I recently read a great post from Paul O’Brien at SEOBrien.com (somehow I don’t think PPCRodnitzky rolls off the tongue quite as well) that listed off an impressive collection of questions to ask a potential PPC vendor prior to signing a contract. A few of my favorites from the list include:

– What measurement criteria or metrics does your company have in place to track performance?

– How do you provide online real-time reporting and tracking? What tools do you use? Are any of these tools proprietary?

– How would you measure and track ROI for campaigns?

– Do you subcontract or outsource any of these services that cannot be accomplished in-house?

– What type of bid management system do you have for keyword buys?

– What are your expectations of the advertiser? What do you need from us?

– What is your typical turnaround for new programs, and how do you ensure programs are delivered on the agreed timeline?

– Over the last year, how many times did you exceed the (approved or revised) agreed budget on a project?

I love it when potential clients ask us hard questions – because we believe that PPC Associates offers a premiere level of service and results, and the more questions clients ask, the more likely it is that they will understand why we are different and better than most other agencies out there.

Many agencies, however, fail to realize that they should also ask potential clients questions before signing up for a relationship. Frederick Reichheld, author of two awesome books, The Loyalty Effect and The Ultimate Question, about the difference between “good revenue” and “bad revenue.” Good revenue comes from long-term relationships with clients who require an appropriate level of customer service and who love your company so much that they refer their friends and colleagues to you. Bad revenue results from short-term relationships with clients with unreasonable expectations (and these clients are likely to bad-mouth you to others).

Signing the right clients starts with asking the right questions! So, in the spirit of Paul’s treatise on questions to ask SEM agencies, here’s my list of the top questions to ask potential SEM clients: What are your key success metrics for this campaign? (If a client doesn’t know how to define success, the agency is unlikely to be able to satisfy the client!)

1. Do you have tracking set up already? If not, how long would it take your IT team to set up tracking?

2. How soon do you expect to see measurable success? (I generally tell clients it takes 45 to 60 days to finish initial optimization and start seeing consistent results. Clients who want results in a few days or weeks may not be great long-term clients.)

3. How do you define your position in the market? Are you a market leader? The low-cost leader? Do you have a dominant brand?

4. Can your competitors afford to outbid you due to better back-end economics?

5. Have you been successful in the past with SEM? Why or why not? (Remember, SEM is not magic – if a campaign has failed in the past, an agency needs to make sure that there is a correctable reason for this failure, as opposed to an uncorrectable one, like “we can’t add tracking at a keyword level.”)

6. What is your current spend on SEM? (Note: there is a big difference between what a client is spending and what a client wants to spend!)

7. How involved will your team be in the SEM campaign? (From my perspective, I want to work with clients who are going to be active partners, but I don’t want to work with clients who treat their agency as “order-takers” or conversely are completely removed from the day-to-day of the campaigns.)

8. Are there any legal, trademark, or brand restrictions about which we should know?

9. Are you a jerk? (Obviously you can’t really ask this question, but if you get the sense that the client wouldn’t be a nice person to work with, don’t take on the business!)


– David Rodnitzky, CEO
– Questions? Comments? Email us at bloggers at ppcassociates dot com.

2 Comments

  1. George Bounacos October 31st, 2011

    Strong list. Nicely done.

    I’m fond of the “Tell me about relationships you’ve had with other agencies in the past. Did they meet your expectations at the time?” Big fan of these big open-ended questions you have.

    Nice work.

  2. David Rodnitzky November 1st, 2011

    Thanks George. If you have some additional questions you ask clients, I’d love to hear them!

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.