Client of the Year Contest – How an ideal Client Looks Like?

I sat down today and reviewed the yearly plan i have, what i have achieved, what i have not. It’s not an easy exercise i must say 🙂
I always consider myself lucky because i found what i love to do early in life. It started off about 4 or 5 years ago when i was first introduced to Adwords by reading the Definite Guide to Google Adwords by Perry Marshall. Back then Google just started their PPC platform and it was all new, exciting…
I started as an affiliate marketer even though i didn’t know what affiliate market really was at that time. Then i moved on to agency life and stay in that line until now.

I have had the opportunities to work with different clients from SMEs to big MNCs over the years and have my share of good/bad experiences.
Yet the question of what make an ideal client never crossed my mind until now.
Everyone talks about how an ideal agency should be, what the qualifications are, 5 tips to choose a SEM agency. Yet it takes two hands to clap. so what makes an ideal client in Search Engine Marketing industry?

I appreciate that each agency is different in heritage, ways of doing business. Each client is different in their business vertical, working process etc… so the question of what make an ideal client is not always easy to answer.

On top of my heads, i would say:

  1. Knowledgeable
  2. Set SMART goals for Search Engine Marketing
  3. Be Reasonable

1. Knowledgeable – Understand the basics of SEM

So what are the basics?

  • For a start, being able to understand the difference between Pay Per Click (PPC or Paid Search) and Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Marketing includes both PPC and SEO not just PPC alone.

Understand the fundamental difference between PPC and SEO: PPC can give you immediate results and SEO is a long term strategy.

  • Search Engine Marketing is complicated and not everyone can do a good job…

Banish the thought that every agency will likely produce the same results. It’s quite funny but i have heard many clients who either say that Search Engine Marketing does not work because they had bad experience with one agency in the past, or say that SEM is easy and the client can hire any agency to do the job.
There are famous/popular restaurants and their are bad ones. Even for very popular restaurants, you may find the food their suits your taste or they are only famous for a certain dish. The same analogy applies here.

  • Understand the role that Search marketing plays in the whole marketing mix: Search Marketing is a very effective channel to capture, convert active prospects to customers. Other traditional marketing channels are more gear towards brand awareness so on your marketing plan, you need to have both: creating brand awareness and at the same time have the ability to convert prospect into customers. It also means that if you don’t have a Search Marketing campaign running 24/7 365 days, you do NOT capture 100% of those that would become your customers
  • Search Marketing is the PULL channel, not a PUSH channel. We can’t force people to go online and search for a product and so we need to work within the search volume available.

(Search volume is the total number of searches conducted for a particular product in a given market, per a given period of time.)

  • Basic concepts like: Campaigns, Ad Groups, Keywords, Landing Page, different ad copies can be used in one ad group.

Impressions, Click, Click through Rate, Average Cost per Click, Average position etc…
Ad copy character limit for single byte language and double byte language. This seems to be very easy yet many times clients come back to us with ad copies longer than allowed.


2. Set SMART goals

Before getting into Goals, i must say that i’ve come across many clients who actually have no goals. They just run / hire an agency and hope for the best. Anyway, this is slightly beyond the scope of this post.

There is little doubt that Search Engine Marketing can be a very effective marketing channel. However, it’s not magic !
First of all, if the product is not competitive, I am sorry to say this but no amount of marketing can make it work. Singapore is a small market place and it has its limitation.

I have seen many Pay per Click campaign died prematurely simply because the client sets unrealistic goals.
From my personal experience, it takes about 3 months from the start of a new relationship (client and agency relationship) to run and optimize a Paid Search Campaign. If any clients who just want to try Search Engine Marketing out for 1 month or a few weeks, they are unlikely to achieve maximum return!

Nothing can happen over night due to market conditions especially in this economic turmoil!
Consumers are getting smarter and smarter. With the help of the internet, they can gain knowledge at their fingertips.

Next the question is how we know if the goals are SMART or not especially when the industry is so new and every agency seems to say that they are the experts. Well, in this situation i suggest that common sense should be in place.
If for the last 6 month, you have 600 inquires coming in from the website without doing Pay Per Click or 100 inquires/month then a target of 300 – 400 inquires/month coming solely from Pay Per Click for the first few months without any other major marketing activities is not SMART.
Another thing is about Cost per acquisition or Cost per Lead…whatever you call it, it basically boils down to cost per action.
If you are in B2B business, your product is worth $50k-$100k/unit and you want to acquire new sales leads through SEM at the cost of $10/lead then this is not SMART!

3. Be reasonable

Managing expectation is always hard, not only in Search Engine Marketing but in every industry.
I fully appreciate that it’s not nice for a client to hear this but if the monthly commission earned by an agency is just a couple of hundred dollars, don’t expect the best level of service!

Just in case you don’t know how much you pay out to your agency monthly, please look at the total commission payable divided by the duration.
( Some agencies charge a very big what they called “Set up fee” and a nominal monthly fee/retainer fee so that’s why a client needs to be careful when calculating the actual monthly commission – I am personally against this payment model because if the money is paid up front, the agency has little motivation to run a good campaign)

An agency is just like a client, they have fixed cost to cover… Normal working hour for everyone in Singapore is between 8 – 10 hours so in order to survive, we all need to prioritize.
In fact i am certain that any sensible business person knows this very very well no matter he/she sits on the client/agency side.
So if an agency tells you that they can provide world class service yet you only pay them a couple of hundred dollars per month, it simply does not make economic senses in the long run.
Sooner or later, there will be a discussion about increasing monthly commission or the relationship ceases. Otherwise, the agency is just pretending to do a good job and the client is losing opportunities to get more leads/customers due to a poorly managed campaign.

A client may think that: i can just keep testing different agencies, each of them is willing to work on a nominal fee for 3 months and then when it’s time to discuss about increasing payment, i will just move on and terminate the contract.
While there is no rule forbidding a client to keep doing that, there are many disadvantages to this approach:

  • It takes time for both sides (client and agency) to learn about each other business processes, establish the work flow, communication flow.
  • It takes time for any agency to truly learn about a client’s business/Unique selling points and customize their strategy accordingly
  • It takes time to learn how to work/communicate with another person effectively. This applies for both clients and agencies.
  • The new agency may not have the necessary skills to do a good job or they have to spend time to test and learn again.
  • It takes time and especially attention to build/maintain a good reporting process. There are so many metrics available so the real challenge is how to decide which metric is important.

Besides, Web Analytics is young and there are many times that what reported on the report are not entirely correct due to errors in data collecting (clicks/conversions are not reported correctly), data interpretation.
It’s especially hard when a client keeps changing agencies.

  • etc…

These and many other reasons lead to at least Opportunity lost or worse affecting the actual performance of the SEM campaign.
In emerging markets (for Online Marketing) like Singapore or the rest of SouthEast Asia where it requires a lot of education and nurturing, i personally feel that managing expectation to be the most challenging.

Well, that’s about it for now.


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