PPC in Technical Industries: Client and Agency Perspectives

This is a guest post by Paid Media Manager Jessica Cates.

When a company hires a PPC pro or agency to take on their account, their minimum expectation is that the team on the other end learns enough about their business to understand what exactly their product does and who is looking for it. Any PPC account outsourced to an agency, consultant or even hired to an internal marketing department will have a learning curve for the people who don’t live and breathe the advertiser’s industry. There’s always something you can learn about what your new client’s product does or what their customers are looking for. When it comes to taking on a PPC account in a technical vertical, sometimes doing a basic account audit isn’t enough.

So what do we mean by technical industries? For one, these tend to be B2B type businesses (not in all cases, but the majority of the time) and the end customer you’re trying to attract is likely a decision maker with some sort of engineering, manufacturing, technology or scientific background. The products and services themselves have a steeper learning curve for someone who is not educated or experienced in the industry. That being said, someone who doesn’t have that particular knowledge can certainly learn the ropes and be a successful ad manager to market the products/services. It just takes a more thoughtful approach, patience, and a desire to learn a new client’s business the right way. Here’s a couple tips for how you can do just that.

How Can the Agency Be Proactive in Taking on Technical Industries?

Before even stepping foot into the account, it’s helpful to first get a grasp of the products and services your prospective client offers.  For instance, say you’ve been asked to take on a software as a service (SaaS) PPC audit. Let’s say the account has been running for several years, and has exchanged management a few times. In your initial conversations with your contact, they reveal that the current agency running things never seemed to really grasp their product offerings and the relationship was transactional at best.

This scenario recently happened to me. The new client gave us access to their account. I opened it up and immediately realized that before I could start deciphering the structure of the account and making recommendations, I had to do some research legwork to see if the keywords there made sense in the first place. The reasoning was simply because the keywords had little significance and because frankly, I didn’t understand the definitions of the phrases being used or the search queries coming through at first glance either. The downside to reading technical content as an outsider to the industry is that the content is often created for experts.

A pain point we noted with this client was that their previous PPC provider never took the time to grasp what it was the client actually did. During our initial kickoff call, we asked the marketing team if it would be possible to get in contact with someone on the technical side to further explain any questions we had. The last thing we wanted to do on this call was to ask novice questions to their engineering team that were discoverable by doing some light homework first.

There are a few things you can do during before and during the audit process to make sure you understand your new clients business and can help them feel confident in the direction of their account.

  • Schedule follow ups with the client’s product teams to fill in gaps in your research. You’ll look better to a product team if you can understand the basics first and won’t have to have them hold your hand through the process.
  • Read through the white papers and case studies on their website. These documents are often watered down samples of the client’s work that help you get to the gist of the detail without the technical jargon. When you do encounter industry-specific jargon, do a couple searches to better understand.
  • Read through industry competitors and note where their products fall based on what you’ve read on your client’s site. Use your product team follow-ups to clarify these differences and understand the pros and cons of said differences.
  • Ask your client how you can best stay up-to-date on industry advancements – are there blogs or industry news sites you should be keeping up with?

In this particular account, it became clear that the ad groups were simply not granular enough and many of the keywords being used were far too broad and attracting a lot of irrelevant search queries. By taking the time to fully understand the terminology, you can better audit search term reports and existing negatives to get a fuller picture.

While your client will definitely appreciate you taking the initiative to understand their complicated industry, by no means should the responsibility be completely on you to do the legwork. Most technical clients will understand when outsourcing to an agency that there’s going to be some ramp-up time. Be up front with the client and take advantage of all of the resources and informative meetings they can set you up with in their organization to help you out.

On the flip side of things, what can a client look for when outsourcing their technical PPC to feel confident that the team they hire has the stuff to figure it out?

What Should Clients Look For In Hiring Out Technical PPC Projects?

If you’re on the client-side of things and looking for an agency that can help you start or improve your PPC in a technical field, here are a few ways that you can go about narrowing down agencies or consultants to ask for proposals:

  • Look for an agency with a background of taking on technical clients. These clients don’t necessarily have to be directly related to your industry, but should showcase that the team working on your account will be able to self teach and ask the right questions to fill in the gaps in their knowledge.
  • Ask the agency for case studies that outline the specific advertising they did for these types of clients. The case studies should outline pain points and strategies for overcoming them. They should also be able to provide you with highlights on how they moved the needle for the client.
  • Ask the agency for referrals to their more technical clientele and reach out to get their perspective.
  • Read up on content that the agency has created and distributed across their blog or as guest posts on other marketing blogs. PPC account managers and directors often contribute to these, and will usually write from first hand experience. You’ll be able to get a good feel for their actual experience level by what they are writing about from an agency perspective.
  • Ask the agency to include the team members that will actually be pulling the levers on your account. Often times, larger agencies have a sales team that gets you in the door, and later brings in high-level directors and VPs to talk about your account. While large agencies often have many bodies at their disposal, it doesn’t always mean they’re better than smaller agencies so be sure to explore all opportunities available to you. Insist on bringing in the person who will be driving strategy and executing on it as well so you can get a feel for their abilities.
  • Ask about the backgrounds of your PPC team. You don’t necessarily have to have someone who studied directly in a STEM field, but having a team member who took a more math and science heavy curriculum can bring a different perspective. Someone who has worked in-house side tends to have a different way of looking at things too.

On both sides of the table, some due diligence will help make your PPC transition smooth and set you up to a nice working relationship with your desired PPC provider. And, the onboarding process should tell you a lot about what to expect in performance, reporting, and transparency once you get further into the relationship.

I hope reading about some of my past experiences in technical fields will help make your next PPC on-boarding process a smooth one.

What additional suggestions or tips do you have for taking on these types of clients? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

About the Author:

Jessica started her PPC career in 2010 and has since worked with clients in various industries, including higher education, auto maintenance, home services, SaaS, and healthcare. She is currently the Paid Media Manager for Flint Analytics, and has previously held roles at both Hanapin Marketing and DAC Group. When Jessica isn’t working on PPC accounts, she enjoys hiking, decorating her home, going to concerts, and spending time with her husband and dog.