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This week’s PPCChat session was hosted by @NeptuneMoon who sought PPCers views on assumptions with regards to the client account, Challenges and learning from those assumptions and more.


Q1: What are some assumptions you make regularly when it comes to client accounts? Do they differ by platform, industry, etc.?


I usually assume they’ve done the minimum and that there will be a lot of work to be done. @MaverickAdverts

Pretty broad question. Before I see the account I generally assume it’s going to be an absolute disaster and will need to be completely reworked. @CJSlattery

They won’t succeed on X platform because it didn’t work for a similar client @andreacruz92

That the client didn’t do the setup and the real answers are with the old partner who won’t share knowledge. @JuliaVyse

We make the optimistic assumption at first that new accounts will get enough traffic to reach target # of leads. One we DON’T assume is that the cost-per-lead goes low enough to meet client’s expectation. @heyglenns

I tend to start with some assumptions that are a mixture of my experience and what I learn in discovery… GDN isn’t great, even for retargeting. That something in the tagging will be broken/wrong. That client’s thoughts in target market are probably not right. @NeptuneMoon

Before I look at the account? I don’t make any assumptions. While working on the account, I may conclude that things that have worked consistently in similar assumptions will also likely work here. @stevegibsonppc

That they aren’t getting what they want – and that the history & assumptions have never been written down.. So there’ll be a fair amount of guesswork.. @smarketreports

I run the assumption that the account is a complete disaster and, honestly, I haven’t been wrong yet. @adwordsgirl

That their existing goals are realistic/feasible. Usually works out fine but we’ve had a fair few issues with meeting unrealistic expectations. @LukeNorthbrooke

There’s an underlying problem that they’re seeking the solution of PPC ads for. Getting that problem usually leads away from PPC tbh. @ferkungamaboobo

Yes, different verticals (ie healthcare and finance) are often more cost-efficient in Bing than Google, or I know if it’s a mobile heavy effort, Bing might not be the way to go @JonKagan

I usually assume that they’ve done some things “wrong” and didn’t necessarily know what they were doing. I also assume that they haven’t been tracking everything that should be tracked (conversions, engagements, etc.). @ScottOmiller


Q2: Have you had experiences where you learned that your assumptions were incorrect? How did that happen? What did you do?


My assumptions are usually right. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m open about them with clients, because they usually don’t know the answer to my questions which is why I am making assumptions. “I assume it’s a disaster but will be pleasant surprised if not.” @CJSlattery

I haven’t come across it yet, but I think I’d be delightfully surprised. I’d probably let the client know that they have a good account and then would find ways to improve it. @adwordsgirl

We try to root out potential assumptions/misunderstandings/mis-definitions as much as possible through asking the right questions during (1) Prospecting stage and (2) Onboarding stage. This has helped a lot but doesn’t catch everything. @PPCKirk

Sometimes ads that I think are terrible that the client insists on, actually outperform “better” ads. Mystifying every time, but you can’t argue with conversions… @NeptuneMoon

That the new client contact will have the same preferences and goals as the prior client contact because they’re on the same team. Best to throw your assumptions away and build a relationship. @JuliaVyse

Actually, nothing major. Occasionally the account is in better shape than expected… which is good. @MaverickAdverts

For sure and it is a reminder that you should always have a testing budget to try new things! @andreacruz92

Happens with ad testing all the time. Ads we think will do poorly end up winning. @Mel66

Yep, it happens…even to me. Usually, the analytics is what tells me I was fully and completely wrong…followed by my wife telling me. @JonKagan

Anyone who is doing testing of any kind has their assumptions challenged on a regular basis. There is an exception to every best practice and the only way you find those exceptions, is through rigorous testing. @CourtEWakefield

Sometimes I’ll be surprised by a client who’s been running things themselves and done a decent job. They had a functional understanding of how to run campaigns. I’ll commend them on their success thus far and will consult with them to build up from there. @ScottOmiller


Q3: Is there a particular area(s) where you think assumptions are most dangerous for accounts?


Customer journeys. Both ads folks and clients can be totally blind to real customer stages @ferkungamaboobo

That the measurements are working correctly. If they aren’t everyone can go down the wrong track. @smarketreports

Assuming “nobody in our audience searches for this keyword.” You could be majorly missing out if you don’t even bother to test @timothyjjensen

Depends if you’d call this an assumption, but setting bids when launching new campaign structures could be really dangerous if done wrong. A couple of bad decisions and CPC spikes, traffic drops, and the client isn’t happy at all. @LukeNorthbrooke

Assumptions on LTV and lead value. This needs to be as accurate as possible and has to be nailed down with the client, their sales team, and accounting. If you’re wrong on lead value in a competitive industry, your “profitable” campaigns are actually losing money. @CJSlattery

(major pet peeve) “Nobody uses Bing” @timothyjjensen

That thing will perform the same across all goes being targeted. That because something didn’t work before automatically means is can’t ever work. Target demographics. @NeptuneMoon

HUGE all of these! We hear these all the time and they’re not necessarily true. Must test! @Mel66

That conversion tracking is set up correctly. @adwordsgirl

“The account recommendations from Google must be incorporated” @KurtHenninger

Countless times. This often leads to someone telling me {screaming at me}, “Don’t bring your gut feeling to a data fight”. @JonKagan

I see it as particularly dangerous to account success when we fail to recognize that searchers have needs they may not share in their query. For example, when I look for a place to stay when I’m traveling, I search for queer neighborhoods. @CourtEWakefield

It’s like my dad always told me – “Whenever you assume, you make an ass out of ‘u’ and ‘me’’’. Assumptions are dangerous and you need a healthy dose of skepticism in order to take something over. Assuming they’ve covered their bases for targeting is a great example. It’s also dangerous to assume that they truly know their target audience. I’ve had clients come in and tell me who they want to target, and I’ll say, “Okay. But what about X, Y, and Z people?” They look at me and wonder why they never thought of them. @ScottOmiller


Q4: What causes you to reevaluate assumptions you or your team have made? How do you handle this when you realize your premise may be faulty?


Structured testing is what we do to re-evaluate assumptions. @KurtHenninger

When something is not performing as I expected it would. Look at the data and see if an assumption we made (and maybe didn’t even realize we made) needs to be adjusted or even reversed. Don’t be afraid to say “we need to change course on this”. @NeptuneMoon

For conversion tracking I implement GTM. For lead quality, I speak to the client regularly to ensure that the leads are of quality. @adwordsgirl

Results. pure and simple. if we test a hypothesis and disprove it, we look for why it didn’t work, and one of those factors could be an assumption on our part. testing testing testing. How do we handle it is the usual – honesty. Show what happened, what you learned from it and how you’re going to move forward. @JuliaVyse

We start with the assumption that our assumptions are often wrong. And we look for ways to validate anything we haven’t validated previously. It took a while to embed that into our culture, but it takes the ego out and speeds things up. @CourtEWakefield

When fundamentals I’ve come to expect don’t carry through (i.e. I assume a certain budget will be sufficient, or CTR will be above X%). I’ll come to the client and explain that based on my experience, this is what I expected, but our campaign is showing otherwise. @ScottOmiller


Q5: Do you find it easy or difficult to take a look at your assumptions? Are you aware of the assumptions you and/or your team makes? Is questioning or challenging them encouraged?


We try to explicitly state assumptions in our project plans. That way we can refer back & challenge if needed. @Mel66

I find it easy with the team I’m on because we do encourage questions, curiosity and different opinions. It’s a skill everyone needs to build, and we need to model humility and curiosity for the newer team members. @JuliaVyse

Truthfully, I find it challenging for me. When my assumptions have historically been right and I’m confident in them, it can be a struggle to do it. Which is why I try to do it intentionally, and I actively invite others to “poke holes in my position” @CJSlattery

I think critically examining your work & questioning your assumptions are skills. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get with looking critically at what you’ve done & the assumptions you’ve made. It gets easier with time + practice. @SamRuchlewicz

I try to ask about assumptions during discovery. Try to be aware of my own tendencies more too. @NeptuneMoon

We call it media fatigue. It is easy to look at them if you realize you make them. We require a colleague not on the account to QA and audit our thoughts before we run them. @JonKagan

I think it’s hard to take a look at assumptions because we get so deep in the weeds that it’s hard to “zoom-out” so to speak. That’s why groups and forums like this are so helpful to get 2nd, 3rd, nth sets of eyes on things and ask questions. @ScottOmiller


Q6: What assumptions do you run into on the client side of things? (Assumptions clients make).


That the only results to credit the agency for are those that can be directly tracked and attributed to your campaigns. @timothyjjensen

They know everything! this is due to them knowing a lot about their business, but it doesn’t mean they know a lot about performance media. @JuliaVyse

That everything is 100% trackable with 100% reliability. Who actually buys their product or service. What we actually do for clients… @NeptuneMoon

That they can spend $1,000 and get a ROI of 1,000,000,000% @andreacruz92

So many. That it’s not that much work. “Ads are so short, so writing them should take no time at all!” That any time there’s variance that it is a sign that something is wrong. “Our CPA was elevated today, what did you do to the campaigns!?” @CJSlattery

That they don’t have to invest in branding, they can meet all of their sales goals by generic or non-brand targeting. @NeptuneMoon

Then there’s the PPC is an island assumption — that they just give us budget + we go! No need to support your marketer/agency, provide updates, give heads-ups about new things/promos/events/whatever…@SamRuchlewicz

That I’m some kind of magician who can 100x their revenue overnight @adwordsgirl

Clients assume the way they talk about their product/service is the way their customers talk about it. In the same way, they think the things they’re proud of with their product/service are the things that encourage customers to buy. @CourtEWakefield

That they think they know best. Which begs the question of, why am I even here? @JonKagan

Where do I start? Clients often assume that there’s only way path to conversion when there are hundreds. They often assume an immediate turnaround on a campaign and a minimum ROI. Their website is perfect as is. They’ve identified all their customers. @ScottOmiller


Q7: How do you try to challenge client assumptions when necessary? Any tips to share on how to do this tactfully?


Ask “why” a lot (in different but very nice ways) & get comfortable with a little bit of silence in the meeting/on the phone. Force your clients to share the underlying reasons driving the assumption, then address those. @SamRuchlewicz

Back it up with data, or case studies from similar clients Present it as an experiment – we’ll run for X number of weeks/months to get significant data and see if it works. @timothyjjensen

If you can lead with data, it usually goes more smoothly. This is especially true when someone at the client has strong beliefs about the particular area. Try to stroke first and then make your “this is why that isn’t correct” statement. Here is what we learned… @NeptuneMoon

Well, building that relationship first is key. Next I’d try and share it as a general assumption, not just their assumption = don’t single someone out. And if all else fails, aim for a tiny, low-risk reserve budget to ‘test’ rather than challenging the whole pov. @JuliaVyse

I always recommend doing this through testing. I have challenged client assumptions before and been wrong once we tested. @CourtEWakefield

I do everything I can to be pleasant and not condescending (attempt at least), and lay it out with hard data. It usually enlightens them quickly. @JonKagan

As others have said, I try to lean into the data. I also try to explain some math, especially for small sample size assumptions. 6 heads in a row is 1/64. 60 is 1 out of 1 quintillion. Let’s wait for a larger sample size before we assume. @CJSlattery

For us, I think building a very familiar relationship with the client has helped. They trust that we’re going to tell them the truth versus trying to conceal information which I think help is quite a bit in managing those expectations/assumptions @adwordsgirl

Also, emphasize the full process involved in converting a lead so the client fully understands their responsibility & the team effort involved. E.g., we’ll work hard to get you qualified leads, but we need your salespeople to follow up, & good data back from your CRM. @timothyjjensen

Challenging promptly and confidently any misunderstandings the client may have. We have really good reasons for doing what we do so we just need to explain it to them. This has been key for me in gaining the confidence of those I’m working with. @heidiehammond


Q8: What assumption do you wish would go away forever (on our side and/or on the client side)?


You don’t need to bid on brand keywords, it is illegal for competitors to bid on me, that I know what my competitor is spending/bidding, and that the search engines know best… @JonKagan

That throwing more money at a PPC account will fix bad reputation and shitty product positioning.  @CourtEWakefield

That attribution is figured out on any platform. That showing the same damn ad again and again will magically result in sales upon viewing # 9. That small budgets can compete in every industry. That PPC accounts don’t need ongoing management. @NeptuneMoon

In general, I’m annoyed by the assumption that things are going to work on the first try. We don’t like admitting that we’re naive, but our models only exist in our minds. They have to be proven before they’re real. @heyglenns

I think the “all PPC is the same” one probably grates on me the most from the client-side (and not just with SMBs). It’s really not, and having really excellent people (& there are plenty just in this chat) working on your business can make a HUGE difference. @SamRuchlewicz

The client assumption that what Google wants you to do and will reach out directly to suggest you do is good for your business. What’s good for Google is good for Google. Maybe not for you. Couldn’t let a PPC chat go without bashing the Google ads team. @CJSlattery

Search will always spend according to a traditional blocking chart, with a CPM (unrelated to search) and that the spend will be perfectly lined up with the EXACT budget you had in mind. @JuliaVyse

All my competitors do all day long is click on my ads.@MirandaSchirmer

That every channel should drive as many leads at the same cost efficiency as paid search. @_brenna_t

The assumption of guaranteed success. Marketing is inherently experimental. We can start a campaign confidently w/ solid principles, but nothing is guaranteed. Also, the assumption that everyone can run their own PPC. Like plumbing, some things are best left to pros. @ScottOmiller


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