So many B2B companies today are experiencing the value of a reliable stream of leads and new business generated using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on Google, Bing, Linked In, and Facebook.
Sadly, others aren't.
The difference is often due to the skill level of the PPC agency or consultant with whom they're partnering.
So how can you go about finding a good, dependable B2B PPC agency for your company?
By asking the right questions.
A little work on the front end will maximize success and reduce the likelihood of regrets.
The Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a B2B PPC Agency
1. Are you "Google Certified"?
2. Do You Offer Free Assessments?
3. Who owns the account?
4. Are you conducting an account set up, or will you provide ongoing management of the account?
5. Who exactly will be working on my campaign?
6. What is your process for getting good results?
7. Do you ever recommend that a company NOT do PPC? If so, why not?
8. What are the deliverables – and how do you measure success?
9. What results have you achieved for your clients?
10. What commitment is required of me?
Read on for a deep dive into the 10 questions you need to ask a B2B PPC agency before deciding to proceed with the engagement.
The largest pay-per-click advertising service by far is Google AdWords. Google recommends that you select a Google AdWords Certified Partner—and if you're vetting a certified company, make sure you'd be working with an accredited individual in that company.
While it might seem self-serving for Google to say this, we agree with the recommendation.
Google is the leader in the PPC world, and who better to learn from than the expert itself? Using a Google AdWords Certified Partner will likely give your PPC campaign that extra edge.
A Caveat: We use the word "likely" above because it's important to keep this in mind: Certification means that the person has spent a certain amount of money in the last three months and passed a proficiency test each year; it does not necessarily mean that the person will do a good job.
That said, the certification test has gotten more difficult recently, and it would be difficult to pass it without on-the-job experience.
Many pay-per-click agencies and consultants provide complimentary assessments of an existing campaign or recommendations and costs for a new campaign.
When discussing your business and marketing goals, we recommend asking your PPC candidate to complete an assessment for you.
This process will allow you to get to know the consultant better.
Here are some additional questions you should ask yourself as you work with the consultant:
Remember, while there are many factors in running a profitable pay-per-click campaign, it's not rocket science. Your consultant should explain what they plan to do in a way that you can understand.
You should own the account, log in, see everything happening, and make changes.
Within your account, there is a place to designate the consultant as the account manager. The consultant can make changes to your account and generate reports but cannot see your credit card information.
This particular account setup provides a separate login for the consultant that's different from yours and any other logins used by your team members. It also allows you to track a history of changes made in the account.
In that history, you can see who made the changes by login name; having separate logins provides a clear record of who made the changes to the account.
If you want to manage the day-to-day aspects of a PPC campaign, make sure you work with someone who knows their role is simply to set up your account.
If, however, you're looking for a long-term relationship (a monthly retainer, for example), make sure the agency you talk to has a clear direction for managing accounts on a regular basis.
This includes monitoring spending and setting up and testing keywords, ad copy, and custom landing pages. They should also analyze the results of those tests and adjust those factors to optimize the campaigns so that they generate the most qualified leads for the least amount of money.
A good consultant will examine the Google Analytics and AdWords data to see how the pay-per-click campaigns are performing in the context of the overall website performance.
An even more skilled consultant will also have suggestions for improving your website to increase the conversion of visitors to leads and sales.
Note: Google Analytics (GA) is a free program (and the gold standard for understanding the performance of the website and Google AdWords campaigns).
Your B2B PPC agency should be well versed in GA and should provide the installation instructions if your webmaster has not already installed the code.
This question is meant to deduce two things:
Find out how many other accounts your assigned point person is managing. The answer to that will provide additional insights.
For example, some agencies have their analysts managing 100+ accounts.
Now, think about it like this.
If they work 40 hours per week and every minute is dedicated to account management (which isn't possible), they can spend a whopping 24 minutes/week on each account.
It's impossible to manage so many accounts effectively, no matter what PPC platform you use.
By asking this question, you're not looking for all the technical details ("we use the XYZ platform, we adjust our keyword bids X times per week to get optimum results, we do extensive keyword research, etc.").
The objective is to dig into how they approach the marketing of your business online.
Make no mistake. Marketing is the heart and essence of what a B2B PPC agency needs to be doing for you.
You want to hear, "First, we seek to understand your business, your offerings, and your prospects."
1. What are you offering the marketplace via PPC?
2. Who are your target searchers?
3. What pain points are driving them to a solution like yours?
4. What value propositions can pre-sell your solution to the right people?
A clear understanding of marketing fundamentals must drive the keywords, the ads, and adjustments that need to happen.
Too many agencies become enamored with the tools and tactics and shortchange the core reason for success or failure in PPC: message-to-market matching.
For example, we took over an account with ads saying, "Buy our product! Get it today!"
Okay, but why?
Why would someone pick your product over another product?
Asking a B2B PPC agency to explain their process should yield critical insight into how they will obtain the needed information to effectively market your product or service… attracting the right prospects whose needs are best met by your offering.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, this is perhaps the most valuable question on the list.
This question is valuable because it will help you identify B2B PPC agencies that simply want to sell you their services.
Here's the truth: PPC is NOT advisable for every company.
The problem is that some agencies seem to have one club in their golf bag. If all you have is a driver, you think the solution to every problem is "hit it hard, hit it far."
That doesn't work in golf, and it doesn't work in marketing.
There are MANY ways to generate leads and sales besides PPC.
You want your B2B PPC agency to recommend what's best for YOU, not them.
Tip: Look for B2B PPC agencies that provide a paid campaign viability assessment to determine whether or not PPC is a feasible, sensible strategy for your organization.
[Read more: PPC Agency Tricks: 3 Ways They Try to Fool You]
What information will the consultant provide to you, and in what format? Ask for what will fit your needs.
You could also ask to see a sample report, so you know what you will be getting. The consultant can block out proprietary data from the client report to show you the type of information provided.
Conversions should measure success.
What you consider a conversion—a form submission, a download, an email, a registration, a sale—is something to define with your consultant.
A tracking mechanism needs to be set up to track conversations and effectively measure your campaigns' ROI. The consultant should work with you to determine what to measure and then provide instructions as necessary to the webmaster to incorporate the tracking code, set up the goals in Google Analytics, and import conversions into AdWords.
Of course, you want to work with someone who consistently gets good results.
But what's the best way to determine this?
You can review some testimonials and case studies (every agency should have some of these). However, it's easy to cherry-pick the good ones and not mention those that didn't go so well.
A great way to determine the totality of results is by looking at client retention. Many clients work with a B2B PPC agency for a long time, which usually indicates they are pleased with the results and the working arrangement.
What's a reasonable retention rate? Look for agencies that retain 75% of their clients for at least a year.
One more thing: If the agency requires a long-term commitment and then brags about its high client retention rate, don't be fooled. It isn't necessarily volunteer retention. Instead, ask them what percentage of their clients renew their commitment.
Some agencies seek to lock you into an annual contract.
But what if they're not getting the job done?
Well, you're stuck.
Instead, you want an arrangement where the B2B PPC agency must continually earn the right to work with you.
If they do an excellent job for their client, they keep getting paid. If they don't, the client can look for someone who will.
If everything else sounds good about an agency, but they require a long-term commitment, you should negotiate that out of the arrangement.
If they won't, consider backing away. It may be a red flag that this is the primary way they get client retention (vs. good performance).
"He who asks the right question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question (or the right question) remains a fool forever." – Chinese proverb
As it is in life- when it comes to getting the best B2B PPC agency for your company, asking better questions usually produces better results.
The bottom line?
It's your money, and any consultant or agency (PPC or otherwise) should respect that.
The consultant who happily and honestly answers the ten questions above is the one you can confidently add to your shortlist of prospects!
Are you looking for additional guidance on PPC? Our team of B2B PPC experts can help.
Tags: Paid Search & Social