How to Build a PPC Offering at Your Digital Marketing Agency
Clients have been clamoring for leads and sales for long enough; the time to launch a pay-per-click offering at your agency was yesterday.
Now, there are infinite possibilities when it comes to designing, launching, and managing a PPC offering for your digital marketing agency. On one hand this is fantastic: you can tailor your offering to best fit your existing skills and the needs of your clients. On the other, you’ve probably got a thousand questions…
Should you fake it till you make it? Outsource the complicated stuff? Hire SEM and paid social specialists?
Does it make sense to begin with a single network and grow? Is Bing necessary?
Which agency-specific tools out there will make your life easier?
Paralysis by analysis is all too possible (but to answer your questions: No, maybe, eventually, depends how comfortable you are, yes, WordStream Advisor for Agencies).
This guide is designed to minimize the time it takes to get your agency’s PPC offering off the ground. In it, you’ll learn:
- What kinds of PPC Services you might provide
- How to structure your pricing model
- How to spread the word about your new PPC offering
In addition to this in-a-nutshell guide to building your agency’s PPC offering, we’ve asked some of our agency clients to provide tips on how they got started.[EG1]
What Kinds of PPC Services Should My Agency Offer?
Most digital agencies offering PPC provide a fully managed solution; they take on full responsibility for the day-to-day management of online advertising campaigns.
Agencies with managed services typically have some number (one or several depending on the scope of the offering) full time hires devoted solely to PPC, as full-time management requires a significant amount of time and resources.
Aside from building and optimizing paid online advertising campaigns across AdWords, Bing, Facebook, and other social platforms, account managers are also responsible for customer relationships; they typically have frequent calls with the client to provide updates, align marketing goals, and report on account performance.
Let’s jump into some of the various PPC services your agency might offer in addition to run-of-the-mill account management:
An in-demand service (and one you can use to acquire new business), account audits are simply an analysis of an existing account. Unlike ongoing strategic consulting, account audits are typically written in report form and reviewed over the phone. Consider charging a flat rate for audits, or, once you’ve developed a more streamlined process, offer them as a complimentary service; audits represent a ton of value for prospects, and showing them opportunities for optimization and growth can be the leverage you need to turn a skeptic into a client.
Offering an account buildout service is important if you are selling to prospects that do not currently have an AdWords, Bing Ads, or Facebook Business Manager account. This service requires intimate knowledge of:
- Best practices for each network
- The client’s business
- Important KPIs
In all, from planning to execution, buildouts can take anywhere from several hours to several weeks.
If a client has let their account structure run amok, inherited an account responsibility from a colleague, or taken back control of their account from an agency, a one-time account restructure service can be a valuable add-on package to include. When pricing an account restructure, consider the size of the account, the historical account data, and marketing goals of the client to understand how many hours of resources a restructure may take.
While you may be taking the reins on your clients’ PPC campaigns, you might be less than willing (or able) to complete the necessary design work; display ads and Facebook ads require visual creative, and putting it together can be a real time sink. Make sure if you don’t have an in-house designer you’ve got a slew of trusted freelancers, and work their rates into your billing structure.
If you can’t create, test, and optimize landing pages, you’re hamstringing your managed PPC offering; after all, if you have no control over the places paid traffic goes, your ability to maximize results is significantly inhibited. While there are agencies that put the onus for landing page optimization on the client, we wouldn’t recommend it! Doing landing page work will allow you to add value and stand apart from competitors who aren’t willing (or don’t know how) to do it. Landing page optimization will likely require design and development resources, so make sure it is reflected in your pricing (and pitch deck, too).
Strategic consulting is one of the most in-demand services in PPC. There’s just one catch: you really need to know your stuff if you’re going to offer it! If you are interested in providing consulting services, you should be comfortable with identifying areas of opportunity and teaching clients how to implement strategic changes. Consulting sessions are typically held over a web conference call and are billed on an hourly basis at $99-$150 an hour depending on market and experience.
Implementation, Analytics, and Tracking
Of all of the recommended services, conversion tracking implementation is the least time consuming. That said, helping clients install these codes on their website can be extremely impactful for client retention (there’s likely a pixel for every platform on which they advertise). If things start getting messy, tracking can be consolidated using Google Tag Manager). Consider charging a small flat rate for these services or providing them for free; since it’s likely that implementation will occur at the outset of a client relationship, this can be an excellent way to build trust and value right out the gate.
Pricing Your PPC Service
Once you’ve decided which services you wish to offer, you will need to design a pricing and packaging structure. There are several common factors to consider.
Start-up fees or setup fees are typically justified by the amount of initial overhead that comes with taking on a new account. It can take significant legwork to become familiar with a new account, get acquainted with the client’s’ marketing strategy, and make any important structural changes. Start-up fees often take shape as a flat one-time fee ranging from 50-100% of the recurring monthly rate.
As for recurring charges, there are several ways to model pricing. Charging based on a percentage of ad spend is among the most common, although the percentage itself varies significantly based on the level of service you are offering. Are you offering Display Network management? Weekly reporting? Paid social?
Percentage of Ad Spend
Consider the total value of your offering and pick a number that makes sense. For example, an agency charging 15% of spend will charge $750 to a client with a budget of $5,000/month. The most important thing to remember here is to avoid selling yourself short! If you’re providing exceptional service in every aspect of your offering, there’s no reason to be bashful about a high price tag.
One advantage of charging on a percentage of ad spend is the immediate gain in revenue when a client decides to increase his or her budget. Presumably, if a client is happy with your performance and decides to increase their budget, you will capture some additional revenue for a job well done. However, if a business has some seasonality to it, their budgets may fluctuate from month to month. Agencies that use a percentage model may find that they struggle with the unpredictability of monthly recurring revenue.
Flat Rate (Tiered Pricing Structure)
In order to ensure some stability, some agencies opt for a tiered pricing model, in which they charge a flat rate for different levels of spend. In this instance, agencies choose a budget range and charge the same amount each month so long as the client stays within that range.
A tiered model allows for some budget flexibility, without constant fluctuation in revenue on the side of the agency. However, some clients may be turned off by the drastic increase in charges if/ and when they do jump tiers.
Hybrid Pricing Model
The final pricing model you might want to consider is a hybrid, in which large fluctuations in revenue are offset by installing a flat fee or base fee on top of a percentage of spend.
If you opt for this pricing model, you should charge a lower percentage of spend than you would if you didn’t have a base fee. For example, if you decide to charge a $500 base fee plus 8% of total ad spend, a client with a budget of $5,000 would be charged $900/month. Typically, base fees can help filter out inquiries from lower budget prospects who still require a lot of work but will not bring in much revenue.
Depending on what additional services you decide to provide (see above for the list of options), pricing options will vary. For services like account restructures, build-outs, and strategic consulting, it may be best to bill at an hourly rate (again typically $100-$250/hour). For services that can be streamlined (meaning they won’t take much time to complete), like account audits and implementation, a flat fee is typically easiest.
Getting the Word Out
Once you have structured and priced your offering, you will need to get the word out! It is important to keep your message consistent across all channels, from your website to your marketing collateral and even your own PPC campaigns.
Update Your Website
Your new Paid Search offering isn’t official until it’s listed on your website alongside your other offerings. You should dedicate a portion of your website to present your PPC services to visitors. Explain the extent of what you offer and the different plans that are available. Some opt to include pricing on their website, while others prefer to leave pricing as a discussion during the pitch process.
Establish Your Authority
One of the more difficult challenges for business entering the paid search industry is establishing authority. What makes you qualified to manage or sell online marketing solutions? How do you gain trust from your website visitors and prospects?
One such way is to attain certifications. It may take a little bit of studying, but endorsements from Google, Facebook, and Bing are a great way to establish authority with prospects struggling with paid search. Eventually, once your offering is scaled up, you can leverage these initial certifications into partnership badges, which can be displayed on your website. These can give you instant clout with skeptical prospects.
Another way to establish authority is to earn (and ask for) customer testimonials. If you’ve done great work in the past, prospects will be more apt to consider your services; people love social proof!
Present an Enticing Offer
Catching the eye of a prospects is just the first hurdle; once they know about your PPC services, it will still take substantial effort to turn them into clients. Offerings such as free white paper downloads can help you nurture your leads.
At WordStream, we have found that another enticing offer you can provide is a free account audit. If you can promise to leave a prospect with actionable takeaways during a 30-minute assessment, it can be difficult for them to walk away from the table. Most businesses aren’t even aware of the fact that their accounts are suffering until you lay it all out for them. Once this comes to light, prospects are much more likely to want to take action and consider your services.
Advice from our Agency Clients
It’s better to hear it can be better to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. We asked some of our Agency partners— digital marketing outfits who leverage WordStream Advisor for Agencies as the foundational component of their PPC offering— how they got started and what advice they would give to fledgling agencies.
Jimmy Hendricks, CEO
According to Lightpost Digital CEO Jimmy Hendricks, the agency expanded into PPC at the request of their clients. “We initially started our agency by developing WordPress websites and managing social media marketing. As our client base grew, we started getting referrals to lawyers, dentists, and home service companies whose #1 marketing metric was phone calls.”
As a result, Lightpost added PPC management to their repertoire and hired two Google AdWords experts. Today, PPC is their fastest growing service.
“There is nothing more fulfilling than sharing positive metrics with clients and hearing they want to increase their budget because the marketing is working so well,” says Jimmy. Music to our ears.
Two tips for agencies building a PPC offering…
- Really understand what a profitable lead is for a client so you have a target cost per acquisition (CPA) target.
- Give your clients realistic timelines and a clear plan on how you are going to work to achieve this CPA target.
Learn more about Lightpost Digital!
Alex Nicoll, Web Marketing Specialist / Employee-owner
Back in 2006, Forbin identified PPC as a great way to get their clients in front of prospects online in an affordable manner.
“One of our first clients was a local manufacturing company who, in the past, had spent the majority of their marketing budget to be included in an industry publication. They had little success and results were difficult to track.” According to Alex, once the Forbin began running PPC campaigns instead of ads in trade publications, the client saw a much higher ROI on PPC with measurable reporting.
“Since then,” says Alex, “the PPC program has continued to grow into what it is today.”
Two tips for agencies building a PPC offering…
- Stay on top of current PPC news by participating in webinars, reading blogs and attending conferences. PPC is always evolving and it is important to stay ahead of changes. If you can, find a mentor who understands the industry to help guide you in the right direction.
- Learn to speak PPC to clients in layman’s terms. There are a lot of complex terms and ideas that are hard for clients to grasp without a solid understanding of the industry. If you can learn to speak PPC to clients, it will be much easier to show value and grow the program.
Learn more about VGM Forbin!
Amber Stanley-Kruth, Project Manager – SEO/SEM Strategist
Flypaper began offering PPC services through an outside multi-media organization, and when they were ready to pull SEM/PPC operations in-house, they struggled to manage spend across AdWords, Bing and Yahoo. According to Amber Stanley-Kruth, “Trying to manage several clients with different monthly budgets across multiple advertising platforms was a challenge. We eventually dropped Bing and Yahoo, and had much better results only advertising on AdWords.”
As Flypaper grew, their client-base expanded and the agency started to see a drop in performance with the cost and engagement in PPC campaigns. “It was a strain on our workforce,” says Amber, “to monitor and optimize every campaign for every client. There are many elements of SEM/PPC that contribute to the success of the campaigns and each factor seems to cause an avalanche on the other parts of the advertising campaign.”
The avalanche was stymied, in part, by Flypaper’s decision to use WordStream Advisor for Agencies.
“WordStream’s ability to scan every element of each campaign and ad group saves our team many hours every week and gives us a detailed and holistic view of each account performance. The educational blogs, how-to articles and incredible staff resources have more than made up for the investment,” says Amber.
Two tips for agencies building a PPC offering…
- Knowing how to setup a PPC campaign is one of the most important requirements for success. Study the guidelines of the advertising platform, sign up for updates and insights, and follow professionals and websites that post regularly on the best practices of Search Engine Marketing/Pay-Per-Click.
- Start small and scale up; Use one platform (eg. Google AdWords) and become comfortable with it by learning what is expected for success. Share data with your clients. Be transparent.
Learn more about Flypaper!
Ready to get your digital marketing agency’s PPC service off the ground and sign your first clients? Start your free trial of WordStream Advisor for Agencies today!
About the Author
Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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