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As a business owner, it’s critical to understand how your digital advertising budget is being spent. Determining the value behind your subscription costs will help you better understand the value you’re receiving from your marketing vendor.

Professional digital vendors will know that it takes technology, expertise, and a real investment to win the auction for new customers.

Here are a few questions you should be asking your digital vendor and answers you should be receiving.

1. ARE YOUR DIGITAL CAMPAIGNS TUNED FOR QUALITY OR QUANTITY?

Just like traditional media buys, some digital vendors will promise a set number of eyeballs, known as impressions, focusing on a quantity of clicks. But just like traditional media, buying digital media to reach a wide audience is the worst way to buy, "spraying and praying" your message to an unqualified audience.

Wrong answer: Quantity. We'll get you a million impressions (read: waste your money reaching a mass audience who aren't ready to buy).

Right answer: Quality. You want customers, so we tune our campaigns to reach high-intent customers. So we'll show your ads to purchase-ready customers who will click through to your website or call you. You must use more than one channel to get the best results.

2. HOW MANY LOCAL CUSTOMERS CAN I REACH ON GOOGLE WHO ARE SEARCHING FOR MY PRODUCTS AND SERVICES?

If 100 people search for ["your top product and brand"] each month in your local market, how many of these people will see your ad? This is measured by impression share, also known as share of voice.

Wrong answer: We won't or can't say (read: our campaigns reach 10-20% of people so we have to hide it).

Right answer: Our goal is to reach 70% or more potential buyers in your market each month. You and your competitors are each trying to grab the biggest slice of your local market's daily research for your products and services. By tracking your impression share metrics, you're keeping tabs on the size of your slice compared to the whole. The more often you show up high in the search results, the more awareness you’ll drive, and the more clicks you’ll receive from new customers who are ready to buy.

3. WILL YOU ASSIGN A NAMED DIGITAL MARKETING PROFESSIONAL TO WORK WITH ME WHO WILL BE AVAILABLE BY PHONE? HOW MANY CHANGES WILL YOU MAKE TO MY CAMPAIGN EVERY MONTH?

You've got a business to run, so you must have a digital professional who you can call to request changes to communicate how things are going in your store(s). Performance tuning is essential to keep you ahead of the competition, and getting not just more clicks but more customers calling and coming through your doors to buy.

Wrong answer: No account manager, or just use our website to sign up. We can't or won't say how many changes we make each month (read: we set and forget your campaign).

Right answer: Yes, you get a digital expert to work with you one-on-one to ensure success. We'll make anywhere from 500-2,000 proactive changes to your campaign every month to help you reach your sales goals with your digital campaign.

4. WHERE WILL MY ADS SHOW UP ON GOOGLE?

Just showing up in search results online isn't enough. Your ads must appear in the top 3 ad positions on Google at the top of the page where more than 85% of customers will click when they're ready to buy.

Wrong answer: At the top, we guarantee it! (Or worse, we don't know or won't tell you.)

Right answer: Our average ad position on campaigns like yours is 1.7, so your ads may appear in the top 2 consistently. No one can guarantee ad position, but we've tuned our campaigns to deliver a top ad position consistently.

5. WHAT'S YOUR AVERAGE COST PER CONVERSION, AND DID IT GO DOWN OR UP LAST YEAR?

Every digital ad click adds up into a total cost per conversion. If someone clicks your ads 10 times at a cost of $10 each before they take action to convert on your website or call you, your cost per conversion would be $100.

Wrong answer: We won't or can't say (read: we're not tracking it, or want to hide it)

Right answer: Our cost per customer is $30-$40 for a majority of our partners in your industry, and it went down last year. Our automotive clients spent 19% less per click in 2017, while our home goods clients saw their costs go down 8%.

6. WHAT IS THE AVERAGE QUALITY SCORE OF THE CAMPAIGNS FOR BUSINESSES LIKE MINE?

Vendors can obtain this information from Google AdWords. Each ad group will show a quality score, as described above, with 10 being the best, and 0 being the worst. The better your quality score, the less you'll pay per click and the higher your ad position on the page.

Wrong answer: “We can't say, but trust us, it’s good.” (This is an actual quote from a digital vendor!)

Right Answer: Our campaigns have an average quality score of 7-9. We can’t guarantee a high quality score, but we can put all the pieces in place to achieve a 7 or better, which will save you money and increase your results. A perfect 10 is nearly impossible to achieve. Let's take a look at your website to see where we can send customers when they click on your ads. We have landing pages we can install for your top brands, and you should set up a page for each type of product you sell. The better we tune up your website, the higher your quality score/ad rank will be, so you’ll pay less per click and show up in the coveted top 2 positions.

To wrap up, if you're buying (or thinking about) digital media in the same way you've purchased traditional media, you're doing it wrong. Whether a vendor charges 90% or 30% in fees to run your campaign, what matters is the results they deliver. If you set strong business goals and your digital campaign drives the right customers into the store who buy, that's what matters most to your bottom line.

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