Today I am truly lucky and honored to interview Sean Marshall, Senior Director of Client Services at PPC Associates. PPC Associates is Silicon Valley’s SEM Agency. They are awesome! A while back, I had the honor of interviewing their CEO and Co-Founder, David Rodnitzky. Today, I am so excited to interview Sean because his experience is truly exceptional. Joining PPC Associates as the 5th member of the client services team, Sean has enjoyed 3 years of success and is now part of a 50-member team. Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview:
Ian: Sean, thank you so much for interviewing with me. I know PPC Ian readers are going to be truly thrilled with this one.
Sean: Thanks for having me Ian.
Ian: You have built an exceptional career in paid search. How did you first get started?
Sean: I took kind of an odd route. I started my career in lead qualification with a company called Tippit in 2006 and quickly realized making 100+ calls a day wasn’t really for me. I ended up pivoting into a freelance recruiting role for them and the first position I helped them fill was that of SEM Manager. I liked the idea of recruiting as a way to explore the job landscape but half of my reqs were for SEM. The exposure to these PPC jobs and the folks we were recruiting got me thinking: hey, I should be doing that.
Ian: How has your career evolved over the years? How did you grow your career in online marketing?
Sean: Well, after getting snubbed by David at Mercantila (true story), I wound up at Webtrends working on their SEM tool. It was an account management gig but more of a hybrid services/tech/SEM role. It taught me a lot and I got exposure to all sorts of programs. In the meantime, I’d kept in touch with David and heard he was getting his agency off the ground. After about a 6 months of back and forth, he decided it was time to scale the operation and I jumped at the chance.
Ian: What’s it like at PPC Associates? What’s your favorite thing about working at PPC Associates?
Sean: I love to build things, break them, and then build them back up again. Working at PPCA gave me the chance to do that. We were a small scrappy team of 6 when I joined and no one really had agency experience. The company was founded by in-house marketers and combining that mindset with some agency experience was a winning formula. I was able to soak in all sorts of marketing knowledge, contribute things they didn’t know about and then teach it to a new wave of account managers after that.
Ian: You’re a leader at PPC Associates. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned about team leadership? Any recommendations for those just starting out in people management?
Sean: Everyone wants to get into management until they actually start managing… and realize how hard it is. The reason is pretty simple – managers put out fires. Now if your entire job is putting out fires, you should probably rethink your process but that doesn’t mean you won’t deal with tough situations. Having a thick skin and understanding that a large part of the job is managing problems and crises is key. The reward comes in creating and implementing solutions to drive continuous improvement.
Ian: What’s your favorite thing about online marketing? What part of the job do you enjoy the most?
Sean: I’’m definitely one of those guys that appreciates the quantifiable aspects of what we do. I’m a poker player and I need a way to keep score. Tracking and measurement are addicting. That said, I love that it’s still a people business. Sure you can bury your head in excel and AdWords editor but the crux of this is to understand audiences and, on the agency side, clients. The mix of math and people means things will be different every day and if you’re tired of one, you can retreat to the other any given day (just not everyday).
Ian: Any tips for PPC Ian readers looking to grow their career in online marketing?
Sean: Be patient and keep grinding. The internet never shuts off and the work never stops. You need to invest the time but make sure you’re being productive. Doing busy work just to say you worked 60 hours a week won’t accomplish anything. Take the same quantitative approach youdd bring to a marketing campaign to measure the impact your work has and use that to adjust where you spend your time.
Managing online programs can feel like running on treadmill so you need to find finish lines. If you can’t find ways to say “mission accomplished” for various projects, it just feels like you’re perpetually working and that will drive anyone crazy.
Ian: Any campaign optimization tips that are top-of-mind for you right now?
Sean: Attribution is definitely top of mind. We’re focused on an RFP of various attribution/tracking vendors to make sure we can offer clients the best of what’s out there. Each channel influences the other in different ways – not to mention cross device implications. Last click is dead!
Ian: Looking forward to 2013 and the future, how do you see online advertising evolving? What can smart professionals do to stay ahead of the curve?
Sean: Well if you listen to everyone out there, it’s mobile and social. They can’t be looked at in a vacuum though. Mobile commerce sucks and will never equal desktop commerce (now it might generate more traffic but the conversion issues wont magically fix themselves). Connect the dots to measure the true impact. Beyond that – I’d pay more attention to tablets than smart phones. Maybe I’m too fixated on usability but tablets (and eventually larger screened phones) will have a greater impact than people think.
Ian: Sean, thank you so much for the amazing interview. This has been a true pleasure. Any closing thoughts/advice for PPC Ian readers?
Sean: There’s a lot of great content out there – keep reading blogs like these!!
Ian: Thanks again, Sean! Wishing you and everyone at PPC Associates all the best, you guys are true leaders in our industry!
Image of Sean Marshall © Sean Marshall