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4 Pillars of Paid Media Growth

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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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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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