Darwin taught us that “it’s not the strongest that survives; but the one that is able best to adapt”
As marketing evolves, we must evolve and adapt too. It seems at ever-increasing speeds!
What follows is a visual framework that I’ve created to help clarify my own thinking, help share my beliefs (vision!?) with the rest of the WebSavvy team & clients, and I’m hoping it’ll help you too – to think through how your role in marketing may change & how your business uses tools like Google Ads.
Note this framework can be applied to any marketing platform, but I’ll focus on using Google Ads here to aid with clarity (& because it’s the platform I know best after using it for 19 – gulp – years).
A 3-part framework for any marketing platform
As technology advances, so too do the marketing platforms our businesses depend on.
Google, Meta, Pinterest & others have never used more Machine Learning in their products. Our use of the platforms must therefore evolve in sync with these changes.
Systems have inputs & outputs, with the fun stuff happening between those two.
If we think of a marketing platform (eg Google Ads) as a system, the Input is your ‘Creative’, the output is your ‘Data’.
Let’s visualise that as 3 circles – the size of the circle represents the importance of each ‘thing’.
Historically, for Google Ads at least, this has tended to look like this for businesses
And like this for Agencies & digital marketing practitioners
Before we get into how the importance of these three inter-linked components is changing, let’s first define what we mean by each.
In this context I’m defining Creative as everything you feed into the platform.
Your ad copy & banner ads of course, but also your website, landing pages, videos on Youtube, even the offer itself.
Data is everything that comes ‘out’ of the platform that we use to optimise & measure the performance of our ad campaigns. Leads, sales, Google Analytics data, revenue etc.
Platform is where we build, manage & optimise the ad campaigns themselves.
What optimisation used to look like
Back in the day, before the Machines took over, the data would be used by us humans (marketers, designers etc) to decide which creative was ‘working’ & which wasn’t.
Informed by this we might have conversations like ‘the ads with black backgrounds out-perform those with white by 150%, do more of that”… or…
“The video with the ‘save now’ hook generates a better 90-day return, give me 3 variations of that”
The data informed the optimisation. The humans iterated the creative. We loaded it back to the machine. Rinse & repeat.
Now all the data is fed back directly to the Platform & the machine is making the decision in real-time about which ad to show to whom and how much to pay/bid for each individual impression.
Not to mention all the other data Google & the other platforms know about the person searching/clicking/viewing! Which is also being fed directly to the machine.
The impact of all this?
The feedback loop has gone from weeks to milliseconds.
Which means that little data circle is now at least as important as the creative & platform – if not more so!
The time to value Data is now.
Hopefully you’re nodding your head as you read – you already know this. You know that until you first convince the machine to show your ad (by feeding it the right data), your human prospect will never get a chance to even see the ad!
And yet.. Data is still so often an after-thought in most small & medium businesses.
That has to change.
In a world where the Machine decides which ads to show, the Machine decides the cost of each impressions & the Machine performs most of the optimisation… the quality of the Data fed to the machine has never mattered more!
So what can you do today? Ask the right Questions!
Great – you’re still reading. You agree data is important & vital to the success of your ad campaigns.
What can you actually do or check or change today to give you the best chance of beating your competitors in the ad auctions?
The single biggest thing you can do is ask the right questions of your data. AI & Machine Learning is going to get ever-better at giving you predictions.
Predictions are Answers. Faster, cheaper & more accurate answers than any human can. In Platform terms, those ‘answers’ are how much to bid for each ad click.
Your job as a human marketer is to ask the right question!
In Platform terms, you must set the ‘right’ target to hit your business goals.
And know how the outcomes that you care about (profit?) change, as those targets change.
For instance, if you ‘ask’ the Machine to give you a 15x ROAS on your Performance Max ads, it probably will (given enough time/money/data). However the volume of sales at that high level of profitability is likely to be low & total profits (while high per sale) will be low given the small number of transactions.
Ask for a 2x ROAS & you’ll get more sales than the team in the warehouse can handle.. But you’ll be losing money fast.
The goal is to set the ‘right’ target that optimises for what’s important to you & your business goals.
That might be maximising 90-day payback from ads, or maximising the number of break-even sales.
Your job is to experiment. Play with the machine. And get the best outcome.
Some other tactics you can roll out today…
Give the machine as much relevant data as possible.
If you have a Lead Generation website & ‘sales’ don’t happen for days or weeks after someone completes that form on your site. Make sure you’re using ‘offline conversion tracking’ to send additional data back to the ad platform about which leads were MQL, SQL & eventually confirmed sales.
This will guide the machine to not only get ‘more of the good & less of the bad’ leads, but also bid the right amount for them based on the outcomes you specify as being important to you.
Use platform-native conversion tracking rather than relying on Google Analytics. Neither is ‘accurate’, both sets of numbers need to be reviewed. But the platform will make its (real-time) decisions based on the data inside the platform. So ensuring that platform data is useful is a vital step.
While on the topic of Analytics, ensure you transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 asap if you haven’t already
The Future of Google Ads (& other platforms)
I see the importance of the ‘Platform’ decreasing over time.
As Google & others add more automation & AI to their systems, we’ll all be using the same black box to run our campaigns.
In this commoditized world, the quality of your Creative and of your Data will be the only thing differentiating you from your competitors.
Yes your offer, your website, your ad copy – it all matters. A lot.
If you don’t also prioritise collecting, cleaning, analysing & using your Data, then all that creative effort won’t matter, because the Machine won’t have the data it needs to know when to show your ads, to who, or for how much.
The quality of your data has never been more important.
The time to start is now.
Need help? Get in touch & let’s chat about how you can improve the use of data in your ad campaigns.