Does PPC work for accountants?

An accountant asked in an online forum.
"I spent a good amount on PPC /Google Adwords and LinkedIn several months ago and I only got calls from sales people trying to sell me products I don't need. They have just googled the services I provide, clicked on all the ads and called me. As a result I was spending money just to get the calls I would normally avoid."
The short answer is “Yes, but only sometimes”. Google suggests that AdWords will work for any business but this is not true in real life.

They make it look easy: invest a few hours in setting up a campaign, write a couple of ads, enter your card details and turn on the customer tap.

The reality is different. I’ve read that 97% of small businesses spend more than they ever make from resulting sales.

AdWords doesn't work because of one or more of the following reasons:
  1. AdWords is a poor fit for the market.
  2. Mistakes building and managing the AdWords campaign.
  3. The process between a prospective customer clicking on your advert and buying from you is broken.

I assume you’re like most of my clients and need your AdWords budget to generate new sales, not exposure or brand recognition or likes on Facebook. That means that AdWords must bring in enough new business to cover the costs of building and running the AdWords campaign or it’s not worth doing. In some fields the cost of AdWords is so high that even a perfect campaign won't generate profitable sales.

Three things need to be right before you’ve even got a chance to make AdWords work for you:
  • Enough people must use Google to search for what you sell. A very good AdWords campaign would need 100 searches for every sales enquiry you got via your website. A typical DIY AdWords campaign would need about 10 000 searches for every sales lead. If you only work in a small local area you won’t get enough people searching to make it worth doing.
  • The competition can’t be too fierce. Google sells their advertising space by auction.If you’ve got lots of advertisers the costs go up, if you’ve got big players with deep pockets competing it’s very difficult for a smaller player. Anything to do with hotels, flights, insurance etc is like this.
  • The product or service you sell must have a high enough value to cover the costs of getting the sale. That value can come from the first sale, or it can come from ongoing sales - monthly fees in your case. This is much easier when you’re selling high value products or services. It’s incredibly difficult if your business model is high volume at low margins.
So, assuming that AdWords is likely to be a good fit for your business, the next problem is the way it’s done.

Google makes AdWords look like it’s a DIY friendly.It's DIY friendly in the same way that servicing a car, doing your taxes, installing central heating or physiotherapy is. 

AdWords is easy to learn but difficult to master. You can learn enough AdWords to start giving Google money in just a couple of hours.
And so some people do exactly that. They spend loads on AdWords without ever making a sale.

But obviously nobody ever blames themselves, instead they say “AdWords doesn’t work”. The truth is closer to “The way I did AdWords doesn't work".

I guess it’s a bit like doing your taxes. It is easy for someone to fill in their own tax return. The chances of making a mistake are high. The chances of claiming all the deductions you could are low. We expect our accountants to be expert at accounting. Is it logical to also expect them to be experts at keyword selection or advert copywriting?

You pay Google when some one clicks on your ad and lands on your site. That visitor is still a long way from paying you. Think of all the things that could go wrong between the time you pay Google and they pay you:

  • The web page loads slowly so they hit the back button.
  • They’re on their phone and the web page doesn’t look good on a small screen.
  • The page doesn’t appear to be what they were looking for.
  • They can’t easily find out how to contact you.
  • Your contact form is long and asks too many questions.
  • Your contact form is hidden behind a link or in a sidebar or at the bottom of a long page.
  • Your contact form has CAPTCHA anti-spam which looks like it might be too difficult to figure out.
  • Your contact form doesn’t work well on a mobile phone.
  • Your email system decides that email from your website is spam and so you never see it.
  • You get the email from your contact form and reply to it. Your future client’s email system decides it’s spam and doesn’t deliver it.
  • You respond quickly by email but your future client only looks at their email the next morning. Your email is at the bottom of their inbox because you responded quickly. Your competition also responded by email but they were slower so their email is near the top of the inbox and they get the business.
  • Your future client is in the early researching stage, they're not ready to buy today. You’ve got no process to keep in touch with them so they remember you when they’re ready to commit. They enquire of you and forget about you.
  • etc etc...
Just one stumble is enough to stop the sale ever happening.

So, the short answer. Yes, PPC can work for an accountant, if it’s a good fit and if it’s done right.
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