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Grow your own big-budget clients

This is for you if you've got the skills to manage campaigns but don't have as many big-budget clients as you want.

Building a profitable agency or freelancing with small-budget clients is hard. You can’t charge as much as you should. Delivering decent results without budget takes miracles. And sometimes small-budget clients can be a pain to work with.

Having few big-budget clients in your portfolio transforms your business.

Also, big-budget clients tend to refer other big-budget clients. It’s a virtuous circle . It leads to you choosing which clients you’d like to work with rather than taking on anyone who’s willing to pay you.

How to get bigger-budget clients if they're not knocking on the door.

You might consider growing your small-budget clients into bigger-budget clients as a stepping-stone. They trust you already, you know their businesses and most are likely to welcome your help.

Aside: This guide is based on my experience growing clients who use Google Ads to generate leads rather than online sales. I’ve generated about 2 million leads using Google Ads but I've never run an e-commerce campaign. The approach below works for lead generation but it's not a good fit for e-commerce clients.

Running the best campaign in the world isn't enough to grow your client's budget.

You can always find some noob on Reddit confident that generating enough leads automatically gets the client to raise the budget. "Just do a good job and your clients will make more money. They'll be so happy they raise their budgets and pay you more."

It might happen, but I’ve never seen it. Truth is that it takes a lot more than delivering leads at a great CPA to grow your client’s budget.

First you have to change how you think about your job. You see, your clients don’t want more advertising, they want more customers.

Your client didn’t hire you because she wanted to show ads on the internet. That may have been the way she described it. That may be what you do. But she really hired you because she wants to make more sales.

It’s easy to forget this when you’re good at running ad campaigns and when you enjoy the work. And that leads to mistakes when talking about ad budgets.

Assume you wanted another $10 000 a month and you were confident that you could produce a ROI of 3x. You could recommend a budget increase in two ways:-

Show your clients how much profit you make them.

You can't talk about increasing profit till you, and your clients, know how much profit comes from your ads. But, if your clients are like mine they won't have a solid answer to "How much profit did you make from last month's ad spend?"

Over the last few years my focus has moved from generating the leads to helping my clients make more sales from those leads. I do this through a process called Map-Measure-Maximise. Measuring how profitable online leads are is a crucial part of the process.

For some clients we’ve ended up creating sophisticated dashboards. They track every lead from the first click, through the first sale and onto the lifetime value. We can determine how much profit comes from leads who call vs leads who fill in forms. We know which campaigns and cities deliver the most profit. It's geek heaven.

But, I don't recommend starting with a dashboard like this, they take months or years to build and cost a bomb. The right place to start is with a named lead report.

The named lead report is the first step to growing your clients' budgets.

The named lead report is a spreadsheet with the name, email phone number and the initial enquiry for every lead you generate. It also has columns for date of sale and value of the sale (or profit if you can get it).

I use Google Sheets for this because you can add leads automatically using Zapier. This saves time when you get a lot of leads.

How to add leads from forms to the named lead report.

99 % of the time leads from forms can be delivered by email. You need to get a copy of those lead emails if you don’t already get them.

If the client only gets a few leads a day you can copy and paste into the spreadsheet. Do this in a batch once a day so you don’t kill your productivity.

If the client gets too many leads you could automate adding them using Zapier. Here’s the high-level version of how it works.

  1. You set up a rule in your inbox to forward the lead emails to Zapier’s email parser. (
  2. Once Zapier has received a few emails you can set up a parsing template to extract the name, email etc.
  3. You can then instruct Zapier to send that information to your Google sheet every time a new lead arrives.

This is how I usually start the Map-Measure-Maximise process for making more sales from online leads. It's cheap, quick to set up, and gives actionable insight fast.

How to add leads from messenger / chat systems.

Again, if you're only getting a few leads a day copy paste is your friend. If there are more, you can probably automate it with Zapier.

Lots of chat and messenger systems have pre-built Zapier integrations. That makes it easy to instruct Zapier to send the contact details to your spreadsheet when the chat starts or ends.

If the system your client uses doesn't have an integration it might take some technical wrangling.

How to add leads from phone calls.

If you use a call tracking system like CallRail you can have it tell Zapier every time a call arrives. CallRail can give you the lead’s phone number and sometimes other information.

If you're not using call tracking you'll have to rely on someone at the client’s office to add call details. My experience has been that this is quite difficult.

A warning. We PPC people sometimes want everything to be perfect. That's what makes us good at our jobs, but in this case perfection is the enemy. Don't wait to build the named lead report till you've got perfect automation that captures every lead. An incomplete report is going to get you closer to raising budgets than no report at all.

How to add the sale date and value of the sale to the report.

For the first few months I match sales to leads by hand.

I get an export of sales info for the month from the client's accounting system. I then trying and figure out which lead each sale came from.

It's not 100% accurate because sometimes the lead's name doesn't match the customer's name in the accounting system. But it's OK, perfection comes later.

I record the invoice value instead of profit because most clients don't track the profit on individual sales. The profit for the month is calculated from the total of the sales invoices.

How to calculate the value of your advertising.

There are 2 ways of calculating the value of sales from this month’s ad spend.

On a cashflow basis you compare the cost of ads this month and the value of sales made this month.

It’s not a difficult calculation, but it’s wrong. But, it might not be too wrong. Let me explain...

Online leads don’t turn into sales the minute they arrive. It takes time to contact the lead, find out what they want, prepare a quote and so on. This period is the sales cycle.

Some businesses have short sales cycles e.g. emergency plumbers, after-hours dentists and DUI lawyers. It might only be a few hours between first contact and sale.

Other businesses have sales cycles measured in months or years. I have a client who sells valves for municipal water pipelines. Enquiries for values come in during the tender (bidding) stage. The sale takes place much later (sometimes years) when the pipeline is under construction.

If the sales cycle is short - a few days - it won’t matter that much if you use a cashflow basis. The first few sales this month will come from last month’s advertising. The last few leads paid for with this month’s ad budget will turn into sales next month. It balances out if the sales are roughly of the same value.

If the sales cycle is longer it’s better to do a cohort analysis.

The cohort analysis credits the sales made to the month in which the lead was generated. For example you might make the sale in March to a lead that arrived in January. The value of that sale goes to the ad spend in January, not March.

The named lead report isn’t perfect - but it’s good enough.

If you’ve ever done any kind of work on attribution you’ll see that this is a very rough approach. Don’t be put off by that. We don't need perfect attribution to help our clients understand the value they're getting from their ad spend and why they could be spending more.

Need some help with this?

I offer 1-to-1 mentoring and consulting. You’ll get help, advice, support and answers without having to commit to a long-term contract. Details here.

95% of leads never turn into customers. Want to fix that?

Over the last few years I've done deep work with a handful of clients to increase the number of sales they made from their Google and Facebook leads. I've put what I've learned into a 9-lesson email course.

You’ll learn:-

  • How to identify opportunities for improvement.
  • How to generate more than enough ideas for improvement using the 2-magnets concept.
  • How to apply those ideas in your business.
  • How to measure the results of your work (so you can do more of what's working and less of what's not).

My experience has been that it will deliver more sales if:-

  • Your business receives leads from online advertising like Google or Facebook.
  • Your sales process happens offline. A lead arrives and there is a quote, assessment, demonstration etc before the sale happens.
  • You have the capacity to handle a few more sales in the short term without having to hire or invest in new equipment.
You're already paying for leads. Now turn them into sales.
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