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4 things to beware of with Google’s Performance Max automated campaigns

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4 things to beware of with Google’s Performance Max automated campaigns

4 things to beware of with Googles Performance Max automated

With Google on its way to over $200b per year in ad revenues, companies that aren’t yet advertising online should think long and hard about why everyone else but them seems to be growing their business with Google Ads.

Perhaps they’ve tried and failed. Let’s face it: Especially in recent years, Google advertising has gotten increasingly automated, yet strangely also more complex with a multitude of campaign types, bidding strategies, and targeting options to choose from. 

In what appears to be an effort to simplify, Google recently introduced a new, streamlined, all-in-one automated-campaign type: Performance Max. This new campaign needs minimal setup and promises to run a company’s ads as appropriate across Google’s six primary advertising channels: Search, Maps, Display, Gmail, Discover and YouTube. 

But as with any automation, Performance Max shouldn’t be thought of as a set-it-and-forget-it campaign. After all, as we’ve established many times before, the best PPC results come from humans and automation working together. Or as Frederick Vallaeys put it in his first book, Digital Marketing in an AI World:

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What inputs does Performance Max use?

To get started with automated ads on Google, you need to provide:

  • Your marketing objectives and goals
  • Budget
  • Creative assets 
    • Text 
    • Images 
    • Video (optional, since this will auto-generate)
  • Geo-targets
  • Feeds (optional)
    • Google My Business
    • Google Merchant Center
    • Dynamic Ads feed
    • Business data feeds
  • Audience signals (optional)
    • First-party Audiences, including remarketing lists
    • Google Audiences, including custom audiences

From there, automation is off to the races and promises to show your ad when it expects to be able to get you a conversion.

Where do Performance Max ads run?

To find conversions that meet your stated objectives, Performance Max can, as appropriate, automatically serve your ad across its six channels: Search, Maps, Display, Gmail, Discover, and YouTube. Performance Max will replace Smart Shopping and Local campaigns but is intended to be a supplement rather than a replacement for the other campaign types like Search and Display.

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Image source: Google.com January 2022

For new advertisers, this is a big deal and significant simplification because the same possible coverage would have previously required creating a separate campaign for each channel. And for advertisers who are just getting started with Google Ads, they may not have the time, or necessary experience and skill, to set up each and every one of these campaigns correctly to drive success. Now, with only a single campaign to create, advertisers can start seeing immediate results and focus on optimizing those aspects of their campaigns that have the biggest upside potential.

What could go wrong?  

It’s important to understand what any automation’s capabilities and limitations are. If you overestimate an automation’s capabilities, and it fails to deliver, you really have only yourself to blame.

A good analogy is to self-driving cars’ five levels of automation, as defined by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) and National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration: 

What happens when a ‘self-driving’ car crashes?

As long ago as 1979, IBM put the prosecution’s case this way:

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Image source: https://samim.io/p/2022-01-24-a-computer-can-never-be-held-accountable-an-ibm-slid/

In Los Angeles, a driver is now being prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter for letting his “self-driving” car run a red light and killing two people in the process. The driver treated his car’s capabilities like a level 5 automation when in fact, it was just a level 2 automation or a driver-assistance feature.

Likewise, in PPC, Performance Max campaigns are not level 5 fully self-driving automation, but more like a level 2 or 3 assist feature. Performance Max handles a narrowly defined task quite well, but it lacks context to be able to do it fully alone.

It’s up to you, the human advertiser, to supply that context, which includes your ultimate business goals. As an account or campaign manager, you’re in the driver’s seat. Google automation can’t be held accountable when problems arise. 

So what can go wrong…

1. You give the automation incomplete goals. 

Think of automation in PPC as your newest team member. When a new person joins your team, whether they’re a hired consultant or a new full-timer, you’ve got to teach them about your business, like your goals and how you make money. If you share incomplete information, for example, by failing to specify that you don’t just want leads but rather leads that convert into sales, they will probably do a poor job.

It’s the same with PPC automation. For example, if you tell the automated Google Ads system that your goal is to get leads, it will probably get you lots of leads. But that wasn’t your real goal. You want leads that turn into customers. It’s critical to have a way to feed this and other goal-related data back to Google so they can deliver what you truly want.

Tools like Optmyzr can help advertisers create value rules to help steer Google automation to better quality conversions. 

2. You supply Google with poorly optimized feeds.

If you sell stuff, or you have multiple business locations, you can give this data to Google through one of their many structured data formats. In the case of products, this is a Google Merchant Feed. 

Google then uses the data from the feed to decide what searches are relevant to your offer and show what it deems the best image, title, and price in each ad. But if your feed contains incomplete data, or if your title text is poorly optimized, your ads will look and feel worse than your competitors’, and you’ll either get fewer or more expensive conversions.

While long-time PPC pros may stress the importance of keywords, bids, and creative, Performance Max lets you control almost none of this. In Fred Vallaeys’s just-published second book, Unlevel the Playing Field: The Biggest Mindshift in PPC History, he explains that modern PPC managers shouldn’t manage every detail but should rather know how to manage Google Ads on the periphery, where they interface with the automated system. 

Knowing how to optimize a feed is a great example of this. The feed connects to the ads system, where Google’s automation takes over and turns it into keywords, targeting, and the ads themselves. 

And if you want more control, PPC software can help turn your feed into keywords, ads, and campaigns from a template you control.  

3. You don’t leverage first-party data.

As privacy concerns mount, there’s a big shift away from third-party data in online advertising. That means that first-party data is gaining in importance. If you have a list of existing customers, feed that first-party data into your Google Ads campaigns to improve targeting. Yes, over time, Google AI could probably learn what type of audience would be best to target. But why let the system potentially waste thousands of dollars to learn what you could have told it right from the start?

And with more advanced PPC tools, you can bring virtually any first-party data into a rule engine to automate your PPC decision-making.

4. You fail to write “helpful” ad components.

If you’re used to advertising on social media and similar platforms, you may have gotten used to writing ads or posts that aim to be attention-getting above all. After all, when a user is rapidly swiping down their feed, the best way to stop them maybe with a controversial title or catchy image. 

Things are different and more complicated with Google Ads. People use Google to search for things they already know they need. If you can help them, there’s no need to stop them in their tracks. Instead, aim to answer their questions and assure them that yours is the best possible solution to their problem. How will you help them? That means including unique value propositions and clear calls to action in the ad text components that will then make up the various parts of your Responsive Search Ads (RSAs). 

For more great insights about how to create effective RSAs, take a look at Optmyzr’s 2021 RSA research and its RSA presentation at SMX Next.

So while Google makes it ever easier to run automatic PPC ads, the reality is that these campaigns will deliver far better results with your ongoing help and optimization. You can either do this work manually or get help from automations you manage and control, like those available in PPC-management software suites like Optmyzr

“Automation layering” is what we call automation you install that provides checks and balances to Google’s automation. This is automation you, the manager sitting in the driver’s seat, insert in the interface between you and the Google Ads system. To do this, you don’t need to spend inordinate amounts of time monitoring all the minutiae of the ad engine. Instead, use simple rules and scripts to do this work for you. You can then focus on the strategic elements that add the most value when you, the human driver, deploy them in the system.

Automation layering PPC software doesn’t have to cost a lot. Optmyzr recently introduced Optmyzr Lite, a free tier of service specifically designed for new Google advertisers with single-business ad budgets under $10k per month. Advertisers get access to a dashboard, reports, audits, and optimization suggestions different from and independent of those Google provides. It’s a great way to monitor and correct Google AI when it could use your help, as it inevitably will at times. 
Many advertisers say: don’t let the auctioneer tell you how or when to bid. Optmyzr Lite is a trustworthy third-party tool that can offer a different perspective on how to optimize your Google Ads account so that you can focus on growing your business.


About The Author

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Optmyzr’s PPC management platform provides intelligent optimization suggestions that help advertisers across the world manage their online advertising more effectively. Optmyzr connects with Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Amazon Ads, Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, Google Merchant Center, Google Sheets, and SA360. The company was founded by former Google AdWords executives. The Optmyzr PPC suite includes over 30 tools to improve Quality Score, manage manual and automated bids, find new keywords, A/B test ads, build new campaigns, manage placements, automate budgets, and automate reports. Optmyzr was named best PPC management software at the 2020 US, UK, and Global Search Awards.


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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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