Andy & Bailey discuss online marketing strategies for generating and nurturing leads.
They start the conversation by talking about all the changes post iOS-14 and the privacy updates it introduced. Essentially, it’s a lot harder to track data and measure conversions, ROI, and other metrics.
Bailey: How has this changed marketing in terms of what marketers really need to be focused on? How has your agency navigated some of these changes?
Andy: The two big changes we’ve had are in targeting (the ability to get in front of people who have very specific interests), in that we know a little less about the person when we get in front of them, and reporting. So after we run our ads, attribution is a big issue. People are blocking different cookies, so we may be seeing results but it’s harder to tie them directly to a channel. It’s not as one-to-one as it used to be. There’s a gap there. We can see that you’ve made a purchase, but it’s more difficult to tell where it came from.
This is driving us back to first principles. We’re taking a step back, focusing more and more on an authentic customer relationship. From a technical standpoint, that means we’re focused on first-party data – email data. We’re no longer able to use these automated methods to say I want to get in front of these specific people. Now we’re going to focus on this email list that we already have, and let’s make sure we’re marketing to them, getting as many purchases from that group as possible, then feeding that data of who’s purchasing back into platforms like Google or Facebook and utilize that for targeting as opposed to some of the native targeting they have.
Bailey: I agree. It does come down to building authentic relationships and providing good content and value upfront to people. Doing marketing the right way. I also agree with the email list. My cousin once told me, “The money is in the list; the email list.” It’s by far the best marketing channel. So, when it comes to email marketing, how do you advise clients to leverage it? What are your go-tos for email marketing campaigns?
Andy: For an authentic brand that’s really building a strong relationship, with a number of customers who become an evangelizing fan base, this hasn’t had much of an effect. Taking a step back and looking at a brick-and-mortar store, when a customer comes in, you talk to them and get to know them and their wants and needs. They get to know you, the brand, and the special features of the product. That’s how we want to be using email, especially when you’re an e-commerce-focused business. We look at email to maintain that touch-point and that authentic relationship.
We want to have automated flows for when someone makes their first purchase, or when someone signs up for the list. That starts a drip campaign which not only helps to get the sales but also tells the story of your brand. Consumers are looking for more than a great-tasting food item or a beautiful fashion item. They want to know how it’s made, something about the founder, or even about the journey to get the product out there. There are other automated campaigns like ‘Abandoned Cart’ or ‘Win-Back’ flows.
The other side is that regular blast email. You don’t want to be too frequent with that, but you can oftentimes send more regularly than you think. You can highlight a new product that’s dropping, highlight a new sale that’s going on, or even just ask for customer feedback. Those can be some of the most effective emails in building that customer relationship and ultimately getting sales out of it.
In terms of leveraging that email list, both Google and Facebook will take that data. Even that can be automated. As soon as someone joins the list, we can feed that data back in and Google or Facebook will use that to essentially match it to existing customers or to ‘look-alike’ audiences.
Bailey: Another way people can look at this is that email is great for that entry-point offer. If you can get someone to subscribe and take advantage of your offer from there, it’s a much lower barrier to entry. Then use those email strategies you mentioned to build the relationship and continue to provide value. So it’s the email that really does the heavy lifting.
Since your agency specifically focuses on Google and PPC ads, what are your go-to campaigns that you set up for the different types of brands that you work with?
Andy: Google is our bread & butter. We tend to use that for all the clients we work for. We really focus on keeping things streamlined, keeping things simple. We do a few campaigns and a lot of Google’s automation. We try to have fewer keywords and rely on Google’s automation to maximize the conversion value out of the budget we set.
We also use Google’s Performance Max. That’s Google’s cross-channel targeting campaign. We’re going to upload videos, images, headlines, descriptions, and product feed bringing in the actual product data from the website. Then we let Google mix and match those and set up different campaigns across search, their shopping network, and even YouTube. What’s cool about that is there are a lot of different touchpoints. Google is targeting people at numerous points in their buying journey all while learning about this specific product, like which channel it sells best on. It’s a lot easier to manage too. You don’t have to guess at the ideal keyword someone is searching for. It allows Google to experiment and learn different things.
We will also typically use branded campaigns, like branded search. That’s where we’re putting a search ad up when someone’s searching for a specific keyword. It’s typically pretty cheap traffic because your website is going to be the best match when somebody’s searching for your product. It’s a defensive play to make sure nobody’s jumping in front of you and grabbing your customers.
The other thing we do is non-branded search, where you highlight a very specific product offering or a very specific promotion. That is where we’re picking out keywords.
Bailey: Why has your agency decided to go with Google ads especially working with PPC companies versus working with Facebook and Instagram ads? Using Google ads for e-commerce brands seems a little unorthodox in some ways. What drove that decision for you guys?
Andy: You’re right, it’s not necessarily the first thing people think of when they first come at it. We do run Facebook ads too, so it’s important to recognize that it’s not that one is better than the other. They’re different, and you want to be touching people at different points in the marketing funnel. It’s also different for different companies. If you have a product that’s difficult to describe, if it’s a valuable product that people don’t know they need yet, sometimes Facebook will perform a little better there because you can show up and educate the customer on what the problem even is before you show the product. But if someone knows they want something then Google ads will do better there because they’re searching for that particular product.
We’ve had a lot of success leveraging Google Shopping for e-commerce. Some of the iOS-14 changes seem to have impacted Facebook more than they have impacted Google. There’s room for both Google ads and Facebook ads. It’s all about getting started with one and experimenting, trying different strategies, and then playing the two off each other to what works best for your individual business.
Bailey: When it comes to the campaigns you’re running, how do you go about setting a budget and measuring KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)?
Andy: Looking at e-commerce, the primary KPI to focus on is ROAS (Return on Ad Spend). Essentially, here’s the revenue you generated from your ads, divided by what you spent. If it’s a 3x ROAS, that means for every dollar in ad spend you put up, you got $3 dollars in revenue. From there, we might start to get a little more complex based on whatever is most important for your business. You could focus on sales outside of your state, new customer acquisition, or the ROAS.
Before jumping in though, it’s important to decide what problem you’re trying to solve. Are you trying to get more customers at a particular level of profitability? Are you trying to get more purchases from new customers or from a specific geographic area? It’s different for each company and you need to be super clear on that before you jump in. Then you can translate that to KPIs and actually measure your results.
As far as budgets, we always suggest that whatever you think your regular budget is, make sure you start smaller and then ramp up from there. With both Facebook and Google ads, there’s a lot of automation and a big piece of that is feeding data back in. So, you run some ads, drove people to the website, some people made a purchase, and some people didn’t. We feed that data back into Facebook or Google ads and expect the model to learn and grow. So you don’t want to spend your full budget in the first couple of days while it’s still learning. It hasn’t figured out yet what the right mix is or who to target. It’s best to spend a little less as you go through that learning phase until you find that profitable mix, what searches are going to work for you, and what a reasonable ROAS is. From there you can scale up and see how many results we can get at that same acceptable ROAS figure.
On the opposite side of this, where it’s more of an art than a science, you need to spend enough that you’re getting some data back in there. From the Google side, we focus on 30-50 conversions or purchases in a given month. If my target ROAS is 3x and my average purchase is $100, and I need 30 of those purchases to feed enough data back into the model, you can figure out what your ad spend should be from that. But ultimately, the most important thing is what you are comfortable spending. Don’t overspend thinking you’re going to have these amazing results. Start with a number you’re comfortable with, knowing that you’re going through a learning phase and that the results will get better over the first couple of weeks and months. Then you can quickly make decisions based on what you’re seeing as results.
Bailey: One of the trickiest things is assessing where your company is along its marketing journey and what key things should you focus on to get to the next level and achieve the company’s goals. How do you advise your clients on how to do that?
Andy: The biggest things we noticed with our clients coming were overwhelmed and ads falling flat. There are a million things to try. Should I be running this or that? As a company, we tried to simplify what each company should be focusing on next and try to figure out why some are set up for immediate success while others still have some steps to do. This resulted in our Digital Marketing Maturity Assessment. You can come to our website and download this checklist where we walk through the four stages or levels of maturity; such as making sure your website is up-to-date and ready to maximize the traffic that’s coming to your site, making sure that you’re going to convert the traffic that you’re paying to send to the site. Make sure you’re collecting customer emails and then leveraging those emails. It’s a step-by-step checklist with a number of yes or no questions to help you understand what level you’re at. Based on that, we can determine a strategy that’s going to help you knock out everything you need to get done at that stage. It’s very different approaches, and very different strategies based on that stage.