High Level Marketing Skills For PPC

No Comments » Written on August 19th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

PPC used to pretty simple.

You just signed up, selected a keyword terms – probably used your SEO keyword list – put in a few bids, and hit go. Some tweaking here, some tweaking there. Life was good.

These days, with quality scores, ruthless levels of competition (including Google competing against the advertisers), a wealth of segmentation options, and complex analysis and reporting, PPC has become more demanding, necessitating the need for more in depth training.

  • Should you bid on your brand? What match type should you use if you do?
  • Do AdWords Site Links increase yield? Or do they charge you for what you were already getting free?
  • Have you tested modified broad match yet?
  • Have you seen Google’s new enhanced CPC bidding option?

When does it make sense to use any of those options?

Before you get down to detail, there are some higher level skills you should read up on, too. The fundamentals of PPC are similar to established channels. Because these channels have been around a long time, they’ve build up a lot of time-tested theory. You can apply much of this theory to PPC, without having to repeat the same mistakes.

1. Study Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is a form of advertising that communicates with the consumer using advertising techniques such as fliers, catalog distribution, promotional letters, and street advertising. The techniques are very similar to PPC. Direct marketers target a group of people, seek to convince them using well-crafted written/pictorial advertising, and try to illicit a response and/or purchase.

The great thing about direct marketing theory is that there is so much of it. Direct marketing has been going since the 1860s. In order to be profitable, direct marketing had to ruthlessly test what worked, and what didn’t, else direct marketers could blow through a lot of money in print and distribution costs.

There are a lot of great books on the craft of direct marketing theory, but one good place to start is Tested Advertising Methods, by John Caples. Whilst the examples offered by the book are getting a bit long in the tooth, the psychology underlying the approach – how to appeal to your market segment using effective copy and constant testing – is sound.

2. Understand Your Customer

PPC is a sales channel.

A lot of sales theory is directly applicable to PPC, particularly in terms of identifying your customer, determining what they want, and making an offer at a price they want to pay.

Sales relies on three aspects:

Quality Prospects – you need to target the people who are prepared to buy.

Your keyword selection process should involve weeding out keyword terms that sound like they are relevant, but do not convert.

For example, someone looking for “[keyword] coupon” has already made a decision to buy, they’re just looking for a discount before they do.

The person who searches on the keyword, but uses no qualifier, may be much further back in the sales funnel. They require a very different pitch to get them to the point where they are ready to give over their credit card details.

Sales theory, particularly relating to sales funnels, will help you pitch correctly.

Quality Presentation – you need to make a persuasive case. This comes down to your copy and landing page style. Are you responding to peoples needs, and are you doing so in a credible way?

Numbers – you need to get infront of as many people as possible, once you’ve selected quality prospects and got a quality presentation. Scale is near infinite in PPC, given the range of keywords and channels.

3. Understand Your Strategic Goals

What do you want your PPC campaign to achieve?

Whilst the obvious answer is “more sales!”, there are other ojectives you may wish to consider. You may want to increase market share, keep expenses under control, increase your profitability, increase your profit margins, or a mix of the above. Starting a PPC campaign without clear strategic goals makes it difficult to measure your achievement in a broader sense.

Another way of clarifying this aspect is to ask yourself “what problem am I trying to solve?” Are you trying to get more/better…..what? Why use PPC at all? Would another channel solve those goals more easily? Where does PPC fit into the overall business strategy?

If you have a regularly updated business case, it makes strategic planning easier than if you just wing it. A business case doesn’t need to be complicated. It can occupy a single page.

Be clear about where PPC fits into the broader picture.

How To Make Great Presentations

6 Comments Written on July 27th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

At some point, most of us have to make a presentation.

Does the notion fill you with dread? Or perhaps you comfortable with presenting, but often don’t know what to say, or how best to say it? Do you think you might get more sales, or get your way more often, if you could made better presentations?

Making better presentations is a craft that can be learned. Let’s break the elements of a presentation down to an easy-to-use template.

1. Great Presentations Are About Planning

Great presentations are only partly about execution. Great presentations are mostly about planning.

Like a great play, or a great movie, great presentations are carefully planned and scripted. A play or movie has a moral to the story. The audience is taken through a series of acts that lead to a take-away point, or moral.

Presentations have a lot in common with theater and story telling. They have almost nothing to do with Powerpoint. No more so than a stage prop makes a play.

So before you touch Powerpoint, you should reach for a paper and pen, and create a plan.

A plan should consist of the following points:

1. What is the big idea you want to leave people with?

What is the moral of your story? This is not “buy your service”. This is why someone should buy your service. For example, “Pay Per Click will increase your brand reach”. Make it a headline. It should be short and easily understood.

2. Decide on three key messages that deliver your point. I’ll explain why three is a great number shortly.

3. Use comparisons, metaphors and analogies to support your key messages.

If a concept is new to your audience, then it is helpful to relate your concept to something the audience already understands. For example, “PPC is like your direct marketing, but with the advantage of instant feedback”

4. Demonstrate.

Show your product or service working. In terms of PPC, this can take the form of a case study. A case study is a story within a story. You should outline the problem, the method you used to solve it, and the positive outcome.

5. Share the stage.

If you can get your audience involved, do so. Use a Q&A session. Hand product reports/samples around and encourage participation. People will become more engaged with your message.

Share the stage with video and audio presentations. There are three types of learners – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Most of us are visual, but try to incorporate something for each.

Aristotle’s has a five point plan for making presentations. He also based his approach around stories – problem, conflict and resolution:

  • Deliver a story that arouses the audiences interest
  • Pose a problem that has to be solved or answered
  • Offer a solution to the problem you raised
  • Describe specific benefits for adopting the course of action set fourth in your solution
  • State a call to action

Aristotle didn’t use Powerpoint, but he knew the benefit of a plan 🙂

2. Answer The Fundamental Question

“Why should I care”?

“I” meaning the person listening to your presentation.

It’s not about you, it’s about them. Why should the customers care about your service? What burning problem does it solve for them?

In terms of PPC:

  • PPC gets highly qualified traffic to websites – starting right now.
  • PPC delivers qualified customers.
  • PPC is more cost effective than channels X, Y and Z
  • etc….

In order to answer the question “Why should I care”, you first need to understand your customers needs. Put yourself in their position. Why would you come away from the presentation glad to have listened?

Get rid of buzzwords and other self indulgences unless your audience has a clear understanding of them.

3. Develop A Sense Of Purpose

It’s the old cliche – do what you love.

Is there anything more dull than listening to a presentation by someone who doesn’t really believe what they are saying?

It comes across well when people are enthusiastic, as opposed to just going through the motions. You’re selling yourself as much as selling what you say.

If you don’t really love what you do, you either need to find another job, or find something within that job that you can love.

Perhaps you enjoy the process of helping find solutions, you enjoy the game, you enjoy making peoples lives better, or doing business. Dig deep to find what you’re passionate about, and inject your presentation with a sense of genuine purpose.

4. Create Twitter-like Headlines

140 character sentences will help you sell your ideas more persasively. Short sentences rule.

There’s another advantage.

If you can reduce your main points to Twitter-like headlines, it helps control your message. People will recite your headline when they talk about you. “Google organizes the worlds information”.

Repeat your headlines through your presentation, and through your media. There are many words in a presentation, but only so many messages – typically three – you want people to take away. Make sure those messages are short, sweet and repeated often.

5. The Rule Of Three

Create a list of three main points.

These are your Twitter-esque headlines. Under each of your three headlines, use story, metaphor, and third party endorsements to reinforce your point.

Why three? Three works. Drama has three acts. Songs have an intro, a verse and a chorus. There’s something very human about three. Also, it’s difficult for people to remember many points. Three is certainly a comfortable number for presentations.

6. The Role Of The Antagonist

All stories have a villain.

Who is your villain? What is the force (problem) you oppose (solve)?

For example, the computer industry often uses the David vs Goliath story. Microsoft once positioned as the underdog against IBM. Apple positioned against Microsoft.

Characterize the antagonist correctly. It doesn’t need to be as obvious as a David vs Goliath battle. In PPC, that antagonist might be overpriced old-media channels that no longer work well for the customer. Or the fragmentation of audiences.

Establish the antagonist early in your presentation. Movies typically do this in the first 20 minutes i.e. in the first act.

First describe the pain, then go on to provide the solution. Go into sufficient detail about the “pain” until your audience clearly recognizes it. Your solution should obviously counter the pain. It should be demonstrate-able.

7. The Heroic Solution

Once the villian is established, you then need a hero. That’s you. Or more accurately, the solution you propose.

Let’s take a look at this in action:

Describe the status quo. Establish the villian. Introduce the hero. Describe in plain English how your company, product service, offers a cure for that pain. Given the short time frame, Apple didn’t quite get to the last bit – they implied it, however you should have ample time to do so in a presentation.

Hopefully this has given you some food for thought. Remember, tell a story. Outline the problem, then propose a solution. A presentation is about them, not you.

Branding: Big Opportunity, Low Cost

5 Comments Written on July 19th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

When you run a PPC campaign, how do you decide whether to use Google Adwords, or Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft AdCenter or, erm….Findology?

How do you decide whether to push you campaign into content networks, such as Adsense, or Facebook?

The simple answer is you should be everywhere your customers reside, so long as the ROI is positive. The Balkanisation of the web is ongoing & won’t be complete until every single person becomes a demographic.

You have to be everywhere.

And people need to remember who you are.

Why Building Brand Is The New Rock N Roll

PPC is often geared around direct sales, so doesn’t take into account brand metrics. However, PPC offers brand building opportunities that are still fabulously cheap.

The world is changing fast. To build a brand, you used to need to spend a fortune on TV, radio and newspaper advertising. There was no other way. As Gary Vaynerchuk – owner of the Wine Library – says, the gatekeepers of those channels were a handful of 70 year old guys who run the world. But they’ll be retiring soon. Or dead.

These days, you can build a brand for next to nothing. You can publish on media channels, like YouTube, for nothing. Yet the reach of these channels is huge.

Everyone can now have a brand. A brand can exist in every micro-niche. Pick your niche, no matter how small, and become the biggest brand in that niche.

Why should you focus on brand?

Brand related searches are hugely lucrative. People use brand names as starting points for their searches. Once you own the brand name, you don’t need to do as much search marketing to get traffic. People will find you directly.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, is on record as saying brand would be used as a means to clean up the internet cesspool:

Brands, he said, are the way to rise above the cesspool, and of course he is right. The corollary is that advertising via Google and its brethren is an essential way to build and sustain a brand

So, when a visitor clicks through to your site, they should always take something away with them. That “thing” could be a brand association.

Evaluate your landing pages. Do they convey a brand image, and is it easy for people to relate that brand image to your keyword niche?

It doesn’t cost much to gain this benefit. It’s a simple positioning exercise – ask “what niche am I top in?”.

Next, create a brand that is consistent with that niche, and the service you offer. Pick a strong, memorable name. Buy the .com, .net and .org, or regional variants. Own the word. Get a graphic designer to create a logo and identity, and use it consistently across all your media advertising. Become that brand. Let it flow through everything you do.

For many small internet niches, that’s all you need to do to build a brand. So long as you get in front of your audience wherever they reside, they’ll have one more opportunity to remember your brand name. Once they start searching on your brand name, you win. This lowers your advertising cost over time. You can also prevent others from advertising against your brand name, especially in PPC. This make your position more defensible.

Compare this approach with focusing solely on direct sales. You’ve paid for the click, you may still lose the sale, and yet the visitor takes nothing away with them. Your site is just another anonymous site which they’ll quickly forget.

Even a break even PPC campaign can be a big winner if you include the value of data along with the latent impact of exposure, branding & links.

Brand is now something for everyone. The benefits are huge, and it can cost next to nothing to build.

Eight Questions To Ask Before You Start A Business

36 Comments Written on June 24th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

Are you thinking of starting a web business? Starting a PPC Management agency? Setting up your own site and selling things, or building a web publishing empire?

Before you start, ask yourself the following eight questions. The advantage of this Q&A is that you can quickly see if the idea you’re going to throw your money and soul into is likely to work.

1 . What Do You Do?

Define what service the business provides. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. They may well have a wide range of skills, but resources spread too thinly often leads to failure.

Try to focus.

McDonalds could, no doubt, provide up-market meals, but they focus on selling quick, cheap food.

That is what they do.

2. Who Do You Do It For?

Who are your customers?

Create a mental image of your typical customer. Make a note of their income levels, and particularly their “itch” i.e. that problem they really need solving, and will gladly pay money for you to solve.

3. What Makes You Different?

What is your unique selling proposition?

If your customers can buy the same services for less elsewhere, or more easily, they will. Your customers will compare you against others. What is that one thing you can do, that offers considerable value, that no-one else can do? What makes you special? What makes you remarkable?

There is a tendency to model yourself on others. To copy existing models. Try to avoid doing so. The people who come up with these models are probably already onto the next stage i.e. refining their service, changing direction, heading somewhere else. You’ll always be the person in their rear-view mirror, one step behind. Why be Bing when you can be Google? 🙂

This is not to say doing something wildly new or different is any guarantee of success. One winning strategy is to take a successful business model, and twist it a little. You have the ready-acceptance of a proven model (safe), and the opportunity to talk about something a little new (interesting). For example, Steve Jobs did not invent the PDA, but he put a new twist on it in the form of the iPhone. He took something that most people were already familiar with (safe) and made it more approachable (interesting).

4. Do You Know What Cashflow Is?

This point is so important, it really should be number one. Cashflow is the movement of cash into or out of a business. It sounds like the dullest thing in the world, and many budding entrepreneurs overlook it, but it is the one thing most likely to kill your business.

Businesses may have great ideas. They have customers signed up. They execute well. They’ve even sent the bills out. Growth is happening, and all is well with the world.

Then the bank manager calls.

The overdraft has hit its limit and you can’t meet payroll this week. You can’t make rent. At this point, you’ve out of runway.

Running out of cash stops you dead and makes you utterly vulnerable. Address cashflow from the start. How much capital will you need? How much overdraft will you need? How long will it be before client money appears – cleared – into your bank account? How much do you need to operate each week?

There is no fooling cashflow. The score of any business is the bank account balance.

5. What Employees Do You Need?

Will you be doing all the work yourself? If you’re doing the work yourself, when will you have time to sell new work? Should you be wasting time doing menial clerical tasks?

Consider outsourcing all non-core tasks. Whilst you may be able to do everything, often it doesn’t make sense to do anything other than the things that bring you the most money.

6. How Will You Manage Customers?

Keeping existing customers is a lot cheaper than finding new ones. How will you manage your customer relationships? How will you structure your activities to ensure repeat business? Do you have a process whereby you can find out customers wants and needs?


Create a process that allows you to adapt to your customers.

7. What Are Your Goals?

Set company goals. Set personal goals. How much do you need to earn, and in what time frame? How will you exit your business? Who will you sell to?

Use the SMART system when setting goals. Using the smart system, goals must be:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely

For example, a goal might be “to gain 20 new customers in one year”. The specific, measurable nature of the goal means your planning will be more effective. Specific goals beg questions i.e. “Where will I find 20 new customers”? and lead to specific actions.

Failure to be specific results in vague goals such as “to operate a successful business” or “to be happy”. It’s difficult to decide on actions that will lead to such goals.

8. Do You Really Want To Run Your Own Business?

Having gone through these questions, you’re may be a) raring to go or b) feeling a little overwhelmed.

Ask yourself why you want to be in business for yourself? It’s more work than being a staffer, there is more risk involved, the money is non-existent to start with, you swap one boss for many bosses, and each new contract becomes a job interview.

On the plus side, it is enormously satisfying, you are responsible for your own destiny, and all benefits return to you.

Taking one hour to consider these questions can save you a lot of time, money and grief if you jump in unprepared.

Jump in. With due consideration 🙂

Those who have made it through your first year of business, what things do you wished you’d considered before you took the plunge?

Project Management Tips For PPC

No Comments » Written on June 24th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

Whether we work for ourselves, or we work as part of a bigger business, we should always be accountable for what we do. Clients, bosses, and bank managers will always want to see us demonstrate that we are working steadily towards achieving goals.

Project management has become a specialized task in it’s own right. Dedicated project managers delegate tasks, ensure people complete those tasks, and generally keep projects on track. However, project management should permeate all we do. We’re all project managers, especially those of us involved in long and complex tasks, like PPC campaigns.

The principles of project management are simple. A complex task is broken down into a series of manageable, measureable steps leading to a desired outcome, achieved in an acceptable timeframe. If we manage ourselves – or others – well, we free up time, and save ourselves a lot of grief.

Here’s how to manage a PPC project:

Define The Outcome

Whether you’re dealing with a client, or undertaking your own project, you have to know exactly what you’re aiming to achieve.

Write the objective down down, as clearly and succinctly as possible. If a client is vague about outcomes, it’s best to push them to get clarity at this point. Once a project is underway, it becomes difficult – and time consuming – to change course.

Define The Process That Delivers The Outcome

Once you have an outcome – a destination – defined, you should now plot a high-level course showing how you’ll get there. If the project is short i.e. a day or two, then your don’t really need to define a process. However, if the project takes a while – and most PPC campaigns do – then a process becomes important, because the client will want to see you demonstrate that progress is being made.

The benefits of having a clearly-defined process is that it shows the client what is involved, and when things are likely to happen. It reassures the client that things will happen in an orderly, accountable fashion i.e. there is less chance of being surprised, and that the client is in control of the process.

For example, a PPC process might look like this:

  • Establish and define objectives
  • Create written reporting plan, setting out milestones. Client to approve reporting plan and milestones.
  • Report on each milestone. Client to review and provide feedback at each stage.
  • Deliver final milestone. Provide final project report.
  • Sign off

Break The Project Down Into Steps

Climbing a mountain begins with a single step. And then another. And then another. Eventually, we’ve scaled the mountain.

Likewise, a project is made less intimidating if broken down into a series of small steps. The client doesn’t need to know each technical step. However, the steps lead to each milestone.

The benefits are two-fold. One, a complex task becomes a lot more manageable. Two, reporting is built into the process. Clients almost always appreciate progress reports, which also provides you with an opportunity to seek valuable feedback and clarification.

Say What You’ll Do, Do It, And Tell Them You’ve Done It

If you do what you say you’ll do, even if it’s a small thing, you will build trust.

Sometimes, it’s easy to think that because you know what you’re doing, that the client will automatically perceive it. This isn’t necessarily so. Demonstrating competence, at regular intervals, is often required in order to build trust.

Integrate Feedback

No matter how well we plan at the early stages, there will always be tweaks and adjustments that need to be made.

By integrating multiple opportunities for feedback, we can also alter and add steps we may have missed, or didn’t define clearly enough.

Focus On The Next Step

After the first step, comes the next step, and so on. At each stage, we keep the client informed, integrating feedback, redefining and adding tasks as necessary. Each stage leads us closer to our goal, and everyone is clear about what needs to be done, and what the outcome will be.


Repeat the steps/reporting/integrating process until the desired outcome is achieved.


Consider making the first milestones easy-wins, especially if the client is new. This helps create trust, which may be needed if other milestones become difficult.

Make a note of which tasks require other people, and get buy-in from them as soon as is practicable. In many ways, other workers are like clients in that they benefit from feeling they have an element of control.

The more complex a project – especially projects that require multiple people to hit time targets before others can start – the more useful project management software becomes, however a lot of project management software is simply overkill for PPC.

No surprises – for anyone 🙂

Should You Outsource PPC?

4 Comments Written on June 22nd, 2010 by
Categories: Business

Should you hire an external PPC consultant? Or can you do the job better and/or cheaper inhouse?

Large companies – companies with over 1,000 people – typically have less need to outsource than smaller companies. Existing in-house teams can often adapt in order to provide extra services, with a little extra training required. Smaller companies typically benefit the most from outsourcing, as the overheads for each added employee can be considerable. However, the decision whether to outsource really comes down to a cost benefit analysis, regardless of size.

Which option would suit your company best? Let’s take a look at the issues.

PPC Outsourcing:

Consider the following:

Data security – PPC data is valuable. If your business is driven by marketing, particularly internet marketing, then how comfortable are you with this data being in the hands of a third-party?

Control – If the internet marketing function brings in a significant chunk of your business, then your choice of partner is critical. For some, the risk cost will simply be too high.

Incentives – ensure that the performance incentives are appropriate. For example, some PPC agencies bill a percentage of spend. The problem with this model is that it encourages high bidding for clicks, which are only ever likely to increase. The incetives should align with your business case. Be sure to implement a means of tracking PPC traffic to measurable business goals.

Low Spend – small campaigns are relatively straightforward to manage in house if you have existing marketing resource i.e. spending in the thousands per month. The function is typically a part time role, and the time cost can be minimized further by using third-party semi-automated campaign management software and tools.

A PPC agency starts to make sense when the monthy spend is in the tens of thousands and higher, as such campaigns can quickly become complex and/or can be regularly optimized to drive down total campaign cost. We’re talking about good PPC agencies, of course. There are plenty of lousy ones. Which brings us onto…

Management Overhead – third party suppliers need to be managed. They need to have objectives set. They need to report on a regular basis. Performance needs to be monitored. This is also true of inhouse PPC management, of course, however the proximity of an inhouse employee, and the fact they’re engrained in the culture and process, often makes this function easier.

Business Knowledge – any marketing function needs to be closely aligned with business goals. Tyically, PPC managers work on multiple accounts and have a tendancy to focus on numbers, as opposed to wider company objectives. This remoteness can make external consultants less effective than someone who lives and breathes your business and culture each day.

PPC Inhouse

Expertise – PPC management is specialized and ever changing. This requires on-going training and adaptable employees who can wear hats of both marketing and technical expertise simultaneously. PPC agencies are specifically geared for this task.

Lack Of Resource – PPC takes time, and your existing employess may not have it. PPC invariably grows more and more complex, especially if the return on investment grows. Whilst it’s easy to manage basic campaigns – low budget/low numbers of keyword terms – it can become time consuming to manage large campaigns. PPC agencies use economies of scale and specialized tools that may not be readily available elsewhere.

Poor Results – If you’re new to PPC, then you may not have adequate benchmarks to quantify performance. An external agency may have years of experience in your market sector, and be able to provide a wealth of market data.

High Costs – not only is there the cost of hiring extra staff, there is the opportunity cost of having that staff not focus on something else. Obviously each businesses cost structure is unique, but generally the bigger the PPC spend, the more value you’ll get from outsourcing to a good agency.


Consider inhouse PPC if:

  • You require high levels marketing/business integration.
  • The function can readily be absorbed using available staff and management resources
  • The level of complexity is manageable. Typically, campaigns in the tens of thousands per month featuring thousands of keywords are best managed by a dedicated specialist.

Consider Outsourcing PPC if:

  • You have a high level of spend i.e. in the tens of thousands per month and above
  • You don’t have readily available resources
  • The PPC function is not a mission critical part of your marketing mix.

How To Charge Top Dollar For Your PPC Services

6 Comments Written on May 11th, 2010 by
Categories: Business


In a market downturn, there is always pressure to cut your prices. Trouble is, the same pressure applies in an up market, too!

Can you ever win? Either the client won’t pay what you’re worth because of tight budget constraints, or so many competitors enter a flush market that there isn’t enough money to go around.

Here are some ideas on how to achieve premium pricing for your PPC services.

1. Focus On Sales

As we discussed in a previous post, What Is The Key Skill Of The PPC Consultant, apart from search marketing expertise sales is the most important skills an independent PPC consultant can possess. Without sales, nothing else can happen.

How do you generate sales leads? How many leads do you have right now?

If you have few leads, then you need to put a lot more effort into sales, and think about increasing the channels by which you market i.e. PPC, conferences, cold-calling, agency partnerships etc.

You should always strive to generate far more leads than you ever use. This way, you’ll have your choice of clients, and won’t feel under pressure to cut your prices. Of course, this is easier said than done, but the important thing to think about is how much effort and resources you currently devote to the sales side of your business.

If you’re a sole operator, you may not have much time to devote to sales. One way around this problem is to partner with marketing and advertising agencies. Small agencies may not have enough work to be able to hire a dedicated search marketing specialist, but would certainly like to offer such services. If you sign up three of four such agencies, they’ll do much of the selling for you – typically to their existing customer base – and take a commission on your work. This commission usually works out to be way cheaper than hiring dedicated sales staff yourself.

2. Make Your Client Money

If I said to you “For every dollar you spend on my services, you’ll make three“, would you hire me? How about if I said “For every dollar you spend on my services, you’ll save three” would you hire me?

Of course.

ROI – return on investment – is a very powerful sales tool. In your proposal and pitch, demonstrate exactly how you will provide ROI. For example, you might approach businesses who market only on radio and demonstrate how PPC can generate more leads/visitors/responses for the same spend.

No business will turn down a positive ROI proposition, no matter what the state of the economic climate. The economic climate is actually in your favour at the moment – money is moving out of traditional media channels, such as television, newspapers and radio, and onto the web. This is soely due to the positive ROI proposition offering by internet marketing.

3. Carve Your Own Niche

Are there too many generalist PPC consultants?

How about owning a niche, such as travel, construction, clothing, retailing etc?

Look for businesses in niches that predominately use traditional marketing channels to advertise their goods and services and construct proposals that compare the ROI of PPC vs these traditional marketing channels.

The niche needs to be big enough for you to make money, but small enough to have escaped the attention of bigger marketing agencies. Big agencies with high overheads often avoid small niches because they are too small for them to service and still make a profit. Such niches provide rich pickings for the independent consultant who typically has lower overheads and can adapt quickly.

4. Become “The” Guru Of Your Niche

People like dealing with people they perceive as being notable experts. If you’re already known to your potential clients, or can point to independent validation of your guru status, then you have a massive advantage over unknown consultants.

This is also a reason why focusing on a niche can be such a great strategy for the independent PPC consultant. The world is awash with PPC gurus who have been plying their trade for a long time, speaking at conferences, writing articles for major publications etc. Instead of competing with them directly, choose a niche and become a superstar in that niche. There will be many trade publications that have NEVER had a PPC consultant write an article for them.

Why don’t you become the first?

5. Provide More Value Than The Next Guy

Always be on the lookout for areas where you can add more value than what the client pays you to provide.

For example, say you have an interest in usability. You note that the client has a few usability problems that could be easily solved. Write up a detailed report and give it to the client as a bonus. View the time spent on this report as a marketing cost i.e. you’re trying to forge a deeper relationship that will lead to ongoing business.

Clients will never fail to be impressed by value-added services.

Under promise and over deliver.

What Is The Key Skill Of The PPC Consultant?

1 Comment » Written on May 10th, 2010 by
Categories: Business


If you’re great at PPC, then why would you sell those skills to others? Why wouldn’t you become an affiliate marketer, or set up your own site selling goods and services? What’s the point of working for a string of new bosses as an independent PPC consultant?

There are a few reasons why becoming an independent consultant can be a great idea. Lucrative, too.

1. You Get To See Deep Inside Other Businesses

Market research – good market research – can cost a fortune, but the consultant gains an intimate knowledge of their clients market. Not only do you get to see the data, you get to see the marketing and business processes that you can then apply elsewhere. Not so much spying as a valuable apprenticeship and research opportunity, for which you get paid.

2. Flexibility

The independent consultant gets to choose their own hours and projects. Unlike an employee, the independent consultant can choose their “bosses”. Don’t like the boss? “Fire” the client.

You can also choose your hours of work, when to take holidays, and where you work.

3. Focus On Core Skills

Crafting solutions can be a lot more fun than implementing them. Delivering goods or services can be a hassle, and require a lot of back-end processes.

PPC is mostly a high level marketing function, and the responsibility typically ends once the visitor moves to desired action.

The Big Problem With Consultancy

The world is chock full of PPC consultants!

Anyone can call themselves a consultant, so many people do. Assuming the consultant can do the work to a high standard, the most critical skill of the independent consultant – entering a saturated market with no barrier to entry – is the ability to sell.

How do you sell your services?

1. Identify Your Client

Do you want to work with big organisations or small? The approach you take will differ depending on your target market.

Small businesses tend to like dealing with other small businesses, as they appreciate the direct level of contact. Big business have larger budgets, but can be harder for the new consultant to engage – many large firms will work with preferred suppliers, and with established agencies.

Tailor your pitch and approach accordingly.

2. Craft A Point Of Difference

Why would they choose you? You may be great at what you do, but how do you convince others of your worth?

Points of difference can include:

  • Geographic locality i.e. you can go and see clients in person.
  • Industry vertical i.e. specialize in one particular industry
  • Experience – have you got unique experience that you can highlight? Have you worked with people/clients of note?
  • Awareness – if people have seen you name before, you stand a better chance of landing deals. This is why consultants speak at conferences, write blogs, write op-ed pieces for newspapers and other publications.

3. Demonstrate And Offer More Value Than Your Competitors

What are your competitors doing? More importantly, what are they not doing? Are there areas you can provide more value to clients than your competitors do?

Think about the points of resistance for a client. Put yourself in their shoes. One major point of resistance for the new independent consultant is perceived risk. Without a track record, the risk proposition for the client is high.

One idea for getting around this perceived risk is to give your services away for free.


One local consulting agency I know of sold out to a competitor for a a tidy sum. When they started, they decided they needed a client list, so they offered their services, for nothing, to a list of preferred clients. The agency viewed this as a marketing cost. Once they had proved their worth, clients tended to stay on their books, and at very least, provided valuable experience and referrals.

Of course, you can’t work for nothing/discount rates over the long term, but such a strategy works well if you need to get a few good names – preferably industry leader names as opposed to unknown small businesses – under your belt.

4. Say What You’ll Do, Do It, Then Tell Them You’ve Done It

Actors often say you’re only as good as your last movie. In consulting, you’re only as good as your last gig. A bad reputation can be gained easily, and persist for a long time. So when you execute, stay focused on delivery.

The most effective selling method, by far, is good word of mouth. Each new gig gives you a chance to increase good word of mouth.

I hope this article provides you with a few ideas on selling your services.

The techniques you use very much depend on your own skills, history and ability. If you’re new to PPC, in terms of operating as a business, it’s often a good idea to work for a PPC agency before going freelance. This gives you valuable insight into the business of selling search, experience, and the opportunity to build up contacts.

Your Competitive Advantage Won’t Last Long!

3 Comments Written on April 29th, 2010 by
Categories: Business


Look at any competitive PPC area today, and you’ll notice many of the ads are selling the same thing.

This is a fundamental problem.

No matter how great you are at PPC, it the product or service you’re selling is flooded with competition, the more your margins will be squeezed. The more your margins are squeezed, the less you will be able to spend on advertising.

Long-term, that isn’t a recipe for success. Those with the deepest pockets will eventually win.

The Need To Differentiate

Theodore Levitt, an American economist and professor at Harvard Business School, said “There is no such thing as a commodity. All goods and services are differentiable”

If you’re pitching very similar products to those offered by other advertisers, you need to find valid points of difference that encourage visitors to choose your product.

If you have control over the product/service you’re selling, you have a number of options available to you. You could differentiate based on an emerging consumer trend. For example, some people are concerned about the origin of food. If you were selling coffee, you could draw attention to the source of the coffee as a valid point of difference. You could use fresh imagery to breath life into an old product, like celebrity endorsement. You could reduce price.

Simple stuff, conceptually.

If you don’t have control over the product, your options are more limited, but you can still differentiate. You could offer a different level of service. You could bundle the product with something else. You could leverage your existing reputation in another area.

The problem is that even if you’re successful with your differentiation, people will soon copy you.

What do you do?

Three Choices

At the point where copyists move in – and this happens fast on the internet – the vendor faces three options:

  • Lower the price and accept lower profits
  • Maintain the price, but lose market share, and ultimately profits
  • Find a *new* point of differentiation and maintain price

Option three is going to be most preferable.

The Need To “Innovate”

You can see this at work on the likes of Clickbank.

Clickbank facilitates the selling of the same old get-rich-quick schemes that have been around for years. But “new” products keep selling, and the way vendors do that is by using new imagery, descriptions and context, and leveraging off older product lines. The price – typically $97 – has been maintained for years. The big selling vendors are often the same old faces who have been selling via that channel since it began.

The lesson here is this:

In order to maintain long term profitability, you cannot rely on your current advantage being maintained over time. Copyists will errode it.

Instead, always be in search of your *next* advantage. You can achieve this by constantly adding value, and/or new valid points of differentiation.

Keep in mind the value of “the new”. Or more precisely, the perception of the new.

There are many examples offline. Car companies introduce new models. These models are pretty much the same as the last model, but if they package them up a little differently, they have a new point of differentiation, and a new story to tell.

Soft-drink companies, like Coca Cola, leverage off their existing brand reputation to introduce new lines. Again, these new lines are bubbly sugary drinks, and aren’t really radically new or different.

The fashion industry changes every season. Microsoft introduce yearly – well, almost – versions of Office, even though a word processor hasn’t really changed much since the 80’s.

Notice a pattern?

Consumers love the new.

Notice another?

This stuff isn’t really new at all!

It’s just perceived as being new.

Being new is an easy point of differentiation to implement and thus maintain strategic advantage, so long as you have a plan to always introduce the new. When we consider that the new isn’t really new at all, and comes down mostly to cosmetic or subtle changes, it becomes even easier.

Do you have a plan to introduce the new as a point of ongoing differentiation? This might be something to consider if your competition is offering all offering the same thing, and stuck in a rut.

Take you product or service and give it a new twist. And have a long term plan to do so regularly 🙂

Starting A PPC Agency: How To Position

3 Comments Written on April 19th, 2010 by
Categories: Business

We’ve been looking at how to start a PPC agency. Obviously, there is no shortage of competition. SEMPO lists over 700 members, and a search through Google reveals many more.

How will you differentiate your services from the rest?

Formulate A Brand

Typically, small companies don’t think much about brand. Brand is for the big guys. But whether we formulate a specific brand or not, everything we do – the way we talk, write, execute and interact with clients – is our brand. It’s how people will come to know and identify us. So we may as well give some thought to how to present a unified message.

When done correctly, brand is a powerful means of setting us apart from the pack.

Brand agencies charge a fortune for brand creation, but creating a brand is really just common sense.

A brand good typically has the following elements:

A Good Brand Must Be Truthful

A good brand is a truthful one.

A brand is about creating a sense of familiarity and identity in the minds of the customer. If that identity conflicts with who you really are, then your brand will suffer as a result.

For example, if you’re a small operator, don’t pretend to be a big one. Prospective clients will see through it soon enough. If you’re offering premium services, at premium prices, then all your communications with clients need to be exemplary, as does your performance. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what you do really well? What genuine benefit do you provide? What sets you apart from the rest?

All clients want to find a provider they trust, so any brand message you’re sending out must be consistent with the way you execute.

The Rule Of Three

In The Invisible Touch, by Harry Beckwith, the author outlines the rule of three.
People will typically remember three, or less, things about you.

What are they?

For example, when asked about Microsoft, most people say “big, techy, and rich”. Ask people about Apple and they’ll likely say “creative, fun and cool”. Harley Davidson – “male and rebel”. Or words to that effect.

Try to think of your brand in terms of three desirable qualities. Apples brand is stronger than Microsoft’s in this regard. Decide what those three terms are, and let them flow through every communication you have with people.

People Will Judge You By What You Look Like

In a study of website credibility, the study found an interesting, although not unsurprising, thing. People judged the trustworthiness of a website by what it looked like.

This may be irrational, but looks do count. You might feel that such irrational perceptions don’t distort your view of reality, which may well be the case, but it’s safe to assume that many prospective customers will judge you by appearances.

If your website looks authoritative, then that’s how people will perceive you. People will draw conclusions from your web design, your logo, how you answer the phone, how you write emails, and your copy. What clues are you sending out? What brand qualities do you want to get across? Are they consistent with how you act? They should inform all aspects of what you do. Style really does count.

Such matters of style don’t get talked about a lot in the tech business, but examples are all around us. Why is the iPhone such a hit when other phones do something similar, and at lower cost? The answer lies in design and positive brand values. Style shouldn’t matter, but it does.

Beauty and elegance do have a function. They make us smile. They make us feel a little better. When trying to serve your client, does it get better than that? Ask yourself how you can make your clients feel better about using your service. Anyone can offer PPC services, but how many can make clients feel good about using them?

Obviously, this is not just about face value, you also need to execute in line with your brand values, too. Let your brand values permeate everything you do, and you’ll set yourself apart from those offering typical PPC services, which are hard to differentiate in terms of function alone.