In the life of any PPC account, you come to a point where returns are diminishing and your results … Read More
Habit #6 is the third and final interpersonal habit needed to achieve true interdependence. It builds upon PPC Habit #4 – Think Win/Win, and Habit #5 – Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood.
For starters, don’t be turned off by the word synergize and its more common variant, synergy. Over the last couple decades no word in the business lexicon has been more over-used as a buzz word. Synergy was used in corporate mergers & acquisitions, in CEO-speak to pump up employees, and even as justification for layoffs. To truly grasp the power of our 6th Habit, you’ve got to leave the baggage behind.
Unlocking Untapped Potential
The traditional understanding of synergy is that 1 + 1 = 3 (or more). While oversimplified, that is effective because it defies our knowledge of mathematics and makes us think of something previously thought to be impossible. However, this is indeed very possible if you think about potential. One person may be very effective at managing their PPC account(s). Another person may be equally effective, but together there is the possibility of synergy. Not only do you have the previous abilities of the parties involved, you unlock abilities that previously weren’t there.
For example, imagine two account managers at a PPC agency. One is very good at remarketing and has been using that skill to absolutely kill it for a client. The other account manager is exceptionally good at search campaigns. Both are doing great work and the agency adds a new, large client that does lead generation. If they both work independently, the account will have very well run remarketing campaigns and very well run search campaigns. But what if the two strategize together and realize that for this client, a lead is only good once, yet the lead continues to come back to the site due to the excellent email nurturing program of the company. Since it’s a long sales cycle, leads continue researching other options. Do you see the potential there?
What if our two managers saw these realities and made a few tweaks, like excluding the remarketing list of converted leads from their campaigns? New efficiencies are then unlocked and the campaign can perform even better with the two working together than if they did they parts independently. This is the power of synergy.
Creating Third Alternatives
In any situation involving two parties, it’s easy to construct a Win-Lose or Lose-Win scenario. However, synergy is about Win-Win, which is a third alternative, and the third alternative is rarely as obvious. To synergize requires both parties to have a high level of trust and a high level of cooperation. Without both, each party is trying to get the win at the expense of the other party’s loss.
For example, consider the in-house PPC manager of a travel company. She is responsible for improving the performance of the PPC accounts and producing ROI-positive campaigns, but she is also part of the larger company. One micro-conversion on the website is to sign up for the newsletter. In this way her efforts are feeding the results of the email marketing team. As a travel company, many bookings are also done over the phone. This means that part of her results are dependent on the customer service team. Then their is the SEO team that complains about PPC cannibalizing their traffic. If all the parties involved have a Win-Lose mentality, budget meetings turn into battles where each department desperately clings to “their” results and tries to claim as much as they can from other areas in order to get more budget or keep their existing budget. It’s easy to see how this could become a mess.
Now consider how things might go if our PPC manager goes for Win-Win. She could approach the email marketing manager with results of ad tests to show which messaging is performing best and offer that as potential subject lines or email copy. The email marketing manager then reciprocates with the subject lines and copy that has been working best for them. New ideas are created to further enrich the testing of both channels.
The PPC manager then goes to the customer service team and spends some time talking with the phone reps to learn what are the most common objections voiced on calls. This helps create better ads that preemptively address concerns and better landing pages as well. Some of the concerns might be the result of ads & landing pages setting improper expectations as well. This leads the PPC manager to correcting the misleading ads so that customers are less confused/misguided when they call in, making the phone reps’ jobs easier.
Lastly, the PPC manager goes to the SEO manager with her keyword and search term reports. This data shows which keywords are the highest value so that the SEO team spends their efforts on keywords with known revenue-generating potential. New, long-tail keywords emerge that weren’t showing up in keyword research tools. Current SEO keywords may have less traffic than realized.
How do you think a budget meeting would go now? The PPC manager has developed a high trust, high cooperation atmosphere that leads the whole company to better results.
Value The Differences
Lastly, I want to make the essence of synergy is valuing the differences. PPC practitioners often view problems, data, etc. differently than the SEO team, differently than the Online Marketing Manager, or differently than the CEO. But it’s the differences that unlocks potential. You have multiple viewpoints and more experience, which uncovers third alternatives that neither party would have discovered on their own. Achieving true interdependence requires the motive of Habit 4, the Skill of Habit 5, and the Interaction of Habit 6.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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?