During his work as a team leader in contextual advertising, I supervised over 30 people. I wanted to find a simple recipe for “successful success” for my team that would drastically increase team productivity. Of course, I didn’t find it. But I noticed one trend.
Soft skills are the foundation on which the knowledge and skills of a specialist are built. These are personal qualities that allow you to use skills to good use. More than technical knowledge is needed – with a well-organized workflow, there will be time for learning.
I have systematized my team management observations and will tell you how to become a professional in contextual advertising with the help of soft skills.
Why It Takes a Long Time to Become a Good PPC Specialist
On the way from the first acquaintance to a confident specialist in contextual advertising, it takes an average of 1.5-2 years. Many articles, video tutorials, and courses cover every aspect of the work of a context specialist. Why is the learning process so long?
It is necessary to operate with a huge amount of knowledge in different, albeit related, areas. These are paid traffic tools, web analytics, data analysis basics, marketing in general, business basics, and so on. Information quickly becomes outdated and becomes irrelevant. It is desirable to be aware of the latest trends (even what memes are relevant now) and the news agenda.
Knowing is not the same as knowing. You can watch endless video tutorials on driving a car and know how to drive it perfectly. But need to figure out how. Only a certain amount of time spent behind the wheel will give one driving skill.
Neither knowledge nor skills are of much use without certain personal qualities. For example, if a specialist cannot organize his workflow. Nobody wants the perfect ad campaign launched in the last hour of a promotion that needs to be advertised.
A cool specialist has:
- necessary and relevant knowledge;
- skills that enable the application of knowledge;
- personal qualities that allow the useful application of skills.
We use a questionnaire that affects the motivation system for newcomers and admission to certification for the position of Middle PPC. What we value:
- passion for project management;
- knowledge of technology;
- knowledge of analytics systems;
- analytical thinking;
- the ability to argue;
As you can see, only one point directly relates to paid traffic tools – knowledge of technology.
The components of the “coolness” of a specialist can also be divided into stages that he usually goes through in the process of his formation:
- seeks to know – learns;
- strives to be able – trains;
- seeks to understand – systematizes knowledge and skills.
In the first stage, the main skill of a specialist is the high-quality setting of a particular type of campaign. The third context specialist is a marketer whose main working tool is contextual advertising.
To go the way of a superhero as quickly as possible, start your development by pumping soft skills in parallel with the skills. With perseverance and the ability to argue, you will be able to conduct more tests and gain more experience.
Next, we will figure out what to do to build a reliable foundation for development.
How to learn to ask the right questions
Laziness and curiosity are the engines of progress. The basis of curiosity is the desire and ability to ask questions. The five whys method helps to build a logical chain for solving a problem.
For example, sales fell (problem).
1) Why did sales drop? Because we got less traffic.
2) Why? – Because the percentage of lost impressions by rating has increased.
3) Why? — Because the components of the Quality Score have the lowest values for the expected CTR.
4) Why? — Because the CTR is not optimized.
5) Why? (How to solve the problem) – It is necessary to optimize the CTR of ads.
This is a great tool to combat the cargo cult, which leads us into unpleasant situations: I tried so hard, but they were not satisfied with me for some reason.
The purpose of the five questions is to find the essence. That is an answer that does not contain links to another answer. Of course, with the proper level of tediousness, in each answer, you can find a link to another answer; in everything, you need to know the measure and be able to stop in time.
For example, to the question “how to become a better specialist,” you answered, “try harder.” The answer is not self-sufficient and contains links to other answers: how the quantity and quality of efforts are measured and what exactly needs to be done to achieve this “better try.” “run shopping campaigns for three projects to understand the nuances” is a more understandable task.
Asking questions to others is just as important as asking yourself:
- Difficult questions a newbie faces at work are not unique. With a high probability, experienced colleagues have already dealt with them. If a colleague could become more experienced, he would solve these issues. So you can too.
- An unblurred objective view of the situation makes it easier to cope with difficulties, even where no one from your environment could cope.
- Often, to understand the issue, it is enough to speak about it.
Here are a few tips to help you learn how to ask the right questions.
More likely to get an answer to a question posed to a particular person than to a crowd. With collective responsibility, everyone thinks that the responsibility is on someone else.
Use the algorithm: think about a solution – find information – think about a solution – ask. So you eliminate the fear of “everyone already knows this; I will look stupid.” If neither the first nor the sixth link in the Google search results conditionally answers the question, then the question is more relaxed.
Suggest your solution. Even if it is incorrect or unrealizable, on its basis, it will be possible to build a discussion and find a way out.
Look for a different time to ask a question. “I’ll write to him now, but he’s busy and will be angry with me; I’d better ask tomorrow morning.” Ask a question not out loud but electronically; you will be answered when convenient. People like to help and answer questions – this, at least, confirms their expertise.
Use the “no hello” method. Describe the essence of the issue, justify why this issue and its solution are important, and, if possible, add a solution (s) solution. The person asked will choose a convenient time and format for the answer (write, call, meet).
In general, get rid of the bad habit of thinking for other people. “I will ask, but they will refuse me,” “I will ask, and he will decide that I am stupid,” and other variations of the dialogues built in my head are a sure sign that you need to stop thinking and start doing. A direct question is better than an internal dialogue.
Remember, experience is not the number of years worked in a certain area but the number and complexity of the tasks solved (answers to questions found). A difficult task you spent a lot of time on has added experience to your piggy bank and will be solved much faster next time. If you stop facing questions that are difficult to answer, you stop evolving. So, look for new difficult questions.
How to understand why you go to work
At first glance, everything is immediately obvious and understandable. Everyone needs a job to buy food, develop themselves, and grow their careers, and that’s it. Applying the “five whys” method here, it turns out that after meeting basic needs, different people need money for different purposes – someone wants to travel, and another wants to build the bike of their dreams. It is not money that motivates us, but what we want to spend it on.
Bracketing out the basic needs (food, shelter, etc.), I focus on a classification that quite accurately coincides with the motives that I met most often with others:
- Power. But not in the stereotypical sense that identifies power with the “watchman syndrome.” People of this type are motivated by the opportunity to make decisions and the importance of these decisions.
- Involvement. It motivates the acquisition of new acquaintances and the benefits of social ties.
- Achievement or expertise. The most common type of motivation in the IT field. It ranges from “I’m cool because I figured it out” to “I’m cool because I’m a recognized expert in the field.”
The answer to the question “what is development?” has many options, from “number of countries that I visited” to “number of people in the hall who came to listen to me at the conference.” Is it possible to develop without knowing what exactly motivates me? It is possible, but it will be more difficult.
The more developed the sphere, the more segments it has. A contextual advertising specialist can be a contextual analyst, a specialist in promoting SAAS projects, or a contextual specialist who knows how to build teams for large projects.
As you grow, as in an RPG game, you can choose development branches. Choosing the right one is easier if you understand your motivation. Understanding motivation, it is also easier to cut off the excess in your work.
Old approaches no longer work, and new ones must be constantly sought. You need to constantly learn and understand new issues: how this tool works, why after a while it no longer works; why one mattress costs $150 and another $600; What is the difference between epilation and depilation. Not facing stress in our field is as likely as not working with Google Analytics.
The question “why do I need all this?” sooner or later will arise, and it is better to be ready for it, remember your motivation, and not hastily come up with a solution.
“I sat down and thought about what motivates me. I thought a little more… and nothing resonated with me. I don’t know what motivates me.”
This is a normal story. Rarely do you get it right on the first try? This process, though not very conscious, took me about three years. Try it to avoid wasting as much time as I did.
Try to organize some event, even if it will be in the circle of your close colleagues or friends. Try writing an article. This is the point where you can’t trust first impressions. Analyze what exactly you liked and what you didn’t and why. What to change to get less stress or eliminate it?
When I started teaching courses on contextual advertising, after the first lesson, this was a big mistake. By the third lesson, I even began to enjoy the process.
How to Become a Middle PPC Specialist: An Eyewitness Story
Of course, it happens that after reflection and after experiments on oneself, motivation is not located. And that’s okay too. Especially if the total work experience is not very much, in this case, you can relax and postpone this issue. For example, when I joined Netpeak five years ago, I could not have had the goal of becoming a team leader — there was no such position then. Keep developing. Climbing to the next peak, you may see your true goals from it.
An important safety rule. When asked what motivates you, you answer yourself first. Try to be as honest with yourself as possible. “Five whys” – I realized I needed neither a higher education diploma nor a car.
It is necessary to clean imposed not only goals but also irrelevant ones. If, in childhood, someone dreamed of working as a balloon seller in an amusement park, then at a conscious age, they are unlikely to be very upset that they did not become one.
Look around for new goals/opportunities and review those same goals. You may have been striving to become a cool analyst for a long time, but the context for medical topics drives you.
Praise yourself. If you consider only the conquest of the highest mountain as an achievement and do not pay attention to the conquest of the rest, burnout will come to you faster than a record ascent.
It can be difficult to do this because we see the success of others, but we know little about their failures. At the same time, we know our shortcomings and mistakes better than anyone. Therefore, compare only with yourself yesterday and remember to praise.
How to understand the real and expected value of your work
Whatever the motivation, it is good that it does not conflict with the employer’s expectations. Much better to follow a Western win-win or Japanese ikigai.
Compensation for work (be it a salary or recognition) is assessing other people and how useful we are. The abstract concept of “benefit” has many meanings, but in the end, it will come down to the company’s profit. The number of registrations that the marketer generates is converted into sales. Office cleanliness affects employee morale and is also converted into profit.
- Understand the benefits of the company you work for. And how do you personally influence it?
- Understand what benefits are expected of you. This can be a direct consequence when your bonus plan is tied to KPI, or an indirect one, when, under certain conditions, you can get a salary increase and/or a new position.
Once you understand what the company is useful to its customers and how you influence it, you will understand the personal benefit and how to influence its increase. Part of the components of the benefit can be calculated in numbers (KPI by the number of registrations). Others can be operated, by and large, intuitively – for example, increasing morale from a cozy office.
Learn to build logical chains from the tasks you do to the benefit.
A primitive example for an agency: new ad texts were written in advertising campaigns – the campaigns increased CTR – they got more traffic – they got more sales from more traffic – a satisfied client allocated a larger advertising budget, and the cost of services increased accordingly – the company received more money – the specialist received more money.
In reality, of course, it will be more difficult. But training will simplify this process to automatism.
It will become much easier to prioritize tasks immediately if you train yourself to highlight the benefits of tasks to automatism. We take a list of tasks and sort them by the number of benefits for 1 hour of work. No clear formula here will calculate this “benefit,” but trained by conscious experience, the neural network in your head will cope quite well.
Once you figure out the expected benefits, you will immediately find answers to many questions:
- why campaigns bring good results, but the client is still dissatisfied;
- why a good knowledge of context tools is not enough;
- why campaigns are set up correctly, but the client is not satisfied;
- and most importantly, how to synchronize my desires with what they want from me.
And if you still can’t find your motivation, it’s quite possible to focus on your company’s benefits and try to influence them.
How to study properly
The first rule of learning is that learning is forbidden! It is forbidden to do this in the usual sense of the process – to memorize information. This does not lead to positive results in work. On the contrary, it harms, creating chaos from a huge amount of information; it needs to be clarified how interconnected.
The second rule is to be prepared for the pit of suffering.
Getting into it is almost inevitable. At some point, it begins to seem that “I will never cope with this; there is too much information, and everyone around is smart and beautiful, but I’m not like that.”
A failed decision is to start “cramming” even more information into yourself. The correct decision is that your brain has given a bell that it has taken enough information, and now it needs to structure and sort it out. So take a break and do nothing. Indeed. Choose an activity that doesn’t require thinking: listen to music, take a walk, or watch a simple comedy. And then a wonderful “Damn, it’s so easy! How could I not understand this before?!” After all, did it happen?
First of all, we study what we need right now. Then – what will be needed tomorrow? And what, perhaps, will never come in handy – information for inspiration and broadening one’s horizons, but not training. Learn to determine the usefulness of information, then spend time studying it.
First of all, learn by hand. The skill will only appear once you do something several times (sometimes several dozen times). If there is no necessary task, make it for a non-existent project.
How to optimize your workflow
Curators teach newbies little about this and generally pay much less attention than they should. The ability to optimize your workflow is the desire to be less stressed and tired by doing more work.
There are two ways: spend more time (recycle) or do more volume per unit. By processing, you can increase the working time by 1.5 times. At the same time, the amount of work performed grows non-linearly. By adding 50% of working time, the work volume will increase by 30%.
Pretty quickly, with systematic processing, 150% of the time will already give less than 100% of the benefits. This option is applicable only occasionally in the case of emergency work. In the long run, it does more harm than good. Optimize the speed of work – so the efficiency will increase many times with a permanent effect.
Do not perceive work as integral: you start the working day and work all day long. Having understood, you will understand that your work consists of many processes. Some of these are interrelated – for example, a monthly plan for a project also depends on reporting. Some of the processes are independent tasks that do not directly affect each other. Learn to see processes in what you do.
Analyze task switching. Write down why it happens. Suppose you find that many switching occurs during the day and at the same time are not planned (you need to check your mail urgently, and suddenly there is something important there). In that case, you need to start fixing the workflow by optimizing and systematizing switching.
Disable all pop-up notifications. A typical scenario: a notification about a new letter arrived – they left to see what was there – you need to read it and think about whether my reaction is needed and, if so, how urgent. As a result, an urgent reaction, most likely, is not required, and from the moment they were distracted by the notification to the moment they dived back into the previous task, it took 15 to 30 minutes.
With an 8-hour working day and 7-10 switching from task to task, the switching process can take 2-3 hours. You can also speed up the work by grouping similar and small tasks into blocks (10-15 minutes to complete).
Optimize the number of information input sources. Ideally, the source of information should grab your attention if your response is needed. Only letters from people, not from services, get into the mail Inbox; everything else is filtered into the appropriate folders. Notifications for all unimportant chats are turned off in messengers.
Describe your workflow. First, list the tasks that take up the most time. The overall “workflow” needs to be broken down into components: planning, reporting, working with an account, analytics, etc. It will likely turn out that 60-80% of the time goes to the routine and the rest – to new or rarely recurring tasks. Pay attention to regular tasks that you have done for a long time.
Optimizing ten tasks that take 60% of the time will provide significantly more value than optimizing 30 tasks that take 15% of the time.
Ideally, build a flowchart out of the parts of the workflow. Each block is a separate process; each arrow is a conscious, planned switch.
Describe each process separately and analyze it. Think about whether the speed and quality of the process will change if its components are arranged in a certain sequence or if the usual sequence is changed.
Try to identify actions that you can not do at all. For example, do not write TK every time from scratch, but use templates. And how to spend less time on the rest without losing quality. Here, an abstract view of the task helps me – it’s easier to understand the algorithm by which, most likely, the task is performed unconsciously. And also to see ways how to improve this algorithm consciously.
Optimization is a task that cannot be completed. Over time, you will have new tasks and responsibilities; tasks that were difficult yesterday will become a familiar routine today. But with the second and subsequent approach, it will be necessary to correct what was previously done and not start everything from scratch.
Dive into the next level with each iteration.
- Determine that there is a “planning” process at work.
- “Planning” consists of collecting information from various sources/processing information / isolating tasks that need to be completed/determining the order of tasks.
- Prioritize – determine the importance and urgency of tasks, labor costs, and potential benefits.
In a nutshell, the formula for success is quite simple:
- Find what you like and sync it up with your expectations.
- Use a superweapon – ask, suggest, discuss.
- Optimize your workflow for maximum value.
Also, read Jedi Techniques. This is a super useful book; by implementing recommendations, tips, and tricks, you will get +1000 in soft skills. She also inspired me to develop my system of self-organization.
In reality, you will meet many nuances, options, and contradictions at every step. But dealing with them will be much easier once you build a foundation of soft skills and use a systematic approach.