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5 tips for leading a strong PPC team

Leading your paid search team to success requires more than just expert PPC knowledge. Columnist Jeff Baum discusses how to be a great SEM team leader.

My primary responsibility at Hanapin Marketing is leading a team of account managers and production staff. Building and molding a strong paid search team is the most important and challenging aspect of my role as an associate director.

Today, I’m going to share five tips that have helped me to build successful paid search teams — the kind that overdeliver against expectations and provide enormous value to clients and stakeholders.

Tip #1: It’s not about you; it’s about the team

Being an effective leader means understanding that it’s no longer about your individual contributions, but rather the performance of the team you lead. I lead a fairly large account that has from one to three people working on it at any given time. The greatest performance improvements have resulted from work done by my subordinates.

Once my subordinates were trained, I gave them ownership of individual areas of the account. The team has the freedom to test new ideas and innovate without having to wait for direct sign-off from me. It was made very clear from the beginning (once their trust was earned) that they could do whatever was necessary to grow the account but were held accountable for results.

Giving an opportunity to contribute to the success of a high-profile account pushed the team to expand their skill sets and to make bold, yet defensible decisions.

Tip #2: Understand what makes your team tick

Each of your teammates has a unique set of skills and capabilities. For instance, I’ve had team members whose strength is the technical work of PPC. I’ve had team members whose strength was strategy. I’ve also worked with team members whose real strength was client relations and understanding client needs.

Understanding what makes your team tick is also referred to as “emotional intelligence.” Why is emotional intelligence key to building a strong paid search team? Because it allows you place people in a position where they can best succeed.

Being “in tune” with your team also allows you to understand what buttons to push and when to push them in order to get the most from your people.

Tip #3: Provide regular feedback

Those you lead have a right to know where they stand. Team members need to get consistent information about what they’re doing well and where they need to improve to be more successful.

You can provide feedback in a multitude of ways. In addition to formal reviews, you can provide feedback through 1:1s and other forms of informal feedback. This continual feedback loop, done in a caring way, always keeps team members updated on how they can get better in their roles. Providing regular feedback keeps the team on track towards meeting and exceeding expectations.

Tip #4: Provide resources

Constantly evaluate whether your team has the resources needed to complete the task at hand. You can evaluate this by asking questions such as:

  • Does my team have the skills to serve their stakeholders? Are there any critical skill gaps that need to be addressed?
  • Is the team adequately supported? Does the team have enough manpower backing them up to ensure key priorities are being addressed?
  • Are there enough technological resources in place to support the accounts your team is working on (For example, automated reporting platforms, bid management tools)?

In my experience, one of the biggest morale killers is having too much work to do and inadequate resources to deliver sufficient value.

As a leader, your primary responsibility is to pull together the resources needed for the team to be successful. Don’t take this aspect of leadership for granted!

Tip #5: Build a collaborative environment

I was once on a paid search team where compensation was based upon a percentage of revenue each individual’s PPC campaigns generated.

This environment led to team members competing against each other and eliminated any incentive to collaborate. This dynamic eroded trust among team members and ultimately hurt the department’s overall performance.

A successful leader needs to take team members who are focused on individual achievement and get them working together toward a common goal. How is it possible to get everyone to work together and support each other towards achieving team goals, while at the same time recognizing individual accomplishments? This dual dynamic can be accomplished by:

  • setting clear, measurable goals;
  • praising both team and individual success. Recognize when the team is doing well, and also single out individual contributors for praise when they go above and beyond or their individual performance exceeds expectations; and
  • calling out non-collaborative behavior. Once non-collaborative behavior is observed, clearly and strongly communicate that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Organizations win when teams are working toward a common goal. Individual achievement can and must be recognized and rewarded, but only in the framework of how well they collaborate and lift others up.

Final thoughts

The success of a paid search account is tied directly to the strength of the people managing it. At the core of every team is a leader who can get the most out of those they serve.

Setting clear goals and expectations, fostering a team environment and rewarding collaborative behavior will set your team on the road to success. Developing team members by providing consistent feedback and regular training will grow your team into one that’s a huge contributor to your stakeholder’s bottom line.

by Jeff Baum