If you want to know how to sell ppc services, let my little experiment be your guide. For the past 60 days I decided to run a little pilot program with my local consulting business. Currently we focus exclusively on Conversion Rate Optimization products for our clients, but we regularly get asked by both prospects and our current clients if we offer PPC campaign management.
We decided run a pilot program and offer a simple PPC product to see if we should include it as part of our usual services going forward.
In this post, I’m going to share with you how our product was received, challenges we faced, how we priced our product, and what you can learn to sell PPC services yourself.
I’m certain that if we focused a lot more of our resources towards getting new leads for this PPC experiment we would have generated many more clients, but we still did better than I expected.
We ended up bringing in 14 new clients over the full 60 days – that’s kind of a meaningless number though, so let’s take a closer look at the conversion rates.
We sent out 38 proposals in total, so we converted a little less than 37% of our proposals. This is a lower conversion rate than we see for our conversion rate optimization products which typically convert at about 65%-70% on a proposal.
Looking at the dollars and cents, we generated approx. $8,000 during the full 60 days. Each customer was worth an average of $560. We were only selling into one vertical (residential painters) which isn’t terribly competitive in the markets that we wanted to target.
Initially this was a disappointing result, because our typical customer in the same vertical is worth $1,150.
However, when we considered that each PPC customer we sold to would be worth approx. $1,360 over 12mths it shows that there is definitely potential here. I’ll talk about how we priced our products later in the blog post.
WHO SHOULD YOU SELL PPC SERVICES TO?
Everyone and their dog seems to be spending a little on AdWords these days, it’s hard to find a local niche that doesn’t have ads showing in the search results. Who should you be selling to?
Service-based businesses are going to be a staple in AdWords in the long-term, while retail will typically use it to boost sales during slow parts of the year.
What kinds of service based businesses should you sell PPC services to? B2C companies are the best choice. I would recommend home services (painters, plumbers, renovations companies, electricians, etc.), health services (dentists, home nurses, chiropractors, denturists, therapists, personal trainers, cosmetic surgeons, etc.), but there are really limitless options here.
There are a few key questions you need to ask before choosing to focus on a niche though:
What is the short term & long term customer value – What is a one-time customer worth, and what are repeat customers worth? Ideally you would like to talk to your prospects about 1:1 ROI, meaning one customer will pay for 1 month of service (which will cost at least a few hundred dollars) – with the goal of the campaign to obviously bring in more than 1 customer each month.
Are your client’s customers searching for specific services?. For example, potential dental customers might search for something like “Dentists in Toronto”, but the potential customers who are closest to buying are also searching for “Teeth Whitening in Toronto”, “Veneers in Toronto”, etc.
Is there healthy competition? – if you perform a Google search, you want to see lots of ads showing up. This is critical for structuring part of your conversation around staying relevant with their competition, as well, you don’t want to try selling into a market and niche that is dominated by only a handful of businesses with no competition to sell to.
Other consultants will disagree with my next point, but it’s something that has served me well:
I don’t think it’s a great idea to focus on one specific niche forever. It will limit your growth, and will hinder you more than help in the long-term. Instead, take my advice and do intense sales blitzes in specific niches to develop your expertise and build a convincing catalogue of case studies to bring into similar industries as you grow your business.
I know plenty of consultants who will pick a niche, and then crack open the YellowPages and start dialing every business to start building a pipeline of sales opportunities. Make no mistake, I’m not against this strategy, but there are more effective ways to start building a pipeline.
My sales reps started by building a list of opportunities first.
Opportunities are businesses that are going to be contacted later, but right now you’re going to be researching them to see how your product can improve their advertising.
When making your list of opportunities you’re going to be looking for the following information:
Business name/Contact name – Always aim to get the contact name of the decisionmaker or key influencer.
Presence – How big of a player are they? Are they one of the ads in the search results? Are they doing SEO? Are they in the local map results? Are they found under multiple keywords? Are they paying for advertising on other sites? Are they doing print or radio as well? What is their social presence?
Scope of Service – What services are they offering their customers? Are they promoting anything in particular?
Customer reviews/testimonials on 3rd party sites – Are they well liked?
PPC bid prices – If they’re already bidding on AdWords, BING, etc. find out the average CPC for some of the keywords you’re seeing them bidding for.
Search Volume – Are people even searching for their services in this market? Assess the need for online advertising by taking a look at some search volumes for some sample keywords in the Keyword Planner
Here are the top 4 ways we found opportunities:
Search Engines – This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Do a few different searches and see which businesses are coming up under the paid and organic results for Google and BING.
Directories – Both print and online. Check out the trusty YellowPages print and online directories as well as some of the niche specific online directories: Homestars, Houzz, WeddingWire (for wedding planners, DJs, etc.), Yelp, OpenCare (for health niches), and plenty of others.
Local sources – local print newspapers, local radio, chamber of commerce directories, business card “fishbowls”
Social Media – Twitter (meh), Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Organization is going to be key at this stage since you don’t want to be endlessly creating opportunities without reaching out to anyone.
HOW TO SELL PPC SERVICES TO YOUR OPPORTUNITIES: PRE-CONTACT
Here’s a rude awakening for most of you. If you’re too scared to cold-call a business and ask for their money, then you have no business being a consultant. Simply put, if you don’t have the balls (or ladyballs) to reach out to a business and deal with objections on the phone then this just isn’t an industry you should be getting into. You’re going to encounter many bigger problems in customer service, fulfillment, and more down the road, and your fear about cold-calling will not translate well into dealing with those issues. Just leave now.
With that out of the way, you’re going to be cold-calling your opportunities and asking for their money. I will give you guys some great qualifying questions to ask during these calls, but I want to give you some “boosters” that you can do before reaching out on the first call to help improve the quality of these conversations. None of these are required, but if you want to increase conversions then it’s something I strongly recommend.
Run a hyper local Facebook ad targeting the areas where your first group of opportunities are going to Don’t drill down too deep into demographics, we want high impressions rather than converting traffic.
Make a simple ad that tells people what you do, create a landing page that lets them book a consultation – but keep in mind the goal here is not conversions. You want your brand in front of the eyeballs of your target audience.
Think of this ad as a billboard – you want impressions on your brand.
You’ll find that this type of ad is actually pretty cost effective, since you’re not aiming for clicks a low CTR is better for your budget, while Ad Frequency (the amount of times your ad has been seen by each person) is going to be key for you here.
No, I’m not talking about direct mail. Choose a few key points that you noticed when you were creating your list of opportunities and then focus on a couple of highlights that you can physically mail out to that lead.
For example; You see that your lead has an Adwords Ad appearing when you search for “Dentists in Toronto” which is a very general term, but they are not bidding for “porcelain veneers in Toronto” which is a service that you know they offer on their website.
This kind of keyword has way more intent-to-buy from searchers. We just print out the screenshots and circle the key parts in a red sharpie. Then we write a short sales letter and send it off.
Only do this if you have the decisionmaker’s name, never just send a generic letter to the business. You can also send this via FedEx and have them sign for it. This way you know when they receive it and can follow-up with a call right away.
I’ve included a few screenshots of a similar mail-out we’re sending to a personal trainer lead we’re working on in the Hamilton area of Toronto.
We simply printed a screenshot of the search results page, and then a screenshot of their website including a service that they should be generating more traffic for.
Do the same thing as above, but send through email. This is going to create way less of an impact and will be opened much less often but it’s better than nothing.
Shoot them a quick request through LinkedIn and introduce yourself.
Depending on the size of the business, you can also shoot them a message through Facebook/Instagram etc. This is particularly effective because it tells you when they saw your message.
Our opportunities are now aware of our brand and the next step is reaching out to have that all-important first sales conversation.
Since we did attempt to “warm up” our opportunities before cold-calling them, we can say that these calls are not entirely cold and it can help our approach during the initial 10 seconds of the call.
I mentioned earlier in the post that I wasn’t going to be giving out a full script for cold-calling and selling PPC. Instead, it would be better to show you the sales process we use which you can develop your own script for.
STRUCTURING THE SALES PROCESS
In our everyday business, outside of this pilot program, we have all of our sales conversations on the phone and through screen-sharing. We will rarely meet face-to-face with clients except for very local referrals. Why? It allows us to have a wider service area and HUGELY increases our efficiency. We can be doing 10-12 sales presentations PER REP in just one day which would be impossible if we were setting face-to-face meetings only.
For all of the sales that we made during this pilot program, there was an average of 4 calls until the contract was closed. We did close 2 sales on the first call alone – taking the lead through the full sales process of initial approach, through qualifying, presenting, dealing with objections, and closing the sale. It’s worth noting that these 2 sales were also the lowest monthly revenue out of all 14 sales we made during the pilot program, with the first sale being worth $350/mth and the other worth $400/mth.
We start with setting appointment for a meeting, we then have a custom PowerPoint presentation developed for each lead (only about 20mins of work with a template we use). If the sales process moved quickly and we didn’t have time to make a custom PowerPoint, we would use a generic one. While we were doing the presentation we wanted to make sure the lead was engaged on the other end of the phone, so we would ask them to navigate to a few different short sales videos (2-3mins each) that we use in each of our sales presentations.
Finally, we also made sure that the rep was visible on camera throughout the presentation on a smaller part of the screen.
When we got the sale we did a voice recorded contract over the phone, collected credit card information, and then emailed a hard copy of the contract to be signed, scanned, and returned.
**We didn’t tie our clients down to a minimum commitment, the contract we sent over was just permission to take automatic withdrawals from the credit card, the management fee we charge, the monthly amount they’re spending, cancellation procedures, etc.***
During the start of the call, we need to hit a few key points:
- Ask if they received our package by mail/email/Social media/ etc.
- Share a success story about a similar client we have worked with.
- Give them the “why?” they should continue listening to us
- Refer to their competition who is using PPC to advertising for XYZ service in ABC City and ask the MAGIC QUESTION: if they are able to take on some more clients who want that service?
“What’s a why?” I hear you asking. Simply put, your “why?” is one of the keys to opening the sales conversation and tells your lead more about you than anything else in your initial approach. Your “why?” needs to tell your lead why you sell this service, why you bothered to pick up the phone in the first place, and why they should want to do business with you.
Yes, this is abstract thinking but for the best explanation, watch this video by Simon Sinek to understand the power of “why?”
Buying-in and Qualifying
When I say “buying in” I don’t mean that they hand over their money right away. You’re going to need to get a big fat YES to that magic question during our initial approach before moving on to qualify them for the sale: “How many more customers could you work with who are looking for XYZ Service in ABC City?”
You can ask this question multiple ways, but you need to have their agreement that they want more customers for at least a few services before you can move on:
“XYZ, ABC, and 123 are a couple of different types of jobs that we’ve managed to send to our clients in [other city] – which of these three would you prefer to have more of?”
“Competitor #1, Competitor #2, Competitor #3 are all using the same platform to get more jobs like XYZ, 123, and ABC – How many of the same clientele can you work with each month?”
“What are some of those big dollar clients you’re looking to work with over the next 6mths that you want more of?”
You get the idea, you want to ask that big impact question to get them talking and get some positive momentum going as we move into the next parts of the call. This covers our buy-in, but what about qualifying them?
Before we get into presenting our products and ideas, we want to make sure that this lead is viable and worth our time to continue moving through the sales process. So we’re going to start building up that rapport and working through our qualifying questions.
You may have enough experience that you know your own qualifying formula, but I do want to share the exact qualifying questions that we implemented during our pilot program. These questions do not have to be asked in a particular order, but they are all important to the sales process:
Establishing the decisionmakers/signing authorities: “If this makes sense for you, and you want to work with us, who else would need to give a proposal the “okay” to move ahead?”
Establishing past budget: “Tell me about the biggest advertising strategy you’ve tried in the past… What was the ballpark spending on that kind of project?”
Establishing current budget: “If I can show you something that’s proven to work multiple times, how close to that number you mentioned would you be comfortable investing?”
Establishing keywords: “if you had your choice, what kinds of job/clients/etc do you specifically want more of?”
Establishing ARPA: “You mentioned that you want more of XYZ jobs/clients/etc., how much is a customer spending for that kind of work? – How likely is this customer to return to the business and spend more in the future?
Establishing Timeline:” If we got you more of those kinds of leads you wanted, when would you want a program like that to start?”
Establishing Geo: “What areas do you want more clients to find you?”
Establishing Marketing Knowledge: “If money was no object, what would you be doing to put your name in front of buyers?” – Why? Why? Why?
Establishing Past Experience: “What advertising has worked for you in the past? Why do you deem it successful?”
Establishing Goals: “Ideally, how would you like your business to have grown 12mths from now?”
Establishing Goal Plans: …”What is your plan to reach that goal?”
Establishing Goal Challenges: … “What do you think might get in the way from hitting those goals in the next 12mths?”
Establishing Goal Failure: …”If you don’t hit those goals, what are some of the problems that might arise?”
It might seem to like a lot of questions, but it surprisingly only takes a few minutes to go through all of the details, and the last 4 questions you see about “goals” all flow naturally into one another. Using our lead’s answers we would collect as much information about them about them as possible, and once feeling like we know enough about their goals, needs, and budget, and think our product is a fit for them, we move into presenting the product with one simple transition:
Keep in mind that you’re only going to present your product if the customer has passed the qualifying stage. This means that they can afford it, they’re looking to grow their business, and you can see AdWords getting them to those goals. Remember to address the main services that the client wants more business from, the geographical areas they want more clients from, and keep in mind any budget limitations that might have come up during your qualifying conversation.
Explain how AdWords works and any unique selling points about your specific program. Our programs all included the following:
- Call tracking and call recording (optional)
- Custom built landing page x1
- Custom built opt-in form
- Basic reporting
- Carryover budget – Whatever doesn’t get spent on clicks in month 1, get’s carried over to month 2, etc. This way all of the clients adspend goes to customers and not into my pocket.
- Guarantee to be a top 3 ad in first 60 days for all keywords
- No Contracts or minimum commitments
During this pilot program, the presentation was always the shortest part of the process. We never presented multiple programs or gave them options. Our qualifying process allowed our lead to build the proposal for us and made sure that it fit their needs specifically.
We did, however, make sure to include a few points for every presentation:
- Approx. how much our campaign would generate on the low-target of 1-3 new clients per month.
- Explain the number of clicks/calls we can forecast based on data from Keyword Planner.
- How our program would have more effective results than their competition’s campaign (proper landing page, etc.)
- How the overall results tie back into the goals that the lead told us about during the qualifying phase
We finished our presentation with a proposal including price and finally made sure to Ask For The Sale!
Pricing Your PPC Services
Our program came with no contracts, so we needed to make sure that we were going to be in profit with the campaign from day one. We also wanted to make sure we used a very simple pricing model that was easy to understand and justify. Here’s how it broke down:
- We charged 20% of the advertisers monthly investment as a management fee
- We charged 100% of the first monthly payment to cover the cost of building the campaign and setting up all research on the products/services/geo/etc.
For example, if we closed a client on a $500/mth program we would charge the full $500 in month 1 to cover the cost of setting up the campaign – any ads run in month 1 were purely for testing, and in some cases we ran ZERO ads in month 1 – and then we take $100 (20%) of every additional $500 spent per month – meaning $400/mth went to actual clicks for the campaign.
Why do we charge the full month of service in month 1 to ourselves instead of starting the campaign? This was a common question from our leads, and the most common objection. To help overcome this we made sure to mention a few important points:
- The initial research for keywords, landing page design, and custom form design was the most costly and time intensive part of the process, and because there is no contract we need to ensure that we are not incurring a loss.
- If the advertiser cancels their program, we provide them with the adgroups, keywords, and ads (not the landing page or form)
- It makes sure that the remaining months of the program keep our management fee at a minimum
You may disagree with this pricing, and may prefer to use your own model which is fine as well. Many PPC programs include a minimum retainer, setup fees, and higher management fees, etc. For the sake of explaining how our program functioned, I wanted my reps to be transparent with how I priced our services.
All payments were done with automatic credit card payments. We asked for CC information over the phone.
When we could not close a sale, or there was a period of time required to make a decision on when/whether to move ahead we made sure to do creative follow-up with the lead.
This follow-up included sending collateral via snail-mail (including a hand-written note), invitations to webinars relevant to them or their niche, writing a blog post or asking them for an interview for a niche relevant content and tagging them for relevant reasons, referring a potential customer to them, following up with something personal to the decisionmaker/influencer we have been speaking to (one decisionmaker revealed that he was a fan of Simon and Garfunkel, so we sent him a physical copy of a newly released Paul Simon CD with a handwritten note).
These unique touches beyond the “I wanted to touch base” email or phone call helped us stand out from any competition we might have faced and made sure that we will be top-of-mind when the need to buy arises in the future.
With any leads who did not purchase, but are still qualified to purchase down the road, we make sure to follow-up every 30 days, with an additional phone-call every 60 days.
So what did we learn – and how can you apply this to selling PPC services yourself?
More than 70% of businesses that we spoke to were not as familiar with PPC as they were with SEO. Of these 70%, most had received calls within the last 7 days talking to them about SEO, but struggled to recall the last time they were offered PPC – with some not even being aware of how PPC worked at all. These knowledge gaps help to provide value to your leads by offering education during the sales process and through follow-ups like webinars, etc.
Keep It Simple, Stupid. Our very first calls during the pilot were using a different pricing model which was more complicated. We actually used the same pricing model as a competitor which used keyword volumes to help determine prices for specific campaigns. Once we dropped this pricing and started using our more simple pricing model our leads were more receptive to understanding it, and our reps were able to deliver it with more confidence.
Contracts are the devil’s work. SMBs hate contracts, and being the only game in town that did not offer contracts really offered a unique selling point. It also allowed us to use some great sales talk like “Our clients stay with us because they’re getting great results, not because they’re locked in and have no other choice”.
Free trials are great, but they offer too many headaches and too much risk. In our regular products (conversion optimization) we offer free trials to see how our product works and what they can expect for results. We tried offering something similar for our PPC product and quickly found that it’s not feasible for the amount of opportunities we were trying to create. We ran a few small campaigns and wanted to show our advertiser in a “LIVE” search how their ad would look and how it would compare, but we quickly started to see the losses eat into our profits from any sales we were able to close. It was a great convincer, and I’m not yet deterred from trying this in a different way but we decided to drop it outright to save money.
Nobody cares about BING. Yes, we can get cheaper clicks through the AdCenter and advertise on BING and yes customers who are looking for “boob jobs in Toronto” on BING are just as likely to buy as those looking on Google. However, most people don’t use BING and it’s hard to get your lead to buy into an advertising vehicle that they themselves don’t use.
So the big question is, are we going to include PPC management as a regular product going forward? In a word – no.
It’s definitely something we will return to in the future, most likely once I can get some dedicated sales people just for PPC, but right now we’re going to continue focusing on developing and refining our conversion optimization product.
Don’t let this deter you though, if you are interested in selling a marketing service to local businesses, PPC management is one of the easiest ways to get your foot in the door and start generating some good money.
Thanks for reading, and if you think this post will help someone who wants to sell PPC to local businesses, please share.