So, you've decided to start managing Pay-Per-Click (PPC) accounts to build your own business or make a little money on the side. Great move! Most people jump straight into setting up a website and hoping the phone will start ringing. I've spent the last seven years proving that it doesn't work that way.
If you hang around the industry long enough, you'll find a lot of great resources for setting up, managing, and optimizing various components of a PPC account. But in my seventh year of running a Search Engine Marketing agency, I have yet to come across many great resources for the aspiring PPC manager that helps land that crucial first PPC client.
Why You Need a Plan to Win Your First New PPC Client
First off, it's important to establish a game plan. You may luck into a client or two but sooner or later you'll need a replicable, scalable plan for bringing in new business if you hope to grow. Once you start managing your new PPC clients' accounts, you'll need a plan to help keep you out of the weeds so you can spend part of your time marketing and growing your own business.
The following steps can be re-ordered and you may have already checked off some of these boxes, but at some point you'll need to address each one to earn your prospect's trust and protect your business as it grows.
Step 1: Earn Your AdWords & Bing Ads Certifications
Annoying and (arguably) arbitrarily administered? Yes, but certifications from the two major PPC platforms is a credibility booster with new potential clients. While it doesn't necessarily test for the skills that make a good PPC manager, it does show that you are willing to put in the time and effort to study and pass an exam that is considered an industry standard.
Step 2: Define Your Services
Are you going to offer PPC and SEO? How about web design or social media marketing? Are these new offerings or add-ons to other services you provide? Decide if you want to offer a full-service approach or specialize in one or two fields. It seems counter-intuitive, after all, new business is new business. Right? Not in our experience. Trying to focus on too many disciplines usually ends up with finding yourself spread too thin across multiple services. Selling multiple services simultaneously can also dissuade some new prospects that really only need a specialist in one or two areas.
Step 3: Set Up a Legal Business Structure (Do It)
I can't stress this enough. Many people skip this step and find themselves in serious trouble if the money starts to roll in. If you're in the U.S., consider an LLC or S-corp to protect your personal assets and make it easier to file taxes. Consult an attorney or use a reputable online service to help with the paperwork. Any time and money spent on this step will be repaid when you don't have to re-state earnings or pay an attorney to get you out of a legal challenge down the road.
Step 4: Draft an Airtight Contract
Nothing is more frustrating as a business owner than letting a good relationship go bad. I'm not saying that anybody intentionally sets out to disrupt your business, but it does happen for a variety of reasons. Invest in a good lawyer to draw up a contract template that clearly defines each of these items:
- Project scope (define what is explicitly included, all else is excluded)
- Timing and milestones
- Fees and payment schedule
- How to resolve disagreements
- Indemnity (not being held liable for stuff that's not your fault)
- Intellectual property, non-disclosure, and a lot of other legalese
The point is, you need to look out for #1. Somebody, somewhere will try to take advantage of your "handshake deal" if you let them.
Step 5: Develop a List of Prospects
Most new entrepreneurs jump straight to this step because it actually feels like you are doing something. Plus, it's where starting a business starts to get fun. Your best prospects may be existing/previous clients, former employers, local businesses, or companies in an industry where you already have some experience. It's up to you to start qualifying these prospects based on their need for your services, ability to pay, and willingness to recognize and reward good results. Here's some motivation that only vintage Alec Baldwin can dish out (warning: language NSFW).
Step 6: Create Your Sales Pitch
I'm not talking about Billy Mays or telemarketing sales pitches, I'm talking about David Sandler–style sales that positions your services as the solution to a prospect's pain points. If you don't have case studies of your own, use some of the research and examples provided by AdWords and Bing Ads to demonstrate the effectiveness of SEM.
Full disclosure: Sandler Sales Training is a client of ours. Having gone through their training at my own expense, I can honestly say their system is brilliant and works well for selling services like PPC.
Step 7: Schedule Meetings to Qualify Your Prospects
Wait. Isn't a sales meeting supposed to be about sales? No! It's about qualifying the prospect before you even spend time putting together a proposal. Before the meeting, get to know their business inside and out. Learn who their current and ideal customers are. During the meeting, ask about their business and marketing objectives, pain points, budgets, and decision-making processes before you even ask to submit a proposal. You want to qualify them as much as possible. If their pain points are so apparent and you can help solve them, then it's time to spend time on a proposal.
Step 8: Write a Customized Proposal
Write a proposal customized to your prospect's business with specific strategies and tactics that will help them accomplish their business objectives. Include the services, timing, investment, and any assumptions/dependencies. This will form the meat of your contract, so be specific to avoid confusion, delay, and missed expectations.
Step 9: Negotiate Fees and Scope
If your initial proposal is not accepted on the first pass, negotiate your rates and/or scope only if absolutely necessary. Don't let the client push you around too much if you will resent the job later. Think about how far you are willing to flex and don't be afraid to walk away from a bad deal. Hopefully after step 7, you have an idea of how much your prospect will gain by using your services. Don't be afraid to ask them to pay a fair amount to solve their pain points!
Step 10: Schedule a Kickoff Meeting
Whether it's your first new PPC client or your 100th, never skip the kickoff meeting. It's the best time to set your client's expectations about the scope, deliverables, success metrics, plan for execution, iteration/testing, and reporting phases of your account management. Agree before the meeting that you will be ready to launch the campaigns with the agreed-upon details.
Bask in the Glory, Then Get Back to Work!
Congratulations, you have landed your first PPC client! Now you have to deliver the goods so you can create a case study of your success and a glowing client testimonial.