Poor results? Terminate client-vendor relationship in 15 days: Rimm-Kaufman at SES

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CHICAGO - Panelists at the Search Engine Strategies Chicago Conference and Expo's "Business Issues for the SEM Shop" got down to business discussing fee structure, hiring and competitive differentials as big issues that affect the internal health of their shops.

Alan Rimm-Kaufman, founder and president of the Rimm-Kaufman Group, Charlottesville, VA, said that the best search engine marketing agency fee structure is pay per performance.

"What this means is that the client pays according to how well their campaign does," Mr. Rimm-Kaufman said.

This makes it very important to provide good services week in and week out, he said.

In addition, if a client is not seeing better results within 15 days, the marketer should terminate the contract and vice versa, because neither party will benefit from staying in the relationship.

Staffing was another business issue discussed.

"The search marketing industry is rapidly evolving and is highly competitive," said David Williams, chief strategist at 360i, Atlanta. "The industry faces challenges like significant turnover, rapid pay increase and changing technology."

It is hard to keep up, especially when there is no recognized industry training, he said. Firms should know why they are hiring, train their staff to interview effectively and put a strong hiring process and strict hiring criteria in place.

After hiring good staff it's important to keep them.

"Leave room in the budget for pay increases and even consider things such at stock incentives, 401(k) matching contributions and a good health plan," Mr. Williams said.

Candidates should have relevant experience depending on what the position entails.

Also look for background. For example, a person with a background in retail may be good for a retailer's search engine marketing campaign.

"Turnover can have a negative effect on client relationships and continuity," Mr. Williams said. "So try and do whatever it takes to keep employees happy."

Peter Hershberg, managing partner at Reprise Media, New York, talked about the fact that so many companies have now moved into the SEM space.

For example, Omniture, which at one point was strictly an analytics company, now provides SEM solutions as well.

"It is important to keep ahead of the game, as the competition keeps growing and growing," Mr. Hershberg said. "This can be done by focusing on emerging formats like video, audio, print and mobile."

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