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Transcription of Rachel Smith’s episode (That time your boss cared only about spending the client’s whole ad budget)

Transcription of Rachel Smith’s episode (That time your boss cared only about spending the client’s whole ad budget)

This transcription belongs to Episode #12: Rachel Smith’s manager horror story, presented by Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman.Please watch the complete episode here!


Morgan (Host): Hey everyone, welcome to another edition of our new podcast client horror stories, and I’m honored to have Rachel Smith from England with me. With me, today, with, a great story with some good lessons, and she was just telling you about, let’s jump right in. Rachel, happy to have you here. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Hi, thanks for having me. Yeah, this one is probably it was probably about four or five years ago. And looking back now, there probably were some huge warning signs, but at the time, you don’t really see it but it has helped me recognize the signs but next time hopefully there wasn’t a time. 

Morgan (Host): You want to make different mistakes in the future. Not the same mistake or—

Rachel (Interviewee): Mistake is fine.Just not the same mistakes. This is a classic story of other people in the business, or agency where you work at, who, like CEOs, managing directors who because they run the business, think they know the jobs inside out of every single person in the department to talk to as a digital marketing agency. This guy thought he could build a website. He thought he could run a successful PPC campaign. Like all at the same time— 

Morgan (Host): The CEO of the agency or the client?

Rachel (Interviewee): Sorry, the CEO of the agency that I worked at. 

Morgan (Host): He thought he could do everything? 

Rachel (Interviewee): Basically. And, as we know, being a PPC or you know in social media is a job within itself. That’s why we exist. 

Morgan (Host): That’s why we’re specialists.

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, exactly. And it was this long legacy clients, which is probably the first warning flag, but it’s such a legacy client, you know. Maybe pay attention to some of the strong relationships that have already been built with other people in the agency, if you’re new to the project. And this client was having meetings with the CEO—

Morgan (Host): I just want to interrupt for a second, something I’ve seen in my experience is it’s often the longest clients that get the least love from agencies. So like, it feels like agencies often take for granted clients that have been around for, been around forever. And over time, give them less, less, and less. So that’s already a sign, knowing that it’s been a longtime legacy client and we noticed this pattern too.

Rachel (Interviewee): That’s really interesting. Because I wonder, I don’t know if it’s maybe a very British thing at our side, but like the legacy clients who want a really low management fee, are probably actually the ones that are massively over serviced because they have been such a legacy client, that they’re so terrified of them going elsewhere, that it’s unusual still got stuck in your routine, you know. The management fees haven’t been increased along with new clients coming on board. They’re very demanding and they may have been in a relationship there before like, they brought the same men’s club together, whatever. But I think it’s quite a Britain maybe it’s quite the British thing that these—

Morgan (Host): The same men’s club thing, it’s definitely a British thing. The Americans don’t really do that. (laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): Maybe it’s because they kind of like, they don’t want to upset the applecart if you will, with people who’ve been with them for so long, and actually probably suck up the most time and are, therefore, the most unprofitable. And but we’re far too British to say… (laughs) “It’s fine, it’s fine to have all our time. It’s fine. No, no. We will do it for free.” Is probably (laughs)

Morgan (Host): There’s a version of client horror stories we can do just for the UK, where everyone is so nice and so respectful. No one actually figures out what the problems are until it’s too late. (laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): That’d be so funny! I remember, it’s not digital marketing related, but I remember it was an article about Americans who had been watching the Great British Bake Off. They were like “This is a competition but you’re helping each other.” Like yes, that’s what we do. (laughs)

Morgan (Host): Wow, that’s like a whole other universe.

(Both laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, Now I’ve said it out loud, it’s ridiculous. It’s true and it’s ridiculous. But yeah, they say, that was probably the first warning sign that there was no view to my team or knew to do PPC. This client and the senior members of the agency were having meetings with this client, but did not having anybody who is doing the digital marketing within the meeting. 

So, at first, we were kind of like, “Well, maybe it’s just, you know, maybe one of those, a meeting about a meeting. They probably just, you know, having a good old chat and not actually doing anything. We’ll be invited to the next meeting. And we just—

Morgan (Host): That’s already a warning sign. Like if your boss’s boss or your boss’s boss’s boss’s meeting clients without you, you’re the person, you’re the account manager working on it. That’s when the light yellow flag starts turning deep yellow.

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, exactly.

Morgan (Host): So when the boss’s boss’s boss started meeting with the client, without you, like overstepping you. Did you at that time, voice to say “Hey, I want to attend the meetings or…”

Rachel (Interviewee): I think the first time also that it happened. I remember seeing the client leave, and I was like,” Oh, Mr. Jones was here.” Fake name. And, because my surname is Smith, if my husband and I check-in at a hotel, so yes, it’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith having an affair. And then it’s not actually real. So, Mr. Jones, for example, I didn’t realize he was in, you know, is this something that I should have I not been invited. Did I miss something? No, no, no, no, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. We’ll catch up about it. Okay then. You know, because I was told, like, don’t worry, will speak to you about it. I kind of didn’t really, I don’t know, I just, I believed it.

Morgan (Host): So this is actually an interesting situation. Because often when I’m doing, having done a dozen client horror stories interviews now, it’s usually the client is being crazy. But here, like you haven’t told me anything about the client, but it seems like your boss is acting fishy. So there’s at least some internal issue going on.

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, definitely. and I don’t think it was anything malicious. I don’t think, I think it was or didn’t really think about that, you know. It was kind of like, come on, that was a bit obvious that, you know, we should have been. Well, obviously as we get through to the story. It wasn’t done. I mean there were elements of all points at times where I did think, is this being done to trip us up? Or to trip me up? But then, it was very, very high-value clients, and I don’t think, you know. Looking back now, it wasn’t done to trip us up. But it didn’t cross your mind at times, because what was happening just seems so bonkers and so illogical. Just didn’t make sense.

Morgan (Host): I think I’m going to start using the word bonkers in my vocabulary. (laughs) Okay, so this weird meeting happens between the boss’s boss’s boss that you should have been in, and you’re like, “Oh, okay. Oh, I’ll catch you up. You know later.” Did he catch you up on it later? or? 

Rachel (Interviewee): No. 

Morgan (Host): Okay. 

Rachel (Interviewee):  So, I carried on kind of like business as usual, doing what I was doing, obviously. Ultimately at the end of the day, getting the best return on investment for his ad spend, because unless there’s something specific like a CPA target or, you know, obviously getting the most bang for your buck is the most logical and what normally clients want. 

Turns, out, I was wrong, so wrong, which just sounds ridiculous. But the next thing that happened was I delivered the monthly report, and just say for argument’s sake that the magnet PPC spent was 1000 pounds for $1,000. It was much much much higher, but just, for example.

Morgan (Host): For easy math. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, for easy math. Yeah, exactly. And I’d spent year—

Morgan (Host): Using maths, because in England they say maths, not math. 

Rachel (Interviewee): We do, we do. You’ll have to do a tally and at the end when you do back editing, see how many British-isms that come out with, that I don’t realize. (laughs) In a podcast, you have like a ding, every time I say (laughs)

Morgan (Host): (laughs) Like a bubble battle, Batman and Robin style.

Rachel (Interviewee): Yes.

Morgan (Host): Bingo.

Rachel (Interviewee): So just say, for example, I think it was around like 960 pounds that I’d spent 1000 pounds budget. Obviously, you should always try and spend the budget, as long as you’re getting the best return on investment, or if there’s a particular month where you’re prepared to take more of a loss because of the competition or whatever stuff that’s been pre-agreed. I was like, I was pulled in, I was like “ Rachel, why? Why haven’t you spent all of the budget?” Right. Well, I have more or less you know it’s not like I’d spent 500 pounds, or you know something significant.

 Morgan (Host): Almost. You’re at like 99% of the budget. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, exactly. And they were like, What’s that? Looking at the report. 

“Okay, well, can you try and spend the budget next time.”

“Yeah, of course, I always will. But I want to make sure they’re not making a loss.” 

And then it was just a bit of a weird conversation I was brought into the office and— 

Morgan (Host): I want to observe what’s also weird about that is if you know anything about running Google ad campaigns, it’s kind of impossible to target like to the exact number. Because like Google says, every day they can go up to x percent, over, so you can never get it exactly to that 1000 number. 

Rachel (Interviewee): It’s impossible. I mean, there have been times where I’ve looked at a spend and it’s got, oh it’s got spent 99 pounds and 99 pounds and felt that quite you know, quite satisfying actually that I’ve got that close, Just pure fluke. 

And again, the manager, he was talking to me, he was like, “Well I’ve run Facebook ads before, so I know that you can spend the budget. And I was like, well there’s your first mistake, because Facebook has lifetime budgets, whereas I know there is some with. It just doesn’t work as well like that for Google ads, you know. It’s, you know you work it out on a monthly basis you can alter your ads depending on ad spend and based on what’s left. But it’s just, it’s now on impossible to spend to the penny. And he was like, Well, I disagree with you, and that was another flag. Because I’m like who’s the expert here? And within this same set of campaigns, gone.

Morgan (Host): It was interesting, so these flags so far it’s all with your boss. And I want to make a general observation, the rules and how the good ways to work with their clients, it’s identical directly their boss. Like in a way, your boss is your client. So this is a bit of a client/boss story but it’s the same lessons. So this is great, this is great.

Rachel (Interviewee):  And I thought it was a bit like, oh, right. Okay, but I didn’t really want to sort of, I tried to sort of like stress my point and, you know, gently educate him but he wasn’t having any of it.  So I came out of this meeting, a bit like perplexed, I was like, Did that just happen? That didn’t really seem to make much sense. And then, I think it was the next month. I’d spent near enough the budget. But before that, next report came out, my manager had another meeting with this client, but over the phone. And — 

Morgan (Host): Without you being invited?

Rachel (Interviewee): I’m not invited. 

Morgan (Host): So there is another secret meeting. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, this time this one followed up with some notes, just in typed up notes, and it said, “Please make sure you spend all of the budget.” In bold, like highlighted so like this is really important. So, I was like, okay. 

So the next month came, and I think I spent something like, 990. But, you know, it was so close again. And next thing I know, I’m being dragged into a meeting with my manager and he’s having a go at me about the ad spend. And I was like,”Are we really talking about this, and 10 pounds off, $10 off, you know, is it really that much of an issue?”

“Yes, well I’ve agreed with a client that the most important thing and the most important strategy that is that they spend their budget to the penny.” 

And I was like, “So this is my overall KPI?” “Yes.” 

“Well, that’s been agreed without me” Yes.” 

“So the KPI is literally spend the budget.” “Yes.” 

There’s ultimately the buck stops with it. So you know, as much as I tried and tried to be professional, you know, educate him. At the end of the day, he was like “No, This is it.” 

And I stressed my concern in reply to that email because I think it’s really important to have a paper trail of everything. 

Morgan (Host): Agreed. I agree. 

Rachel (Interviewee): I try not to come across as really like passive-aggressive or anything like that. I just reply, you know, thanks so much for just letting us catch up now. I’m just putting an email just for both our benefits what we spoke about, just so you know if we ever need to refer to it again, and I wrote everything down. And—

Morgan (Host): To answer on that one, I love the meeting notes. It’s the core Morgan processes of how to work in a healthy way. I obsessively write down and shared everything. It just proved— People always misremember things. And this funny thing happens in the human mind when people misremember things. It’s always to your own advantage, and the other person’s detriment. So, doing real-time shared notes is amazingly powerful and avoids so many confusions. 

I also want to make another point about your boss’s attitude on this issue. I feel like there’s a difference between how you treat a professional and how you treat the technician. Like the technician is a one used to come in and do this little thing, this little thing, this little thing. The pipe is broken, go fix it like this. 

But the professional is more the person whose advice you listen to. Hey, I have this problem, help me figure out how to solve it, and then go solve it. So it feels like, you’re hired to be a professional, but he was treating you like the little technician so this is one of the sources of the disconnect.

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, definitely. And looking back now, especially with the note writing thing, I’m so glad I did. I mean, it wasn’t contested as such but looking back at how bonkers that request was. Like, I, even occasionally looked back at the email to be like, “No, no this is correct, this is what I’m meant to be doing.” And I actually said, you know, but if he’s getting a lower— you’d rather me spend 1000 pounds and get 600% RWAs return on ad spend rather than spending 900 pounds and getting 800% RWAs. Yes. Like, how in anybody’s mind is that logical? Unless there’s some sort of scenario or situation that I’ve never come across.

Morgan (Host): In the meeting, did you ask him, explicitly for his logic?

Rachel (Interviewee): Probably not as outrageous as I should have done. But I was, I’m quite normal amongst my friends that I find it very hard to hide my facial expressions, I’ll get out eventually. Because it’s the second gentleman. (laughs) That’s why it’s the final day in the UK, so I’m allowed.

Morgan (Host): And speaking of British isms, you’re like, obviously the Brits going to be drinking while we talk. (laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): Of course. What time is it? 22 Eight here so I’m allowed. What time is it with you now? 

Morgan (Host): You probably have your fish and chips to go as well. (laughs) 

Rachel (Interviewee): I had fish and chips last night for two. (laughs)

Morgan (Host): You really are British! The rumors are true. (laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): Am I’m not that predictable. (laughs) And Jen, as well, obviously.

Morgan (Host): Okay, so one, I like in these contests, learning what you could have or should have done differently and it seems like one way you could have improved was at that point to have pressed him to understand the reasoning. I think if your client or your boss wants you to do something that’s so insane like spending accounts at levels that you know are unprofitable, that they can make that, that’s so insane. It’s incumbent upon you to like figure out what’s actually really happening. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, definitely. I think if I was in a similar situation now, I would definitely be, you know, more, I’d be perfect, I’d be polite. But I’d be like, “No, this is wrong.” I mean unless you can give me some sort of logical explanation about why this is what needs to happen. Tell me because it just doesn’t make any sense from a marketer’s point of view. Tell me what your actual thinking is behind this, so I can understand if there’s anything that I’m completely missing.

Morgan (Host): Okay, so you didn’t tell but then, like, what happened next?

Rachel (Interviewee): So, I mean, I pass this on to the colleague who was— So I was looking after this little team, my colleague was explicitly looking after this account. He was like, “This is ridiculous.” I know it is, but as management goes, it gets slowly shouldered off the next person doesn’t it? I said, “Please do it. Just to prove a point this month, or it’s going to be my head. I’ve got it in writing, that is what they want. So, it’s not nothing’s going to be on you, if anything it’s going to be on me, just please do it.” 

And then, I think, for whatever but I think there may have been a bank holiday, or something that month so the industry that it was in, naturally quite endof. So I could see with about three weeks into the month I’m like, “Oh, God we’re not on track to hit the spend.” 

And even though it was still bonkers I wanted to do it to prove— Yeah, prove a point, but also just gauge the reaction from the manager. When I say, “Look, just because you spend more doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be more profitable or make more money. There’s a lot more to that isn’t there rather than literally just cranking out the budget.” 

Because it was a kind of a client where we couldn’t make the changes as freely as we would like. For the product that it was, there was a lot of things that you couldn’t say about the product. It was like border on a medical product so you have to be very careful so any ad copy or extensions, whatever that we changed, had to go for approval. 

Or even if it was, you know, adjusting the budget on a certain product, we did have to get— so that’s another flag that we haven’t got as much. I understand from like the medical or, you know, things. But I think if I was the client, I’d made sure that my marketing execs that we’re working on the account had almost like a bible of things that you can and cannot say. 

But when it got to the fact that there was almost like a level of micromanaging that we didn’t have the freedom to make it as profitable as we wanted to, that was an issue. 

Morgan (Host): Well, I see some of this, other yellow flag was basically them, micromanaging in the sense that every little change, you had to get their approval for. 

Rachel (Interviewee): And had to justify why. 

Morgan (Host): You had to justify it too. 

Rachel (Interviewee): So that was it. Again, that’s probably another case of it was such a legacy client and they’d been so pandered to in the past, that they hadn’t had somebody saying, “Look, your pain is just pay us to do our jobs.” 

You know, let us prove to you that we can make a good return on this, you know. And, you know, take your company to the next level. So that was another issue as well. And then I think we got to, I think that’s it. 

We’ve got to the next month, and the campaign’s spent just over 1000 pounds. 

Morgan (Host): Oh no, an extra $2 were spent. 

Rachel (Interviewee):  Like, it was a couple of pounds, it was barely anything. It was barely anything but I thought, well, we’ve under spent a couple in the other couple of months as well and they’d rather spend more so. If it was like, you know 40 50% more that they’d spent, then obviously, but it was literally pennies. I thought, “It’ll be okay I mean, I’ll just take the rap for it.” 

Well, he went, the manager, who is essentially kind of like the client on behalf of the client. Absolutely lost his mind. Because we’d overspent by about one or two pounds. 

And before, not specific to this client, ee talked about tackling the problem of overspend. So, we have, for most clients or since then and even up to now, if they’re very strict on budget ,I have scripts. So if it hits a certain spend, it pauses the campaigns. 

Obviously, you know, you try and manage it as much as, you know, how to stretch out payday but worst-case scenario, if they hit over that absolute upper limit, it shuts the campaigns off. 

And the manager said to me, “I do not want a script on this account.” So I said, if I’m pushing the budget, I want that kind of like backstop, to prevent any sort of overspend. Because you knnow what it’s like, if you will, per campaign budget, and it can be trundling. And then it will shoot off because Google, reckons that is going to be more profitable and as you know, definitely more than 10% than what Google says, just as kind of like just to cover my back. 

And again, that was another warning sign that the manager had told me to not follow process, which we had in place and agreed for every other single client.

Morgan (Host): Actually, this is a good warning sign that hasn’t come up in any of the previous ones so far of explicitly asking you to break process. That’s like a huge nono. Like it’s understandable in cases where the company is young and there isn’t yet a solidified process. But old client, you’ve been used for a while, there’s a protocol, when they say go against a protocol. Like either there has to be such an amazing reason, or, that’s when the yellow flags becomes a red flag. 

Rachel (Interviewee):  Yeah. And it was very much like my process that I’d put in place, you told me not to do. The whole point of that process has just been proven, you know, this is what happens. Why you’re losing your mind over a couple of pounds? 

Morgan (Host): Was also curious about this, and I’m sure soon we’ll get to the reason why, the reasons for all this. But it’s interesting, like all the time and energy spent on this, like if you look at what would ever salary you’re being paid, you’re being paid more per hour, and the two pounds that were over under a pizza was like not even worth an hour of your time. 

Rachel (Interviewee): I have said if it’s that much of an issue that I will pay. And there’s probably quite, you know, Sarki of me but the boss was like, “Oh no, you’re just being ridiculous,” and like I’m being ridiculous? Let’s just look back at everything that’s happened over the past few months. Yeah, I’m the one that’s being ridiculous. 

Morgan (Host): That’s another British isms is quite Sarki of you. I can guess the definition of the word. Today, it’s a new word that I’ve learned today.

Rachel (Interviewee): It’s an education for you and then in the world of British isms. 

Morgan (Host): Absolutely. (laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): So, I mean we got, I say we got past that, it was kind of like, I got to or a telling off for it. And I requested a meeting. I said, look, I said because that one when he told me about, you know, I talked about the ad spend, it was very much off the cuff. I was like, “We need to sit down here, we need to talk about, what the actual KPIs for this client is because nobody is benefiting from this. We’re not, because it’s becoming unprofitable, because the amount of time and energy that we’re spending on it. And also, how is it going to be beneficial for the clients?” You know, at the end of the day, if they want to make the most money that they can, and if you’re so— if I’m there spending my energy in the ad campaign trying to like work out the budgets and making sure it spends to the penny, which is insane, I’d never do that again. I would just say no. 

Morgan (Host): It’s incredible how often people don’t recognize that time is always a trade off. Like for the couple hours you have to spend on this. If it’s really focused on the budget, you’ll just have less time and emotional energy to say, “Okay, how do I find the best keywords and come up with the best ad,” so those will clearly be neglected. 

Rachel (Interviewee): I used to work at another agency, we used something called, I can’t remember the life of me, but the name of it, it was a tool where basically, you logged how long you were spending on a client. And I remember the team going, “Well this is just like Big Brother.” And I was like, well, no, actually because at the end of the month, it does flag. Or maybe I’ve not spent enough time on them, I’ll make up for it next month. 

Or hang on a minute. Here’s a red flag. This is completely unprofitable. And then when you take how long you’ve been working on it you can work out the math on how much you’re making, if anything, or if you know you’re losing out. And, whether you need to up your management fees or do something else. So it was a really good tool. I mean I dread to think if I was logging in this client what the hours would have been on it. 

But the next month came around, and the adspend for this month. I think hit something like 999. Like it was as close as I could have got it, without being… 

Morgan (Host): Concrete. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, and it wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t believe it. 

Morgan (Host): It still wasn’t good enough. 

Rachel (Interviewee): And I was like this is really where this manager needed an education in digital marketing. Because I could create a company that buys clothes and then sells it on, make my own Java, ASOS in the States or something like, you know. 

Morgan (Host): No idea what you’re talking about.

Rachel (Interviewee): (laughs) Like a clothing brand like ASOS, a huge in the UK. I’m just trying to think of what like an American equivalent would be like Nasty Gal. 

Morgan (Host): Girl. Oh, girls might know that brands. I know the boring brands, I know H&M.

Rachel (Interviewee): H&M! There you go! I don’t know why I just went, I didn’t go with that example anyway why not start like (laughs) But it doesn’t mean that I could start that business. But it just I didn’t know that I would mean and I’d know anything about manufacturing clothes. Just knowing how to run a business or start a business. But I wouldn’t ever pretend that I know just for my own bravado, or just to make myself feel better. I would want to learn. And I’d want to, if somebody tried to tell me that I’d be like, I wouldn’t be, “No, I know this, I know better than you. Because I’m the boss of this company” means nothing. It means nothing, ultimately at the end of the day. And I think— 

Morgan (Host): So did you use this opportunity to give him an education,? Say, it’s just impossible. 

Rachel (Interviewee): I said, I want to be in the next meeting when the client comes in. And I want to be here and I will make sure I’m in this meeting. If it’s not my invite, I will come into the meeting and introduce myself, and just sit down because I want to actually understand where this client is coming from rather than just hearing it from second hand. I want to actually understand what the client’s thought process was. 

Morgan (Host): There’s this additional risk factor of like the children’s game of broken telephone, as well, just like with you not communicating with the client, it just adds in this misunderstanding. 

Rachel (Interviewee):I think one of the biggest things in our job as PPC is, is not just being absolutely awesome at PPC, is communication. I mean, or if you’re somebody who is more data driven, and you have somebody who runs a team, but ultimately who has somebody in that team who knows if they has to be in that meeting with the client.

Morgan (Host):  Absolutely. The more steps you’re removed and the more confusion, always comes. Okay, so you force yourself into the next meeting. And did you attend the next meeting? 

Rachel (Interviewee): I do attend the next meeting. And it’s sort of like you know as all the niceties, like pussyfooting around each other, talking about things and just business in general. And then we got to sort of like the PPC section and I was basically like, “Help me understand. What is your ultimate goal for your PPC campaigns?” He’s like, “Well, make as much money as possible. Make me a millionaire overnight!” By the pound for every time I’d heard that phrase made me a millionaire overnight with PPC. Like if I could do that, do you think I’d be working in PPC? No. (laughs)

Morgan (Host): By the way, in Morgan land, when someone tells me, make me the American equivalent of the same phrase. To me, that flag itself is a little bit of a warning because it tells them they’re a bit naive. Because, you can’t make like, unless you win the lottery, like you can’t strategically make a million dollars overnight. It always requires focus, hard work, time, trade offs, clever strategy so it’s like, be realistic. Okay, but, by the way, the client wanted to make money at least makes more sense than just wanting to spend his ad budget. 

Rachel (Interviewee): And what I had, ultimately learned from that meeting was the client had said quite flippantly but also quite seriously. Well if you spend the money, you’ll get more money. So, what I think—

Morgan (Host): Hm-hmm. So the management fee was like, 5% of the ad spend or something. So as a result, if they spent more, you spent two more dollars, you get the 5% of the $2, that extra dime. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Exactly, and that’s when it clicked. I thought, That’s it, because the client wanted us to prove that we could spend the budget, as is. And then if there was room for growth, if there was room for more if we were missing out on budget, that he would, he was like, “Well, if you could spend that money and there’s room to spend another grand and you keep the results, then yeah, you can have it.” 

Morgan (Host): I see. I see. 

Rachel (Interviewee): And, what I’d figured out was that the manager was like dollar signs in his eyes, like, oh my god, so if I can prove that I can spend this money, and you know this, agreed budget that we cannot go over if I prove expend less he’s going to give us more money, and I’m going to get more management fee. But he’d lost his mind at the $2 more, because, obviously, he thought the client was going to kick off and he was going to have to reimburse somehow $2. I’d pay for it, I said. He was worried because it wasn’t sort of agreed adspend. 

Morgan (Host): I see.

Rachel (Interviewee): That he was so over protective about that. Because I think, ultimately, his fear was if somebody ever massively overspent, the company which they would be if it’s an agreed ad spend is liable to pay for that money. And even though it was such a small amount. 

Morgan (Host): I understand. 

Rachel (Interviewee): I think, even though it was such a small amount. He was like, oh, you know, this can’t– in you know, so he sort of lay a ton of bricks on me rather than being, rational about it. Because he thought, well it just shows that he didn’t have the respect in me. If he obviously thought that I was just going to spend money willy nilly— but that’s the British isms is it? Willy nilly. 

Morgan (Host): I know that one. (laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): (laughs) So I think if he showed me more respect and looked at the track history and the track record, it seems that you know that wasn’t a common thing. So… 

Morgan (Host): Yeah, him, not treating with respect is similar to the treating like a technician, not a professional. But this one that slightly went off is… There a few interesting lessons and consequences of that. In intelligent circles, there’s a concept called Target fixation, which is basically, you become so obsessed with some target, you just like, forget everything else that’s actually mattered. So it seems like your manager suffered from this like fixation on…

Rachel (Interviewee): That’s right.

Morgan (Host): Yeah, so, and it’s interesting because like sometimes people just do get really into, like you get some numbers, some goal, and it’s not necessarily bad, and it’s really hard to realize when you’re becoming too fixated on it. I wonder if there, in retrospective, is any strategy that could be done when people become so fixated on target, in order to bring them back to Earth.

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, be really interesting to know what that would be. Because sometimes, those people who are so fixated on those issues are the ones who won’t make time or can’t, won’t make time to actually learn. 

“I’m too busy for this, but that’s what I want and I’m obsessed with this figure and I will only check in on that number. Oh, can I talk to you about— No, I’m too busy, This is what I want.” It tends to be those kind of people who have those fixations. From my experience.

Morgan (Host): I agree. I’ll also point out, it’s interesting that he, being so fixated and just getting to this one number that he also flipped out earlier in the story when you went to pounds over the budget. Because, like, Oh my God, will be responsible for that. And that also shows me, he couldn’t come in. And not only that he failed in communicating with you. He also failed to communicate with the client. 

Because every single client in the entire universe, “Hey, we went to dollars over the budget this month. Can I buy you a cup of coffee instead?” Like, I’m 100% sure it’s like “No, no, no worries about that.” So there’s like multi communication breakdown going on there.

Rachel (Interviewee): Definitely. And I think the manager, sort of like presented it as if he was saving me from a bad experience because he painted this client to be like an absolute monster. That’s quite funny. Because the client was like insanely tall. He was like six foot five or something like he was so tall.Aand he was, I think he was a rugby player, he was really built. So, this story of him being so scary kind of like went quite well with his image. But when I met him, he was an absolute teddy bear. You know he was so nice when he was so you know. And he was one of these people who had like a really, really small dog, you’d expect him to have like pit bulls on both arms. But no they’d have a chihuahua or something. And he was just such a nice guy. And I’d been blocked from this person that, if you don’t do this correctly, we’re going to lose the contract. 

Obviously now I realized, he wanted it, been taking along for so long as a legacy client, but you want it to really start ramping things up, because it had investments or whatever. I’ve been blocked from this person. I mean it was made out to be some sort of absolute horro bag, but, he was amazing. And he was like, “ I’m so glad I’ve met you! I want to make sure that you’re in all of the meetings, because you know, I’m really value your input.” And me, smuggy, smuggy was like haha! (laughs)

Morgan (Host): That’s my favorite line. Me, smuggy, smuggy. (laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): Smuggy, smuggy. 

Morgan (Host): (laughs) Yeah. These are great lessons. One of the meta lessons is when they’re incompetent people in the middle, it just becomes really important to get to it to figure out how to get around them, to get right to the client or the person on the frontlines.

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, definitely. And I think something that I’ve learned from this experience and other experience,s is when I have those initial— I mean, I don’t work at the same place now— but I’m always involved in the meetings. And when I am speaking to the client, if they say something that even just you know, raises a little flag, I go, “Okay, stop. Let’s talk about this. Let me understand. Just making sure you understand where I’m coming from.” And there was a client, just example that followed up on this. He only wanted to spend 500 pounds a month and he said, “What do you think I’m going to get back?” I mean, I think every PPC hates forecasting, especially when there’s no data, historical data on the account. So I said, “You’re probably going to get, for that budget, maybe about five or six conversions a month?” And he was like, “Is that it?” Like, that’s a conversion rate of 4%. Like, that’s a quite high conversion rate. And he looked horrified. And I said, “Right, let’s break it down.” And when he realize he said, “Oh, yeah, actually, that is a high percentage of people who are then converting. Well, why don’t I give you 1500 pounds and then see if you know you can get some more.” That never happens, lights coming down from heaven, an angel coming out and you know, I was like, “You are my favorite client!” That because, I set these expectations and was realist and reeducated him that like, I know it sounds low, but also your average order value if one person converts most six inquiries that would pay your marketing throughout the year, obviously. He worked on flooring, like installation.

Morgan (Host): My favorite sales tool is education for exactly this reason, often they don’t understand. “Oh, I spend more, I can get more.”

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, exactly. You know, because if you double your budget, doesn’t always mean you’re gonna get double the inquiry straightaway, but it gives you more data that you can learn from, refine, you’ve got your machine learning, what then you know, start to learn more. It’s cheesy, but you do have to speculate to accumulate. You do, especially when there’s been no historical data before and you’re starting from scratch.

Morgan (Host): True. I also want to extract another lesson from the story about the boss and the client and what happened which is, this is also a good example of how agency incentives are different than the client incentives. Like your company makes more money because you can charge more, if more spent like this. But it’s not in your client’s best interest for you to be obsessing over exactly ending somewhere. And I think one of the general struggles of any complex and deep personal relationship is or professional relationship is figuring out how to make sure everyone’s incentives are fully aligned.

Rachel (Interviewee): Exactly. And the irony is, of all those months and weeks and days that I was in checking that budget, if I hadn’t been so in that account and my team member as well in that account, it would have been so much more profitable, if we were just allowed to do our own thing. The amount of time that we spent on it made actually, probably, after everything, that we were was unprofitable, like we’re negative. Because the amount of time that could have been put into the effort of new clients or bringing new class on board, growing other accounts. So that’s the ironic thing.

Morgan (Host): Isn’t it ironic? In previous podcasts I would forgotten Latin poetry but today I’m quoting like cheesy songs from the early 2000s.

Rachel (Interviewee): Amazing. It was the best time for music. I think.

Morgan (Host): The best time since the 70s. 80s. (laughs)

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah, got it. Yeah. (laughs)

Morgan (Host): Anyway, great story. I’m happy It ended happily. Once you got the middle end out of the way. Any other lessons that you want to share? Or things that you’ve learned from this experience?

Rachel (Interviewee): I think definitely for me is okay, that sounds probably quite cheesy. But know that you know your stuff. And there’s something that one of my bosses, when I first got into PPC, always would say to m  if I doubted myself was, you know more than the client. You know don’t use that as a weapon or an arrogant way. But believe in your— it’s so cheesy— but believe in yourself and you do know your stuff and don’t let anybody, who’s not a professional, try and tell you otherwise. But always learn from your colleagues as well. You know, cause everybody, especially with something like Google ads and digital marketing, good lord, you can log into analytics and certain things changed. And you have to google something. So just be adaptable and believe that you know your stuff and be willing to learn from other people.

Morgan (Host): I like this distinction between being hired as a technician, like the guy to follow orders guy or girl to follow orders, or the person who you want to give advice and follow. And if it’s the latter case, like you’re hired because you know more than the other person. If the other person knows more  then they will just hire someone to follow orders. So the way I like approaching to that same issue is to be super clear whether you’re being hired as the expert, professional, or as the technic as a technician wants to follow orders. Because often the two are linked and especially for somebody like in digital marketing, where we’re like, if you hire an architect, it’s less of an issue because oh we don’t want the building to collapse. I trust him. But in something like digital marketing, everyone has an opinion on what keyword to use, what ad text to use, even if they know nothing about it. Like everyone invents ad copy and they think they’re the professional. So…

Rachel (Interviewee): I’ve had clients go, oh, yeah, Google ads. That’s the thing with the quality score, isn’t it? Yeah. Tell me the formula for quality score. Umm… I don’t know.  Yeah, exactly. Back in your seat. (laughs)

Morgan (Host): These are great lessons and I think I have an opportunity to bring in some most almost forgotten in early modern poetry. I remind you of Alexander Pope saying, the highest criticism of those little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or not from the period spring. I always like to have like, a little learning’s. It’s interesting. So like, the sorts of clients, those sorts of bosses, like your boss, who knows a little bit like you know, it’s just enough to cause damage, but he didn’t drink deeply enough from the spring to really understand the subtle details of what happened. Like that’s, that’s the most dangerous situation of all. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Definitely, I don’t know if it’s a British phrase or like Jack of all trades, master of none.

Morgan (Host): In the US as well.

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah. So it’s kind of like, somebody who runs digital marketing agency thinks he knows paid social, thinks he knows SEO. He knows little snippets but you’re not an expert in any of them. You just know the right buzzwords to say every now and then to sort of like make the people, who don’t really know that, think that you’re a genius. 

Morgan (Host): Totally. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Then, if you put them in an ad campaign, they’d be like, ughhh! You know, that probably, I don’t know. Set the maximum bid like a grand and a million pound budget and wonder why this given them Google’s next Christmas party. (laughs)

Morgan (Host): Exactly. Disaster ensues. Okay, this has been good story. Lots of lessons and after a bunch of chatting online, happy to finally, not quite face to face, but zoom to zoom.

Rachel (Interviewee): Nice to zoom you.  (laughs)

Morgan (Host): Nice to zoom you. (laughs) 

Rachel (Interviewee): I promise never ever to say that again. Because as soon as it came out of my mouth, it just sounded so cringy, I’m so sorry. (laughs)

Morgan (Host): We’re definitely not going to edit it out. I’m going to keep it in.

Rachel (Interviewee): No! (laughs) Definitely got it out loud.

Morgan (Host): The New World Order is here now. So we need to just accept. Like this is the way of the future. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Just embrace it. Yeah.

Morgan (Host): Lucky you’re drinking gin, because you need to drink gin.

Rachel (Interviewee): This one now this— Isn’t this in my very classy Captain Jack Sparrow glass. This is my child’s class. That’s not gin now. Because I know the child will be— The children know. They’ve got this sense. So they go, Mommy’s had a gin. I’m going to get up at 5am. They know. So…

Morgan (Host): (laughs) The universe works in mysterious ways. 

Rachel (Interviewee): Yeah. (laughs)

Morgan (Host): Okay. It was fun talking. And everyone watching who made it to the end, I hope you enjoyed it and learned as much as we did. Thank you for watching. To be continued…


This transcription belongs to Episode #12, please watch the complete episode here!