Ad Reps: Friend or Foe? - How to Handle Situations with Search Engines Going Direct to Your Clients

Aug 9, 2005 • 6:39 pm | comments (2) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2005 San Jose
 

Some search marketing firms have had search engine reps try to snag accounts away from them. Some of these attempts can be fought off if you know how to state your case. This session explores those issues and some the issues affecting the situation. There seems to be very few people in this session for one reason or another I am not sure.

Danny Sullivan is moderating this session and starts with explaining why they held this session. He says firms are getting concerned about this and some issues needed to be explored.

Ryan Lash from Infuse Creative was up first and is going to go over some of the issues they have seen and their experiences. The landscape has changed over the last few years. Back in the good ole days, they did search media buying. They were offered net rates on this media and play broker with the accounts. They did work with Looksmart, Alta Vista and other engines. SEO was basic and pure optimization. They also worked with sales channel conducting direct sales reps. Today some of the main direct sales reps are Google advertising sales, and Yahoo search marketing sales. He says some reps are commission driven. Commission driven sales tactics are often what fuels these reps. They have reps admit to data mine their client accounts. They have direct client communication with the reps.

They put up an example about a major automotive manufacturer. They finally got to try a PPC campaign. Google got wind of this and contacted the firm directly. They declined to work with Google. Google provided free SEO consulting directly to client. They lost SEO engagement. The Yahoo side hasn’t been as aggressive. YSM direct sales channel offered to “Help”. YSM direct sales channel admitted to “downloading” campaign data. YSM continued to pursue independently the client. Ryan has some tips to combating the reps. On the SEM side, do not enable client communications with direct sales channels. Only work with agency channels and continue to improve you value proposition. For SEO’s they will have to continue to improve their value proposition.

Mikkel Svendsen from RedZone starts with talking about a client example of the situation and what is going on. He says there are a lot of good people at the engines and they understand what our business is. The Scandinavian Case. It was a large local Scandinavia SEO/SEM agency. Found applies for Adwords accreditation. Pass the exam and receive the official approval after the 90 days. The Agency signs a deal with large Scandinavian client. Google tells them they can’t have the client. Google sales team make is very clear that they consider Adwords advertiser to be their clients – not the agency’s. Do we have a deal or not? Google’s Scandinavian team told the Agency. The accreditation is worthless!

What they learned about the Scandinavian deal. Google is more of a competitor than a partner. Partnering up with Google increase your risk of loosing clients. Never tell Google about new prospects before you have a signed deal. Educate your clients well. Explain what you can do for them that Google just wont (or can’t) do. Recommend transfer of budgets to other PPC engines when that is best. Recommend transfer of budgets to organic SEO – when that is best. Optimize based on experience across all search channels and programs. Utilize external budgeting, tracking, and optimization tools rather internal. Track fraudulent behavior patterns and collect independent evidence. Utilize “black hat PPC” if that’s what the client wants. In any case, be sure to add some real value and show it.

He discusses the two main problems. 1. Channel separation. The engines have to decide if we, the search marketers are partners or competitors. 2. Managing people. It is not enough to have good policies if the people on the ground are running wild.

Misty Locke starts by saying how the engines can take clients out treat them nicely and then the client comes back saying we want that from the agency. What she says about the reps. The reps are pushy. They don’t do their homework. Don’t keep us in the loop while talking to the client. Not up to date with industry. Not interested in relation. Work on 100 accounts at a time. You say one thing and then do something else. We never work with the same rep more than a few months. What the ads reps say about us. They don’t provide enough information. They don’t attend meeting. They are difficult to deal with.

So how do you work together and what the vendor needs to know. We can work together. If we win if you win. Client goals come first. Yours second. Client goals are paramount and we need you to understand this. Keeping us out of the loop does not work for YOU, US, and the client. We know you have to grow the account. We are not out to stop their growth there are things you don’t know. If we partner, then PARTNER. Don’t take me out to dinner, don’t wine and dine me. Send research/product releases before: clients, press, before I have to call you.

What the agencies need to know. Treat them like partners and not like an information source. Okay, I am no fool. I know this hard to swallow. Limit & Control, but take steps. There are good reps out there just as there are good agencies. The client goals are important to them as well. Share enough information about the campaign and goals. Remember agencies you work for the client. Do your job and be their partner. It is your job to work and manage the relationship with AdReps – this is why you are paid. You clients goals come first. Your vendors second. Vendors have to feed their children too. Very enjoyable presentation with some comedy as well on the situation.

Stacy Williams just came into the panel and she talks how they have had trouble with working with the engines. She talks about her client Turner Broadcasting and how they started to pick up business with some of their branches. She says Google and Yahoo started to get wind of this. A Yahoo rep approached them about switching reps to go to Diamond level. They said they would like to bring in Turner Broadcasting along with her company. If she didn't want to, then her rep said his boss would probably force him to go around them, although he said that he personally wouldn’t want to do that. She was really shocked to say the least. Google did the same thing but was less forthcoming. They want the client whether or not the agency is included. She says she had an epiphany that she understand where the engines are coming from but at the same time she knows this could be a great opportunity for their firm. She says the bottom line is that if they can’t justify their existence then she doesn’t need to be there.

Her three wishes for ad reps. 1. When you call an agency and you say you want to help them. I wish you would mean to help. She doesn’t want to breathe down their next and try to sell for them. 2. Don’t treat me schizophrenically, you want to work with one client and but not the other 19 which outspend the one client. 3. Search engines don’t recognize that we work for them and with them. Search engines need to take care of the agencies.

Dana Todd talks about her experience which has been since the print days. She says we built this industry and we convinced the client that they needed this advertising. How dare they try to go around us. She says that agencies are more efficient. Search engines feed us that they are better than TV. There is more cash for search engines if the thing is inefficient. They say be like inefficient TV because it makes us more money.

We go into question and answer. Mikkel says that Google didn’t do due diligence about hiring people. Google has been flashing around saying they can take away their business. Overture was an example of this, by taking clients from SEM firms, and then going back to give them back as they couldn’t handle them all. Misty comes in an says her problem is not Google, its Yahoo. They don’t know what they are doing, she says she has 45 reps and has to email them all. Once that happens nobody knows what’s going on. Mikkel states that when they reviewed the terms of service, it said that the client has the right to gain access to their account at any time.

This session had a lot of fired up comments and passion for the situation. My favorite session of the day so far.

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Comments:

Stacy Williams

08/13/2005 07:28 pm

Thank you for this writeup -- I'm very glad that this issue is getting some coverage so hopefully we can have some positive dialogue with the search engines. However, I was misquoted -- I never used the word "blackballed" and I had said that the Yahoo rep wanted me to bring him in to the client. He said if I didn't, his bosses may force him to go around me, though that isn't what he would like to do. Also, Google was not "more forthcoming" -- both engines want more Turner business and if I can help them, great. If I choose not to help them, they'll help themselves.

Barry Schwartz

08/14/2005 02:03 am

Thanks for the clarification Stacy. I heard this was one of the best sessions at SES, I am sorry that I missed this one. But I am glad Ben covered it.

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