to see the breadth of work that an agency can do, not just how creating a better-structured account improved results by x percent.

Finally, I would encourage potential customers to run sample searches for those clients showcased in the case studies. If the case study speaks to success with Google Shopping, type in some relevant terms and see what products show up.

If remarketing is emphasized, go to the site and add yourself to the cookie pool. See if the ad messaging is relevant to you.

My only caution is to take this exercise with a grain of salt. If you don’t see an ad, it could be for a variety of reasons. Maybe the keyword has been paused because it’s not profitable, or you aren’t seeing remarketing ads because you aren’t in the target audience.

Conduct sample searches, but no matter the results, this exercise shouldn’t be the reason you choose or don’t choose an agency.

3. Having A Passion For Paid Search

I’ve always been under the opinion that agencies should encourage their employees to attend and speak at conferences, write blog posts, and participate in the community. At the very least, employees should be reading new PPC articles on a daily basis.

I believe this sharing improves industry knowledge and exposes employees to new ideas and thinking. Most importantly, it shows that employees have a passion for paid search and genuinely enjoy their profession. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried new ideas based upon what I’ve read and conversations I’ve had.

What I’m trying to say is that potential clients should consider agency community involvement in their decision. It stands to reason that an agency that is more willing to share and learn will provide a more engaging and intuitive client experience. The passion for being better is there, which goes a long way in the effort to improve client results.

Final Thoughts

Clients want to hire the agency that is going to bring them the best results. Choosing the right agency can be an overwhelming affair as vendors are going to put their best foot forward.

My advice for potential clients is to challenge these agencies. Have them share specific details related to account management and industry awareness. Hopefully, the three areas I’ve explored have given clients more discussion points during the sales process in an attempt to start the relationship strong.