SEM Client Acquisition and Retention
For marketing professionals in virtually every industry, who are betting a percentage of their marketing budget on the tangible reach of PPC & display campaigns, being skeptical of SEM services isn’t completely irrational if:
- They’ve worked with an unethical marketing company in the past, and walked away with nothing to show for it (and criticism from their CMO).
- They didn’t work with a marketing company, had no idea what they were doing and walked away with unsatisfactory results (and criticism from their CMO).
- They did not offer appropriate assets by miscalculating the scope of the platform and, subsequently, communication with their target audience. You get the idea: bad results, bad experience, unhappy CMO.
This blog post would be probably much simpler & easier to write if it was just a bulleted list of reasons why paid advertising is essential for companies who are advertising B2B or B2C. But that sounds boring, no? Brevity isn’t always interesting. Instead, I’d rather paint a picture of how SEM practitioners can acquire and retain the clients that will help sustain their business over the long term.
Break Down the SEM Barriers
When looking to build your client portfolio, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your work is valuable! Search engine marketing, and those who implement it, connects people with resources: tools, products, services, software, NGOs, educational information, local events, the best wines. You name it, we help people find it, end of story. We connect.
SEM is one entry in the dynamic portfolio of contemporary inbound marketing efforts; like everything else in our toolbox, it is simply one tool out of many, but without it, our toolbox is incomplete. Too often, SEM is abandoned or forgotten by companies who are new to SEM, or those who may be hesitant to expand the scope of their PPC campaigns in productive ways. Make no mistake: SEM is essential for efficient and effective brand building, lead generation, and growth. An argument that I’ve often heard is this: “What about our organic and referral traffic? We already have a strong digital footprint.” Indeed, those are key pillars that sustain a viable web presence, but the purpose of paid search & display is to take that web presence and invest it in, augmenting it and to opening new digital avenues for your growing business.
“How can I acquire new clients and build long-term relationships with the ones I currently have?”
This is a always a great question to ask. The answers may vary depending on the state of your businesses’ growth, but ask it of yourself along with these specific inquiries:
SEM Client Acquisition: “How can I acquire new clients?”
- Are your systems and data sets in place so that you can present the client’s brand story coherently across multiple platforms?
- Know your client and the scope of your company’s skills. Is your client in tech and your agency has specialized experience with the tech industry? Does your agency represent sports-related industries? Does your agency specialize in new ad platforms? Make sure that you know who you are. More importantly, make sure that your digital marketing arm knows what its purpose is.
- Who do you know? Do you have friends, family or neighbors who are at an influencer-level role in their company? Do your current clients have business partners, friends, family or neighbors who are a good fit for your services? Where are your business cards? You never know who you’ll meet at happy hour or at the mid-afternoon coffee run. Business cards are still one of the most valuable pieces of paper that hasn’t converted to a solely digital footprint.
- Are you prepared with a killer presentation? People want to see what you bring to the table and what you have brought to the table. Show off the relationships you’ve built with unique industries you’ve worked with, unique projects you’ve completed, unique conversions you’ve created and unique content strategies. Even if you have a client base of one, there is something unique about your service.
- Set reasonable goals. Whether a company has $500K to spend per month or $200 to spend per month it’s important to, confidently, set the expectations for success. SEM isn’t changing the world or promising 100% conversion rates, but we are promising an honest approach to increasing brand awareness and reaching new and relevant audiences that your client wouldn’t be able to cultivate without paid campaigns.
SEM Client Retention: “How do I retain clients long-term?”
- In SEM, client relationships are like traditional friendships. Earning trust and working together through challenges builds a partnership. That’s not always easy to find in a competitive and monetized environment.
- Be honest. Sweeping issues under the rug implies a failure of trust. From day one, clients should be treated with respect and given honest assessments. Remember, this is a partnership. Working in SEM is a cyclical quid-pro-quo. Transparency will allow for collaboration to overcome challenging performance issues. Your clients want their campaigns to succeed as much as you do, so address problems as they manifest and make sure you’re communicating about how those problems were resolved. Even ff you’re not sure how to resolve the issue, it’s still best to present it to the client as soon as possible. Maybe the issue is one they can resolve for you, or something relatively simple that they neglected to tell you. On the other hand, if, for example, their form fill stops populating their CRM and you “forgot” to tell them that leads were declining, that’s on you. Make sure to keep clients in the loop.
- Work hard, efficiently and consistently. SEM is a gamble, but it’s a calculated gamble. Yes, there will be “down” months, but striving for consistency proves that you and your team have a grasp on the breadth of algorithms that paid campaigns are up against. Working intelligently and consistently rewards PPC efforts in a hyper-evolving digital climate.
- Know the average cost-per-click like the back of your hand. Know budgets without pause and predict what’s coming as frequently as possible. Have a thorough understanding of where your client’s account stands every day and clearly present the “ninja” stats before leaning on the “squirrel” stats. See a thorough breakdown of data points for SEM optimization if you want a better understanding of Ninja vs. Squirrel.
For many, this may be a refresh, but if you’ve noticed a lull in new account acquisition, maybe there are some best practices holding your agency back from growth. Keep tabs on the current industry practices and— most importantly—keep tabs on your relationships with your current clients. Do you have a sustainability quotient or are you dooming your company to the churn cycle before you’ve even begun?