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Greetings Happy Readers! When it comes to business, setting expectations with clients is very important. In this week’s PPCChat discussion, host Julie F Bacchini sought experts’ views on the importance of expectation setting for clients/stakeholders, have their expectation setting language or process changed with the rise of automation, and more.

Q1: How important do you think expectation setting is for clients/stakeholders when it comes to PPC?

VERY! It’s such a balancing act where some folks think search can do EVERYTHING (not everyone is searching for your terms) & those who think you can just move forward with limited work (=limited fees, limited results). Have the convo about goals and set a scope! @JuliaVyse

If you fail at expectation setting I’d argue that you are set up to fail so I would say it is the most important thing you can do. @runnerkik

I have always thought expectation setting was critical and said “satisfaction is a product of expectation” many times. It can be equally important to adjust expectations as things change either macro (platforms, economy) or micro (internal, industry). @NeptuneMoon

Very very important – it should be done when you’re pitching even before you win the account. And consistently when they ask for anything new. Helping a client with GA4 right now and the amount of caveats i’m giving….could fill a book. And they are grateful. @TheMarketingAnu

Expectation setting is absolutely crucial for a successful partnership with clients. After kicking off, the #1 question we get is “so when can we expect to launch/see results” & it’s imperative to be aligned on timeline, KPIs, etc. right off the bat! @adclarke10

It is very important to set expectations, especially in a world where “marketing bros” tell the world you can have a 1,000% ROAS with everything! The reality is the machines need data and time. Creative needs to be tested. We find opportunities and build. @lchasse

I think it’s crucial for a successful partnership. No client wants to be promised the unachievable & no agency wants to be constantly ‘covering up’ missed targets. @marketingsoph

It’s becoming increasingly important. Between automation ramp up times, less precise matching and economic upheaval – PPC takes more patience and budget. You can’t launch and expect to win day 1 @armondhammer

Probably the MOST important part of expectation setting in our jobs tbh. The adage, about delivering more than promised versus the opposite is very true in PPC. I joke about us digmarketers hedging all the time, but it’s produced out of necessity + experience. @timmhalloran

Few things are more important. Expectations need to be set on multiple levels though – what are the client’s expectations of the vendor/performance but also what are the vendor’s expectations of the client? @PPCGreg

I think it’s an extremely important first step to set expectations with clients. Especially when you are working with someone with a bad past experience or no past experience with online marketing. There are a lot of bad assumptions that can be remedied. @HarrisonJHepp

Very important. Misaligned expectations I think is the biggest client/account management issue. I also think it has gotten harder to predict how campaigns will run with the new match types and smart/pmax. @selley2134

I would also argue that you need to reset expectations and repeat expectations as well because people forget. @runnerkik

Vitally important – which is why I no longer take on clients unless they’ve (A) been running ads for a while and (B) had a certain amount of success. Otherwise, it’s too much hassle. @stevegibsonppc

Incredibly important and frequently overlooked. If this isn’t done up front, you either under promise and over deliver, or you prep yourself for a dumpster fire. @JonKagan

Incredibly important! Much like many things in life, if you’re not setting expectations you’re setting yourself up for failure. Sometimes clients have pretty big expectations so having that convo is very important. @adwordsgirl

Setting expectations is the key to having smooth marketing. Make sure every team lead and folks from management are dialed in on the marketing goal and road map. @sonofgorkhali

Super-important! Unrealistic expectations can only lead to negativity all around. @MenachemAni

Q2: Do you actively set expectations for your clients and/or stakeholders when it comes to PPC initiatives? If not, why not? If so, how and when do you do it?

Yes, but where possible. There are times when we try something untested, in beta, or outside the current program. So those expectations are very much a ‘we’ll see’ with a hefty ‘let’s set a date to review’. @JuliaVyse

We tend to work on them together. I work with the heads of marketing usually to set the expectations for the year. Even if you do not directly create the P&L for the advertising, you should have a hand in it, since they will be your goals to try and hit. @lchasse

I always set expectations for clients AND outline my expectations of them at the same time. After all, this is a two way street! I talk expectations from the first conversation. And revisit/refer to them often. People forget things. Context is so important! @NeptuneMoon

Yes, and I rely heavily on software for this part. If you can use @sparktoro or @spyfu or @Optmyzr to give historical data, that can create reassurance for you and your clients (i.e. “this is what others are seeing”). Not always helpful for new product/services tho. @timmhalloran

I definitely do – when we have the meetings – so verbally and then follow up with an email. Especially that written evidence – so no one can say they weren’t aware. @TheMarketingAnu

Yes, internally and with the clients so everyone is on the same page. @runnerkik

Yes. “Listen… here’s what’s going to happen…” @stevegibsonppc

I always try to as early as possible. I think there are times it hurts the sale, but I’d rather get alignment early than have a conflict later. And once things are running it’s easier to understand the cycle. And I try to communicate regularly what’s going on. @armondhammer

I start setting expectations in the very first meeting, & then continue to reiterate it in every meeting after. I might sound like a broken record sometimes, but it’s way better than the alternative (unrealistic expectations & a client feeling like you “failed”) @adclarke10

In terms of “how”, I focus on timelines & deliverables they can expect in the first 1-2 months (ex: campaign structure, ad copy), as well as KPIs for any new initiatives. @adclarke10

We try to set realistic expectations from the very start (pitch), and always refer back to them in monthly reports/meetings. We also like to outline what we expect from them in terms of insights, performance feedback and communication. @marketingsoph

Yes, I actively set them during the first meetings and when we are setting up campaigns. Then I’ll discuss expectations during meetings or in reports and also set new ones if we are adding in new tests or expanding campaigns. @HarrisonJHepp

On an initial call I ask for their overall biz goals & PPC goals. After I take a look at the account & am honest if I think their goals are reasonable & set more reasonable goals if we decide to work together. Then each month we revisit & adjust as necessary. @selley2134

Agency pals – reply if an AM or Salesperson has made a promise you do not agree with. no names, just petty gifs. @JuliaVyse

Depends on the knowledge and experience of the client. Sometimes I do it for them, I prefer to do it collaboratively. @JonKagan

For us, it’s an ongoing conversation. We meet with clients pretty frequently to align on new initiatives but to also talk about results. Are they happy or disappointed? Why? Etc. @adwordsgirl

Yes! At the same time, if a prospect has unrealistic expectations and is expecting something we cannot deliver, we’ll typically stay away from onboarding them. @MenachemAni

First, we have to set our own expectations. We’ve learned to audit UX/CRO issues upfront. If we see low performance and then call out UX it looks like finger pointing. If our expectation is too high, even if we discount it for the client it will cause pain. @tonyzara

Q3: Do you have any kind of standard language you use (either written or in conversation) when setting client/stakeholder expectations or do you do it specifically to each situation where it is needed?

Hybrid. I try to do each unique to the client, but I also pull the insights by vertical when I can. @JonKagan

I love the idea of standardizing. I tend to couch it as: “Don’t expect immediate wins – the learnings we apply over time are the hard work that make it win, and they take time” @armondhammer

It’s different for each specific situation. @TheMarketingAnu

All people are different hence the approach has to be different per person. All important items must be discussed and with written approval to confirm alignment. @andreacruz92

But that tends to vary in how exactly I say it. And when we’ve worked together there’s a need to remind people which takes different language. @armondhammer

If I was a big agency, I would probably have something written. For me, since it is just me, I just say there are no guarantees. We can test everything and then build on everything we see working. @lchasse

I would say in writing, the language is the same/very similar. In conversations, it is too, just because I have been doing this for so long I have my rap down for these topics. The details are specific, but conceptually, repeatable/the same. @NeptuneMoon

The perk of a big agency is many decks and meetings and calls to document but I like to restate in meetings when I can, softly I just say well the purpose of this campaign was…, and here is what is happening. @runnerkik

I’d like to stay it’s standardized but that’s just not how it usually works. Details are always different. I have templatized some pieces so I’m not doubling up on the filler info/formatting. Well-written emails from scratch every time take a lot of energy/time. @timmhalloran

I also always ask them what questions will they want to have the answers to at their fingertips, so I can (a) gain insight into their priorities and/or hangups and (b) plan my reporting/focus. @NeptuneMoon

Nothing standard when written but tend to keep the language consistent with each client. @selley2134

A general approach is to ask what their goals & expectations are, communicate how we can make it work with the tools we all have, & provide agendas/recaps to ensure everyone stays on the same page. But the actual recommendation will be specific to the situation. @adclarke10

I use our internal ticket system, where I write details about the new experiments and marketing mix. I segment it by: Details about the experiment: Hypothesis: Bias: What to expect? For overall marketing, we discuss budgets and KPIs monthly. @sonofgorkhali

It depends on the client and their needs/wants. Some literally just want to know a KPI metric and others want a more contextual breakdown. And then some have experience in PPC and you get to talk to them more technically, which is always nice! @marketingsoph

Client-side expectation depends on their appetite for testing strategies. Has to be different. @tonyzara

Classic but, ‘it depends’ – mainly depending upon client knowledge but I guess really it comes down to being understood. What I’ve found over time is I’ve had to reign in levels of me – I can often waffle/ get carried away and for some clients this can be a red flag. @PPC_Fraser

Q4: Has your expectation setting language or process changed with the rise of automation and/or the loss of data from things like iOS 14.5? If so, how has it changed?

Not really, but I’m an outlier. The conversation is still very much centered on what is your goal, how do we measure against it. after iOS14, it’s now a bigger ‘how do we measure’ conversation. @JuliaVyse

YES, expectation setting has changed immensely in the last 18+ months. Pandemic aside, PPC is so different from how it has historically been. Search campaigns need learning time of up to 6 weeks??? Much of what people expect/think they know of PPC is outdated. @NeptuneMoon

Took me a sec to answer this bc it’s currently influx. The biggest thing I can say that’s definitely changed is learning periods. I’m constantly reminding or setting expectations that we’ll need 5-7 days before we see results AND hard edits will reset learning. @timmhalloran

When it comes to search, little to nothing changed. @JonKagan

Definitely – where before the case has been mostly about setting expectations and schedules, and processes – i.e. depending on A, B, C getting done – then X, Y, Z will happen – now its a lot about setting expectations about the infancy/volatility of automation/platforms. @TheMarketingAnu

For automation yes, we try to explain how we think the technology works saying this is what Google documentation says. @runnerkik

Systems are changing so it has been a yes. We need to figure out what works. Google even says it needs longer learning periods now. We have to let clients know it may not be as fast to get results as it was traditionally. @lchasse

Not so much for overall marketing performance because we have our own internal reporting system, which is the true source of data/reports. @sonofgorkhali

Yes very much so. I find it much harder to predict results these days. I used to be more comfortable with putting out ranges of results but I have shied away from that more recently. @selley2134

100%. Now that we’re leaning more into automation, we emphasize the learning phase & that performance may fluctuate. If anyone mentions FB, the 1st thing I note is limited tracking insight. Phrasing everything as a test has been super useful here too. Ex (below): @adclarke10

Q5: What is your biggest frustration/what do you wish clients/stakeholders understood better when it comes to today’s PPC?

Search is demand capture. It CANNOT do everything you want it to do – tho it can do a heckuvalot. Today’s PPC is multi-channel, takes time, and needs attention. @JuliaVyse

Search is reactive media. Unlike all other digital media. Different KPI’s, and I swear to god, don’t you dare ask me about using it to proactively brand <end rant> @JonKagan

Search advertising has crossed into being a mature platform. It is no longer the place where David regularly beats out Goliath. It’s set up for Goliaths, so Davids have to work a lot harder now & spend more. Automation has upended EVERYTHING as you’ve known it. @NeptuneMoon

I guess I am lucky here, most of my brands understand what search has to offer and what we can get out of it. New brands though tend to think they can jump in with small budgets and get big returns. @lchasse

Funny enough, this has been on my mind. Caveats aside, I’ve noticed the most difficult conversations about “today’s ppc” happen with clients that used to do PPC. It takes a lot more digging to “convince” them that what we are doing needs to be done. @timmhalloran

My wish is that they understood that it takes good marketing more than ever. It’s not just here’s that golf club you wanted. done. It takes the full suite and customer insights to make it happen. @armondhammer

PPC is not a flip of a switch. We need time to collect data and start generating results. @sonofgorkhali

Today’s PPC is much different than even ppc 2 years ago. We as advertisers have less data & less levers to pull. Also the amount of time it takes to stay up on all the changes. @selley2134

PPC doesn’t work in a silo; PPC doesn’t create demand; It’s competitive; because you’re showing on organic doesn’t mean you don’t need PPC; there are points of diminishing return! Done a talk about this. Need to put it in an article on my site. @TheMarketingAnu

That external factors do matter. It can sometimes feel like an excuse mentioning rising energy prices or tightening of belts, but you can pretty much always link wider issues to performance dips. @PPC_Fraser

That there’s no magic button that we’re just ‘not pressing’. Search is becoming more & more complex & achieving results (for the average business) isn’t easy. We’re always working to get them the best results but sometimes it’s easier said than done. @marketingsoph

It takes time! Yes PPC is faster-paced than SEO (which has more of a long-term focus), but it still takes time for you to collect data, optimize w negatives/exclusions, have algorithms learn how to serve your ads, tweak copy/landing pages to be the best they can, etc @adclarke10

Also that PPC isn’t always the answer! Issues with your PR, SEO, and CRO won’t always be fixed by ‘pumping more money on google’ – direct client quote. @PPC_Fraser

I feel like this is my #mnsearchsummit moment – do y’all want my Omni planning for the search lift deck? @JuliaVyse

As disciples get more complex they split into professions. The skills/tactics for shopping or DPA are completely different from text, display, or video. Make allowances for those differences. @tonyzara

There’s no magic button that will work for your business. There’s a LOT of magic in being brilliant at the basics, unbiased in your assessments and diligent in your implementation. It takes time. @DigitalSamIAm

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