Moving Pieces: Thinking About PPC Strategy

By Lauren Rosner | @lkrosner | Sr. Project Manager at Hanapin Marketing |

Strategy. What is your strategy? As an agency, our team responds to that very question on a daily basis. How do we respond?

I remember my very first week working at Hanapin Marketing. I was working in a REDBOP group (for information on what REDBOP is, see “super awesome opportunity” in the dictionary and you will find information on Hanapin’s monthly PPC training program) and we were tasked with explaining to the rest of the team the differences between tactics and strategy. Easy peasy. Strategy = plan. Tactics = action.

definition of tactic

definition of strategy

Wait. So tactics are actions or strategy? And strategy is a plan of actions? Then if you have a group of tactical actions, that is a strategy, right?

Errr….ummmm….hmmmmm.

PPC Paradox

When looking at the educational and career backgrounds of PPCers, you will see they are as diverse as Jelly Belly flavors. But to be a good PPCer, there are some definite traits that come in handy. One of those traits falls under a heading Hanapin uses a lot–PPC Paradox.

Performs tactical objectives strategically.

In other words, be strategically tactical.

Strategy is more than a bundle of cultivated tactics. When we onboard a new client, we have a whole arsenal of tools to use and reports to run that help us understand the account better. It is easy for us to pat ourselves on the back and say “this is a good strategy for learning the account!” Pardon my language when I say: That ain’t no heckin’ strategy.

Running reports and analyzing data and adjust bids are all great tactics that can illuminate dark corners of the account that need a little love. We are good at it. We love it. But you want to know what else we are good at? Building a strategy that matters.

Nothing is more infuriating than to hand your precious account over to another human (or machine) and they regurgitate data and hit KPIs and call it a day. I want an answer to the question: so what?

Person 1: Here is a report! It shows how we are doing week over week.

Person 2: So what?

Person 1: We hit our conversion goal.

Person 2: So what?

Person 1: You said we needed to hit that goal. And here is how we did it. We did it! Look! See!

Person 2: So what?

Aside from being a broken record, Person 2 has a point. What does this all mean for the product/service/company? How does what we are doing in PPC driving performance in other channels? What are the trends telling us?

Unless you are working in-house or managing your own company’s PPC, chances are you don’t have direct access to marketing and sales data. This is where your curiosity and inquisitive nature come in to play.

Ask questions

I ask questions. I am not afraid of looking stupid or unknowledgeable or aloof. As a university freshman, I sat in a 200 level Geology course listening to Professor Soster talk about how levees are formed, raised my hand, and asked him to explain the lyrics to “American Pie” by Don McLean. I can’t make this stuff up.

My point is to ask. PPC data is only part of the story. KPIs are only part of the answer. Think bigger.

Here are some great questions to get you thinking about PPC’s role in the overall strategy:

  • What happens if you don’t reach your goals?
  • Do you consider yourselves leaders, challengers, niche?
  • How aware is the market of your solution?
  • What are the big changes happening in your industry?
  • What are the stops in your sales cycle?

Listen to the answers

From the moment we onboarded a certain client back in 2016, I heard them say “we have a long sales cycle.” I translated that into longer conversion and remarketing list windows. I heard. I did. Done.

Then, a few months ago, I was driving around town and the beloved Comedy Attic had a brand new LED Sign. A beautiful high-resolution digital sign manufactured by my client. I had a fangirl moment in my car upon recognizing my client’s name in small letters underneath the sign. Next call I had, I mentioned this moment to the client. I asked when that lead came in. The client looked up The Comedy Attic and divulged the sign was purchased in March 2018. The purchase came from a lead that came into the funnel in July 2016.

Holy bananas that is a long sales cycle. I knew this yet seeing and understanding the process in the wild helped me fully see what it all means. Good performance today means money in the bank 18 months from now. A bad quarter hangs around a lot longer. No moving on as soon as the new quarter begins.

My strategy of “Maintaining an average $65 CPA while growing 20% YoY” wasn’t good enough. I needed more detail. I had more detail. So I shifted some things around and created the following strategic beacon statement, my North Star:

“The sales cycle is an average of 9-12 months. When a qualified lead enters the funnel, the revenue generated from that lead is an unknown variable that will not be fully identified until several months into the cycle. In order to increase the probability of a PPC lead turning into a viable source of revenue we need to generate leads at a ratio of high ratio of sales quality leads to conversions (roughly 65%). We will continue to test new targeting in order to reach our 20% YoY growth goal at a reasonable average CPA in order to continually grow the account and keep the sales funnel full every month.”

Amazing what a little bit of asking questions and listening to the answer can do. By adjusting my strategy, I am adjusting my tactics. More conversions does not mean more sales. Quality matters. Quality puts food on the table.

Good PPCers know this. But it is super easy for us to get swallowed up in the tactics and forget why it matters.

So go forth and be strategically tactical and tactically strategic. Remember: a machine can pull levers all day long. A human knows why we need the levers pulled.

The Latest PPC Updates to Catapult Campaigns in 2019

In this webinar, Hanapin’s Kelly Pollock and Optmyzr’s Fred Vallaeys will point out which updates have made (and will make) a major impact on digital marketers, and what we should be preparing ourselves for as we fly into 2019.

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