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PPC experts discuss about the economic impact of the pandemic, how to handle such rough conditions, action steps to prepare for recession, what skillset they are adding on, plan to manage the economic volatility, and more. Hosted by Julie F Bacchini, this week’s PPCChat discussion addressed all these concerns.

Here is the screencap of the session.


Q1: What do you think the economic impacts of the pandemic are going to be? How long do you think they will last?


the impact of this I think will be permanent. A lot of companies will have to rethink how they hire, will they have physical offices, where they manufacture, how B2B sells (in-person, conferences). There is so much that can change. – @360vardi

We’ve already seen many of the direct economic impact in industries like travel, retail, etc. Traditional news & media businesses also hurting. A lot of legacy industries will continue to suffer thru 2020, but there’ll be new opportunities and markets created too. as far as how long economic impacts will last – i don’t even think we can quantify that yet until we know how long the virus threat itself will last, and that seems to be a big unknown. I’d guess at least 2-3 years, but some industries may never recover. – @raj_chander

Oh gosh, that’s a really big question. It may be too soon to really be able to judge something like that. – @semrush

I think we’re looking at a global recession + regional depressions – hard to say on duration, but I think we’re looking at another ~12-15 months for Wall St recovery, with Main Street lagging that. I really don’t think we’re even through the worst of it yet. – @DigitalSamIAm

I think they’re going to be catastrophic and long-lasting. Don’t expect things to recover to pre-COVID for at least 4-5 years, and we’re likely looking at massive long-term unemployment and reduced business spending. – @CJSlattery

Huge. This isn’t like 2008. Far bigger. But the (long) recovery should start by 2021. But I don’t expect it to be v-shaped. Huge. This isn’t like 2008. Far bigger. But the (long) recovery should start by 2021. But I don’t expect it to be v-shaped.

Economic downturn was inevitable, with artificial inflated numbers, plus Brexit. But CV-19 will make this much worse and longer – @ynotweb

I think we are in for a long haul economic recession. Growth or recovery is likely to happen in fits and starts and will be fragile. Not very rosy for us marketing folks! – @NeptuneMoon

I actually think many of the impacts will be persistent. Remote working has taken a big step forward, travel will be less, etc… I am hopeful the economic impact will start to improve, but it will take a good year or so to be fully back. – @lchasse

I actually think many of the impacts will be persistent. Remote working has taken a big step forward, travel will be less, etc… I am hopeful the economic impact will start to improve, but it will take a good year or so to be fully back. – @JuliaVyse

a replay of 2008. Automotive, retail banking, travel and mid to high price point items all taking hits. Vices like booze and medicine will soar – @JonKagan



Q2: Assuming that we are in for at a minimum, lengthy economic volatility, what is your plan to manage that in your practice/business?


Agility. The whole team needs be quick on their toes – @semrush

One of the keys to longevity, I have found anyway, is being flexible about selling what people want to buy. Might not be your core offering right now, but you might have to shift to survive before we get back to being more choosy. – @NeptuneMoon

we are trying to rethink how specialized our team needs to be. Should we have PPC experts or should we train and learn to be generalists. PPC was very easy to cut for some companies this time around, but you have deeper roots with clients – @360vardi

IMO, marketers will be less affected than most. Some businesses will close. Others will realise they need to step up their marketing. So I’m pretty relaxed. – @stevegibsonppc

Value, value and more value. Actual value. Get into anything we can do to bring clients predictable revenue growth. – @mattlambert

So I’m looking at growth. Looking at going after clients of big legacy agencies with bloated fees and a lack of performance focus. Now is a great time to move up the ladder in terms of clients you service. – @CJSlattery

Online marketing has always been very dynamic. The people who change and learn the fastest win. Stakes are just raised with COVID. Keep learning. – @robert_brady

Work extra hard to keep our established clientele profitable and successful. The more clients we keep happy, the better this will be for us. Also, asking them to reach out to their experienced business friends if they need help/referrals – @ynotweb

I think smaller agencies and freelancers have a big advantage right now. Just serving our clients like we are an employee on their team vs. acting like a big agency. – @lchasse

I’m doing two things: betting on my giant corporation with strong relationships, special rates, and long-term clients. This is no time to try some new weirdo from a garage. and personally, making sure my tertiary skills are updated. be ready to pivot, everyone. – @JuliaVyse

Warren Buffett philosophy time: be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy — it’s time to be aggressive. This is a weird recession in that most companies *need more* marketing investment to help them move online, so lots of opportunities. – @DigitalSamIAm

Compassionate messaging, and hyper audience targeting. Need to avoid spending funds on aspirational. – @JonKagan

I have already done through the #Mozacademy SEO course so my plan is to offer more services that I could before – @mindswanppc



Q3: Will you be shifting your offerings, adding or learning new skills/services, etc. as a result of the current situation?


Yes, I’ve already raised my prices. – @stevegibsonppc

I think we are moving into removing barriers between PPC, SEO, CRO, Analytics, social. We are used to sell different ones separately, but I think it’s time for us to have a more solidified approach – @360vardi

I’ve always added a new skill more or less once or twice a year before all of this. Now, I find myself brushing up on skills I haven’t actively done in a while and also adding a completely new skillset – @IamNextSTEPH

Absolutely. Flexibility leads to being a true partner for your customer, client or audience and that relationship is what will hold steady during trying times. – @semrush

Being very careful about this – rushing into new things can be expensive and dilute efforts into what you are already good at. Spending money on new campaigns before doubling down on what already works? At the same time, it is a defensive strategy worth considering. – @mattlambert

was already working on becoming more well-rounded with video & audio, this is just making me want to learn more quickly – @raj_chander

yes but…carefully. Right now it’s about listening, learning, leaning into what clients actually need. no need to charge madly off in all directions. –  @JuliaVyse

I am strengthening the depth of my skills on the so called “alternative” platforms like Quora, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Also, reading a lot and listening when I have the opportunity so I can gauge what is keeping people up at night & offer solutions. – @NeptuneMoon

A2 kinda answers this. I have learnt SEO – now to put it to practice. – @mindswanppc

not shifting so much as showing the value of online efficiency vs my traditional counterparts. – @JonKagan

We are ALWAYS adding new skills, but have found specializing in our expertise and doing the best at what we do is better than constantly chasing new types of business (in fact, we reduced our offerings during the last recession) – @ynotweb

Tough question because it really depends. Currently, I am still able to focus on PPC specifically. If I needed to shift gears, because the market demanded it, I absolutely would. – @lchasse

Still working on keeping my clients happy and that always involves learning new platforms/skills/tactics to keep the results positive. Everyone is just a lot more stressed in general right now. – @robert_brady



Q4: How do you think the lasting economic impact will affect the agency/in-house pendulum swing?

Confession: I’ve never understood what in-house people do all day. even when you’ve got multiple 7-figure budgets, how many hours can you really spend on one account every day without over-optimising it? Ultimately, I’m not sure it’s going to make much difference long-term. If you needed an in-house person, wouldn’t you still need an “in-house” person (even if they’re remote)? –  @stevegibsonppc

I think swings more towards in-house. depends on their spend vs. salary cost. It also depends how stable an account is. unfortunately, when you’ve had an account running for a while, you get to such a good point that even if no one touches it, it will be ok not great – @360vardi

Could depend on a company’s changing need. There’s opportunity for all – it may just shift some – @semrush

There will be an oversupply of talent, the new reality hasn’t yet made itself felt, but it strikes me that the agency that covers multiple services has an economy of scale and skill switching flexibility that companies will want as uncertainty dominates. – @mattlambert

Less spend may mean some agencies cut (a lot) staff. Depends on exposure levels. E.G. Travel! It might get even more competitive to get roles regardless of in-house or agency. Talent still matters and how you showcase yours. – @beyondcontent

okay I have absolutely NO IDEA! budgets for salary vs fees have never made total sense to me, and it’s going to be about appetite for in-house resources vs running lean. cannot predict. – @JuliaVyse

I think it will help swing back toward outside help (consultants and small agencies). We are perceived as lower risk because we are on contract (which can be terminated) & not an employee. Plus, no benefits to pay, etc. – @NeptuneMoon

I kind of eluded to it, but small agencies and freelancers are less expensive than both big agencies and full time employees. If done right, companies can spend more on ads + have less expenses = great opportunity for for smaller agencies and freelancers. – @lchasse

I’m with @JuliaVyse on this one in that I have no idea. I get the benefits and drawbacks for each, and so it’s hard to say which way companies will go. I think companies always think in-housing will be cheaper, but it’s generalist vs fractional access to specialists. – @CJSlattery

On one hand there are lots of people unemployed, so hiring in-house could become more affordable. On the other hand, many businesses will be hesitant to add full-time employees. I agree with earlier comments that freelancers/consultants have an opportunity here. – @robert_brady

I think more operations will begin to rethink the need for physical office space/operations – @JonKagan

i think agencies will start to set the trends/best practices & slowly larger brands that are more forward-thinking (and have the $) will start to emulate them. a big reason content/inbound marketing blew up beginning around ’08-10 was because it’s cheaper to start – @raj_chander

GREAT Q. The big agencies arent going anywhere (although the may contract or expand), there will be a ton of “newbies” freelancing if 2008 is any indicator, so I think that’s an indicator that inhouse contracted. My gutt says reductions as companies get leaner – @ynotweb



Q5: Do you think clients will want to have more of a “one stop shop” experience for all things digital for a while? For good? Is being specialized in PPC a viable business model going forward, at least in the shorter term?


When Google brought in panda/penguin, lots of SEOs started pretending they knew how to do PPC. They didn’t… and were soon found out. Specialists who rebrand themselves as generalists are, IMO, headed for trouble. – @stevegibsonppc’

I think the answer is yes. The industry has become too fragmented and now CMOs have to deal with so many vendors to manage that they probably hate to do. I believe in specialization of advanced individuals, but I also believe you need a wide base knowledge – @360vardi

Attribution is the answer. Best-in-class is what people want *but* the entire customer user journey needs stitching together. Looking at one channel in isolation limits growth opportunities, stops combos. Clients need to see a holistic view or they will lose marketshare. Great example of this is @marksandspencer in UK nominating an agency to work on a combined SEM focus and now being nominated for an award. A query is a query no matter what channel gets the click. PPC needs to be best in class AND play very nice with others. – @beyondcontent

in the short-term (2-4 months) PPC & all digital marketing will slow down, but after that there will be an uptick taking the industry up to & beyond pre-covid levels. cpc is down almost universally across platforms -the smart business owners will see the opportunity – @raj_chander

Companies that invest in marketing don’t generally need “one-stop”, its the smaller businesses that fall for that because of their bandwidth to deal with details. – @ynotweb

Being in the middle probably won’t help – @mattlambert

The same argument of convenience versus specialism, and tbh, results, has always been something to consider for clients. I think that’s heightened now, but it remains the same question for clients. – @MenaPush

So I’m a firm believer in specialization to a degree. I get the one-stop-shop desire, and had previously been a “full service” agency, but I think keeping things pretty tight is better. Can charge more for services, get more referrals, etc. Don’t get too wide. – @CJSlattery

Everybody loves the one-stop shop idea, but in practice most shops have strengths and weaknesses. And if you can get an expert in one area instead of a weak agency then it usually overcomes the increased “management” cost. – @robert_brady

I just turned down work this past week from a client who wanted me to do everything from product photography, web management, PPC, social, etc… Some do want this, but most appreciate expertise vs. broad capabilities. – @lchasse

I think now is a great time to create or strengthen relationships with people who do related digital things, like SEO or reputation management, etc. When times are tight, I don’t like to send clients or potential clients to find someone else who might poach PPC. – @NeptuneMoon

Maybe not fully a one stop shop, but one needs to think paid social/paid search/basic analytics and prob SEO need to be bundled into offering to be able to survive – @JonKagan

You can always align yourself with others who perform other services. Sort of like one-stop, but more centered on being a resource for all digital for a client – @KurtHenninger

yes – i def think that clients are going to start to gear more towards agencies that can offer them more than just Paid Search. Or are at least able to speak the lingo. Convincing a client to spend more is going 2 need 2 be more than a – “it’ll work for ppc” argument – @mindswanppc



Q6: Are you/will you be doing anything differently to find and sign new clients if a recession lingers?


The hardest thing we have had to learn multiple times is how to say NO. No to inappropriate prospects, no to doing something out of our profitable wheelhouse. These can cause problems that last beyond the current climate. – @ynotweb

The increase in webinars and virtual events is fantastic for those of us who don’t live in major cities, NYC, London etc. Content is going to get more hands-on orientated and that is a good thing for interest. – @beyondcontent

So I’ve redoubled my focus on creating great content and building the inbound resources. Plus improving systems generally. The agency hasn’t really been prepared for a large influx of clients before and that is something I’m fixing. Plus more referral partnerships. – @CJSlattery

I think this correlates to the earlier Q5, but being more of a resource for potential clients. Alot of frameworks for how they conduct business has changed, sometimes dramatically. Willing to be more advisory on “how to deal” w/ new enviro, esp in the beginning – @KurtHenninger

You have to be more creative in looking for new business opportunities – figure out where the need is & try to put yourself in its path. Also, be prepared for contracts to take longer to get signed. And for proposals to seem to die, only to come back months later. – @NeptuneMoon

I work with some agencies in a freelance capacity. Currently okay with workload, but if I needed more hours, this is an area where I see more agencies take advantage of. They can have a freelancer who they can add/subtract work as necessary vs. full time costs. – @lchasse

I finally put out my book on ppc – though that was finished before the lockdowns started. Apart from that, I’m doing more prospecting – when I can be bothered! – @stevegibsonppc




Q7: Aside from the economic aspects, how else does the pandemic impact what you’d otherwise do when facing rough economic conditions?


I think visualising data is even more important than ever. We’re not face to face so we need to tell better stories with data so clients can see the value in the work. – @beyondcontent

well, normally I go out and make and strengthen existing relationships IN PERSON. This obviously isn’t happening anytime soon. On the plus side, no one else is going to be trying to sweet talk my clients in person either. – @ynotweb

There are no in person brainstorming sessions on site that we would sometimes have. We can still do them virtually, but there is something about being in a group together thinking of new ideas/strategies for growth. – @lchasse

it has massively impacted it to be honest. I am extremely extroverted and the extreme lack of socializing has been brutal. My favorite event of the year is our annual summer kickoff BBQ where we have 60-100 people, and that won’t happen this year. – @CJSlattery

presentations. I really miss speaking publicly, meeting clients in person, and connecting with vendors/partners in the same room. We’re doing good work virtually, but I do miss it. – @JuliaVyse

I miss in person networking and presenting at conferences. Relationships have proved so important for me in this industry, I miss opportunities to strengthen them and forge new ones in person! – @NeptuneMoon

def the people – going to conferences, meeting up with past colleagues (zoom isn’t the same!), and just all networking events. I started a Women in Digital meetup group where we got some amazing ladies to share their expertise. It’s hard to get that going right now – @mindswanppc

It does put a major damper on Conference season, so I’m now doing more webinars + looking for some virtual conferences (HMU if you know of any that are looking!) – @DigitalSamIAm


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