Part of our filtering system when we receive leads for new clients is asking how much of their marketing budget is devoted to PPC marketing (the only channel we manage at my PPC agency).
OK, so why in the world would a person (me!) who has invested his life in the realm of PPC marketing purposefully shy away from taking on clients who spend all of their marketing budget in PPC?
When a prospect proudly states “yeah, we actually invest about 95 percent of our entire marketing budget solely into Google Ads”, why wouldn’t I hear “job security” rather than what typically goes through my mind: “alarm, alarm, alarm! ⚠️“?
The primary motivation I have for being alarmed by a client’s declaration of dependence upon the marketing channel I have devoted my life to is five-fold.
Why Be Alarmed If Someone’s Business Rests Solely on Google Ads?
1. PPC Can’t (Really, Technically, Kind of) Create Demand
For the sake of over-simplification let’s assume there are two core sides to advertising:
PPC marketing is stellar at demand capture.
One of the things I love about paid search (for the sake of this article, I’m using PPC and paid search interchangeably because social, display, and video advertising don’t use CPC bidding), is that you nail the what, where, and when of an inquiry down to the individual level.
You can get your ad in front of one specific person (amazing!) just by identifying what they are asking Google. You get it right in front of them when they are asking and marketing shines its brightest.
However, that is when they are asking about it. They had some prior knowledge of something in order to spawn a question/elicit a search.
We don’t inquire about what we don’t know. Because of this, you need more than PPC in your repertoire to actually build and grow a business long-term.
That is, if you want to create demand for your product, you need to get in front of those people who aren’t even asking questions about your product yet. This is the magical part of marketing, demand creation!
And this is what paid search struggles to do successfully.
Here’s where I hear a chorus of well-informed, intelligent voices complaining about my over-simplification.
There are ways in which you can (arguably) use paid search to generate demand, but I would note that this is rare, and not typically a cost-effective way to do it since keywords continue to get more expensive each year.
In other words, you may show ads for your “Massage and Yoga Parlor” to people inquiring on Google: “what are ways I can decrease stress in my life?”
To really get into the weeds – is this truly generating demand, or simply positioning your brand to meet demand already there? (I would argue the second.)
Even if you argue this is demand creation, you can probably take 100 clicks for that keyword and get in front of thousands of target audience on the GDN, YouTube, or Facebook instead. Thus to my point on cost-effectiveness.
All that being said, if you genuinely want to grow a brand and generate demand (and not simply survive a business), you will want to invest in more than PPC, since PPC is primarily geared towards demand capture.
2. PPC Isn’t Marketing, PPC Is a Channel Within Marketing (Heck, It’s a Channel Within Advertising, Within Marketing)
I have encountered many people over the years who understand paid search advertising, but aren’t good at marketing.
That is, they know how to set bids and choose keywords, but they don’t know how:
You actually find people (or create an interest in people!).
Position a product well to them.
Convince them (usually over time) to invest in a brand.
Paid search is a fantastic marketing channel to invest in.
As noted above, it does a great job of answering questions people are already asking and offering the solution of your product or service.
However, if this is your entire marketing strategy, then eventually it will come to bite you simply because you need some way to create demand in the first place.
That is, you need some way to:
Continually engage with people (social media).
Drip great content over time to remind people of your value (email).
Invest in that you can grow over time without shelling out cash for every dad-gum click (organic).
And those are just digital channels!
If PPC is the only place you have invested time and money, that will eventually come to bite you.
As a PPC agency, I care about your business success, not just riding a quick wave spending as much as I can on your demand capture low-hanging fruit before heading out the door.
Let’s really build a brand!
And to build a brand we need more than PPC.
3. PPC Can Change (& Has Changed) at the Drop of a Hat
This point can’t be understated.
You could invest years into an advanced structure in Google Ads that works exceptionally well, only to watch Google shut it down by introducing (or pulling) some functionality you were dependent on.
As one example, I was assisting an agency with one of their clients a few years ago, and we were seeing exceptional success by segmenting our search campaigns out by device.
Then Enhanced Campaigns hit and Google removed (temporarily, but long enough) our ability to segment by device type and this particular client took a beating in their AdWords account.
Sadly, it wasn’t only the client who took a beating as they also took it out on the agency with stress-filled calls and hand-wringing – all because Google made one change.
It. Can. Happen. To. You.
For the love of all that is good, don’t put all your eggs into one basket, diversify your marketing and survive the fickle nature of channel changes!
I’m going to speak to agencies directly in these next two.
The previous points could be helpful for in-house managers, or executives to consider. These points fit directly into the unique agency/client relationship.
4. For Agencies: The Stakes Become Outrageously High for Every Test, Experiment, Bid Adjustment or Disapproved Ad
I invest myself emotionally in each of our clients. I feel wins and losses in our client accounts, and believe my team does as well.
However, I have found that for clients who primarily invest all of their budget into PPC, the emotional toll of high stakes are just not worth it as an agency.
When a client’s entire marketing plan is PPC (a role it was never meant to have), it allows for a variety of profit-killing behaviors to occur such as:
Obsessive, micro-management, communication regarding intricacies in the account. “I noticed bounce rate on this product is 5 percent higher, why do you think that is?”
“Can we have a call?” over every minor dip or bump that happens in an account. “Should we pause this keyword that you pushed live yesterday?? Did that cause this morning’s dip?!”
An increased willingness to fire the PPC agency with the belief that a change will fix things, or something, hopefully, doggone it something, please work, ANYONE…
I don’t know how to put it other than this: the stakes for your agency and personal emotional well-being are infinitely higher when a client isn’t diversified in marketing.
And I don’t mean that in an applaudable, “you got this, buddy!” encouraging way, as if you just need to toughen it up and meet the challenge.
I mean it like, “the stakes are so high because they don’t understand marketing and are putting unnecessary pressure on you because their business literally rests on your shoulders.”
I personally don’t want to be in that position, because of the previous three points. It’s not my responsibility, and it can’t be because it’s asking PPC to do something it cannot do.
Unless something significant changes in that business, it won’t last much longer anyway (or at least, your relationship with them won’t last past the next big Google change #realtalk).
5. For Agencies: A Client Who Cares Solely About One Channel May Be Difficult to Work with Because They May Not Understand How Marketing Truly Works and What Is Required to Actually Build a Brand
Finally, a point that I hope isn’t taken as harsh as it may sound at first blush.
Let me be clear, we are all learning and growing in our understanding of how this all works.
There are certainly times where someone will say “here’s the position my business is in with marketing, I don’t want it to remain like this, please help us diversify and here is how we are intentionally invested in doing that.”
Another outlier would be the startup.
Sometimes startups have a lot of PPC investment to begin because they’re trying to rapidly ramp up while they work hard on building out their other channels.
That’s a great way to start a business, and would definitely not fit into the other concerns!
Though also keep in mind that startups have their own challenges in PPC, so make sure to walk in with eyes wide open and extra budget for additional communication (some startups want you to act as their CMO, not their PPC agency so be careful of scope creep).
On the whole, however, I have found that established businesses with a significant amount of their budget invested in PPC, have purposefully built a business that way.
There is likely a culture in this company that simply does not understand the first few points I brought up above.
They don’t want to hear about what you have to say regarding Top of Funnel, demand generation, brand positioning, etc… they just “want PPC results!” “Yeah we get it, whatever, that’s not your concern… but seriously can you 3x our revenue and hit ROAS goals next week?”
If that’s the case, my unsolicited advice is to pass. They will work for a while, but the first issue that happens in the account will have them shopping around again for another PPC agency who they’re hoping “will be the one.”
They don’t understand marketing, and thus there is a core problem within their business that you, the PPC agency, aren’t going to fix even if you hit their ROAS goals.
You’ve wasted significant time onboarding, communicating, and setting up a client who isn’t a long-term viable option and you might find it worth your time just to refer them elsewhere right from the beginning.
Well, there you have it! Did you ever think you would hear a PPC agency concerned about working with someone who has 90 percent of their marketing budget in PPC? You have now!
What do you think? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments!
Screenshot taken by author, March 2019