4 Pillars of Paid Media Growth

Paid media is straightforward. “Growth,” however, is very dependent upon the role you play in paid media, so let’s start by defining who these four pillars are intended for and what I mean by “growth.” 

My paid media experience is 100% agency-based. Naturally, my experience shapes my viewpoint and definition of growth. From the agency perspective, growth equals managing more marketing budget. It’s no secret, the easiest way to acquire more marketing budget is to produce incremental revenue for your client so your client puts more money towards marketing efforts. It’s a simple cycle, but there are a lot of factors that go into achieving better results. Companies don’t hire agencies to maintain the revenue/ROI they already have; they invest more money into marketing resources, like an agency, to produce more leads, purchases, market share, etc. My point? It’s essential for digital marketers to understand what key factors YOU can control

I also recognize PPC Hero readers include marketers who manage an agency relationship or in-house marketers who are part of an internal marketing team. If you fall into either of those categories, why keep reading? Well, if you have any level of paid media responsibility, especially if you present digital marketing results to a stakeholder, the following points will apply to you too. 

Pillar #1: Product Knowledge

Many believe mastering top platforms (Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) is the most important component of managing paid media, but it doesn’t matter how much platform expertise you have if you don’t first master the product/service you are attempting to market. I also think this is one of the biggest gaps agencies have when it comes to managing paid media. This is why the relationship with the client is so important and why “client obsessions” was part of my PPC training (#2 and #4 will cover this in more depth). 

In-house marketer, if your agency doesn’t understand your product, how can they advise budget allocation, funnel approach, target audiences, which platforms to run on, etc.? I’m not suggesting the outside entity (agency) needs to know just as much as the client contact, but you do need to understand the product if you are going to provide quality recommendations. 

I’ll give you an example. I work with a website security firm. This is a very complex industry; one that both myself and even my main client contact are often perplexed by. However, we both understand the basic differences between the products, thus allowing us to craft a strategy and execute campaigns that produce tangible results. Working together with their team to understand their product has given me the opportunity to ask for budget increases when it makes sense for their business. I share this brief example because I’m not an “expert” in their products, but I know enough to do my job. I also know when I need to leverage other people in their organization to translate paid media results to what they see on their backend. 

Pillar #2: Stakeholder Trust

Whether the stakeholder is your boss, a client contact, or the CMO, earning trust is paramount to paid media growth. 

6 key ways to earn trust:

Go above and beyond

Scenario: your client asks you to pull numbers for a presentation they have to deliver to the CMO. Don’t just pull the numbers. Format the numbers in a slide and call out key insights. You can’t do this every time, but pick key opportunities to deliver greater value than what may have been expected of you and you will instantly become a go-to person for your client.

Teach your stakeholders

Teaching has to be curated for each individual, but if you can grow your stakeholder’s marketing knowledge, they will see a new side of value to your relationship and see as more than someone who manages their paid media. 

Stand by your recommendations when you receive pushback 

When I first started managing my own accounts, lacking confidence was perhaps my biggest weakness. Lacking confidence doesn’t look good in any area of life, so stick to your recommendations and explain your reasoning. This will earn you more respect and trust.

Own up to your mistakes AND provide solutions 

Mistakes happen. I’ve overspent budgets, forgotten to pause promo ads, made ad copy typos, etc. However, have integrity and own up to the mistake, even if the client will never find out. If you handle the situation with poise and confidence, you will earn trust, not lose it. I also can’t stress how important it is to communicate the mistake along with the solution(s). If there are financial implications, do whatever it takes to make it right for the sake of integrity and a long-term relationship. 

Personal connections

Personal connections can really speed up the process of earning trust. Find something in common and lead your meetings in a way that aligns with your stakeholder’s personality. You don’t have to become BFFs, but you do want to show your client you are human and don’t see your relationship purely as a way to make more money.

Face to face meetings [bonus]

Yes, this is 2020 and I’m well aware COVID-19 has made face to face virtually [im]possible (see what I did there), but don’t underestimate the impact face to face interactions have on a business relationship, especially when you are attempting to scale paid media budgets. Do a quick Google search and you will find plenty of evidence. According to greatbusinessschools.org, “84% of people still say they prefer in-person meetings.” Because this research was conducted pre-global pandemic, I will be fascinated to see how the lack of in-person meetings in 2020 effects business relationships moving forward. 

Pillar #3: Strategy & Platform Adaptability  

You don’t have to be an expert in every technical area of every digital advertising platform, but you need to know how to employ each platform (search, social, programmatic) to achieve your marketing goals. You also need to be able to adapt when priorities shift and your current platforms aren’t achieving your goals. This pillar is truly a separate article so let me leave you with a two questions to ask yourself:

  • Where are the gaps in my strategy? Look at your funnel – do you have high ROAS but 1% net new customers year over year? Look at your competitors – are they successfully bidding on your branded keywords while you have no counterpunch? It’s imperative that your strategic approach is changing as new business needs arise or KPIs flatline. This leads us to the next question to ask yourself.
  • When was the last time I tested something new? If you or your client have only run search ads for 10 years, why haven’t display, social, video been tested? If you have run display via GDN for years without any return or minimal brand awareness results, test out native or YouTube ads. If you continually hear, “Andrew, I would love to test, but I get pushback every time I propose a test,” you need to have an honest conversation with your client/internal team to understand why there is resistance. It might be the case that you aren’t explaining the reasoning for the test or providing a framework for expected results.  

If you are just getting started in the industry, PPC Hero has thousands of resources for you to develop your skills. 

Pillar #4: Communication 

What you communicate is clearly important, but how you deliver the information is arguably just as important. I’ve already covered this to some degree, but let’s expand into a few specifics:

  • Deliver insights, not numbers. It’s very easy to get caught up in different KPIs, especially if your stakeholders are adept in paid media. Rather than listing out week over week or month over month performance, callout what your client needs to know and why CPA increased by 50%. 
  • Learn how to spot wins and opportunities for growth. This comes with experience, but when you get the opportunity to pitch growth, there is one practical step I’ve found to be a game changer — projections. 

It’s not difficult to pitch budget expansion and with platform tools available today, it’s also not difficult to project primary KPIs (impressions, clicks, conversions, CPA). Rather than telling your client we should increase search budget by x% and social budget by y%, use platform tools, historical data or industry benchmarks to project what impact the budget increase will have. This will also make it much easier to speak to your rationale. If your client has the budget to spend, it’s almost guaranteed they will say yes. If their marketing budget is strapped, that’s out of your control. 

  • Don’t shy away from communicating poor performance. As marketers, we can’t promise results, we can only put forth the best strategies and tactics. If your client is coming to you questioning why a campaign x performance has declined the last three months and you haven’t brought it up once, you’ve put yourself in a much more difficult spot. In other words, be proactive and focus on what has the highest impact on your account(s).   
  • Learn how to spot outside factors influencing performance you aren’t responsible for. I learned early on that managing paid media is often like being a politician — oftentimes, we get too much blame when things are going wrong and too much credit when performance is declining. So learn how to spot tracking discrepancies, poor landing pages, pricing changes, etc. and then communicate those issues and use the resources at your disposal to help resolve any issues. 

I don’t think anything I penned is revolutionary, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but I firmly believe if you can master these four pillars, which are mostly within your control, growth will follow. 


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