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F.A.T.: A 3-step guide to reassure larger clients that their investment is in good hands

Published: February 7, 2014

Author: Molly Shotwell


No matter what the client’s budget, the bottom line should always be to provide nothing short of excellent service and results that exceed the client’s expectations. While some clients’ main objective may be to simply dip their toes in the warm, welcoming waters of paid search to see what types of learnings they can gather from an initial investment, other, more sophisticated partners are already well aware of the impact that digital advertising can have on their business and have already invested significant dollars towards their efforts.

For some larger clients, you may have a direct marketing contact and several other contacts (finance department side or even executive level) who have questions as to how the money is being allocated. In these cases, you’ll not only need to be responsible for driving efficiencies but also for planning out how and where the budget will be spent — and in what other areas their budgets can go.

Just as with a smaller client with a limited budget, every dollar counts with a large client. You’ll need to demonstrate that budget your client is entrusting in you with to drive results is going someplace meaningful. You’ll also have to provide them with insight into how spend is evolving throughout the month and what the final costs will look like — not just on the day before the end of the month, but weeks prior.

By following the three easy steps spelled out below, you can establish transparency with your client as to how their money is being spent and win their confidence knowing that they have trusted the right marketer to handle their budget.

“F” is for forecasting. The first step in the F.A.T. budget process is forecasting. By creating a forecasting model, you can show the client how their spend will be evolving over a month’s time, which gives the client a much clearer picture of what their investment will bake out into.

 If the client has outside stakeholders in this company, forecasting becomes an even more crucial element; all parties will want to know not only what the current spend is but what the month-end investment will total. This also helps give clients and stakeholders a better idea of how to plan and allocate budget throughout the year.

It’s best to use a larger window with a statistically significant amount of data to base your forecast or projection on. A rolling two-week window takes a good snapshot of recent trends in the account without forecasting so far back that you’re taking into account an anomaly like a shift of budget to offline media from two months ago, which can end up skewing your projection for the rest of the month. A 7-day average also can work, but basing your forecast off of the previous day’s data will leave a lot of discrepancies between your forecast and the true story of what the client’s projection will be. For more on forecasting, check out this SearchEngineWatch post by my colleague, Susan Waldes.

“A” is for Attribution.  Attribution models can help show your client what has contributed to the results you’re presenting. With a larger client it’s often not enough to simply talk about the current initiatives; you’ll need to talk about what’s next and where else can we allocate budget. When you’re able to present data that displays the value of having a more well-rounded digital marketing campaign (i.e. the correlation of search results to organic or offline), you also demonstrate that further investments in the digital space can help performance, and this informs the client that there is potential for further investments with your agency.

“T” is for Testing. This can also be thought of in terms of opportunity mining. If you allocate a portion of your clients’ large monthly budget for testing, you’re putting yourself in a good position to find areas for expansion, learnings, and additional volume. By separating your testing results from the larger budget, you can also demonstrate that thought leadership is occurring on the client’s behalf and that their budget is in good hands.

The testing process can of course also lead to some unwelcome and poor results, but through these bumps in the road you’ll know how to better go about thinking of expansion in the future.

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