September 18, 2014

PPC Habit #5 – Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood

Now that we’re thinking Win/Win, it’s time to move on to the next PPC habit: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

As a PPC manager, I’ve had several occasions where I’ve been given the reins to an account that was poorly managed. Settings in the account were haphazard, search term reports turned up low-quality clicks, ad copy didn’t match landing page copy, etc. The temptation is to condemn the actions of the previous manager and quickly “set things right.” However strong the temptation, the first step needs to be backward, as in step back and seek to understand why those decisions might have been made. Only then can you truly make the right decisions going forward.

Empathic Listening

Communication is at the heart of marketing. You have to convey a message through one of the four methods of communication: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. You have likely received several years of education in reading and writing as well as some training on speaking. But you probably haven’t received any training on listening.

As consumers we’re trained to block out advertising. We actually train ourselves to not listen. Then as marketers, we’re frustrated that people aren’t getting the message. In the context of PPC, empathic listening is most valuable in these two contexts:

Client-Vendor or Boss-Manager

If you’re managing PPC campaigns in-house you’re the manager of the campaigns and you report to a boss, whether that’s a single person, a management team, or a board of directors. For agencies, the client is who you’re communicating with and need to ensure you’re seeking to understand. In either of these relationships, there is a lot of communication. Clients & bosses have expectations. Vendors and managers have expectations. Both groups are responsible for results, so proper communication is essential. Here’s a primer on how to improve the communication in these relationships:

  • Listen not with an intent to respond, but to understand. Allow for pauses after someone finishes a statement. Ponder what they’ve said. Is there emotion behind the words? Did their tone or body language match the words? Do all of this before speaking in return. It may create a few awkward pauses, but it will be worth it.
  • Rephrase what they said & verbalize emotions. If your boss says “The reports for last week look terrible” then you could reply with “Yeah, our numbers were down. It seems like that is stressing you out.” This shows your boss that you understand what he’s saying and how it makes him feel.
  • Be patient. At first your boss or client might think this type of response is contrived and repetitive. However, as you show a sincere desire to understand not only the what, but also the why, you’ll find them opening up.
  • Don’t rush to a prescription. If you’ve ever watched an episode of the TV series House you know that they try several cures before arriving at the right one. In many instances they make the situation worse by acting on an incorrect diagnosis. As you begin communicating more effectively through empathic listening you’ll discover situations where you could quickly prescribe a solution and move on. Make sure to keep the dialogue going so that any additional information comes out. Only then can you give the correct prescription for the problem.

Advertiser-Customer

As a PPC manager, you’re on the advertiser side of the equation, but in life you’re often on the customer side of the equation. As an advertiser you feel a lot of pressure to convey a message. You have to do it in very limited character counts as well. So how do you put this principle to work?

  • What problem do your customers have that your product/solution solves? Sure there is an obvious answer here, but look deeper. Are there related problems of which this is only part of the solution? Are there other problems you hadn’t even thought about?
  • Look at your search term reports. These are windows into the minds of your customers. They searched that phrase and clicked your ad, so something resonated. What can you learn from the queries? Look especially for queries that start with question words like “how do I…” or phrases that end with a plea like “… help.” These people are typing out their thoughts into the search bar so you can gain additional insight from them.
  • Talk to your customers, or the closest thing you can get. This might mean talking to customer support reps or salesman. If you have a call tracking solution that records calls, listen to a few calls to see how the customer phrases their needs (and how the rep is responding).

Empathic listening allows you to truly understand what your boss or client is trying to communicate to you. You provide the opportunity, you rephrase and acknowledge emotions, and you ask again to make sure all concerns are communicated. Now you truly understand and can seek to be understood.

Seek To Be Understood

Now that you’ve listened and truly understand you’re ready to be understood. Stephen Covey brings up the Greek concept of ethos, pathos, and logos. This is a sequence that can be followed in every situation. Ethos is personal credibility. This flows from Habits 1-3. Your boss or client knows that you are knowledgeable and have delivered great results in the past. Therefore you have the ethos as a foundation for your message.

Second is pathos, the empathic side. That’s the emotions and feelings associated with the relationship. Before you can convey your message and be understood the relationship has to have a positive balance in the Emotional Bank Account. Note that both of these steps must be taken before any information is communicated directly.

Lastly we have logos. The logic associated with the message. This is the left brain stuff that I find comes naturally to many PPC professionals. However, it’s the last part of the process. You can’t lead with this and expect to be understood as well as when the steps are in the correct order.

I think back to the most effective presentations I’ve seen at internet marketing conferences or other educational situations. The speaker is often someone you don’t know, so they need to build ethos quickly. They’ll tell about successes they’ve experienced. They’ll mention case studies. This builds their credibility. Then they move to pathos. They dig into the “Why” behind their message. They make it relevant to you. Lastly, they present the logos, the action items. If you’ve ever seen Joanna Lord give a presentation you’ve seen this in action. She wears her passion on her sleeve and you can feel it.

Conclusion

This is the most powerful of the interdependent habits because it lies entirely in your control. You can choose today to begin practicing your empathic listening in any and every communication you have. Then as you begin to understand and be understood your circle of influence will continue to expand.

PPC Habit #4 – Think Win/Win

Last month I attended a networking event for SLC|SEM which featured an unusual guest speaker, fiction writer Jonathan Maberry. I say unusual because not only is he a zombie-loving fiction writer, but he’s also an eighth degree black belt in jujutsu. Crazy!

During his address I was struck by his attitude. He is a writer and has plenty of competition, yet he encourages other writers in his genre. He thinks it’s great that World War Z enjoyed phenomenal success at the box office and that The Walking Dead has tons of viewers. He things this despite the fact that some people would say this is his competition. How did he reconcile that?

Abundance Mentality

Someone who watches The Walking Dead because they love zombies is a potential buyer of Mr. Maberry’s books. Someone who enjoyed World War Z is a potential buyer of Mr. Maberry’s books. Someone who reads another author’s zombie books is still a potential buyer of Mr. Maberry’s books. From his perspective, it’s not a zero-sum game. Someone who loves zombies can watch movies, television series, and read different author’s zombie books AND STILL buy/read his books. The more people that fall in love with the genre, the more potential buyers he has. So he actually praises other efforts in the space and encourages future writers.

This was the embodiment, the practice-what-you-preach, of win/win.

Think Win/Win

The concept of Win/Win involves 5 dimensions. The first characteristic is well-illustrated by the abundance mentality of Jonathan Maberry:

  • Character – Before you can come to win/win results, you need a win/win character. You need to deeply believe that if you look hard enough, or get creative enough, that you can find a situation that is TRULY beneficial for both parties. Not a thinly veiled compromise or a situation where one side nets no real harm/gain, but a situation that makes both parties better off than before.
    Perhaps you’ve seen someone with this type of character. The symptoms aren’t hard to identify. They are the people who are pleased when a competitor gets an industry award. They sincerely congratulate a colleague on a new job opportunity, even when it puts them “ahead”. These are people who put the comparisons & competition to the side.
  • Relationships – Just as we move from independence to interdependence, the inward character must move to relationships. To arrive at a win/win you’ve got to see things from the other person’s perspective. You’ve got to know what they’re trying to accomplish. Until you know and understand how both sides define a win, you won’t be able to understand the trade-offs and roadblocks you’ll encounter.
    For example, consider a new PPC client that you’re pitching. You price your services as a % of spend. You may know that you’ll adhere to their budget and that increases will only happen after you’ve presented the business case and gotten their approval. But in their mind they see % of spend as encouraging reckless spend to increase agency fees. To create a win/win you might have to pitch a flat monthly fee with several steps for different budget amounts. This way the client feels more in control and you’ll be rewarded as you find profitable expansion opportunities, pitch them and get approval for increased budgets.
  • Agreements – When a win/win is constructed you’ve got to agree on all the vital points. Hearkening back to the bonus habit of delegation, you’ve got to have the 5 elements of stewardship: desired results, guidelines, resources, accountability & consequences. These have to be communicated clearly and agreed upon so that when judgment day arrives, and it always does, the judgment is fair.
    Interstingly, my experience has been that if one party is under-delivering they’ll know it before the other party. I’ve experienced this firsthand where I knew the account was struggling before the client. If I was proactive, communicated clearly, and changed course early we usually averted disaster. When I let it slide, the situation gets ugly fast and you lose clients.
  • Systems – I loved this line, “You get what you reward.” As I mentioned in the Relationships point above, the incentives of both parties need to be aligned for a win/win and to preserve the relationship. The systems are how you align your incentives.
  • Processes – This is closely related to Systems and relies a lot on your ability to see the problem from the other point of view. When looking at the situation from their point of view, what issues or concerns do you foresee? How would you define success? As you ask yourself those questions and answer them from the other person’s perspective you’ll be inspired to see new ways of approaching the work. These new ways will enable you to deliver the win, which becomes the win for you (a happy client).

My Struggle

The first dimension, character, is an ongoing struggle for me. As a kid I was extremely competitive. I got a C in 4th grade PE because of bad sportsmanship. Seriously. While that’s great because I “hate to lose”, I naturally compare myself to others and find ways (even made up ways) to compete so that I can “win”. So what do I do to improve?

I only compare my current self to my past self. I want to be better than I was before and make sure I’m constantly progressing. That helps me stay grounded. Other people may progress faster (cough…Mark Zuckerberg…cough) than others, but as long as I’m improving I’m winning. It’s simple, yet hard. It takes constant effort and frequent resets on my perspective and attitude. But it’s worth it.

What do you do to think win/win?

Sears Ad Fail in Yahoo Mail

I know what you’re thinking and yes, I still have a Yahoo Mail account that I actively use.

Now, let’s look at the nice little ad unit I saw today:

Yahoo-Mail-Sears-Ad-Fail

As you can see, the strike-through on the old price and the new price have been superimposed so that both are pretty much illegible. I’m fairly certain this is a retargeting ad. Not sure which service is providing it, but we can rule out Google since it’s in my Yahoo Mail. Either way, you need to make sure your pretty ads are displaying correctly or you’re just wasting time and money.

PPC Posts of the Week

The ever-changing world of PPC. This week’s highlights: Best Pay Per Click PPC CPC Publisher AD Networks

  1. PPC Hero – 5 Tips for Proactive Client Communication – Send a meeting agenda to clients before meeting with them. Email and inform clients about new PPC features and betas.
  2. Bing Ads Blog – How to Reach Your Local and Mobile Customers with Bing Ads – Half of the U.S. population checks their smartphone 150 times a day. Nearly 80% of local mobile searches turn into purchases.
  3. Righteous Marketing – PPC Bonus Habit – Delegation – Delegation multiplies your efforts while empowering others to excel. Communicate the desired result well and follow up on accountability.
  4. Inside AdWords – New Study: Search Ads Lift Brand Awareness – 61 studies across 12 verticals reveal that search ads boost brand awareness by 6.6% on average. This could be attributable to the fact that searchers are in a more receptive mindset than other targeted audiences.
  5. Beyond the Paid – PPC Experience: Necessary or Not? – The only constant in the PPC world is change. Although performing actual PPC tasks may not require years of experience, knowing what tasks to perform does.
  6. The WordStream Blog – 4 Things You Need to Know About Google’s New AdWords Policies – Google claims that advertisers in compliance with current policies will be in compliance with new policies rolling out in September. Google’s new policies will be geared towards simplification.
  7. Search Engine Watch – PPC Optimization & Balancing the Relationship Between Metrics: Top 3 Things to Consider – Conversion rate and position do have a correlation. No matter what you do, you are always balancing the forces of efficiency and volume.
  8. Search Engine Journal – How to Optimize Your Call to Action so Users Can Commit to Action – CTA buttons need to be just right. Incorporate color psychology to boost conversions.

‘Til next week.

PPC Bonus Habit – Delegation

Every good PPC manager, whether you’re part of an in-house team or part of an agency, has had to delegate. While writing PPC Habit #3 – Put First Things First I was impressed that delegation needed the attention only a full post could provide.

Delegation Is Multiplicative

Delegation has always been a struggle for me. I have a bad case of “I can do it faster & better than anyone else”-itis. But that’s the problem. There’s only one “I” around.

delegation kids
With delegation you’re seeking to multiply your efforts. You might be the fastest campaign creator in the whole world, but if you have tasks that are more important than campaign creation you need to delegate that task.

The first time it will take longer because you’re training/assigning the task. You need to provide clarification, answer questions, etc. so it gets done right, but since it’s not you doing it, it will take longer. The point you have to remember is that while someone else is doing that task, you’re working on higher priority tasks that can’t be delegated.

Two Types of Delegation

Gofer Delegation

This is the first level of delegation. You tell the person what to do and have them report back when they’re done. Most likely you’re like the helicopter parent as you hover over the teammate that you delegated the task to in order to ensure it gets done correctly. Your focus is almost entirely on methods; the how. You lose the leverage.

Admittedly I’m still mostly in this phase. Sure it becomes easier as you delegate a repeatable task because you don’t have to explain the methods again, but you’re missing out on the leverage you could be achieving.

Stewardship

To gain the maximum leverage from delegation you need to give stewardship when you delegate. The connotation of giving is appropriate here because you really have to transfer ownership of the task to someone else. You focus on the results; the what. There are 5 key ingredients to stewardship:

  • Desired Result – You must first communicate what is to be accomplished. Both parties must mutually agree on what KPIs or metrics will determine success.
  • Guidelines – If there are parameters within which the task must be accomplished, these must also be clearly communicated. However, the fewer guidelines the better. It will empower the individual.
    Oh, and tell them what failures you’ve already seen. As the saying goes, “A wise man learns from his mistakes. A wiser man learns from the mistakes of others.” Make them wiser from the start.
  • Resources – Communicate what assets are available to draw upon, whether that’s another team member, yourself, tools, or financial assets.
  • Accountability – You’ve communicated the desired result. Now you need to set up a time for reporting and how that reporting is to be done. Follow through here is critical, yet often overlooked.
  • Consequences – Remember that consequences are both good & bad. Clearly delineate what happens if the desired result is met (rewards) and what happens if the desired result is not met. Knowing up front makes things a lot easier down the road for all parties involved.

My Experience With Stewardship

During college I spent a couple summers working on my Dad’s farm in Idaho. One of my main responsibilities was our commercial garden. We grew tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, okra, onions, etc. that we sold at local farmers’ markets.

At the beginning of the season my Dad and I sat down to define my stewardship over this part of the farm. He described how the desired result was to increase production over last year. He provided me with sales numbers from the previous season to define very specifically what that meant.

We had guidelines about how the garden should look (weed free), what produce would be grown, etc. He also laid out the resources I could draw upon, including what ground was available, how to obtain starts & seeds, water, fertilizer, help from my siblings and other employees, etc. Going through this process I was able to ask a lot of questions to ensure I understood.

The accountability was to happen throughout the season by tracking progress compared to the numbers from the previous season. The consequences we set up included a profit sharing plan whereby we shared in both the risk and the reward.

Both summers I was able to significantly grow the garden operation and it ended up being a great success. Two points stand out to me:

  • My dad gave me very few guidelines, so I was able to experiment and feel real ownership. I could try different pricing models, different layouts at the market, etc. which lead to some insights that still benefit the operation today.
  • Because I had the numbers from previous years I could very closely monitor my own success and pace myself accordingly. The feelings of success were almost as rewarding as the financial windfall from the profit sharing. I’m still very proud of my efforts to this day.

Conclusion

Delegation has the power to leverage both your personal skills as well as the skills of numerous other people. As you move from Gofer Delegation to Stewardship you’ll unlock even more potential while empowering those around you to excel.

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