(Last Updated On: September 22, 2021)

Digital Marketing is a vast function involving both paid and organic efforts. Your organic efforts pay high returns with little investments. Whereas your paid efforts deliver quick returns for a higher payment. It has never been a choice for a marketer.

Since Digital Marketing has been in existence for a lot more than a decade, it’s very likely that a lot of marketers are still following age-old practices and are worrying about not getting intended results. Are you one of them?

Let’s check it out.

Note: A lot can be said about both organic and paid part of digital marketing. In this article, let’s focus on only those indicators that tell you whether the way you’re handling the paid part of digital marketing (Digital Advertising) requires transformation.

If you are looking for transformation indicators of the organic part of digital marketing, you can find it here.

Let’s get started.

#1 Your campaigns are centered around media vehicles and not your audience

How do you typically start planning your media mix?

Do you start like this?

Google Search AdsX%
Google Display AdsY%
Facebook AdsZ%
Total100%

If your answer is yes, then you are seriously getting your advertising strategies wrong and need a digital marketing transformation.

But, why?

Because, this is completely against audience centricity as you have media vehicles at the center and not your audience.

As a result, instead of finding your audience where they are present across the internet and reaching out to them with your ads, you are restricting yourselves to finding your audience within these channels.

Audience vs Media Vehicle

What if your audiences are more active on channels other than Google and Facebook, say Snapchat or TikTok?

When you take a media vehicle centric approach, only you are responsible for hindering your own ability to find the right audience.

Finding the right audience is not the only challenge with this approach.

One. You are paying these media vehicles a lot more than you need to.

Let me explain why.

Just randomly pick a keyword that you have been regularly targeting in Google Ads over the last few years and plot a trend.

Similarly plot a trend for Facebook campaign CPC.

It’s very likely that you will see an upward trend.

Like ours.

CPC Trend

Why do you think you are paying more? Do you get an extended reach?

Definitely no. Because, you only pay for the clicks you receive.

You pay more because many marketers like you are insanely competing for the same keywords that you are bidding for.

You not only made Google richer, you also brought down your own Return on Advertising Spends (ROAS).

And if you keep competing for the same or similar keywords you are only going to lower your ROAS further.

Two. Your audiences don’t just engage with Facebook and Google alone. There are so many digital properties where they are active. For instance, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest etc.

Social Channels Stats

With the evolution of media vehicles, advertising formats have also evolved beyond text and image to videos and interactive shoppable ads and opened up opportunities for mobile, video and native advertising.

The above numbers clearly show that the audiences for your products and services are active on these media vehicles and are getting used to the latest ad formats.

If you are not planning your campaigns around your audience and not reaching them where they are present, you may not be able to meet your digital acquisition strategy and targets.

Actionable Recommendations

We understand you are addicted to the trivialized interfaces of Facebook and Google ads and also invest in Facebook advertising automation platforms to run automated campaigns.

But that doesn’t mean advertising on other platforms will be tough. Fortunately, there are so many advertising platforms (some native and some cross media) that can help you run campaigns. You can just pick a few and get started. If you are unsure how to start and run uniform digital channel management campaigns across the media channels where your audiences are present.

  1. Adobe Advertising
  2. Microsoft Advertising
  3. Adroll
  4. Inmobi
  5. Outbrain
  6. Taboola
  7. Spotify
  8. Pandora
  9. Quora

#2 You don’t go beyond clicks and conversions

Most marketers get happy, when they see their digital ads get clicks.

It’s ok to be happy that our ads get attention and also influenced a user to click on the ad.

But is that what we are aspiring for?

Certainly not!

Then what is the goal?

Conversions! You are right.

In the old days, we used to pay ad platforms for impressions. Then we evolved to a place where we paid for clicks and now we pay for for actions / conversions.

Types of campaigns

But, conversion is too global a term to be used.

And, not all conversions are same.

An e-com marketer sees conversion differently from bank, B2B or hospitality marketers.

What is conversion

Unfortunately, Google, Facebook and Instagram cannot fulfil the conversion needs of all the different kinds of marketers.

Of course, you may argue that “Shoppable Ads” help e-com marketers drive direct conversions by allowing people to shop directly from ads, at least in some countries.

Then, what about the conversion for an offline retailer doing online advertising?

The conversion should at least drive footfalls, leave alone buy a product.

Only then offline retailers will realize the power of digital advertising.

The point here is that, we must not assume that the role of digital ads are over after you got clicks / actions.

Even a bank marketer, who defines conversion as an event where a user applies for a financial product from the ad has more things to do even after his ads convert. Given below are some examples.

  1. Measure media progression from leads to customers, based on vehicle
  2. Measure media compliance / credit team rejection of applications, based on vehicle
  3. Identify profitable media and optimize the media mix.

So, if you are a marketer that thinks the role of digital advertising campaigns are over once your audience clicks on your ad and completes the form in your landing page, then you need a digital transformation strategy to measure the results and make continuous improvements to channelize the efforts into an optimal plan.

Actionable Recommendations

To extend your vision beyond clicks and conversion, this is what you need to do.

  1. Create a unique identifier for each lead generated by your ads.
  2. Mandatorily, map the advertising channel which they clicked and converted. Map the ad creative that the customer clicked on as well.
  3. Follow-up and nurture those leads and keep updating the progression. Once the lead converts into an actual customer or drops-off, move them into appropriate buckets along with the ad source and creative
  4. Once you get sufficient data that you can analyze, segregate ad channels and creative that drive actual conversions and those that result in drop-offs. Communicate this to your media planning and creative teams so they can optimize their efforts.5. You may also consider to buy digital transformation tools to automatically tag and track each ad campaign and its success.

#3 You ignore the power of influencers

We have seen how digital advertising has transformed the way advertising is done on televisions and print media.

Even within digital advertising, a lot of changes have happened over years. From display ads to search ads to programmatic ads to native ads to video ads to shoppable ads, there is a lot that you can do today in digital advertising.

Across the digital marketing space, one silent disruption is that of influencer marketing.

Influencer Marketing Growth

Source: Influencer Marketing Hub

Unlike other forms of digital advertising, the audience does not perceive influencer marketing as intrusive, although it is. In that sense, influencer marketing is unique.

Also, with more and more users installing ad blockers to stay away from ads, products endorsed by influencers reach audiences with certainty and they just consume it like just yet another post of the influencer, thereby making it very efficient.

Ad block

Source: EMarketer

However, influencer marketing has undergone a massive change in the last few years.

Unlike the old days where influencer marketing was restricted only to celebrities and experts, the rise of social media, especially Instagram and TikTok has completely disrupted this.

Today, you don’t need a Kim Kardashian or a Kendall Jenner to help you shoot up your sales through Influencer Marketing.

Instead, you can just hire an 18-year old with 100k followers on Instagram as your influencer. After all, being an influencer is a career choice for Gen Z.

Guess what? This shift benefits brands.

You don’t need to spend a lot on them. Instead of putting everything in one basket (influencer), you can hire multiple influencers and maximize your reach, engagement and conversion.

As long as it’s a win-win for you and the influencers, you can just set this as a BAU process.

Remember Influencer Marketing is being silently embraced by a lot of brands and its high time you buckled up and engaged, if you aren’t doing it already.

Influencer marketing isn’t theory. Thousands of brands are doing it and shooting up their sales and more importantly, consumers are influenced by these influencers.

Youtube Influencer

Source: Hub Research

Actionable Recommendations

Setting up influencer marketing for your brand is simple. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Identify influencers that are aligned to your business i.e.) they post content related to your domain
  2. Establish a relationship with them and freeze commercials
  3. Classify them into macro (500k – 1 Million followers), mid-tier (50k – 500k followers), micro (10k – 50k followers) and Nano influencers (1k – 10k followers)
  4. Split your available budget between multiple influencers so you get a wide reach
  5. Build content and share it with influencers to post on their social accounts
  6. Track efficacy of engagement and conversion and fine tune your influencer list

#4 You are underutilizing the targeting capabilities of your ad platforms

How far do you go about defining your audience, even if it is just for Facebook and Google campaigns?

Are you heuristically defining custom audiences or do you use pre-defined audiences?

If you heuristically define audiences for your campaigns, then you need to seriously consider transformation.

The reason?

Because, the advertising platforms of today offer hyper-targeting options.

Google Affinity

For instance, Google Ads gives you these types of audience-targeting options.

  1. Affinity Audiences: These are audiences that you can target based on their habits and interests.
  2. In-Market Audiences: These are the audiences that have shown purchase intent recently
  3. Remarketing Audiences: These are the audiences who have already interacted with your business
  4. Demographic Targeting: These are the audiences based on long term life facts (Age, gender etc.)
  5. Customer Match Targeting: These are existing customers in your CRM
  6. Similar Audiences: These are the audiences that exhibit behaviour patterns and interests similar to your website visitors and existing customers
  7. Life event Audiences: These are the audiences who are in the midst of specific life events such as marriage, child birth, retirement etc.

Google also offers a feature called “Dynamic Prospecting” that uses machine learning to predict which of your products and services will be needed by what audience.

Google checks for statistically significant relationships between your products, services and user intent which gets captured during intent searches. Once the relationship is established, ads about your products are shown to those users.

If you aren’t using this feature, you are certainly under-utilizing the capabilities offered by Google.

Facebook too offers the following types of targeting options.

  1. Core Audiences: These are the audiences that you can define based on location, demographics, interests, behaviours and connections.
  2. Custom Audiences: These are the audiences that already know your businesses - such as contact lists, app users and site visitors.
  3. Look-alike Audiences: These are the audiences that are similar to a source audience that you already know, such as your existing customers
facebook-ad targeting

It’s not just these two. There are Intent Monitoring platforms with access to people with intents towards various products and services. You can directly engage with them and start sourcing leads for your products and services.

When you engage with such platforms, you will be given a sample like this to show you just how many people with various intents they have access to.

S.NoCategoryIntent TaxonomyDescriptionCount
1AUTO_DODGEIntent > Auto > DodgePeople researching Dodge vehiclesXXXX
2AUTO_CHRYSLERIntent > Auto > ChryslerPeople researching Chrysler vehiclesXXXX
3CONSUMER_COMPUTER_LAPTOP_DESKTOPIntent > Consumer > Computer Laptop DesktopPeople researching for laptops and desktops through keywords related to reviewsXXXX
4CONSUMER_HOT_TUB_SPA_JACUZZIIntent > Consumer > Hot Tub Spa JacuzziPeople with intent for hot tubsXXXX
5FINANCE_BANKING_AUTO_LOANSIntent > Finance > Banking > Auto LoansPeople who are looking for an auto loan.XXXX
6HEALTHCARE_CONDITION_ARTHRITISIntent > Healthcare > Condition > ArthritisPeople with Arthritis who search for the drugs and treatments for it.XXXX
7INSURANCE_HOME_PROPERTYIntent > Insurance > Home PropertyPeople with intent to buy consumer home and property insuranceXXXX
8REAL_ESTATE_RESIDENTIALIntent > Real Estate > ResidentialPeople that are looking for residential real estate.XXXX
9TRAVEL_CRUISESIntent > Travel > CruisesPeople who have intent to find cruisesXXXX
10WEALTH_MANAGEMENT_RIASntent > Wealth Management > RIASPeople who are looking for a registered investment advisorXXXX

Isn’t this targeting of the highest level?

If you really want to reach the right audience, you should definitely consider to invest in digital transformation tools such as intent monitoring platforms.

And if your digital advertising campaigns don’t involve these, your online advertising definitely needs a digital transformation roadmap to target and reach the right audience.

Actionable Recommendations

The success of your campaigns are largely determined by how well you target your audience and how much your ad is aligned with your audience’s intent. Here are our recommendations on how to leverage the targeting features of ad platforms.

  1. Start with identifying the variables / fields that your advertising platforms give you to target
  2. Check whether you have those fields captured on your existing customers
  3. If you don’t, see how you can get this data. You could possibly run surveys and polls and incentivize your customers to participate and give you this information.
  4. Once you get this, develop segments within your customer base and create representative profiles based on the fields that ad platforms ask you to enter
  5. Create different ad groups where each ad group is dedicated to a segment and start running campaigns.
  6. Finally, don’t forget to leverage digital transformation platforms of intent monitoring services that offer help in reaching out to people with intent for your products and services.

#5 You don’t test your search ads

In today’s day and age, every marketer is obsessed with advanced digital marketing techniques like “Data Driven Marketing”.

But, do we really drive our marketing with data driven decisions on all marketing interventions, especially on search campaigns?

I’m sure some of you may be making such decisions on your portal.

But, do you test your ads at an individual level?

Have you ever done an A/B Testing in any one of your ad groups?

AB Testing

How many A/B Tests would have done so far in your entire account?

Even though Google released the feature to test search ads in Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), way back in 2017, it is very likely not many of the readers would have used this.

This indicates a need for transformation of your search marketing efforts.

Why? Because, you don’t know what variation of your ad copy will generate a better response than the others. And it’s very likely that you continue using ad copies that are not influential enough.

Hence, you end up spending more for lesser results.

We understand you have the following difficulties in running A/B Testing.

  1. You will have difficulty in generating unique ad copies to aid testing.
  2. You need to keep monitoring the performance (click through or conversion as the case may be) of each ad copy and then decide on which ad copy to use
  3. Doing this across multiple ad groups is definitely overwhelming.

However, A/B Testing of your search ads has its own benefits that outweigh efforts.

A/B Testing can help you increase Ad Strength, Quality Score and eventual click though rate.

So, is there a way for marketers like you to practically manage this beast?

Yes! “Responsive Search Ads” in the answer.

“Responsive Search Ads allow you to enter multiple unique headlines and descriptions, which Google Ads can use to assemble various combinations of ad units, test and serve the best performing ad variation to searchers”

Here is a glimpse of Xerago’s Responsive Search Ads.

Responsive Search Ads

The beauty about Responsive Search Ads is that, Google completely frees you from the operational aspects of manually conducting A/B tests.

All you need to do is just come up with variations of headlines and descriptions. Google takes care of the rest and ensures that the right variant of your ad is served to your audience.

In fact, Google goes a step ahead of A/B Testing and does Multi-Variate Testing and ensures a bang for your buck.

Now that you understand how easy it is to test your search ads, there is no reason why your ads run arbitrarily any longer.

Actionable Recommendations

Setting up Responsive Search Ads is a breeze. Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of headlines that you need to create. You can reuse items from your keyword list or keyword traffic research that you use for SEO.

  1. Create 8 to 10 unique headlines and 3 to 5 descriptions. Remember not to use the same or similar phrases. Add your popular keywords for better relevance. Breakdown headlines into smaller units
  2. Monitor your Ad Strength and make changes such that it becomes Good or Excellent
  3. While you can pin the headline that you want your audience to see, do it only if you are 100% certain that it will influence your audience to click your ad.

#6 Your digital campaign responses are below industry standards

This is as straight forward as it can get. If your digital advertising campaigns do not get the clicks and conversions as they should, this is a clear indication that you are not running your campaigns well and it needs transformation.

But, how do you know your campaign responses are good or bad?

There are some studies that give you the answers.

Blog3_new

Source: Wordstream

Your digital advertising campaigns are unique. Unlike marketing to your existing customers, you know little about your prospects.

  • You don’t have a relationship with them
  • You can’t identify them by name
  • You can’t profile them

Yet, you have to get their attention and make them respond to your campaigns.

And platforms like Google, Facebook and other advertising platforms offer you the sophistication to run your digital advertising campaigns.

In fact, they have trivialized the advertising processes such that even rookies can manage your campaigns, but only from an “operating the tool” perspective and not from the thinking behind running an ad campaign.

The truth is that audiences responding to your digital advertising campaigns is a function of lot of other parameters and operating the tool has no role there.

So, why is that your digital advertising campaign responses are lower than industry benchmarks?

Here are some of the top reasons.

Your media mix is not ideal

You may think your digital advertising efforts are very comprehensive as your media mix contains search ads, display ads and social ads. Some sophisticated marketers will even have mobile ads, video ads and native ads in the media mix.

But, how do you validate your media mix is right?

Just take a look at how much search ads contribute in your media mix. If it doesn’t cover at least 35-40%, then your media mix should be revisited.

Let’s see why.

Ad

Which of the two ads do you think will get maximum CTR?

The pretty picture ad gets a CTR of 0.46% and the boring text ad gets 3.17% CTR.

Source: Wordstream Google Ad Benchmarks, Updated July 17 2020

The above is just an illustration of Xerago’s ads and is a true representation of how text ads typically fare against display ads.

Why do you think the boring text ad gets more CTR? That’s because search ads are relevant and highly contextual vis-à-vis display ads.

The context is established by the search term currently used by the user. Whereas in display ads, even though audiences are plotted into segments, the intent of the users need not be current.

For instance, you might have searched the internet to find the best business laptop. Display advertising platforms would slot you as a potential laptop buyer and show you all kinds of business laptop ads.

However, even after you purchase the laptop either online or offline, you will still continue to see those laptop ads. Remember some marketer is paying the display network for each ad exposure.

Just put yourself in the shoes of that marketer and you will understand where you are going wrong.

And that’s exactly the reason why we say your media mix could be inappropriate resulting in poor responses.

You do not target the right audience

Unless you are absolutely clear about the type of audience that you want to target for your campaigns, you can’t expect good responses.

This is too good a factor to miss and has been covered in detail in point #4.

Also, another factor is your inability to reach a wider audience with potential responders as you manage your campaigns manually. Manual ad campaign management inhibits your ability to scale campaigns.

Manual ad campaign management is not a choice for a modern day marketer. Embrace implementation of advanced digital campaign platforms like programmatic advertising or subscribe to an enterprise advertising platform.

You are not re-targeting your audience (right)

Some of you may be wondering whether are there any marketers who do not leverage retargeting as it has been in existence for several years now. But the reality is that even though retargeting is an essential part of the basic digital marketing strategy it is still underutilized.

Retargeting

Source: InvespCRO

When you do not leverage retargeting in your digital advertising campaigns, you are losing out on the probability of maximizing responses.

There is another set of marketers that keep retargeting every visitor that visited their website. This isn’t going to improve responses. There is no point in delivering the same ad to visitors who accidentally land on your website and those with serious purchase intent.

As straight forward as it may get, the reality is that very few marketers do retargeting with an aligned creative strategy, customized to audience mind-set. As a result, their retargeting efforts don’t deliver intended responses.

Actionable Recommendations

We understand that agility is more important in marketing than accuracy. However, it cannot be at the cost of wasting media money. You need to find the point of intersection for agility and accuracy. And here is what you need to do to maximize ad responses.

  1. Study your existing customers and create personas along with their attributes.
  2. See how well you can replicate the persona based on the targeting criteria offered by your advertising platform
  3. Leverage pre-captured intents owned by third party platforms.
  4. Set up a clear retargeting strategy, accommodating your audience’s purchase cycle. Don’t just retarget them with ‘Buy Now’ call-to-actions
  5. Mix and match and find the right media mix. Always strive to skew your budgets towards search ads.

Summary

Although digital advertising is a large function, even the smallest change tends to yield the greatest of results. Most mistakes occur due to lack of application and not being concerned about keeping your digital advertising efforts contemporary.

Once you transform the way you go about planning your audience-centric campaigns and accurately define your target audience, based on data, you can be assured that the responses that you are likely to get will be phenomenal. By implementing other recommendations on an ongoing basis and working with experts of digital marketing transformation consulting, you can definitely see delta improvement on the efficiency of your digital advertising campaigns and the Returns of Ad Spends (ROAS) soaring high.

And remember your digital advertising efforts aren’t done once you get clicks or leads. The analysis that leads up to this and the application of those learnings is what separates pioneers and leaders from the others.