The #1 Reason PPC Accounts Fail

I’ve worked in a lot of new PPC accounts, as an agency rep, an in-house specialist, and a freelancer. I’ve seen a lot of accounts succeed, but even more fail. And after observing quite a few PPC failures, I think I’ve figured out why most of these failures happened: the product sucked.

Sure, I can hear the uproar from all the business owners out there: “But I’m special! I put my product on the internet, so it’s destined to make me a millionaire!” Sorry, dude. If you’re just starting an online business, you are really late to the party. If something can be sold for a profit on the internet, there are hundreds of people selling it already. If you want to set yourself apart, you really need to make sure customers understand why they should buy from you instead of all the other people selling it online. If you can’t make that distinction, your pay per click marketing efforts are going to fail.

Before you start any PPC account, take a look at what your competitors are doing online. Is your product cheaper? Do you ship it faster? Is it of better quality? If you can’t say at least one of those statements is true, considering every one of your online competitors (yes, I said every one), then don’t bother with PPC. In fact, don’t bother with starting that business at all. It is not going to end well for you.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s assume that your product doesn’t totally suck. Now you have to convince your customers of that. This is where your ad text and landing page comes in. If you are cheaper than your competitors, talk up that point in your ads and display your prices prominently on your landing page. People love to get a good deal, and CTR is always great on ads with a discount percentage or a dollar amount discount. But if you’re not the cheapest, don’t even think about stating your price point in your ad. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen a PPC ad stating “Lowest Prices!” when at least three other competitors had a lower price right in their ad text. If you do this, you’re telling your customers that 1) you are not the cheapest, and 2) you are a liar. Don’t be that guy.

If you can deliver your product faster, tell your customers that! People love instant gratification. This is especially important for time-sensitive things like gifts. If you have a special shipping hook-up, you can make a killing on holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day. There are an awful lot of people who are really bad at planning ahead, and they’re willing to pay a significant markup on shipping if you can promise them that you can get a package to them in just a few days. This is especially effective if your competitors can’t make the same shipping promise.

But if your product isn’t cheap, and you can’t ship it quickly, you can always rely on the quality of the product. Of course, you really have to have a quality product to pull this off. Apple is a classic example. Their gadgets are way more expensive than every other computer manufacturer, but you won’t have trouble finding someone willing to pay the Apple markup because their products are genuinely high quality. This can work for your product too, but you have to be able to convince potential customers who don’t know who you are. Use customer testimonials, high-resolution product images, and starred reviews to prove your point. Show your customers (and not just through slick marketing copy) that they would be suckers to buy anyone else’s cheap, low-quality crap. If you can’t be the cheapest or the fastest, be the best.

Before you start a PPC account, take a good, long look at your product. Does it suck? Well, then your account is going to fail. Before you even buy one click, work on making your product better. If you don’t, you’re going to waste a lot of time and money.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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3 Responses to The #1 Reason PPC Accounts Fail

  1. Great article. The phrase ‘there’s no point flogging a dead horse’ comes to mind!
    Some really good tips on how to capitalise on the strengths the business does have as well and focusing on their USPs.

  2. Dustin Lange says:

    Overall I agree. PPC can not save a bad business model. People do associate price with quality though. In some cases it can work to your advantage to put your pricing in ad copy even if it is higher than your competitors. This signals to people that what you offer is better. Of course, this won’t work in all industries or for all advertisers but it may be worth testing. I’ve seen it work best with service industries (movers, cleaning services, etc).

  3. You mean just putting up ads on a Google won’t make you money if you have something that no one wants? Joking…

    I do something with all of my clients where we find the unique selling points (price is the worst one) before we start advertising. The hard part is when the client has something that is good but they don’t know how to make it stand out.

    One way to establish a relationship with your customers online is to give them something for free that will work for them. This way they can see a result and know you can really help them before investing their money. It can be a time consuming to offer a customer free tips or advice but it will pay off because most people don’t want to do this.

    A tactic I have found very helpful in find a clients unique selling point is for the client to ask their previous customers why they bought from them. You would be surprised how many business owners don’t ask their customers why they chose them over the competition.