Welcome to Getting Granular

The podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency Granular talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the digital marketing industry.

The Perfect PPC Manager: Getting Granular


There’s more to running paid search accounts than the cold hard numbers – there’s a human element. Jordon Meyer, Founder and President of Granular, sits down with Mike Fleming, a Senior Paid Media Manager at Granular to discuss the things that make for an exceptional paid media manager and how Granular approaches account management. Jordon and Mike also discuss what a marketing manager should look for when hiring a PPC manager from an agency.


What you’ll learn in this episode of Getting Granular:

  • Mike’s story of his client management style when he started in PPC and how it has changed over time – 5:00
  • Stories from Mike and Jordon about situations outside of PPC that impacted PPC results and how to report back to a client – 6:45
  • Examples of how business needs can change with a client and how it can impact PPC results and what a PPC manager can do to help – 9:00
  • What the signals and signs you should be looking for in a PPC manager – 11:00
  • How a PPC manager should react when mistakes are made or goals are not met – 14:50
  • The pitfalls of hiring professional service companies and best practices to vet them – 20:00
  • What communication and time management with a good account manager should look like – 25:00


Narrator:           Welcome to Getting Granular, the podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency Granular talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the industry. Whether you’re here to learn how to grow your business, improve your digital skills, or just want to hear some Midwest PPC experts rant about digital media, you’ve come to the right place.

Jordon Meyer:       All right, so welcome to Getting Granular, another episode where PPC experts from the agency Granular Marketing chat about some industry updates, some thoughts on the industry, and really just give our unfiltered take on what it’s like to work in this space. I’m Jordon Meyer, the founder and president of Granular, and today we’re talking with Mike Fleming, one of our senior paid search experts, and he’s actually joining us over the phone in Canton, Ohio.

Jordon Meyer:       Hey, Mike. Why don’t you give a quick intro?

Mike Fleming:       Hey, Jordon. Good to be on. Hello, listeners. Yeah, we’re in Canton, Ohio here. Not quite as cold as Milwaukee right now, but definitely below zero.

Jordon Meyer:       Yeah, so today, we’re gonna be talking about some of the qualities and things to look for in what a client or what a business really wants to look for in a PPC manager. It’s not all about the technology or the platform, it’s … at the end of the day, it really comes down to the person that you have that relationship with inside the agency, the person who’s actually making adjustments, who’s actually talking to you on a daily basis.

Jordon Meyer:       And yeah, so Mike, you wrote a really good blog post for us recently on the Granular website, granularmarketing.com, that was called This is What You Really Want From A PPC Manager. So, maybe just give us some background on what motivated you to write that, and why you thought it was a good thing to share.

Mike Fleming:       Yeah, definitely. So recently, I was having a conversation with our sales team here at Granular, and it was about a client that was giving us another account. And the interesting thing about the situation was that they were going to do this even their year over year numbers were down for the account that I was managing. So, right off the bat, you could think, well, year over year numbers are down for them, but they’re still gonna give you another account, what is the reason for that, right?

Mike Fleming:       And I was thinking, this isn’t really a situation you get into very often. Number one, the client has multiple accounts available to manage. That isn’t typical. Usually a business has one account they’re running from. And number two, that they would actually trust you to manage a new account when you’re the one managing the one that has seen a decline in performance.

Mike Fleming:       So we kinda got talking about what their motivation might’ve been in doing this, if the motivation wasn’t like, oh, you got us amazing results in the past year since you took over the account. And so, that’s kinda what led to the conversation that we had, and what led to me writing the post.

Jordon Meyer:       Right, you kinda get into the why, which is a popular book, more about business, but I think every kind of outcome has some kind of story leading up to it, so it’s valid to ask why. So why would they want you to manage something if you wouldn’t hit it out of the park. But you did. Although maybe total revenue was down, you hit all the KPIs that were important to them, like making their ad dollars more efficient, things like that.

Jordon Meyer:       So overall, the client was happy enough to trust you and us with managing another business for them, which is pretty cool. So either way, if it’s stellar year over year or not, it kinda shows that it’s important about the person you’re working with, right? So what’s the main point you’re trying to get across with this blog post of yours?

Mike Fleming:       Well, the thing that I was thinking about when we were talking was that, when I first started out in the PPC industry, my mindset, really, when it came to client management in like the first year or two was that clients would be happy if I just did one thing, which was make numbers go up and to the right, right? I mean, that’s ultimately, results is what you’re going for, and kind of the goal of everything you’re doing in a way.

Mike Fleming:       And so, my mindset at the beginning was, that’s what I need to accomplish. And I’ve never been an industry before where I did client management. I was younger, I didn’t have jobs that … certainly were in customer service, but they weren’t quite the relationship that a client has with a PPC manager. And so, as time passed-

Jordon Meyer:       It’s like a one time thing, like being nice to somebody for five minutes, versus keeping a relationship going for years, right?

Mike Fleming:       Right. Like I waited tables, right, so there’s definitely some customer service involved in that, but obviously, you’re with them for a half hour to an hour, and they leave, and there’s no trust building or anything like that going on over time.

Mike Fleming:       So yeah, after the first couple years, and I really cut my teeth in the industry, and learned from other people and things, I learned fairly quickly that although getting results and growing businesses is why we get hired, we really don’t always have control over it happening.

Mike Fleming:       So, what I realized was things like industry disruption, like if you think about, tech industries are notorious for where companies kill each other off, and products disappear, and they create new ones, or things like competition, you know. I can do a good job of competing, but I can’t control where competitors are advertising, I can’t control what their budgets are, and what they decide to do with their budgets versus what my client is deciding to do with their budget.

Mike Fleming:       I can make recommendations, for example, and in a perfect PPC world, clients would just implement all of my recommendations. But we know that doesn’t always happen. So sometimes, they even have legitimate business reasons for not implementing what we would typically do or what may be considered best practices, and so they don’t do it, and that can kinda affect results as well.

Mike Fleming:       And then, the last thing I thought about was the weather. I remember having a client that sold ski clothing, and we had a mild winter. So what am I supposed to do about that, right?

Jordon Meyer:       Yeah, I mean, I’ve got similar experiences. I took over an account for a NE commerce company that sold emergency preparedness stuff that was in the generator space, and the kind of the water pump space. So if you got your basement flooded, if a storm went through, basically you needed their products.

Jordon Meyer:       And they were telling me about this agency they were with in the past, and they were just totally spiking the football in the end zone, and doing their victory dance after a month of report, saying like, look what we did, we’re amazing with our year over year performance. And it was the client that had to tell them, they were like, hey guys, there was a hurricane, and that was kind of an act of god, versus anything that you did in the account. Because if you look at the change history, they didn’t do anything.

Jordon Meyer:       So it’s kinda funny to see examples like that out there. But they also happen to us, right? There’s definitely seasonal implications. There’s definitely economy. There’s a ton of stuff that goes into it. So yeah, ultimately every business owner that we talk to, they want results that are going up and to the right. They want business growth, and that’s what we’re here to deliver. But even if it’s … And we, I think we accomplish that with almost everyone, really. That’s the rule here, that’s not the exception.

Jordon Meyer:       But on top of that, you also have to kinda be a person, and you have to be someone that they like working with, because we kind of are an extension of their team when it comes down to it.

Mike Fleming:       Yeah, that’s a great point. In fact, the account that I reference at the beginning, it’s giving us another account. It’s like, in the first six to 12 months that we worked with them, they had had someone internally managing, and were having trouble getting, accomplishing the goals they wanted to. And so they came to us and said, hey, we’d like to try this out. And you were right, they actually did kinda knock it out of the park for them at the beginning.

Mike Fleming:       And so, what happened over time was, though, they had some internal business decisions of investing in different spaces, just because of the nature of their business, and so that was really a big effect on the results we were able to get for them. So, at the beginning we did, and then we kinda had this lull for a little while. And things are actually picking back up as well there, but that lull wasn’t anything that we did. It was more internal business decisions that they had made.

Jordon Meyer:       And it keeps us on our toes, right? You have to pivot, and then shift towards another business goal on their end, which I think we’re good at. It’s just understanding that ebb and flow of business, and that’s what a long relationship really gains people, is we’ve got that experience where we’ve been there before and we know how to handle those situations.

Jordon Meyer:       Cool, so without … Feel free to toot your own horn. You’re a great paid search manager. You’ve been doing this for like a decade. That’s why we hired you. We only hire senior level experts here, and no one that’s kinda coming up and cutting their teeth per se.

Jordon Meyer:       So, what are some signs that if a business owner is listening to this, or another agency owner, or someone that is potentially searching for some paid search talent to either externally manage it, or even for hiring purposes, what are some of the signal and signs that people can look for in a paid search manager, that really shows that this is gonna be someone that not only looks at impressions and clicks, but actually kinda looks deeper and cares about the business?

Mike Fleming:       Yeah, surveys indicate that most businesses lose clients because of a phenomenon called perceived indifference-

Jordon Meyer:       All right, break that down for me. What’s that?

Mike Fleming:       Yeah, we’ve talked about this before, but basically, when asked why customers leave businesses, there’s a lot of different reasons, but the number one reason tends to be that the customer doesn’t feel like they are cared about, or that their business is cared about. And so, ultimately, that whole up into the right thing, while it is important, when you actually ask customers, it’s not about results, typically. It’s typically about being and feeling cared for.

Mike Fleming:       ’cause they figure, well, even if you’re getting results for me, maybe I would be getting better results if I actually had someone that was caring for my business even more than what I’m currently getting. So it’s kind of this comparison thing that goes on.

Jordon Meyer:       Yeah, it’s like a restaurant, right? You go there because you’re hungry, and if you go to two different restaurants, you leave somewhat satisfied, your stomach’s full. That one need has been addressed, and has been successfully addressed. But that’s like table stakes for us, right?

Jordon Meyer:       So obviously, we’re gonna drive results, but what makes you feel good when you leave that restaurant? It’s all those extra things. It’s the good waiter, the good environment, that little bit of extra seasoning. There’s a ton of little details that go into making something good to great, and I think that’s what we always strive for here, is that greatness in service.

Jordon Meyer:       So what are some other tactical things that you can look for in someone, that kinda shows they’re gonna be a good paid search manager?

Mike Fleming:       So if you currently have an agency, or PPC manager, or someone in house even, that you’re working with, basically, I laid out five kinda points or signs that you can look for, to know that you’re actually being cared for, and not just getting results.

Mike Fleming:       The first one is that they ask a lot of questions, and attempt to understand your business and its customers, instead of just, oh, what do you sell, picking key words, stuff like that, and kinda throwing up general ads. They converse with you on a level that shows they’re actually trying to understand your business. That’s a really good sign.

Mike Fleming:       Another one is they up their game when times get tough. So, we’re not perfect, we’re human, and so expectations sometimes won’t get met, or mistakes might be made. Obviously, we do the best we can to not make mistakes, but it’s a part of life. But the real thing is, how do we react, how does that person react to those situations? Do they up their game when it gets tough? Are they highly motivated to make things right quickly? Or does it take awhile to hear back from them, kind of a thing.

Mike Fleming:       Another one, they’re proactive at diagnosing problems and offering a solution. So, I’ve heard from clients who have come to us from other agencies that they were okay, but they weren’t really proactive at giving us new strategy. Things are constantly changing in digital marketing, and so, if you don’t have someone that’s like, hey, we should try this, or hey, I noticed this problem.

Mike Fleming:       Especially if you’re … It’s not that you can’t, as a client, ever come across problems first, like ever identify, but it’s a pattern, where you’re seeing problems and having to tell your manager about them first, then that’s something to look for.

Mike Fleming:       And then, along those lines, they’re quick, basically, to suggest new ideas to test, since the industry is fast moving. And then lastly, you hear from them often. Of course, that will depend on your level of service, depending on how large your account is, things like that. But you should definitely hear from them a minimum of once per month if you’re a small account, and obviously if you’re larger, it should be more than that.

Mike Fleming:       So, I would say those are along the lines, five signs that you can kinda think about or look for when asking yourself, why do I or don’t I feel cared for?

Jordon Meyer:       Yeah, those are all really good things to look for. Again, it’s not just the … One of our old clients who’s kind of a secondary contact, not a day to day, but he called it clicks and clacks. They’re looking for someone that delivers a little more than the clicks and clacks. So they’re not talking about just impressions and all the stats, they’re actually bringing some insights to the table, some human elements. They’re asking about your profit margins, they’re asking about returns, or best selling products, or customer lists. They’re really digging into the backside of the business like that.

Jordon Meyer:       But then, on top of that, it’s like, they know that you got a new dog, or they know that your kid just graduated. I think when it comes down to it, we try to take the automation, and kinda machine relationship stuff like out of the equation. It’s really easy for people to be sold on technology, and results, and things like that, but it’s hard to keep kinda stay sticky, and that’s where the human element comes into it.

Jordon Meyer:       We, look, we get the results, that’s easy. I mean, it’s hard, but that’s our job, and on top of that, we’re always trying to go above and beyond.

Mike Fleming:       Right, yeah.

Jordon Meyer:       So, what else can we talk about here? Yeah, these are things that clients and businesses kinda find out after the fact, that’s really hard to … it’s hard to uncover if someone’s gonna be a good fit of them, kinda without inking a contract, and that’s pretty scary for a business owner.

Jordon Meyer:       I mean, we’re an agency, but we also hire professional services. So we just stick in our lane, we’re only doing paid search, paid digital marketing. We’re not doing web design, we’re not shooting video, we’re not doing things like that. We’re not accountants. So we hire a lot of professional services ourselves, and I’ll tell you, it’s tricky, as a business owner, to really vet and figure out who’s actually good, and who we’re getting in a relationship with, especially when you’re talking about contract lengths.

Jordon Meyer:       Typically at Granular, we don’t have very long contracts, because we kinda hang our hat on our service, and we trust that clients are gonna stick with us. But these other services, there’s a lot of times that we’re signing 12-month deals, and that’s a big commitment. So I guess how … Do you have any other tips on how someone could vet prior to signing up?

Jordon Meyer:       Like, there’s a lot of signs to evaluate your current agency and your current paid search manager, in house or otherwise. But how can we kind of get ahead of that, and make fewer mistakes in hiring maybe the wrong fit?

Mike Fleming:       Yeah, you’re right. It is really a difficult situation. Even sometimes, you might go to an agency, and for example get an audit for them, because you wanna see, are they gonna be able to analyze my account, and tell me what is wrong with it, and what we should do about it, and will it be worth going from one agency to another, or will it be worth to stop managing it on my own, and giving it to them, that kind of a thing.

Mike Fleming:       And the tricky part about that is like, sometimes even though … We offer audits as well, and audits are good, and sometimes they’re necessary, to kind of get an idea of kinda where your account’s at, and if there’s room to grow, just to kinda shine a light on that. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes the audit that you get isn’t even done by the person that will manage your account if you sign on with them.

Mike Fleming:       So, the audit really gives you an idea of how your account has been cared for in the past, but not necessarily how it will be cared for once you sign the contract. And so, my advice for that is, if you can, talk to referrals. That’s a big one. Like current clients, what’s been their experience, have they been there long, what has been consistent about their experience, and obviously, if they have been there long, then they’ve had a good experience.

Mike Fleming:       So that’s kind of the best you can do, I think, sometimes.

Jordon Meyer:       Yeah, I think that’s really good advice, Mike. Look, every business has clients that are willing to talk to prospects, and if they don’t, they’re not worth talking to any longer. We’re always happy to give out references, and put them in touch with current or past clients.

Jordon Meyer:       We’ve got past clients who are good references for us, and still refer business over to us. And they’re past clients because we helped them build up a program, and then they basically show that it was probably valuable to bring it in house. But often times, they still bring us on for quarterly or semi annual audits. And they still look to us as someone who helped their business along their journey.

Jordon Meyer:       So look, any agency, any paid search professional, freelancer, anything like that that you’re talking to, get a reference, talk to one of their clients, vet that person to make sure they’re not just a buddy, because we do it all the time, and it’s as easy as 10, 20 minute phone call to somebody, and they’ll typically give you some really good insight, and maybe even talk about one of the managers on the team, who they really like working with, who’s the best, that kinda thing.

Jordon Meyer:       So it can actually give you some more value and more leverage in negotiating, so you can actually ask for a specific person maybe, or make sure that they’re at least maybe like a support person on the account. Something like that, I think it’s really … I would say that’s probably the best way to do it. I can’t really think of a better way to vet and evaluate a potential agency or a potential paid search person.

Mike Fleming:       Yeah, definitely. And case studies is one of those things that goes out a lot, but like you said, any agency can show success with numbers. Ultimately, they might call out a couple accounts they’ve done well with, and it’s possible that there’s tons of accounts they haven’t, and they haven’t serviced well. So getting that first hand account is definitely important.

Jordon Meyer:       Exactly. I don’t think we had a published case study for the first two years, just because we can kinda see through a lot of the case studies out there, and you can make it your own, and it’s hard to validate the numbers. But I think for the few case studies we have out there now, we have legit client quotes, and we’ve got numbers approved by clients, and we got signed off. It’s basically verifiable data that’s out there.

Jordon Meyer:       But yeah, even beyond that, if you see a case study with a testimonial on it, ask for that testimonial’s contact information, take it a step further.

Mike Fleming:       Yeah. For sure.

Jordon Meyer:       Cool, Mike. Well, this has all been awesome. Is there anything else that we may have missed when really kinda peeling back the layers of the onion and seeing what someone should really want from a PPC manager?

Mike Fleming:       No, just to sum up, just thinking about the level of service you’re getting, and if you feel cared for, and ultimately, the results thing that I talked about at the beginning. You may be getting good results, but if you’re not feeling cared for, there’s a chance that you could be getting even better results than you have been getting, because someone is paying more attention to your account, and giving it the care that it needs.

Jordon Meyer:       For sure. It’s all about that time management, that dedication to each account. That’s another kind of a … Look, this is a Granular podcast, why not talk about Granular? We make sure that each manager doesn’t have any more than 10 accounts, but it’s typically between six and seven accounts, which gives them plenty of time to actually focus on the companies.

Jordon Meyer:       I would say maybe something we didn’t mention is that’s a question to ask during the sales process, is who’s gonna work on the account, but also, how many accounts does that person manage. We’ve interviewed tons of … lots of clients, but also, we’ve interviewed lots of paid search candidates to hire, and it’s really astounding to hear some of the numbers that they’ve managed.

Jordon Meyer:       We talked to one young lady who managed upwards of 100 accounts, which is kinda mind boggling for us, because we pay such close attention, and we try to build really close relationships with our clients. So I don’t even know how it’s possible to talk to 100 people a month.

Mike Fleming:       It’s not.

Jordon Meyer:       Right?

Mike Fleming:       It’s not.

Jordon Meyer:       Yeah, so I think that’s a really important question for people to ask, is like, all right, how many accounts, how many businesses are they managing? ’cause at some number, we don’t have the perfect number, we’re not claiming to, but at some number, it’s just like pretty obvious that communication or results are really gonna break down and fail. So yeah, that’s a big one.

Mike Fleming:       I personally have experience with that. I had I think 13 to 15 accounts at one point at a prior agency that I worked for, and the mindset there, that over the years I’ve learned not to buy into was that they’re paying for a certain number of hours, and if we’re over hours, you can not pay attention to the account until we built the hours back up.

Mike Fleming:       And so, what happened in my experience there was, one particular account comes to mind, where we had got pretty significantly over hours, and kinda took a few months off. And even though we communicated that to them, the concept here that we’re talking about of them feeling cared for, when you don’t communicate in three months, they don’t feel cared for, no matter what your rationale is, no matter what the data says, in terms of hours you’ve spent, or what the result is you’re getting.

Mike Fleming:       They didn’t feel cared for, and so, soon after that, they switched services because of that.

Jordon Meyer:       That makes sense, right? You can’t just set it and forget it, and think someone’s cool with that.

Mike Fleming:       Right, yup.

Jordon Meyer:       All right, awesome. Well, thanks a lot, Mike, for instilling some of your wisdom on us. I know you got a lot up there, and you share a lot of good stuff on our blog. So this is a pitch to the listeners, definitely check out our blog at granularmarketing.com. Feel free to subscribe to get updates from this podcast, and I’m sure we’ll be talking to Mike again soon in a future episode on Getting Granular. So thanks a lot, Mike.

Mike Fleming:       Thanks, Jordon.

Jordon Meyer:       All right. Take care, bye.