The Story

By the time Cliff Smith had moved to Bloomington to start his new career in PPC, he already had lots of experience in the marketing industry. He started his career by selling radio ads for a local station in Denver, where he first learned how to sell. By no means was this a glamourous job, but he learned a lot about himself in those countless hours cold calling business owners, trying to set up a meeting to talk about radio ads. Selling radio ads, if nothing else, taught him how to sell himself and it taught him how to deal with failure…and boy, did he fail a lot when it came to selling radio ads.

While Cliff enjoyed helping small, local business owners, as well as the account management side of the radio business, he wished that he could have more insights into the actual impact of his work and the radio ads. One day, while discussing business with a client, Cliff heard of something called “Google AdWords”. The client stated that they were thinking of moving away from traditional advertising as they had recently seen much success from this alien thing called AdWords. Cliff tried to ask the client for more info about AdWords, but the client only sarcastically replied with, “Obviously, you’re not a golfer.” Cliff chuckled to himself and left. Selling radio had its moments.

Intrigued, Cliff did some research of his own into what exactly AdWords was. Like any good radio salesperson, he, at the very least, needed to understand what AdWords was in order to be able to talk about the pros and cons of it whenever a client brought it up. As he learned more and more, he began to realize that this was, more or less, a lot like any other form of advertising, only with a lot more insight into the performance of the ads and other interesting metrics. Cliff thought to himself, “Maybe this is just what I’ve been looking for from a marketing career!? Or not, no one really knows anything. It’s all pretty much meaningless.” Did I mention Cliff was a Nihilist? Sounds exhausting, right?

Fast forward to what used to be the present. Cliff had applied, interviewed and been hired by his dream PPC agency as a production associate. Thrilled, he moved to Bloomington to begin the next chapter of his life.

Cliff dove into his work with an energy and enthusiasm rare for most Nihilists, but Cliff was determined to become an expert in PPC as soon as possible. The first few months flew by and Cliff was eagerly learning new things on a daily basis. His head was fit to explode with all the new knowledge he had acquired!

It was a few months in that Cliff had become comfortable with his new job and was able to be productive and useful to those around him, as well as the agency as a whole. During one conversation, however, Cliff was trying to explain to a colleague, Maude, the issues he had been experiencing while supporting one of the agency’s larger accounts. “This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous”, said Cliff. Maude replied, “That’s the norm in this industry, dude. You need to be able to handle the constant shifts in this industry as it’s always changing and evolving. What you knew last week may no longer be relevant this week. That’s how it is. There’s hardly anything that isn’t complicated about PPC.”

Cliff took that to heart. He quickly realized that there are a lot of highs and lows that he had to deal with as an account manager. Another colleague of his, Walter, in passing conversation, put it this way, “One week you may feel like you know everything there is to know about PPC. Your accounts are performing well and meeting goals. You’ve made great strides in your relationships with clients, and yet, the next week it may feel as though you cannot figure out the simpler issues that arise in your accounts. Every account manager I’ve ever known has felt this way at some point. It really does help to keep everything in perspective, you know? While our job is incredibly important, no one is gonna die if we make a mistake, right?” It was after this comment that Cliff realized that he would be constantly cycling through these highs and lows so long as he remained in PPC…and he was ok with this.

Cliff thought to himself, “I’m glad that I have a lot of experience with failure and rejection from my radio days, otherwise it would be tough to keep a positive attitude every day! Thankfully, nothing matters in the-…” Cliff had just been bumped into by the agency President at Happy Hour, breaking his train of thought. “Careful man, there’s a beverage here!”, Cliff exclaimed.

The end.

The Moral of the Story

In my opinion, in order to be a successful account manager in digital marketing you need to do a couple things:

  • View failure in a different light, so to speak.
  • Be able to mentally and physically withstand the stresses that come with the highs and lows of being a PPC account manager.

When I say, “View failure in a different light…” I mean that you shouldn’t literally view every test as either a success or failure. That, in my opinion, is too black and white.

Account managers are always testing new tactics and theories. Of course, we hope every test succeeds, but it isn’t realistic to expect that. In my experience, most tests don’t outright succeed and most don’t outright fail. A good account manager can pick out valuable insights from a failed test and use that to make optimizations to the account and/or have new ideas to test. Even something as simple as, “Hey, this test didn’t lower our CPL across the board like we had hoped, but it did lower our cost per click. Ok, why did that happen? Oh, it happened because of this? Interesting I think we might be able to use that nugget of knowledge and start a new test elsewhere.” I know, it’s a very vague example, but the point is that you have to find the good within the bad, the successes within the failures, otherwise you’ll likely have a rough time as an account manager.

Lastly, I believe good account managers must be able to mentally and physically handle the stresses that come with the job (I know, this sounds obvious). “I’m afraid to test this new idea because I’m afraid it might not work and would be a waste of money.” Mentally, this thought can hinder us and hold us back as account managers. We, as account managers, need to be both confident and competent in what we do. If you can do that, while also being able to clearly explain your thought processes to your peers and clients, you’ll do just fine. I can promise you that.

Physically, stress can wear you down and make you sick. If you’re so stressed out by work that you have to call in sick every other week, you’re really only creating more stress for yourself and potentially even those around you. Everyone’s different, but I urge you to find whatever it is that helps you de-stress, whether it be ultimate frisbee, knitting, reading, making your own hot sauce, or bowling. Don’t go through life stressed all the time.

Sometimes you just need to forget about everything and just go bowling.

PPC mentality


If you hadn’t caught on yet, I littered this post with a ton of Big Lebowski quotes and references. It’s my favorite movie and it honestly changed my perspective on life (I read way too deep into the movie for a High School project). In some way, this movie helped me develop the attitude needed to be a successful account manager. In order to succeed as an account manager, you cannot be afraid to fail, and you need to be able to withstand the highs and the lows that come with the job. At the very least, I hope my advice helps any new account managers better acclimate to their new role. If you disagree…yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

Until next time, The Dude Abides.


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