Do you like what you are doing on an average Tuesday at 9:30am? If you do, it’s likely you have a job you’ll be at for a while.Read More
I am an introvert. Like many fellow PPC marketers, I am very comfortable alone, behind a computer screen of spreadsheets with headphones on.
The reality is that for many of us to have the career we dream of, we have to get out from behind the computer and convince other people to believe in our ideas.
In 2012, I was promoted from the role of senior PPC analyst to department manager. I couldn’t hide behind my computer anymore. The job of a manager is to focus on improving the daily life of the people on the team and setting a direction everyone believes in.
I struggled to adapt to my new role. I had lots of ideas for new improvements backed up by data and beautiful charts. Unfortunately, most of my ideas never became reality. After a few months on the job, frustration was setting in. That’s when I stumbled on the work of Olivia Fox Cabane.
She opened my eyes to a new secret weapon, a weapon that helped me get things done faster when working with clients and co-workers. It was (and still is) a tool that is easily overlooked by digital marketers: charisma.
Building Your Personal Charisma
Fox Cabane is a true expert on charisma. My first exposure to her thoughts on charisma was from a talk she gave to Stanford Business School students in 2012.
I highly recommend finding 45 minutes to listen. The speech and Q&A is packed with fascinating insights on charisma and practical advice for building your own. What struck me most from her speech was her insistence that charisma can be learned. It’s a tool or asset that can be improved just like Excel skills or coding.
It’s a myth that people like Steve Jobs were innately charismatic. Jobs worked hard on improving his charisma.
Not everyone will end up Steve Jobs, but everyone can improve their own life by displaying more charisma.
Play Chemist With Your Brain
Charisma is an applied science. There are actionable ways you can start improving your charisma today. You can trick your brain. Imagine biting into a lemon. Now imagine fingernails on a chalkboard. You probably had a reaction to these completely made up thoughts. It’s important to remember your brain and body can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. The same hormones are released.
Most of Fox Cabane’s advice is designed to help you outsmart your own brain into enhancing the three pillars of charisma:
Presence: The Core of Charisma
The most important aspect of being charismatic is being present in the moment. So often when we are in a conversation our mind is thinking about something else.
Fox Cabane talks about how people can read delays in facial reactions down to 17 milliseconds. You may feel like you have a great poker face but people can tell when you aren’t engaged or focused. Delays in reactions give people the feeling that you are being inauthentic. Nothing ruins trust or charisma faster than being seen as inauthentic.
You can’t fake it. You have to be in the moment…to be in the moment. The brain has a limited capacity for focus. This has been proven by famous examples cited by Fox Cabane like the selective attention test:
Brain Chemistry Tricks to Improve Presence:
- Take two seconds and focus on your toes. Seriously. Think about your toes. Feel the sensations they are experiencing. This forces your brain to do a full body scan. It’s crazy but it works. Whenever I do this, I get a tingly sensation and am pulled right back into the moment.
- Focus on the colors of the eyes of the person you are speaking with. But don’t over do it. A little eye contact goes a long way. If you are craning your neck, you are doing it wrong.
Power: Does Someone Believe You Can Affect the World Around You
Power is perceived by others through your demeanor and body language. A lack of self-confidence is a major deterrent to positive demeanor and body language.
Brain Chemistry Tricks to Improve Confidence:
- Trick your brain by simply adopting more “confident” body posture. Stand up straight, throw your shoulders back, or stretch out your legs if sitting. Studies show that just by standing more confidently, the brain releases hormones associated with heightened confidence.
- Low self-confidence is often the result of negative thoughts. The brain can easily distort reality and process obviously inaccurate thoughts as true. Not all thoughts are valid and you have to help your brain get rid of the bad. Fox Cabane recommends that while meandering around the streets of your mind, view ugly thoughts as bad graffiti that can be easily ignored.
Warmth: How Do You Make Other People Feel About Themselves
Warmth is the ability to generate empathy — no matter the scenario — so that you can be a “more useful version of yourself” according to Fox Cabane. Working with difficult people or in difficult situations can put a strain on your charisma.
Brain Chemistry Tricks to Generate Warmth and Empathy:
- Fox Cabane describes an event where you get recklessly cut off by a car on your way to a big meeting. The car then cuts off three more cars when it swerves off the highway. You react with a fight or flight type response. Your heart is beating fast and you are aggravated. In these types of moments, consider rewriting your own reality. Tell yourself the driver of the car was a mom with a choking kid in the back seat (or a similar scenario) to get yourself back to level. Remember, your brain can’t tell the difference between reality and imagination.
- Have to interact with a tough co-worker? Pick three things about them you approve of. Tell yourself a story about their morning, week, or childhood that fosters empathy toward them (regardless if the story is true or not).
How Can You Harness Charisma?
Building your personal charisma is a lifelong journey. Fox Cabane has a detailed list of exercises on her website to help you improve.
For me, Fox Cabane’s advice has made me a much better listener. I still regularly fail to give my full attention to those around me. But when I feel myself being uncharismatic, I remember to play chemist with my brain and fall back on her advice.
As the leader of a PPC team, it’s inevitable you’ll face employee burnout. In this post, Shape describes 9 signs a member of your team is burned out and struggling to keep up, as well as 16 tips to combat team member stress and exhaustion. Take time to prevent burnout now as it will benefit your team immeasurably in the long run.Read More
Employees who enjoyed long careers working with David Ogilvy would have heard him constantly re-enforcing the belief that the only way to survive as a company is to hire and promote great people. Ogilvy believed that teams were most successful when they hired employees that were exceptional and more skilled or knowledgeable than their peers/bosses.Read More
Growing your pay-per-click advertising team this year? Chances are, finding great candidates won’t be easy.
More than half of all marketing hires in 2017 will be for online marketing roles, according to a recent study by staffing firm McKinley Marketing Partners. Highest in demand: digital advertisers.
With need expected to far exceed supply, you may end up hiring an applicant for their very first job in digital marketing. So how do you identify promising PPC talent amongst a pool of inexperienced candidates?
Advice from a Marketer who has Hired 70+ PPC and SEO Professionals
Over his 20-year marketing career, Dave Beltramini has overseen or directly hired over 70 PPC and SEO professionals at Fortune 500, tech startup, and digital marketing companies. Dave explains what he looks for to identify exceptional future digital marketing professionals.
Would you consider hiring an applicant without digital advertising experience for a PPC role?
Absolutely. People that come in fresh have a different perspective. That is almost universally good. Additionally, there can be budget constraints when building a team. You may not be able to afford hiring a team of seasoned vets.
What is the minimum amount of professional or educational experience you require candidates to possess?
If an applicant has no experience then I look for a college degree. The degree doesn’t have to be in a business field. Math majors, journalism majors, and English majors make good team members. But, I wouldn't rule out applicants with any degree. If they have demonstrable PPC experience, a degree is not a necessity (but it helps).
What hard skills do you look for when evaluating a candidate?
You should be looking for an aptitude or interest in using numbers. If you are hiring for a higher-level PPC position there are skills that the candidate should have already mastered, certifications (Adwords, Bing), etc.
Have applicants used software programs in school or other positions? Many people say they are Excel “experts.” When you ask them how to use a pivot table they have no idea what a pivot table is.
What are some soft skills you look for when evaluating a candidate?
Soft skills differentiate a successful team member from a good technician. Communication. Teamwork. Problem solving abilities. Two skills I also look for are flexibility and motivation. Flexibility is big because the work changes often. A person who can’t adapt can drag the whole team down. If you are building a team, you need the team to be strong in as many areas as possible not just in one particular area.
A motivated mindset makes a huge difference between success (or not) in PPC. It is the self-motivation to be constantly better tomorrow than you were today. That is hard to get at with any single question.
If they have played sports at a high level or if their passion is running, for example, then you have a thread you can pursue. I start to drive a conversation around how they get better, how they learn, do they have a plan to get better, how did they come up with that plan. If they can articulate that and are enthusiastic, then you know they have motivation to improve. It’s not just sports though. People have successfully executed plans to get better at singing or even baking.
What are some of your favorite interview questions that help identify great candidates?
There are a few I like:
- Assume everything goes well and you come in on Monday to start your job. I greet you first thing and then tell you I have to go out of town for two weeks. How are you going to learn your job?
- How do you tell a client they are wrong? How do you tell the CEO he/she is wrong?
- The pirate question - The employee who originally asked this at our company left, but we continued to ask this question for a few more years. One person actually told me they were prepared because they heard it would be asked.
Are there any tools or software that a person must know to get a job?
Excel is the only absolute.
Do you recommend or require candidates complete certification courses before applying?
I am somewhat skeptical of many of the third party non-Google certifications. Are they more beneficial for the certifier or the person receiving the certification? But, certifications show commitment and initiative, so there is benefit in that regard.
On the flip side, any suggestions, recommendations, or advice to applicants looking to enter into the digital advertising field?
Show a side of you that is passionate about something. Show you know how to plan. Demonstrate your ability to learn on your own/from others and to share what you have learned.
For a hiring manager, the idea of placing thousands or millions of dollars of ad spend and important client relationships in the hands of an untested, inexperienced employee can be downright scary. But that doesn't mean you can't find standout PPC talent in an applicant looking for their first digital advertising job so long as you know what to look for in the interview.
Find candidates that are enthusiastic about numbers and analysis, have a self-improvement mindset, and take the initiative to execute on their plans and goals. And of course, knowing Excel can't hurt!
I spent years as a consultant, agency analyst, and department head focused on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. In every role, I was part of regularly scheduled client calls.
Whether PPC was the focus of the call or just part of the agenda, I was excited to share what I had worked on. I would take time to create graphs, custom reports, screenshots, and notes. I did whatever it took to tell the client the story of what happened, what was going to happen, and why.
Before I knew better, this excitement led me to make the mistake of jumping right in with my prepared material before learning about the client’s state of mind.
What I should have been doing was asking an important question first:
“Before we get started with what I have prepared, is there anything on the top of your mind that we should touch on?”
When I took a few minutes to start with this question, I routinely uncovered important topics that drove the rest of the conversation.
Embrace Unpredictability During Client Calls
There is no way to know what has happened in a client’s life since you last talked to them if you never ask.
- Your client’s company just landed a huge contract.
- A boss asked your client for a specific metric for the first time ever
- Your client read something over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal about Pinterest advertising and wants to run a test.
Asking a client what’s on their mind uncovers telling information and ensures that the client’s most important topics are addressed during the call.
Getting Derailed By This Question is Okay
If I could address what was on the top of a client’s mind by weaving it into my prepared material in a natural way, that was always my first option.
But many times, the responses led to exchanges that took time away from my prepared material. I learned that was totally okay.
It is okay because the client now has actionable answers to their most burning questions and concerns.
This question does create consequences. Getting derailed means extra follow-up work to communicate anything not covered during the call. But in the end, it’s worth it to leave the client feeling confident in your ability to address their responses in the moment.
Change the Way You Start Your Client Calls
The best way I have found to avoid the mistake of jumping right into your prepared material is to ask a client what is on their mind at the beginning of a call.
You’ll find you often get responses that derail your call in an unpredictably great way.
While managing a team of pay-per-click analysts, I grew very skeptical of silence.
When I analyzed why we lost clients, I often noticed that clients went silent for a period of time before they left. The conversations with analysts that made me most nervous typically went:
Me: “How’s it going with Client X?”
Analyst: “Great. Numbers look good.”
Me: “Talked to them lately?”
Analyst: “Been a while.”
In the span of “a while,” we may have sent a client two or three reports. Whether results were amazing or poor, not hearing back from the client was always a cause for concern.
Don’t assume a silent stakeholder is a happy stakeholder
In the marketer/stakeholder relationship, it is the marketer’s burden to improve upon silence.
I learned this the hard way as a young analyst. I lost clients who I thought were happy. Turns out, they were silently unhappy.
My boss at the time told me my goal as a marketer was to make sure my stakeholders could answer two questions about me at all times:
- What have you done for me lately?
- What are you doing next?
If you have a silent stakeholder, do you know how they would answer these questions if asked?
If your client has been noticeably unresponsive, you have work to do.
Create communication that gets a response
As a marketer, the only way to know if you’ve broken the silence is if you hear from a client after reaching out.
Anyone can email a report to a client month-after-month. But, can you generate a report and analysis compelling enough to consistently generate a response from your stakeholder?
Great communication from a marketer elicits feedback from those receiving the message. Engaged stakeholders will ask better questions, respond more positively to new ideas, and feed you useful information to improve advertising campaigns along the way.
Have you heard anything from your stakeholders lately? If your stakeholders are clients, better make sure they don’t already have one foot out the door.
Most of us have had client calls that haven’t gone the way we wanted. I found myself in this situation a few years back as a PPC analyst.
The client had given the project manager the feeling that the call wasn’t going to be positive. The PM brought in an executive to sit in on the call and help weather the storm.
The call started and as expected the client launched into a rant.
After what felt like an eternity — but was likely only two or three uninterrupted minutes — the client started to lose steam. My blood pressure had risen, my palms were sweaty, and I wasn’t sure what to say next.
I looked to the executive. She had remained calm and took notes. She gave me a reassuring nod that indicated, “I have this.”
The rant ended and there was a moment of silence over the speakerphone. The executive chimed in:
“I am hearing your frustration and to make sure I understand you correctly, you are saying…” She then perfectly distilled the main concerns raised by the client in two sentences and waited for a response.
“Exactly,” responded the client.
Hearing his concerns articulated back to him had a magical, calming effect. The conversation shifted immediately to what to do next. We were able to clear up the confusion and assure the client all was well.
I learned that before you can begin to address someone’s issues, it’s important to get clear agreement from all parties involved on what the exact issues are.
When in a heated situation, great communicators concisely describe someone’s frustration back to them.
This shows the listener has empathy for the distressed party and is actively listening to their concerns. It’s a simple (but essential) first step that gives you a solid start to finding a solution.
Running Innovative PPC Campaigns is Hard
No combination of people and software can prevent all mistakes from happening.
The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made as a PPC Analyst
I was 3 years into my journey as a PPC professional. I had spent the last year and half working up the ranks in a growing PPC department. My boss was beginning to trust me with larger accounts more often.
A senior analyst needed to reassign a couple big accounts to other analysts. One of those accounts was assigned to me.
Our PPC department was competitive and I wanted to show the senior analyst I could improve the account's metrics. After some analysis, my idea for making the biggest initial impact was to develop new ad creative.
The beautiful Excel sheet I developed to bulk upload ad creative and destination URL data to Adwords Editor was flawed. I didn't catch it before I uploaded the changes. The mistake affected the destination URLs of every ad. When people clicked on any ad in the account they ended up on the client's 404 page.
Back then if your ads still performed well, Adwords will continue to serve your ads even if they lead to a 404 page.
It was weeks and thousands of dollars of ad spend later when I noticed. It was especially hard to diagnose quickly because people who ended up on the 404 page used the site's navigation bar to find the information they needed and many still converted into customers.
(404 pages matter, make sure you give them some love or redirect a visitor to a site's homepage.)
Mistakes = Opportunity to Earn Trust With Your Client
I remember staring at the screen knowing I had cost this customer a lot of business. Website visitors were still converting into customers after landing on the 404 page but the data showed conversion rate was definitively down. Not all the spend had been wasted but there was no doubt this mistake had cost the client ad spend and revenue.
After hunting down the error in the spreadsheet that lead to the issue, I corrected it and uploaded the data to Adwords Editor. The fix took 5 minutes. I then pinged my boss to ask him if he had time to talk. I told him what happened and detailed the impact on the account's performance.
He laid out a 7 point action plan for me that I still use today to help turn mistakes into trust:
1 - Stop the Bleeding the Mistake Caused ASAP
Double check that everything is 100% corrected and that the account is back in it's proper state as soon as possible. This is super important in the world of PPC where ad dollars can be spent fast.
2 - It's Important to Talk to the Client In Person or Over the Phone, Not Email
Owning up to big mistakes that cost a client thousands of dollars of business is a tough, emotional conversation to have. The best chance you have to turn a mistake into trust is to talk in person or over the phone. Come to the conversation with lots of data but don't go into details about the mistake through email beforehand.
3 - Explain Why the Mistake Happened
There's always a reason why a big mistake occurred. On the call I detailed why the URLs had been uploaded incorrectly and why I hadn't noticed it earlier.
4 - Quantify the Impact of the Mistake
Using the conversion rate drop, I showed the client how much business the mistake had cost them on the call. Do your best to show the true impact of the mistake on ad spend and the client's bottom line. It might not be pretty but you owe it to all stakeholders to be as accurate as possible with this estimate.
5 - Describe the Corrective Steps Being Taken By Your Company
Due to my mistake our PPC department adjusted our quality assurance process to ensure this never happened again. This client could be sure that we were now stronger going forward if they stuck with us.
6 - Offer an Olive Branch
In this situation, our company had my back and wrote a check to cover our client's losses. If feasible, this is ideal and an option I was lucky to have. If you can't afford to cover the true losses from step 4, offer them as much as you can. The best you can offer may be a big discount on services going forward, or additional resources for the next 3 months to make up for the lost performance. Do the best you can.
7 - Set-up Another Call for 2 Weeks Later
Show a commitment to making this right by scheduling a call to show how the mistake has been corrected including your supporting data. This meeting is a great opportunity to move on from the mistake and outline the optimization plan going forward with what you know now.
Focus on Building Long Term Trust
There are two types of client trust in my experience. 'Short Term' and 'Long Term'. In this case, my client's short term trust was shaken but they stuck with us. They closely analyzed every report I gave them for the next 6 months and rightfully made sure I was having others in my department do the same.
But as the months went on, the mistake was proven to be an outlier. Because we had been honest about our mistake, they trusted us when we talked about performance being great. How we handled our mistake set the stage for the good times.
Reports from my former colleagues are that they are still a client 6+ years later.
Summary of How to Handle Big PPC Mistakes in a Way That Builds Trust
Our company was able to retain this client despite my big mistake because of an action plan my boss developed that I still follow when in tough situations:
1 - Stop the Bleeding the Mistake Caused ASAP
2 - It's Important to Talk to the Client in Person or Over the Phone, Not Email
3 - Explain Why the Mistake Happened
4 - Quantify the Impact of the Mistake
5 - Describe the Corrective Steps Being Taken By Your Company
6 - Offer an Olive Branch
7 - Set-up Another Call for 2 Weeks Later
Every PPC professional has a story about a mistake they have made. It's the reality of running innovative campaigns and pushing to improve results. Deciding how you handle these mistakes will determine how successful your client partnerships will be long term.
A team interested in testing our software told us,
“We are a company of 50 total employees. There are 7 of us in the PPC department. A perk of working here is over the Christmas holiday, employees are given 1 week to completely unplug. This break is offered to everyone except for 8 people that work here. Those 8 are 1 person in support and all 7 people in the PPC department.”
After hearing many variations of this story we started calling it the,
“Empty Hammock Problem” - PPC professionals who want to unplug but don’t have the freedom to without creating stress for themselves, colleagues and clients.
Whether or not it is important to be able to completely ‘escape work’ is a complex topic. But for many people working in PPC, unplugging isn’t even an option.
4 Unfortunate Truths Contributing to the ‘Empty Hammock Problem’ in the PPC Industry
1. Going on Vacation Isn’t an Excuse for Missing KPI Goals
Great analysts care deeply about the performance of their campaigns and know the day-to-day grind it takes to get results. The nuances of spending large amounts of money causes many analysts to fear unplugging.
2. PPC Work Gets Done on a Larger Screen Than a Phone
The major ad platforms have put energy into their iOS and Android apps. It’s a lot easier to sit in a hammock with a phone than a laptop. But bulk edits are still difficult to make using the apps. It could take hours on a phone to complete tasks that take seconds using tools like Adwords Editor or Excel on a laptop.
3. Great Reports Have a Human Touch
Analyzing, interpreting, and communicating data takes time. You can’t fake it. For many consultants and analysts they may be the only person with the background information needed to provide valuable notes.
4. PPC Results are Unpredictable and Exciting
The unknown is part of what makes PPC work so much fun. Unplugging from the dopamine hits of seeing improved results isn’t easy. Adjustments might need to be made at any point and you never quite know how the new ad copy you just wrote is doing, unless you check.
Ideas for PPC Pros Looking to Unplug
There are no easy solutions. The above truths are significant obstacles to overcome. But there is recourse for people looking to have a career in PPC with the freedom to unplug.
Join a Team With Shared Management Responsibilities
Sounds obvious right? But, this is the most common response from people we talk to that can unplug stress free, “I work with great people and we share campaign management responsibilities.” Trusting someone to run day-to-day management and provide notes to clients is a privilege some have. If being able to completely unplug for weeks at a time is important to you, surrounding yourself with a team possessing shared knowledge is one way to make it happen.
Software Can Help
Admittedly, I am biased on this one. We have seen how software can improve the lives of PPC pros. Those that are able to unplug pride themselves on utilizing technology to automate manual work and alerting. This ensures their time is focused on the tasks that require a human touch.
Ruthlessly Document Workflows
This takes time. The nuances of some PPC work is tough to get onto paper. But when campaign management isn’t shared, you must leave a roadmap for others to follow. This article from Melissa Mackey describing how to “Supercharge Your PPC Workflow” could be a template to at least help get started on documenting optimization and reporting tasks.
Benefits to Addressing the "Empty Hammock Problem"
Creating an environment where people can unplug:
- helps retain great people who want the option unplug
- can be used as a recruiting tool for attracting new talent
- allows people to completely decompress and come back from vacation refreshed
We hope more companies face the realities of the "Empty Hammock Problem" and explore ways to help their PPC pros unplug.
From 2011-2013 I had the privilege to serve as PPC Department Manager for a team of 6 great analysts. We worked hard during those years to make sure our meetings weren't a waste of time and crafted this format together.
- 1 manager
- 2 senior analysts
- 4 analysts
- 1 dog
11am every Wednesday
1 hour max
- manager's job to make sure meeting doesn't last more than an hour
- disagreements are okay
- resolve disagreements with data when possible
- expressing fears, uncertainty and doubt about anything is encouraged
- these are always written down by the manager and added to the 'F.U.D. File' (fears, uncertainty, doubt)
1. Everyone shares:
- something they learned over the last week, doesn't have to be work related
- the biggest challenge they are facing and how others can help
2. Manager presents any company related news, events or necessary information from HR.
3. Manager addresses the 'F.U.D. File' and what is being done to remove things from this file for the team.
4. Someone from the team presents a topic about PPC strategy or client communication they feel the rest of the team should be thinking about.
This format worked great for us as a team of 7.