Contributor Jeff Baum recommends ongoing technical and soft skills training for your PPC team.
The paid search world continues to grow and evolve at an extraordinary rate. Machine learning and automation are changing how the paid search professional operates. Account managers must be more customer service- and business-oriented than ever before.
Being strategically proficient is no longer a luxury — it’s a requirement.
The challenge pay-per-click (PPC) professionals and their managers face today is identifying the core skills needed to successfully manage paid search in an ever-more-complex business environment and ensuring that a strong training plan is in place that enables the PPC professional to meet those challenges.
Today’s PPC professional needs to be very adept at proactively finding solutions to complex problems.
I’ve seen a distinct shift in client expectations. Five years ago, clients used to be impressed by our account manager’s ability to “pull the levers” within an account; the bar for success was tactical proficiency. Clients now expect the PPC professionals they engage with to be tactical whizzes, which means just being tactically proficient is no longer enough.
The new client expectation is that their account manager is someone who understands the big picture, the big business problem that needs to be solved, and knows how to use the right set of PPC tactics, tools and machine learning in a strategic way. That talent needs to lead to meeting performance goals and quickly identifying and seizing upon new growth opportunities.
In addition to possessing superior technical skills, the PPC professional must also possess finely tuned soft skills needed to communicate how they fit into the organization’s big picture, the impact of their work and how their use of PPC is solving the big business problem at hand.
In the ever-growing fight to justify PPC spend and obtain more budget, the PPC professional must communicate on a simple level to clients and stakeholders what PPC is and how it’s making a material impact on their business.
Sample PPC training program outline
At my company, we have an extensive training program that covers the entire gamut from training people new to the industry on the skills needed to launch a successful career to enhancing the skills and knowledge of the very experienced.
The purpose of our training program is to offer continuing education that provides employees with both the hard technical and softer business skills needed to work within today’s complex business environment.
Here’s an outline for putting a PPC training program together that continuously builds your and your team’s skill sets.
New hire or beginner training. This base level of training exclusively focuses on teaching the new PPC professional what paid search is and how to pull the levers of a PPC account. During the first few months of training, the goal is for the beginner to gain enough understanding of PPC so they can start to perform basic account work.
Each week of the beginners training cycle centers around a specific theme.
For instance, one week may be dedicated solely to learning account structure, while another week is dedicated solely to learning bid management or how to use PPC tools like AdWords editor.
The purpose of these themed training weeks is to immerse the trainee in a specific subject matter so they get a great understanding of how to complete basic PPC tasks. These training modules consist of theory (e.g., learning what bid management is and how to arrive at a proper keyword bid) and a practical application exercise. Every trainee is assigned a case study they must complete. Trainees are provided a scenario based on the subject matter they’re working on that week.
Completing a case study provides the trainee an opportunity to practically apply what they learned so that when the time comes, they can work on an account and have a basis of understanding regarding how to approach a problem and apply the right solution.
Additionally, it’s important to become Bing and AdWords certified. Getting certified demonstrates the beginner’s ability to understand basic (and not-so-basic) concepts and receive proof of proficiency. Being certified offers an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise to clients and stakeholders, especially during those critical early years when the PPC professional doesn’t have a lot of real-world experience under their belt.
Weekly training. Devote some time weekly to soft skills training.
I spend 30 minutes every Monday with my team training on a variety of aspects of our consultative approach to account management. Training our team how to be more consultative and strategic gives team members the skills and confidence needed to provide strategic recommendations, pitch new initiatives and communicate in a way that clients perceive their account manager as being confident and in control of any situation, positive or negative.
Monthly training. Once a month, take some time out from normal operations and devote it to technical skills training. I’ve found that taking half a day out monthly allows us to deep-dive a topic.
For instance, a few months back, members of Google’s paid search team came in and spent four hours training us on attribution.
Another time, the department broke into teams and spent the day training on all of Facebook’s new advertising features and shared their learnings with each other.
Monthly training will allow you to do a deeper dive into advanced topics and important new features so you and your team can stay on top of new trends and enhance your capabilities to bring more comprehensive solutions to clients and stakeholders.
Whether you work for an agency, in-house or as a consultant, it’s critically important to have a robust ongoing training program in place.
PPC is always changing, so keeping up with the latest and greatest features, trends and strategies will keep your skills relevant and up to date. Constant technical and soft skills training will help perpetuate the perception that you’re an expert in the field and therefore a more effective PPC ambassador to your clients and stakeholders.