There are significant obstacles that could impede your online marketing success when working with a client — and they’re not always related to the way PPC accounts are set up. You can have the perfect bidding, ads and landing pages, yet still see only limited success in accounts.
Many companies go wrong way before online marketing is even discussed. This is especially true for startup companies. I’ve often felt more like a business consultant, advising on what will and will not work in the online environment, as opposed to an online marketing consultant.
In this article, I’ll give you pointers on how to recognize online business/marketing trouble spots.
As a consultant or agency, you’ll learn the red flags that should warn you against taking on a new client. If you’re in-house, the following will help you assemble the appropriate support for your efforts. Should you be considering an in-house PPC management job offer, these considerations will help you evaluate whether to take the gig.
One way in which companies go wrong is related to marketing strategy. In my experience, a company or startup with a strong product offering, but poor communications and poor positioning, comes to PPC expecting a magic bullet.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. In my experience, PPC is a tactical medium that works for companies that have solid positioning, reputation, and strategy — and fails for those who do not.
In terms of marketing blunders, I’ve seen a few different scenarios. Some scenarios are not so bad, while others are really terrible. The best scenario is that a company knows how they fit into the marketplace and understands their competitive advantages, but the value propositions are not clearly communicated to their target audience.
For example, I often see marketing copy buried or hidden on a page, rendering it virtually invisible to visitors. Or, when it is visible, the marketing copy is not well packaged/expressed/communicated on company sites. Naturally, this is fairly easy to fix with repositioning of copy or rewording of copy. From here, info can easily be integrated into paid search campaigns.
A worse case is that value propositions are not fully hashed out, or the company doesn’t have any at all. (This is more common than you’d think!) In this case, you need to decide if the company has a chance — and whether or not it’s worth it spending time to flesh things out.
Some companies have very little hope despite their best intentions (see business strategy section below for additional info on this), so it’s important to think about moving forward with such a company carefully. Your efforts could end up being a complete waste of time.
It helps to have some experience with/connection to the niches you’re working with to avoid getting yourself into situation where marketing initiatives are doomed. Rely on your past experience or talk to folks in the industry to get a gauge on the probability of success.
Asking good questions at the beginning of the engagement can be very helpful, too. Here are some useful questions to ask:
This is exactly we did with SuccessFactors. It was a tiny company with very little revenue at the time that we started working with them. We believed in the management of the company, and they had a vision we believed in. SuccessFactors went on to be acquired by SAP for $3.4 billion in 2011.
Another way in which accounts go sideways even before they start marketing/advertising is related to the overall business strategy. It could be flawed in more than one way. For example, there’s no demand for the particular product and/or service, the product doesn’t resonate with a particular audience or market, etc.
In these situations, business strategy has to be fine-tuned — or worse yet, completely thrown out.
As you know, it’s not uncommon for businesses to completely change business models as they grow and figure out which proverbial tree to bark up. For example, Facebook was a social media company but has now basically turned into a media company. Red Bull was a beverage company but now has a significant media wing as well.
This is obvious but sometimes overlooked. There are certain types of business that cannot be advertised using PPC due to government regulations and/or the search engine advertising platform’s policies. Restricted areas include: alcohol, weapons, tobacco, recreational drugs, etc. As a result, you’ll get absolutely no love from Google AdWords or Bing Ads on these (and a long list of other products/services).
Note: Blacklisted companies and industries are constantly changing — so there’s a risk for certain types of businesses that rely on traffic from their PPC initiatives. For example, pepper spray was recently added to Google’s black list, and pepper spray products are now considered weapons and against Google’s TOS.
To future-proof your business in the event that your product or service one day winds up blacklisted, it helps to have a diverse, multi-pronged online marketing strategy that includes organic search engine optimization, content marketing, email marketing, social media, etc.
So, how can you succeed in paid search when all the positioning and reputation work has not been done? Here are some ways:
Companies often use paid search incorrectly in an attempt to accelerate growth before they are ready for PPC prime time. Such efforts so often fail. More ducks must be in a row before spending on costly clicks.
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