Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on June 21st, 2010

How to Get on the Same Page with Paid Search - Understanding Client Needs

Paid search, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC), is a great way to generate traffic on your website from your target market. In fact, it’s one of the most effective ways to promote your business online. When creating a new PPC account and relationship, it is critical that both the client and the PPC provider are on the same page.

When clients and PPC providers are not on the same page, even the smallest communication misstep can cause a meltdown in the relationship. But all can be avoided if the proper research and analysis is conducted before the first ad is even posted.

Whether you are the client or the PPC provider, you need to be completely aware of the “tail that wags the dog” for the company that is cutting the check. If you don’t clearly understand the client’s needs (or your company’s needs) for the campaign, it is doomed to fail.

Understanding Client Needs: Rapport

You may think this is a no-brainer, but many PPC providers gloss over critical details, like building a relationship, and stick to the “way they do things” in order to get started yesterday.

When you have a strong rapport with your clients, it’s easy to find out what their needs are. There many different ways to go about building rapport. You don’t necessarily have to take them out to a fancy steak dinner and drinks (though this will work often); it’s the little things that a truly grateful client will appreciate.

A strong foundation of the Volacci culture is to have “great communications.” And that applies to all phases of business. When you communicate the value of a PPC campaign with recommended actions in a clear and succinct way, trust is immediately built in the relationship. These two key elements establish strong rapport in your client/provider relationship.

The first point, conveying value, can be done before any research is conducted, but will be an overview of the value. Once you have finished research, you can specifically identify the quantitative value for the company. Clearly communicating recommended actions will come later and will continue the rapport-building process.

If you are a PPC client, you should definitely ask for the 1) value and 2) recommended actions before posting the first ad. If you are a PPC provider, it is now time to do some research.

Understanding Client Needs: Research

Research will add a little color to the initial campaign, but before speaking with a client about specific online marketing needs, you need to do the following:

• Review their website – have a basic understanding of their business. What is their flagship product or service?

• Research their content – Are there articles about the business online? Are they already doing online marketing? Are they ranking organically? How competitive is their ad space?

• Learn their language – What is their industry terminology? What is their sales cycle? Is there seasonality? What are some challenges they face?

• Begin to plan – What products and services would you include in the initial marketing strategy? What products and services might you recommend for an expanded campaign?

Obviously, some of the answers to these questions will be refined by talking with the client, but it never hurts to come into the client analysis stage with a little data of your own.

Understanding Client Needs: Analysis

By now you have built rapport and done some preliminary research. But before you can recommend any specific actions, you need to fill in the gaps of your research. This means asking your client the right questions and listening. A Needs Analysis should be performed to:

• Determine a client’s current online marketing involvement.

• Learn about the company’s landscape.

• Know and meet the decision makers.

• and uncover the company’s pain points.

Here is a short list of questions that will kick-start the conversation:

1) Are you currently doing any marketing for your business?

2) What are your marketing goals?

3) What are your best-selling products or services?

4) Where else are you running ads online? Offline?

5) Do you evaluate the return on your marketing investment?

6) Who handles marketing strategy for your business?

7) How do you determine your marketing budget?

8) Do you have a seasonal business?

9) Do you have brick-and-mortar stores?

10) Who are your competitors?

11) What’s your target audience?

Understanding Client Needs: Challenges

Once you have more insight into your client’s needs, you can start to align goals with opportunities. This is where your recommended actions begin to take form. But with every action comes a challenge, and most clients will have more than one. Here are a few typical challenges and examples of their results:

• Limited Time: Unable to effectively pursue new marketing strategies.

• Lack of experience: Mistakes in online marketing campaigns.

• Resource constraints: Cutting corners.

• Not targeting audience effectively: Failure to generate revenue.

• Inability to measure success: Suboptimal use of marketing budget.

• Limited marketing strategy: Missing out on customer segments.

• Limited budget: Limited investment in future.

Understanding a client’s challenges will help put you on the same page as your client. Certain challenges will heavily dictate what goals and opportunities you can realistically set. It is always important to have all challenges flushed out in the beginning in order to prevent major setbacks when a campaign is gaining momentum.

Once you have built rapport, conducted some preliminary research, analyzed the client’s needs with plenty of Q&A, and determining their challenges, you are ready to start building out the campaign’s goals and opportunities.

Join me on Wednesday for the second act of “How to Get on the Same Page with Paid Search” where we will look at aligning the client’s goals and opportunities with the tools of paid search.

Thank You For Reading!

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Did I leave any vital information out of the post? Do you disagree with this process? I would love to hear from you with a comment below.