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It’s crucial for PPC experts to find and retain clients. What challenges do they face in acquiring new clients? What strategies do they use? What is their biggest frustration in retaining clients? These questions and more were addressed in this week’s PPCChat session, hosted by Julie F Bacchini.

Q1: How do you find most of your clients?

Every single client I’ve gotten has been based on a relationship. @runnerkik

I met one person in person networking which was my biggest client. @runnerkik

Many of my clients come from a referral of some kind or another. I do have people reach out to me on LinkedIn from time to time as well.  @NeptuneMoon

Oh, and I will answer PPC questions in other platforms, forums, etc. That has lead to some leads. @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon I forgot about LinkedIn that’s where all my leads come from but a lot of them are relationships that then connected on LinkedIn and I stayed top of mind on LinkedIn. @runnerkik

Building a network is really important – one with PPC people and non-PPC people. @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon I have had random clients on LinkedIn in too but they normally are shopping if you know what I mean. @runnerkik

My favourite way of getting clients is when my point of contact leaves for a new job and brings me in to the new company! @NeptuneMoon

Almost all of our clients are word of mouth/a referral. @revaminkoff

@NeptuneMoon Love when that happens! (It happens for us too – the long game is so important!) @revaminkoff

Yep, same. Compounding interest effect of a business referring more business, then building those relationships from the ground up. Like the saying goes, “it takes money to make money” – feels similar with building a referral network. Also, those referrals seem to (usually) have realistic expectations on what they expect to get, likely because they got a unfiltered review from someone who works with us. Btw, I’m not an expert at the biz dev side of this work, I’m better than I was even a few years ago but it wasn’t something I worked on initially, so it didn’t come naturally. @timmhalloran

Almost all clients I have worked with started from social media And we were “friends” at first. @BalogunAbdulqudus

I need to work out the exact figures but it is a mix of leads through search and referrals. Haven’t ever run ads so far. Also planning to improve my Linked in game. @AndyHathaway

I’ve gotten clients from lots of different methods. One was someone who listened to a webinar I did (and they contacted me months later). Gotten a couple from speaking at conferences. Vast majority are either referrals from personal connections or referrals from client (both current and former). @robert_brady

Referrals from current and former clients, referrals from other freelancers, and companies randomly messaging me on LinkedIn. @Austin_Dillman

@robert_brady I recently (close to signing) got a client by being a guest on the Optmyzer Podcast – definitely was an awesome surprise that I wasn’t expecting! @DannyGavin

Q2: What is the most challenging aspect of finding clients? Have you come up with anything that makes it easier?

I think when you work solo, keeping some things in the pipeline when you’re busy on other accounts can be hard to consistently do.Also, when the economy is tight or shaky, prospects get wacky. They either want 87 references and sample work or they take 6+ months to actually decide to move forward. That can be so frustrating! @NeptuneMoon

One thing I recommend is staying focused on your goals. Write it down if you need to and put it somewhere you can see it easily.Having a process where I am interviewing potential clients as they interview me is a big one too! Knowing how to recognize red flags and walk away is an underrated skill. @NeptuneMoon

I think aligning to something they want. Sometimes I feel like I’m selling Google Ads more than me running Google Ads and I definitely don’t want that because clients that need sold on Google Ads are going to be problematic. @runnerkik

I will add that sometimes it is also knowing what you should be positioning as your main selling point. What keeps clients up at night can shift. And you want to be the answer to those issues as best you can to win sales. So, sometimes it is listening to prospects and realizing you need to shift how you’re talking about your offerings to close the contracts. @NeptuneMoon

The biggest thing for me was defining who my ideal client was. Knowing that I worked best with a business spending $10K-$50K/month that had previously been managing things themselves (or had an agency doing a bad job of it) and wasn’t in a position to hire in-house was important. Communicating it to all of my network has been the game-changer. Then the referrals I get are SOOOO much better. @robert_brady

Biggest challenge for me is taking on too much work to not leaving enough time for my own lead gen. @AndyHathaway

I think my big thing is getting that visibility – I’m not in the right circles to get in front of the people who make marketing decisions, even passively, and I’m in a place where relationships have been built since high school. @ferkungamaboobo

When I first started consulting 5 years ago, I’d talk to every company that reached out. I didn’t recognize certain red flags.I have a very different approach these days to avoid wasting time in pitch meetings and writing proposals for work the potential client can’t afford. I mention my starting rate (minimum monthly retainer) before I ever book a call. That weeds out the companies that don’t have budget to hire me. @Austin_Dillman

Q3: How is your client retention?

In 7 months lol it’s embarrassing to say but whatever I’ll be honest. 50% now that isn’t a bad thing, let’s call it natural attrition. @runnerkik

My client retention used to be AMAZING. It was not unusual for me to have clients for years and years and years. In the past 5 years though, that has shifted. It seems like a lot of clients stay for a year or less. @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon I was told by someone who used to work at Google that they believe Google wants to make the agency model unnecessary. @runnerkik

I think there are a variety of factors for the increased churn. Some is the general economy. Some is clients being lured by big promises of hyper-growth from another provider. Some is changes on the platforms making it costlier for some advertisers. Some is wanting to take management in-house. @NeptuneMoon

@runnerkik Google has never embraced agencies. Which is bonkers. We are literally the front line for keeping advertisers on the platform and (reasonably) happy about that! @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon Also the hyper-growth expectation comes from the founders friends and non-PPCers saying “omg you have to do google” that well-meaning advice doesn’t explain that starting today is different than starting even five years ago… @runnerkik

We could do a whole chat on the DTC phenomenon and what that has done to PPC in general… @NeptuneMoon

I’d say that about 75% are stable and the other 25% churn out in a given year. @robert_brady

@NeptuneMoon Yes please!!! @runnerkik

Some days I want to scream “Google search captures demand – it does NOT generate it” too when clients do not understand that they need awareness advertising in their mix…@NeptuneMoon

Have you ever asked a client why someone would google for what they sell? The answer to that question can be SO illuminating. @NeptuneMoon

@NeptuneMoon lmao right? They never thought about that. @runnerkik

I don’t fully blame clients – they often have tunnel vision about their product or service and how desirable it is. But I think it is part of our job is to both have a full understanding of their market and help them to see where opportunities lie in that market reality. @NeptuneMoon

Also interesting is a find the 2-3 year itch true – certain clients once they get to the point want to change – doesn’t really matter if you are doing well or not. @DannyGavin

 @NeptuneMoon well I learned in a class that I took recently that marketing for your own business is 1000x harder because you have emotions invested. @runnerkik

And when the main marketing person changes, they often want to get “their people” running things. That’s helped me at times and led to client losses at times. @robert_brady

@runnerkik Right – and clients should think their offerings are great! And they need pros to assess the situation and provide strategy to maximize sales. @NeptuneMoon

Most of my current clients have been with me for 1.5-3 years. My short-term projects often lead to longer-term engagements as I try to identify bigger, ongoing needs in the discovery phase and first 90 days. @Austin_Dillman

I should add capitalizing on the short-term client by offering look-over and coaching sessions has been a game changer for me. Yesterday I had a few hundred hit my bank for 1 hour. Feels good. @runnerkik

I will add that part of finding and retaining clients is you have to be selling something that they want to buy at that time. So for example, when the economy is shakier, audits or account reviews sell well. People want low commitment and are interested in knowing if their advertising could be performing better/there are opportunities in their accounts to try other things. When the economy is strong, brand tend to want to pick a horse (in this case a PPC provider) and ride that horse up the hill of performance. @NeptuneMoon

So having a service when someone wants to leave or help them build internal teams is smart. @runnerkik

Agreed-  I think it’s important to have a variety of offerings. @revaminkoff

Q4: What is your biggest frustration in either finding or keeping clients?

Honestly, I hate sales. So drumming up leads is my least favorite business activity. @NeptuneMoon

Truthfully it’s become VERY transactional. You get X performance or we leave.  Maybe I’m spoiled from huge budget advertisers but when switching an agency involves an RFP and a press release the decision making is much different and more long-term.@runnerkik

@NeptuneMoon I love sales! @runnerkik

@runnerkik Because PPC is a mature industry now, there is some commoditization happening. And I think it also depends on what kind of PPC you’re doing. E-commerce tends to be very “how much growth can you get us this month” whereas lead generation tends to take a longer view. @NeptuneMoon

I don’t do RFPs. It’s a disqualifying thing for me. @robert_brady

I think part of finding clients is also being honest about what pool you’re swimming in. It can be hard as a freelancer or consultant to compete with larger outfits who have a team of people who just work on pitch decks, for example. @NeptuneMoon

I also don’t do fancy pitch decks. My value proposition to prospects is that the person they’re talking to is both the expert and the one making actual optimizations in the account. Time spent on pretty reports and needless calls means less time making actual progress on their accounts. @robert_brady

Not being too hard on myself in any one direction. You want to be a perfectionist all the time. You also never want to lose a client ever. Neither of those things is realistic. @revaminkoff

I’ve said something similar before but I’d my biggest frustration is the “feeling the need to put on a performance” instead of just doing the job. It’s like being on stage, especially during those pivotal conversations related to pitching, contract renewal, etc. Selling myself hard invariably leads to a situation where I need to defend myself with as much effort. In reality, I know I (and my team) are good at the work, but it’s not always about the work or even about profitability. It’s about perception and relationships. @timmhalloran

Biggest frustration with one client right now is that they haven’t changed their budget in the 18 months I’ve worked with them, but expect more leads and keep introducing new services that I have to promote with their existing budget. Sometimes I feel like I max out the potential of ad channels with a limited budget and things get a bit boring. I usually roll off of a client at the point and refer them to someone lower cost who can just maintain the accounts. They can invest the savings from my retainer into their advertising. @Austin_Dillman

Q5: What kind of clients are you looking for – industries, company size, monthly spend, platforms, etc.?

I’m looking for 2m plus big retainer, lmao @runnerkik

I’m industry-agnostic and primarily work in Meta and Google. I work best with well-funded companies (series B or higher) with monthly spend of at least $50k in 1-2 ad platforms. I prefer clients that have $250k+/mo budgets as it opens up way more opportunity to optimize, scale and test. @Austin_Dillman

For me lead generation clients spending $10,000 or more a month.@NeptuneMoon

It would help if they are already doing Meta, CTV, organic and social, and I fill paid Google/Bing only, generally if they need everything I find a great partner agency. @runnerkik

Leadgen & eCommerce. Lots of success in multi-location verticals, especially consumer healthcare. Monthly spend is variable but out sweet spot is $50K+/mo. on FB, Google, MSFT, & LI. @timmhalloran

I really like working with smaller folks, with a budget set aside but not sure where/how to spend it. I love working where there’s little data and helping companies establish baselines. Edited to add: I’d love to do more in making folks’ ads brand-safe and aligned with the non-ad-world’s desire for more privacy. A big reason why I went solo was to stop funding hate and wasting client money on pure spam. I’ve done a good bit of that on non-ad work and would love it to be more aligned on the ads side! @ferkungamaboobo

We’re industry and platform agnostic, but prefer companies either seeking to advertise on Google for the first time, or already advertising on Google and/or Meta who are either seeking to be more efficient or trying to scale up. We also love when people want to look at SEO and CRO alongside (or separately from their PPC) – I feel like we excel when we can be a true marketing partner and help them make an integrated strategy. The most important thing is that they’re good people with a good product that needs to get out there to the world. @revaminkoff

I am also doing more work in the competitive analysis and positioning spheres. So helping clients make sure they fully understand the digital competitive landscape for their business. And making sure that their product or service is positioned competitively. @NeptuneMoon

Sorry a little late here and appreciate all the feedback everyone gives in here.Maybe this will help others but I had to shift things on how we do business and it has helped us grow.  We would run campaigns for people on Google, Bing, and FB.   I made a shift to bring on copywriters and we would make deals with companies and say we see what works and they hire us to write copy for funnels and we must buy for it.  If we can’t buy for deal. This allows us to charge for the copy and I am fine tweaking the copy till we can make it work because the longevity of the funnels we build. Here are some numbers:
Avg spend last 3 months: $770K
Clients: 6
1 has been with us for 8 years
3 have been with us for 5+ years
2 have been with us for 2+ years we are in the fine pub space and these are all lead-gen buys. @BrianFalzon

PPCChat Participants

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