PPC

PPC: When Conversions Are Not Everything

If you’ve spent any time running a marketing campaign, you understand that there are different stages a potential customer will pass through on their way to becoming an actual customer. Each of these stages is carefully crafted to move a customer along their buyer’s journey. In some cases, the use of pay-per-click advertising (PPC) can be used in this process. Yet, a lot of people still only view PPC as a one stage marketing strategy where the only acceptable results are instant sales.
A Broader View of PPC
Google understands that PPC can be used to achieve any number of results. This is best exemplified by all the different bidding strategies Google allows users to select from. Google offers multiple bid strategies all geared to achieving one of three primary goals: site traffic, user action, and brand awareness.
For example, you can attempt to outbid others for the top ad spot in hopes that more people will visit your site. This traffic will almost certainly result in an increase in brand awareness. To do this you might select an automated bid strategy like “Maximize Clicks.”
However, if you just want to make sure people are seeing your ads and your brand is “getting out there” you might care more about impressions. Google offers impression focused bid strategies for this goal.
What does this all mean? Well, it simply means that Google knows that a business owner might want more than conversions from their paid search ads.
A Piece of the Puzzle
Keeping in mind everything I’ve said to this point, you can imagine my dismay when I encounter business owner after business owner that insist on measuring the success of a PPC campaign by conversations and nothing else.
If your SEO work is used to get people to your site, and your offers are used to get leads, then why not view PPC as a part of the same pie? Maybe PPC can be used to boost the traffic of a site that is currently going through an SEO overhaul. Or perhaps you can use PPC to get company news in front of readers in a fast and efficient way. All of these things are possible thanks to Google’s bidding strategies.
Keeping brand awareness in mind, PPC is an excellent way to announce a rebrand. In fact, I have a client that is currently preparing to rebrand, and I’m excited to use PPC to speed up the process for them.
Conversions Do Matter
Ok, so now that you’ve had a chance to consider all the ways PPC can be used to get results other than sales, I want to make sure it is clear that PPC is still a great way to get sales… or at least for some, it can be great. One of my favorite bidding strategies for actions/conversions is “Target CPA” or “Target Cost Per Acquisition.”
If you sell shoes and usually make a lot of sales per day, then PPC is only going to help increase daily sales. If you sell giant machines and a good year for you is 20 large sales then don’t expect PPC to result in triple your sales, but it would be reasonable to expect more site traffic, more leads, and an increase in sales over the course of a year.
A PPC Plan
Hopefully, you are starting to feel better informed and are ready to reevaluate any existing PPC goals you might have. This could mean shifting focus to use PPC as a way to get people to sign up for a drip email marketing campaign, or it might mean doubling down on trying to increase sales instantly. Ultimately, the approach is up to you, but if you feel you need help or this all feels like it might be too complicated, don’t despair.

The ROI of Scalable Video Campaigns: What You Need to Know

200degrees / Pixabay
Want to maximize the ROI on your video campaigns? You need to focus on video scalability.
Video marketing is easily one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience, no matter what stage of the digital sales funnel they fall into. It’s easily shared, and short messages that are even thirty seconds or less can pack a powerful punch that makes you memorable while best showcasing the USPs of your product and your brand.
Advanced marketers know that video can yield high ROI and that a well-structured campaign can be worth its cost many times over in profit (direct or otherwise).
Not all video, however, is guaranteed to have that ROI, and there are some common mistakes that businesses are making that are driving costs up so much that it’s causing a big hit on the return that you can expect to see while eating into your profit margin. A lack of scalability is perhaps the biggest one.
In this post, we’re going to go over how to unlock your maximum potential with scalable campaigns.
The Costs That Traditionally Affect Video’s ROI
To truly understand why video at scale is beneficial, let’s take a look at the cost model for a single ad video creative.
Costs often associated with video creation and marketing include:

Hourly or time costs of your in-house marketing department while they work on strategy, video scripts, and promotion (and time is always money).
The costs of creating the video.
Costs involved in promoting the video, including paying influencers to share it or promoting it on PPC platforms for maximum visibility.
A few flopped experimental campaigns that lead to a successful one.

The costs of creating video content are really the biggest variable and can be the biggest detriment. Video campaigns, after all, generally involve big financial investments. Video filming and creation teams charge high fees to create a single video that might be powerful, but it can’t really be repurposed in any other way.
This is fine if you were to just need a single video to welcome users to your site or explain a product, a la an explainer video (which can cost anywhere from $5,000-10,000 per sixty-second video, if not more).
But almost all brands don’t just need a single video; they need multiple videos on an ongoing basis that they can both test and use to keep users engaged while creating relevant content. And even lower-cost videos coming from a professional team can cost around $1,000 per minute.
These costs are high, and that means the stakes are high, too. But marketing is never a sure-fire thing, and in many cases, concepts need to be tested and new content will always be needed. Since third-party companies can’t always deliver and even the best-planned campaigns sometimes flop with little explanation, there’s a huge risk for loss of profit in a big way.
Scalable video campaigns, though, mitigate the risk of lost ROI and actually increase its potential significantly, and more businesses need to be taking notice.
Why Scalable Video Content Is Key to Higher ROI
Coming up with video creative to uphold conventional methods and best practices come with unprecedented production cost. The more videos you produce, the higher the cost. We’re talking about multiple aspect ratios so you reach your audience across different placement, frequent posting so you don’t go forgotten, A/B testing and funnel segmentation for optimize results and, let’s not forget, personalizing video to decrease ad fatigue— all these come with unprecedented production cost.
You pay $2000 for a video campaign, and you get a single video. It’s a great video, but there’s a lot riding on it, and there’s not much you can do with it moving forward. You want another video, you drop another $2000.
Take the case of e-commerce companies. They usually spend a huge sum of money on ads to promote products or a collection of products. Usually, these are fast-moving products. So, imagine creating multiple videos for each of these collections. Not to mention, targeted or personalized ads campaign.
To personalize a video ad campaign, it will take time, money, and a ton of effort. Personalization is not easy, nor cheap, especially if you do it the traditional way.

In theory, scalable, adaptable content should mitigate skyrocketing costs. Say you have a good performing creative and want to reuse this to retarget other demographics? Or to promote another set of products or services? What if there’s a way to do exactly that?
Such campaigns are agile and adaptable, so you’re not only able to test more strategies and different types of content, but you can branch out and change things up as often as you want. Scalable video content often involves using perfect-for-you video templates that allow you to drag and drop images or video clips or both into them, customizing the text, and then seeing how well they run.
Then, all you need to do is hire a video team to come in and film for a single day, giving you a large number of short clips that you can rework as needed. Whether that includes adding your own voice-over narration to feature different messages to appeal to your segmented audiences, or it means swapping different product images in targeted ads, this is essential.
Your marketing team can handle these changes themselves, and you’re only paying a flat fee for the software instead of rolling out thousands every time you want to change something up. You’re still getting high-quality video, you’ll just be mixing and matching the clips you’ve got and adding in the extra context as needed. This will keep your costs down, but the agility and ability to create mass amounts of video content very quickly will drive sales up, netting your best ROI on video campaigns to date.
Conclusion
Scalable video is efficient and allows you to adapt to everything that comes your way, which is essential because your business, industry, audience, or marketplace can evolve in the blink of an eye. Video templates allow you to mass produce video content in a way that doesn’t feel mass produced, giving you the best of both worlds. Both immediately and long term, this will make it easier to increase your ROI while better connecting with more of your audience, which should always be an important factor in all business decisions.

Amazon Seller Fees You Need to Know About in 2019

Based on the most recent estimates, 197 million people shop on Amazon every single month. That’s mind-blowing, right? With this constant flow of traffic, it makes sense that more retailers choose to sign on as Amazon Sellers.
Getting started is simple enough: you create an account, choose a membership plan, then start listing and selling your products. In the rush to get started, it’s easy to overlook some of the Amazon seller fees that apply and not consider how they impact your bottom line.
Besides the two selling plans Amazon offers, there are a few additional selling fees to know about. We’ve put together this handy guide that breaks down all of the Amazon seller fees you’ll encounter so that you’re prepared before you start selling.
1. Basic Amazon plans
When you land on almost any marketplace page on Amazon, one of the first things you see is this call-to-action (CTA):

Notice the fine print under the CTA button? Amazon actually offers two selling plans for you to choose from: Professional and Individual. What you choose depends on your expected sales volume. For example, if you think you’ll sell 100 or more items a month, then the Professional selling plan is your best bet. This plan is a recurring subscription and costs $39.99 a month.
On the other hand, the Individual selling plan caters to smaller retailers that sell less than 40 items a month. It costs $0.99 per item sold. There isn’t a monthly fee with this plan, so it’s a good place to start if you’re new to ecommerce and not yet sure of your sales volume.
Both of these plans include additional selling fees that vary depending on the types of products you sell. We’ll get into what these fees are in a minute.
Comparing these two plans side by side, here’s a summary of what each one offers:

[Source]
What’s interesting to note is the Professional plan gives you access to reports and inventory tracking. Since you’re managing large, multiple bulk orders every month, it’s helpful to have insights into what types of products customers are buying and your inventory levels.
Since selling on the Professional plan means you’re shipping a lot of product every month, Amazon gives you more access to features that help you track and optimize your sales and promotional strategies. For example, the Professional plan gets you access to the Buy Box feature. This is the box that appears when customers add products to their cart:

[Source]
You compete with other retailers selling the same product in new condition. If you stand out to customers, then they’ll choose your product and boost your sales. You don’t have access to the Buy Box feature with the Individual plan.
Keep in mind that if you choose the Professional plan, you pay the monthly subscription fee regardless of whether or not you sell anything in a given month. So if you’re a business that thrives on seasonal sales, do a cost analysis to decide whether the Individual or Professional plan is right for you.
For example, let’s say you sell sporting equipment and sales spike in late spring and early winter. During these times, you might sell 300 items a month, which offsets the cost of the monthly subscription. However, if you only sell 30 items a month during seasonal lulls, it costs you more to maintain your subscription than it does to sell. With the Individual plan, you’d only pay $29.70 based on what you sold — 30 items sold x $0.99 per item fee — which is much lower than the $39.99 Amazon seller fee with the Professional plan.
Run the numbers based on your historical monthly sales to figure out which plan is the most cost-effective and gives you the features you need.
If you aren’t a seasonal business and start off with the Individual plan to test the waters, you can switch to the Professional plan if you start selling more than 40 items a month.
2. Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
The Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program was launched in 2006 and effectively set the ecommerce industry on fire. For the first time, sellers didn’t have to worry about the logistics and cost of storing and shipping their inventory. Sellers were able to leverage the experience and network of a large marketplace to help them manage this one aspect of their business.
For large retailers shipping hundreds or thousands of items across the U.S. and globally, it makes sense to use FBA to save on storage and fulfillment costs. For a fee, Amazon will store, pack, and ship products on your behalf. The cost of this feature varies based on factors like product weight and quantity.
With the growth of Amazon Prime 2-day free shipping, being able to send customers their products as quickly as possible is incredibly important and valuable to your business. It allows you to meet customer expectations, which is huge considering most of them say their decision to buy is based on how quickly products can ship.
Here’s a summary of FBA seller fees:

Additional FBA options
If you’re like 80% of Amazon sellers that also sell on other platforms — like you’re own ecommerce site — you might qualify to use Multi-Channel Fulfillment. So regardless of where you sell your products online, Amazon will store and ship your products for you. Here’s how much it costs to send standard-size products via standard, expedited, and priority shipping:

You also have the option to ship oversized products with standard, expedited, and priority shipping:

If you sell small products like jewelry or certain clothing, Amazon also offers an FBA Small and Light option. This allows you to save even more on shipping since it costs less to store, pack, and ship these items. To access this option, you have to sell qualifying products and enroll.
Here’s a summary of these FBA seller fees:

FBA Comparison Calculator
To figure out whether FBA is right for you, Amazon has an FBA Revenue Calculator to help you compare how much it costs you to fulfill your orders on your own vs. Amazon.
To get started, enter one of the 12 million products Amazon sells:

Then plug in fulfillment details and calculate the difference:

Part of the FBA fee also pays for Amazon to manage returns and customer support for you. This feature offers considerable cost- and time-savings for you since you don’t have to hire a larger support team or manage the cost of receiving returns and sending replacements.
Non-FBA shipping costs
Shipping costs vary depending on which base plan you choose. For example, if you choose to ship products on your own without FBA, regular Amazon shipping rates apply to books, music, videos, DVDs, software, and video games if you’re on the Professional plan.
If you’re on the Individual plan, Amazon shipping rates apply to all products and vary depending on the category. Based on which shipping option shoppers select at checkout, Amazon charges that back to you.

[Source]
In the shipping fee summary above, the first several rows pertain to sellers on the Professional plan while the last row pertains to sellers on the Individual plan. Again, the Professional plan offers more perks and flexibility than the Individual plan.
3. Advertising fees
With over 5 million marketplace sellers on Amazon, it’s possible to get drowned out by all of the competition for shoppers’ attention. One way to stand out and get noticed by more shoppers is to advertise. Luckily, with Amazon, you don’t have to leave the marketplace to drive traffic to your product pages. Amazon offers advertising services within its marketplace.
There are three main types of ads to choose from:

Sponsored Products
Sponsored Brands
Stores

These advertising options are only available to you if you’re on the Professional plan.
Sponsored Products
Use this ad format to promote specific products. For example, if you want to sell off excess inventory or boost sales for a new product, use Sponsored Products ads, so these products show up in search results as shoppers browse. The ‘Sponsored’ tag appears at the top of Sponsored Products listings.

These ads are similar to the pay-per-click (PPC) ads you see on Google — you only pay when shoppers click on your ads.
What’s great about Sponsored Products ads is you control the cost. You set the bid amount per click and can decide to increase it to attract more traffic or lower it to save money.
Sponsored Brands
Use Sponsored Brands ads if you’re new to Amazon and want to increase your brand exposure. Like Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands ads also appear in search results, but the difference is:

Your brand name is visible
Three of your products are displayed
You get to include a custom headline

When shoppers click on these types of ads, they’re taken to your product page where they can browse and find more items.
Ads are PPC, and you set your ad budget depending on how much exposure you want.
Stores
The majority of customers like to research before they buy something, so make it easy for them to find the information they need. One way to do that is with Stores ads. This ad format lets you promote products using a custom Amazon storefront:

What’s great about this option is creating a Store is free when you’re a vendor.
To get started, create multiple pages using Amazon’s drag-and-drop tool. Once complete, share your custom Amazon URL in all of your advertising campaigns — both on and off of Amazon. Use the Stores analytics feature to review traffic to your storefront, products clicked, sales made, and more.
Additional ad types
To diversify your ad strategy, there are an additional four types of ads to choose from:

Display ads – Advertise on or off of Amazon and drive traffic back to your product pages.
Custom ads – Meant to engage shoppers with innovative ads. Price depends on a consultation with an ad consultant.
Video ads – Take advantage of the power and influence of video to spread your brand message.
Amazon DSP – Short for ‘demand-side platform’ and lets you buy ad placement on and off of Amazon.

Pricing for all ad types — except custom ads — depends on the placement and formats you choose.
With so many options and flexible budgets, experiment with the different ad types to find the ones that help you increase exposure and sales. Split your ad budget across the types you choose until you find which ones are the best fit for your product types and audience.
4. Referral fees
For every product you sell on the Amazon marketplace, you have to pay a referral fee. This Amazon seller fee is for the attention the marketplace throws your way every day and the traffic being driven to your product pages. This amount varies by product category and ranges from 6% – 96% of the sale price.
Referral fees were adjusted in February 2019 and are as follows:

In addition to the referral fee, you also have to pay a variable closing fee of $1.80 for any products that are part of the media category. These products include:

Books
DVDs
Music
Software and computers
Video games
Videos
Video game consoles
Video game accessories

The variable closing fee is paid regardless of which selling plan you’re on: Professional or Individual.
Use Amazon seller fees to prepare
There are a lot of Amazon seller fees to consider. Now that you know what to expect, you can plan accordingly. What’s great about selling on Amazon is the amount of flexibility you have to create an experience that’s unique to you and engaging for shoppers.
From FBA to advertising fees, you can choose which features to use, which plan to start with, and more. The more you know about Amazon seller fees, the less likely there are to be surprises along the way.

Made a Mistake? Time for a Client Makegood

The best client makegood options: match client expectations to what you’re willing to do.
Every agency makes client-facing mistakes. What counts is what you do next.
When a client’s unhappy, you often need to offer a “makegood”—something to make up for your mistake.
But what to offer… and how much? The right choice fixes the problem… and the wrong choice makes things worse.
When choosing and calculating the makegood, consider that unhappy clients don’t always want a refund.
Your options include redoing the work, offering future credits, and (yes) issuing a full or partial refund. Today we’ll review some examples, and then I’ll share my tips to help you determine the right makegood for your agency.
Background: “Make Them Whole”
The idea is that when an agency damages a client, or otherwise leads to a client incurring a loss (whether financial, reputational, or otherwise), the agency now needs to “make up for” that loss.
For instance, if your employee did something that was damaging to one of your clients, your agency would owe the client something (at no additional charge) to fix / make up for that.
Why? Because your employee acted [badly] on behalf of your company, and the company is responsible (within reason) for his/her behavior.
At its extreme, this is the basis of “wrongful death” lawsuits—that the financial settlement “makes up for” the negligently or intentionally-caused death.
The problem is that sometimes clients expect makegoods when something wasn’t entirely your agency’s fault… or wasn’t your fault at all!
Challenge: Calculating Your Makegood Liability
In practice, there’s often some argument between the agency vs. client as to how much your agency is responsible for handling.
For instance, if the agency is working on a client’s website and the client’s in-house developer accidentally takes the site down… the agency can help fix it, but not for free. (That is, “proportional” makegoods are a thing… anywhere from 0% to 100%.)
This is definitely a “perception vs. reality” situation.

If your client feels like you “did your best,” they’re often less likely to pursue significant makegoods.
If your client is unhappy already—or feeling a cash crunch, doesn’t understand your efforts, or doesn’t recognize their potential role in the failure—they’re more likely to demand a 100% makegood… if not more than 100%.

Let’s look at a few agency examples, followed by how to choose and calculate your makegoods.
Agency Liability Examples
How much value do you owe your client as a makegood? From a legal perspective, your contract ideally addresses key points. But you responsibility extends to client satisfaction, too. In the three examples below, I’ll focus on the client retention aspects of the equation.
Example 1: PPC over-spend due to contractor negligence
Earlier this year, a client’s contractor forgot to pause an end-client’s AdWords budget. The PPC account over-spent by $4,000.
The contractor agreed to credit the agency by $4,000—because it was his mistake—and the agency meanwhile credited the client $4,000 on a related project.
The end-client was happy with the outcome—the campaign produced lots of leads—and appreciated the agency’s immediate transparency. The experience ultimately strengthened the agency-client relationship.
Sound familiar to your agency? See tips #1, 2, 7, 8, and 9 below!
Example 2: PPC over-spend due to breaking news
PPC over-spend makegoods don’t always go so positively.
In another case, an end-client didn’t warn the agency about pending legislation that was likely to increase demand for the end-client’s services. The law went through, leading to a huge spike in search traffic for the end-client’s core keywords.
By the time the agency’s monitoring tools caught the AdWords over-spend, the account had over-spent $20,000+ in a single day! But in this case, most of the traffic wasn’t from qualified leads.
The agency promised a makegood to the client, and called their Google sales rep—positing that Google’s internal budget controls should have prevented that kind of a surge.
The rep assured them Google would give a credit, and the agency relayed that to the client. But then the rep came back and said he could only credit ~$10,000 without getting approval by someone two levels above him… and the director had decided not to approve the full credit.
The Google director argued that the daily budget is an average over the period—not a true daily cap—and refused to follow the agency’s argument that the clicks were primarily unqualified.
Worse, the client disputed with the over-spend calculation, saying it was a ~$25K over-spend, not a $20K over-spend. (Unlike the first example, many of the breaking news ad click-throughs were not qualified leads.)
Now the agency was on hook for ~$15,000 in unreimbursed spend… on a $10K/month retainer.
The agency ultimately negotiated an in-the-middle settlement with the end-client, but the end-client—someone who was already hard to please anyway—still wasn’t happy, and they eventually terminated the agency.
Sound familiar to your agency? See tips #1-9 below!
Example 3: PR campaign fails to attract event signups
A coaching client was doing PR to promote a fundraising series for a non-profit. (The idea was to enlist companies to put on their own pop-up events, with proceeds to benefit the charity.) The agency warned the client about the risks involved, including a short timeline and shaky value proposition.
Result? A month into the engagement, no one wanted to sign up to host an event.
During a coaching call, we talked through her options. She ultimately opted to issue a partial refund and to host a fundraising event via the agency itself.
The non-profit client was satisfied, in part because the agency had managed their expectations beforehand about this being a stretch. And in retrospect, my client acknowledged that the agency probably shouldn’t have accepted the engagement in the first place.
Sound familiar to your agency? See tips #1, 4, 5, and 9 below!
Tips to Calculate Your Client Makegood
Calculating makegoods is both art and science. Why’s that? You likely have some baseline policies, but to echo Anna Karenina—each unhappy client is unhappy in their own way.
Here’s my advice on choosing and calculating your makegood:

What makegood or other compensation has the client requested? (If you don’t know, ask—sometimes it’s less than what you’d expect.)
How does that compare to what you’re willing to offer?
What’s the client’s sense of who’s to blame? (If they see a mixed situation, you have more flexibility than if they think it’s largely your agency’s fault.)
How does the client’s blame-assignment match reality, as far as you can understand?
How dependent is your agency’s future on this specific client relationship? (If you can afford to lose them, you have more options.)
What does the contract say? (This may be more or less strict than what everyone’s discussing.)
Do you have E&O insurance or other coverage to protect you? (If a contractor made a mistake, like the example above, they may be willing to take on a portion of the makegood.)
What’s been the overall trend of the client relationship? (Are they mostly happy, or generally unhappy? Has your team made mistakes with them before, or is this the first time?)
To what extent will a makegood actually satisfy the client? (Don’t be pigheaded… but if the makegood won’t really make things better, weigh whether it makes sense to proceed.)

Remember, I’m not a lawyer—so be sure to consult with your legal and insurance advisors as appropriate.
Question: How do you handle client makegoods at your agency?

New Google Ads Bidding & Conversion Options

Google recently announced at Google Marketing Live 2019 some changes to bidding and conversion controls for Google Ads. Many advertisers will welcome these changes as they provide a bit more flexibility and user control. The four main changes are briefly discussed below.
One of these changes just went live across all accounts. On June 6th, Google announced that all accounts now have the ability to set conversions at the campaign-level.
Campaign Level Conversions Settings
Previously, the ability to adjust conversions was limited to account level changes. If you wanted to exclude or include a particular conversion, it was done at the account level. That change happened for ALL campaigns in the account. Now, this control can be done at the campaign level.
As of June 6th, advertisers can now choose which conversions to include in the ‘Conversions’ column at the campaign level. This will allow you to analyze performance and optimize campaigns based on the most relevant conversion action types.
This new feature will come in handy for those accounts that have campaigns with different conversion types or goals.
Maximizing Conversion Value
This is a great new bidding feature that was only a matter of time. Currently, Google Ads offers a Maximize Conversions bidding option. This can help businesses who are looking for an increase in leads or sales. However, this bidding option only focuses on efficiency. For eCommerce advertisers, this can be an issue as Maximize Conversion bidding does not factor in value (sales revenue).
With this new value-focused bidding strategy, ecommerce advertisers have a new bidding tool that focuses on what is most important; sales revenue. If you are currently running Google Ads for your eCommerce business, you may want to test this out. For some of our clients who do not necessarily have a specific ROI (or ROAS target), we have tested this bidding option out. So far, the initial results are positive.
If you do have a specific ROAS target, then you may want to look into ROAS target bidding.
Seasonality Adjustments
PPC performance can drastically change during holiday shopping season and short-term periods of time when sales tend to spike. Although Google’s current Smart Bidding options do factor in seasonality, the demand for more flexibility has been strong among advertisers. Google has finally providing more controls over these periods of time with the introduction of seasonality adjustments. With these new bidding controls, you can schedule bid adjustment for a specific period of time. For example, if you expect sales to increase during your peak season or during a specific promotion, you can increase bids to take advantage of this spike.
Value Rules
This is an interesting new feature that some advertisers might find some value in (pun intented). For those businesses who don’t apply the same value to all conversions, these new value rules may come in handy. These rules will allow you to make distinctions between values for different characteristics like audiences, location and device.
Google has stated they will be rolling this feature out in the coming months.

New Google Ads Bidding & Conversion Options

Google recently announced at Google Marketing Live 2019 some changes to bidding and conversion controls for Google Ads. Many advertisers will welcome these changes as they provide a bit more flexibility and user control. The four main changes are briefly discussed below.
One of these changes just went live across all accounts. On June 6th, Google announced that all accounts now have the ability to set conversions at the campaign-level.
Campaign Level Conversions Settings
Previously, the ability to adjust conversions was limited to account level changes. If you wanted to exclude or include a particular conversion, it was done at the account level. That change happened for ALL campaigns in the account. Now, this control can be done at the campaign level.
As of June 6th, advertisers can now choose which conversions to include in the ‘Conversions’ column at the campaign level. This will allow you to analyze performance and optimize campaigns based on the most relevant conversion action types.
This new feature will come in handy for those accounts that have campaigns with different conversion types or goals.
Maximizing Conversion Value
This is a great new bidding feature that was only a matter of time. Currently, Google Ads offers a Maximize Conversions bidding option. This can help businesses who are looking for an increase in leads or sales. However, this bidding option only focuses on efficiency. For eCommerce advertisers, this can be an issue as Maximize Conversion bidding does not factor in value (sales revenue).
With this new value-focused bidding strategy, ecommerce advertisers have a new bidding tool that focuses on what is most important; sales revenue. If you are currently running Google Ads for your eCommerce business, you may want to test this out. For some of our clients who do not necessarily have a specific ROI (or ROAS target), we have tested this bidding option out. So far, the initial results are positive.
If you do have a specific ROAS target, then you may want to look into ROAS target bidding.
Seasonality Adjustments
PPC performance can drastically change during holiday shopping season and short-term periods of time when sales tend to spike. Although Google’s current Smart Bidding options do factor in seasonality, the demand for more flexibility has been strong among advertisers. Google has finally providing more controls over these periods of time with the introduction of seasonality adjustments. With these new bidding controls, you can schedule bid adjustment for a specific period of time. For example, if you expect sales to increase during your peak season or during a specific promotion, you can increase bids to take advantage of this spike.
Value Rules
This is an interesting new feature that some advertisers might find some value in (pun intented). For those businesses who don’t apply the same value to all conversions, these new value rules may come in handy. These rules will allow you to make distinctions between values for different characteristics like audiences, location and device.
Google has stated they will be rolling this feature out in the coming months.

PPC Advertising for B2B Organizations: Foundational Considerations

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for B2B can be a highly effective marketing tactic when done correctly. Adopting a PPC strategy has numerous benefits, but they can only be realized with the right strategic framework and careful execution. Getting started with PPC advertising doesn’t have to be an all-hands-on-deck project, but it does require planning and close monitoring to enable success.
Follow these fundamental PPC advertising considerations when getting your B2B organization started or to help audit your existing efforts.
Identify WHY you’re choosing PPC advertising
How do you envision PPC will support your overall marketing strategy? It’s important to articulate how PPC supports your marketing strategy before you ever begin the planning process. Thankfully, PPC can be leveraged to achieve a rather wide range of marketing and business objectives. For example, PPC advertising can bolster your lead generation efforts, raise brand awareness and boost revenue by supporting e-commerce. Let’s look deeper at applying PPC to support such objectives:
Lead generation – PPC is a good way to expose potential leads to information and content offerings that drive them through the sales funnel. Include compelling assets in your ads, and ensure that clicking on your ad brings leads to an engaging and relevant landing page with a streamlined web form.
Brand Awareness – If a goal for your PPC advertising is to increase brand awareness, consider creating display ads with visuals that will grab your audience’s attention and showcase your brand features. Using bright backgrounds and contrasting colors can help your ad stand out amidst busy webpages.
E-commerce Support – PPC advertising and successful e-commerce go hand-in-hand. According to Retail Dive, 87% of shoppers are starting their product searches on digital channels, while just 46% of shoppers still prefer to buy at an in-store location instead of online. Ultimately, PPC ads done right will increase visitors to your site and deliver desired engagement and purchases.
What buyer persona(s) are you targeting? Your company’s buyer personas will play a big role in how you set up your PPC advertising. Perform keyword research using Google’s free Keyword Planner tool to create a list of keywords your buyers might use when searching for products or services like yours. Identify high-priority keywords and phrases that you wish to display for when these keywords are searched. This list will also help guide you in the development of your ad copy and PPC landing pages.
A refined keyword list will also help you identify “negative keywords.” Negative keywords are used to keep your ads from showing to individuals that do not match your personas or that have a searcher “intent” that doesn’t align with what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you want to weed out those that are investigating employment at your company because they’re not likely going to be a customer, consider adding “jobs” and “careers” as negative keywords.
Start slow and test along the way
There’s nothing wrong with easing your way in as you launch your PPC campaigns, especially as you begin testing your ads and gathering keyword intelligence. If you jump into PPC without careful planning, you can spend much more money than you intended and get little return on your efforts. You need to continuously optimize and engage with your campaigns to improve your ROI, including testing your ads and landing pages to identify which are performing best with your target audience.
Here are two important metrics to track and strive to make improvements on:
Quality Score
Keep an eye on your keywords’ Quality Scores as it plays a critical role in ad performance and spend. The higher the Quality Score, the better your ads will perform at a lower cost per click. Quality Score is comprised of an expected click through rate, ad relevance and landing page experience. Your quality score may seem like a throw-away metric at first, but it can have a big impact on your ad performance and cost per click.
Ad Rank
When you bid on a keyword in Google AdWords, you are competing against other companies and ads that have money placed on the same keyword. The Quality Score of your ad will be applied as a multiplier to determine your Ad Rank against other keyword competitors. The higher your Ad Rank, the greater exposure your products/services will get from having a higher clickthrough rate opportunity.
For example:

As you can see, even if one company bids much lower than anyone else, if they have a higher Quality Score they can still win the top position for that particular keyword.
Measure results with conversion tracking
Earlier, we mentioned “conversions,” which are counted when a visitor completes a call-to-action that you’ve established. A conversion could be a purchase on your site, filling out a form in exchange for a white paper or demo request, or something simpler like viewing a key page on your site or watching a video. Conversions are a key metric to aim for as they should be considered the GOAL behind your PPC efforts. Your ads can be receiving hundreds of clicks per month, but if they are not leading to conversions you may want to test changes to your landing page to foster more conversions.
A common mistake that organizations make is not properly understanding and defining what conversions mean generally and what they mean for their organization in particular. They may represent any or all of the goals we described above, but in all cases the proper tracking mechanisms must be in place to give you key insights into your ROI and general PPC performance. See this AdWords Help page for more conversion tracking assistance and insights.
The devil is in the details
Be careful with settling for “default” settings in your campaign as they may not be the best option for what you’re trying to achieve. Remember, you want to make your PPC campaigns worth the time and money by generating high quality leads and conversions. One campaign setting to pay close attention to are automated bidding strategies. They may sound enticingly easy at first but could skimp you on reach and bid dollars.
Another crucial consideration is ensuring that you choose the right keyword match types for the keywords and phrases that you want your ads to show for. Let’s look at each match type in more depth:
Broad Match: Broad match is the default match type in Google AdWords and gives you the opportunity to reach the largest audience. This match type will show your ads on any searches that include your keyword, including misspellings of your keyword, synonyms for your keyword and other relevant searches. For example:
Keywords: B2B marketing strategy
Applicable searches: B2V marketing strategy, B2B markting (& yes, misspellings too), how to create a B2B marketing strategy
Broad Match Modifier: Broad match modifier can be thought of as a better “catch-all” option. Here, each of your keywords will have a plus sign in front of them (+keyword). Then, searches that include your +keywords, in any order, will show your ads. For example:
Keywords: +B2B, +marketing, +strategy
Applicable searches: B2B marketing strategy, marketing strategy for B2B organizations, how to do strategy for B2B marketing
Phrase Match: Phrase match will display your ads on any searches that match or contain your key phrase. However, the phrase must appear as is, in the order you dictate, and cannot have any words in between the keyword phrase. If you target a very specific audience and want to serve ads when they’re searching with a very specific intent, phrase match is a great approach. For example:
Keywords: “B2B marketing”
Applicable searches: B2B marketing best practices, strategies in B2B marketing, B2B marketing trends
NOT Applicable searches: B2B content marketing, B2B lead generation and marketing, marketing B2B
Performance will also vary depending on device type, times of the day, demographics, days of the week and other settings. When choosing these settings, keep your buyer personas that you are targeting at the top of your mind. These are details you will want to continuously test and re-calibrate for optimal PPC performance.
While these are not the only PPC advertising strategies you’ll need to consider for your B2B organization, think of them as a solid starting point. PPC advertising for B2B is a highly effective marketing tactic but realizing sustainable success from it requires a great deal of upfront planning, ongoing analysis and careful execution.

3 Reasons You Should Outsource Your Digital Marketing

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Regardless of the size of your business deciding who will handle your digital marketing needs is a standard question.
Digital Marketing encompasses the Social Media, Reputation Management, Email Marketing, Video Marketing, SEO, blogging, generally all online related marketing.
There are benefits to having someone in-house handle your digital and social marketing needs, but overall it may be a wiser decision to outsource.
Here are 3 reasons why outsourcing makes sense.
1. Outsourcing Makes Cents
Seriously though, outsourcing does save your business in the long run. Hiring staff usually requires a somewhat steep salary. The national average salary for a Digital Marketer is $60.414, and the average salary for a Digital Marketing Manager is $99,914. Not to mention the health benefits, vacation, sick pay, unemployment insurance, workers’ comp insurance, etc.
Not to mention the costs involved with advertising, print marketing, mailers, PPC, etc.
Outsourcing Digital Marketing with an experienced and reputable agency can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 monthly, depending on the level of services you need and the advertising you want to pursue.
Overall, outsourcing is much more budget friendly.
2. Higher Level of Expertise
Most small to mid-sized businesses are not able to appeal to the higher-level talent, which results in a more entry-level marketer.
However, agencies employ marketers who have devoted their careers to advancing their knowledge in the area of Digital Marketing as well as continually researching trends and changes.
Bottom-line, agencies offer higher-level, more experienced talent at a fraction of the price of a full-time Marketer.
3. Easier to Manage
Let’s face it, you are busy. You have a business to run, staff to manage, sales to make, you don’t have time to worry about the marketing strategy or the minutia of the daily management.
Outsourcing takes the marketing department out of the building and out of the way. Allowing you to focus on your responsibilities.
That said, it is important to keep an open line of communication with the outsourced team. Monthly or weekly meetings (either in-person or via phone) are necessary to make sure everyone is on the same page and goals are being met or worked toward.
Why Outsourcing is Best
Outsourcing will save you money and provide a more experienced marketing team that works when necessary and doesn’t waste your time or your money.
While each situation may have its own unique needs, outsourcing can help you determine what will work best and give you more bang for your buck.
Outsourced Marketers run your campaigns so you can run your business.

8 Low-Key Ways Ecommerce Brands are Using Competitor Insights to Spy on You

If you’ve every watched a sports movie, then you’re familiar with the scene where the underdog team watches video of the competition and freaks out a little because of how good they are. A seasoned coach might point out vulnerabilities in the competition, but by the end of the movie, the underdog team defeats the reigning champs and comes out on top.
There’s a reason scenes like these play out in almost every sports movie: Spying on the competition is the norm because it gives you insight into their strategies and helps you learn.
In ecommerce, part of doing business is keeping a close eye on what the competition is doing. This way you can

fill product gaps your competitors have overlooked;
upgrade your social media and advertising strategies;
update your website and content marketing strategy;
improve your pricing model; and
update your product selection.

There are obvious ways — such as low-key following of competitors on social media — that brands use to get their hands on competitor insights but there are also less obvious ways your competitors spy on you. Here’s a look at what these options are and how you, too, can use them to spy.
What are competitor insights?
Before we dive in, we should take a step back to explore what competitor insights are. Competitor insights are the data you collect on other businesses in your niche to identify strengths and weaknesses that you compare to your business. The insights help you understand how good or bad a job you’re doing compared with your competitors and help you identify what changes you need to make to stand out.
The process of collecting competitor insights includes four steps. These steps ensure that you get the information you need to add value to your products, store, and processes:

Figure out who your competitors are. Look for other stores that sell similar products, cater to the same audience, and are a similar size as you. If you’ve been selling home-decor items for a year, don’t compare yourself to Wayfair, which has been in business longer and has a large audience. Comparing yourself to brands that are further along than you gives you lots of good information, but there’s just no way for you to compete when the playing field isn’t even.
Decide what marketing pillars to focus on. When it comes to the 4P’s of marketing — product, price, promotion, and place — you don’t have to focus on gathering insights for all of these areas at once. Instead, track and analyze competitor insights in phases. For example, focus on product insights first and pricing afterward.
Create a strategy based on your findings. Once you have your competitive insights, create a strategy to incorporate them into your business. For example, if you find that many of your competitors offer more than one delivery option, test out different price points and features. Then, add the best options to your checkout flow.
Analyze the new strategy and compare to competitors again. Once you’ve incorporated the findings from your competitor insights into your businesses, reassess where you rank compared with your competitors. Are you getting more traffic now? Are your product reviews better than those of your competitors? Has your social media following grown?

This process allows for a structured approach to competitive insights. And now that we have a background of how insights work, let’s look at eight ways competitors spy on each other and how you can use each one.
1. Mention: In-depth competitive analysis
More people are spending time on social media. In fact, some estimates put the average daily time spent on social media at 2 hours. Over a lifetime, that’s roughly 5 years and 4 months spent scrolling through news feeds. Users research and buy products online, which gives you a chance to learn how they engage with brands.
A social listening tool like Mention shows you how competitive marketing campaigns perform. The data you get gives you ideas for how you can adjust your own campaigns to compete better. While you can focus your insights on social media, Mention also shares insights from across the web — including competitive ecommerce blogs, videos, and forums.
Mention lets you run competitive analyses for different social media platforms as well. For example, if a competitor launches a campaign on Facebook and Instagram, you’re notified.

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How to use Mention to gather competitive insights
From the dashboard, you can create custom reports that focus on key competitors in your niche. Use your findings to upgrade your social marketing strategy to compete. For example, if your competition shares user-generated content (UGC) on social media, go one step further and create a branded hashtag and launch a contest that gets customers to share images of themselves using your products. Remember, social proof gives your products an edge over the competition.
What’s also helpful is that you can use Mention to track keywords to identify new competitors. Once you’re aware of new competition, you can create new reports that show you how these brands use social media. You’ll see what’s working and where you can add extra value to your audience’s experience.
2. Google Alerts: Track competitor updates
Similar to using a social listening tool to track competitor campaigns, use Google Alerts to monitor content that includes mentions of your competitors from across the web — on blogs, in the news, in videos, in discussion forums, and more.
Google Alerts is a service offered through Google. It is free to use and is based on the keywords you track; it’ll send you regular updates with links to the content found. Google Alerts help you stay in the know on what’s new with your competitors. By combining the competitor insights you get from Google Alerts, you can uncover new opportunities to explore.
How to use Google Alerts to gather competitive insights
When you’ve identified who your direct competitors are, add their names to a new Google Alert list. For example, if you sell coffee online, your list might look something like this:

If you’re researching specific information, like competitor promotions and product updates, add additional words to your list. For example, you can add “competitor name + product updates,” or “competitor name + Instagram” to get specific information. All instances of where these keywords are mentioned in the same article will be sent to you for review and analysis:

In this example, online coffee sellers can check out what types of campaigns ReAnimator Coffee runs on Instagram and what types of engagement posts receive.
You can even set how often Google Alerts should show up in your inbox. One option is to set up Google Alerts to send you a notification roundup once a week so reviewing competitive data becomes a regular habit. Plus, with regular notifications, you’re less likely to miss competitor updates.
3. Adbeat: Competitive advertising insights
Advertising is a powerful way to reach as many people in your target audience as possible. The more you know about how your competitors are advertising, the better. Insight into your competitors’ advertising helps you target similar audiences, on similar platforms, with targeted messages.
Adbeat is a competitive intelligence tool for advertisers. You can compare an unlimited number of businesses in your niche and see information, such as the following:

Total ad spend. This information can be filtered by day, week, and month.
Ad spend per network. Networks like Google, Outbrain, and Taboola are sorted based on ad spend.
Publishers used. Includes sites your audience spends time on. For example, if you sell books online, you can see what ads appear on book-review websites.
Type of landing pages used. This can include lead forms, advertorials, videos.
Types of ads shared. This can include pay-per-click Google ads or display ads.
Types of images and content used. This includes examples of past and current ad designs.

All of this information helps you analyze competitive ads and find elements you can apply to your own campaigns. For example, if your competitors spend a lot on PPC ads every month, and they’re growing quickly, this might be an indication for you to experiment with your own PPC campaigns that target similar products and customers.
How to use Adbeat to gather competitive insights
From your list of competitors, add their web address into Adbeat and it’ll show you a summary of ad spend, networks used, and ad types.

You have the option to dig into the data further to see what ads have been sent and when; total spend; and publishers used.
4. MailCharts: Email marketing insights to increase sales
One of the hardest tasks in ecommerce, especially when you’re just starting out, is building an email list. An email list lets you nurture leads who have said they’re interested in the products you sell. By sharing content that lets you add value to the customer experience, you’re establishing yourself as a trusted adviser that customers can rely on. The more relevant information you share, the better the chances that customers will stick around and buy more products.
MailCharts lets you see what types of emails your competitors send so that you

have an idea of what types of content to share with your own email list;
have a starting point for testing different subject lines; and
have an idea of how often to email subscribers.

You can see in real time what campaigns are running and how they’re performing.

How to use MailCharts to gather competitive insights
Once you sign up, you can see email samples based on content type. If you want to improve your cart-abandonment emails, there’s a category for this, and it lists examples of related emails from other ecommerce brands.

Within your account, you can see data on the following for each campaign you review:

Subject lines
Email frequency
Email samples
Reports on email strategy
Drip-email campaign types

This is especially helpful if you’re creating a new email marketing strategy or you want to revamp your current one. Based on the types of emails your competitors send, you can see what your audience has become accustomed to and then tailor your campaigns accordingly. You can even look for opportunities to do things differently. For example, you might want to send more than one cart-abandonment email: one reminding customers of what’s in their cart, and another that includes a discount code if they don’t return to your store for more than a week.
5. SpyFu – Competitive keyword research
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a powerful process you can use to get your products in front of a large audience. You might have noticed that more ecommerce stores have a blog on their site. When used right, your blog can grow your audience, add value to the customer experience, and build brand awareness. Use it to share product updates, tips, and resources.
There are tools available to help you research your competitors’ SEO strategy — specifically their keyword use. This type of analysis exposes gaps and opportunities in the types of content competitors share. For example, you might find that customers who buy your electronics like to read content that focuses on tech resources and trends.
SpyFu is a platform designed to help you track the keywords your competitors use in Google AdWords, in paid advertising, and for organic Google searches. Based on the keywords you identify, you can check Google Analytics to see how your blog content ranks for these keywords and then come up with new ideas to target the same keywords as your competitors.
You can do a better job of optimizing your website and write content that ranks better than the competition’s and naturally attracts more traffic to your website.
How to use SpyFu to gather competitive insights
Enter the name of your competitor’s website into SpyFu and you will see not only how many keywords they rank for but also how many clicks they get, as well as paid keywords:

You’ll also see who your competitive brands compete with for these keywords. You might discover new competition or see that you rank better:

SEO takes time to increase traffic to your site, but SpyFu is a great tool to revisit regularly to track your progress against that of your competitors.
6. Ahrefs: Analyze content performance
There’s a lot of content on the web, which makes it harder to keep coming up with new ideas to maintain an active blog. Keyword research is just one way to grow your blog and attract readers. Another option is to take the content your competitors have already produced, see how they rank, and come up with new ways to outperform them.
For example, Vitasave sells vitamins online, and its blog focuses on recipes and nutritional information. To compete, you can share similar content but also include stats along with insights from medical professionals to make posts even more valuable.
Ahrefs is an SEO tool that lets users see what keywords competitive blog posts rank for, how often posts have been shared, and how much traffic each post gets. If we stick with the vitamin example, here’s a summary of the content you’d find in Ahrefs:

You can use this information to find opportunities to create new content that goes into more detail or gives a fresh new perspective.
How to use Ahrefs to gather competitive insights
Use the Content Explorer feature to enter a topic to see what content ranks for it. You’ll see a graph that highlights how many pages have been published over time. Keep in mind that not all of this data is from competitive sites; however, it does give you a good indication of how popular the topic is.

For popular keywords, think of perspectives that haven’t been discussed yet to attract fresh new interest and to compete with other ecommerce stores publishing similar articles.
7. Alexa: Competitive website analysis
Often, your website is one of the first places people find you online. Since the majority of shoppers research their purchases online before they buy, you want to make it easy for them to find you and browse your product pages. The easier it is for customers to find you and the types of products they’re looking for, the better their experience. Their search takes less time, and they can move through the sales funnel quicker.
Alexa is an SEO- and competitive-analysis tool that lets you do competitive website analysis to see how your website ranks for features like traffic, keywords, and backlinks compared with your competitors. You can even find other sites in your niche that are doing a good job of getting traffic. Research these sites to figure out what they do differently from you, and then customize the results for your site.
How to use Alexa to gather competitive insights
Using the Audience Overlap tool, find which sites your target audience visit, and review the types of content they’re reading. This might be blogs and product pages. The visualization feature lets you see which sites your audience visits and lets you explore information, such as backlinks and keywords, to figure out where audiences overlap and what you need to do to attract more traffic than your competition.

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8. Trust Pilot: Product reviews to enhance customer satisfaction
Product reviews offer a gold mine of information directly from customers. From positive experiences to negative ones, customers are willing to share. You can use customers’ willingness to share to learn more about what your competitors are doing well and where there’s an opportunity for you to outperform them.
A product-review site where comments are grouped together from across the web is a better option than looking for individual reviews on marketplaces where their competitors also sell products, like Amazon or eBay. This is time-consuming and makes it harder to spot trends. For example, you might identify an issue with fulfillment and shipping if customers complain about the high cost of shipping and late deliveries.
Trustpilot lets you see what types of reviews customers leave for your competitors to see. You can also see how many reviews are available and check the overall customer-satisfaction rating. These reviews can be used to find new opportunities to meet customer needs.
How to use Trustpilot to gather competitive insights
Simply enter the name of one of your competitors and Trustpilot will show you

how customers rate the seller — from bad to excellent;
how many reviews have been received; and
a list of reviews.

Also, many sellers take the time to respond to less-than-favorable reviews, so use their response to learn more. For example, competitors might mention improvements they’re making to their product. Take note of these so that you can keep ahead of customer expectations.
Use competitor insights to grow your business
The insights you find can be used to figure out what you’re doing well and where you need to improve. That way, you’re proactively looking for new ways to meet customer needs and outperform the competition. Make competitive analysis a regular part of how you run your business — after all, your competitors do. The more you know about your competition, the better your business becomes because you’re always adjusting.

Everything You Need to Ask When Choosing a Lead Generation Company

So you’ve decided to outsource lead generation, and you’re about to choose a marketing partner. This is probably one of the most important choices you’ll ever make as a marketer. So, how can you be sure you pick the right lead generation company?
The secret is knowing the right questions to ask a potential lead generation service provider and, more crucially, knowing what answers to look for.
That’s what I’ll share in this blog post. We’ll go over all the key questions you need to raise with a lead generation agency before signing the dotted line.
We’ll also talk about which responses indicate a good fit for your B2B lead generation program, and point out common red flags to watch out for.
The questions we’ll dive into below will help you uncover everything you need to take into account to make an informed choice based on:

Type of Lead Generation Company
Strategy and Process
Lead Qualification and Management
Tools and Technology
Experience and Reputation
People and Talent
Measuring Performance and Success
Project Terms and Specifics

Ready? Let’s dive right in.
Type of Lead Generation Company
Are you a major account or a small sale lead generation company?
The first clue to look for is exactly what type of B2B lead generation company you’re dealing with. You need to work with agencies that specialize in the kind of B2B products or services you’re selling. Based on this criterion, lead generation providers fall into two main categories:

Major Account Lead Generation: Agencies that focus on complex-sale B2B solutions with long sales cycles and multiple decision makers
Small Sale Lead Generation: Lead generation companies that help find potential customers for smaller purchases (typically having a $10,000 price tag or less) with shorter sales cycles and simple decision-making processes

Are you an inbound or outbound lead generation service provider?
If you’ve already identified which lead generation activities to farm out, then you’ll quickly know what kind of provider best suits you in terms of the lead generation approach they specialize in:

Inbound Lead Generation: Agencies that generate leads by creating content and carrying out “pull” marketing activities that attract prospects toward your website or online presence
Outbound Lead Generation: Agencies that rely on targeted outreach channels like email, phone calls, direct mail, PPC, etc. to generate leads

Today, it’s not uncommon to find agencies that offer multi-channel lead generation services. These providers combine both inbound and outbound lead generation tactics in a single campaign or process.
Services and Processes
How will you tailor your lead generation services to meet my goals?
Once you’ve decided between inbound and outbound lead generation, it can be difficult to select a specific provider, since agencies tend to offer similar services.
The key to choosing the best provider for you is to find out how well they can tailor their offerings to your exact needs:

Full-service vs. stand-alone package
Fully-managed vs. partly self-directed
Tiered packages vs. custom services
Additional services like lead management and lead nurturing

What do you think will be the tentative plan?
Although the actual planning doesn’t take place until after you’ve hired a lead generation agency, asking this question lets you get a feel for how they’ll eventually carry out your campaign.
Most reputable lead generation agencies can readily provide a clear outline of the process they follow. While they may not be able to come up with a concrete plan at this stage, they should be open and transparent about their approach even at a basic level.
Which stages of the funnel will be covered?
This is a crucial piece of information for companies that face a long and complex sales cycle. A good lead generation agency will clearly specify:

Whether they can work with your particular customer acquisition strategy
Which parts of the sales cycle they’ll handle
What steps you and the outsourced agency can take to maximize conversions from one stage to the next

Lead Qualification and Management
How and where do you get your leads?
The quality of leads and appointments starts at the time they’re first acquired as prospects and contacts.
There’s no shortage of lead generation companies that claim to have the “best” quality of leads, but a careful scrutiny of their lead sources will help you tell hype from fact:

Do they use third-party data sources?
Does the agency carry out its own prospect research?
How often do they update and clean their leads database?
What steps do they take to ensure data quality from lead capture forms?
How do they ensure targeted organic traffic or PPC impressions?

How are leads qualified?
As an extension of your marketing or sales team, the way a provider screens and filters prospects should align with how you qualify leads.
The best lead generation agencies will seamlessly integrate your lead qualification system into their process, taking into account your:

Ideal customer profile (ICP)
Buyer personas
Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs) definitions
Lead scoring model
List segmentation

Tools and Technology
What tools do you work with?
An experienced lead generation company will have a full set of tools and skill set to manage, automate, and optimize campaigns.
But how can you tell if a candidate agency has the right tech stack for modern lead generation? Look for these specific tools:

Lead verification tools
Analytics and reporting tools
Marketing automation platform
CRM tool
Email automation
Call tracking
Social media management
SEO and CRO tools
SEM analytics

How well does your tech stack meet our business requirements?
Having an impressive suite of lead generation tools won’t be of much value to you if it doesn’t readily fit into your marketing workflow or business process. That’s why you also need to ask a potential provider about:

Integration: Is the agency’s stack flexible enough so that their system easily syncs up with yours?
Industry-specific needs: Do the agency’s tools comply with industry requirements (like HIPAA, GDPR, etc.,)?

People and Talent
Who will be doing my campaign?
Today’s lead generation campaigns need the right mix of knowledge and skills to succeed. This is why any potential marketing partner should be very transparent about the people they’ll be assigning to carry out your campaign.
When evaluating an outsourced marketing agency, these are some of the key questions to ask in order to gain some insights on the talent you’ll be working with:

Will a dedicated team be handling my campaign?
What will be the roles of each campaign team member?
How much experience does the team have, both collectively and individually?
How much knowledge and familiarity does my team have about my product or service?

How will you fill a skills gap, if ever one arises?
In some cases, a potential lead generation company may not have the right internal people to carry out a specific campaign activity.
If this happens, either prior to the start of your project or any time while the campaign is running, the agency has a number of options to fill the gap. They can hire a new team member or work with a freelancer.
In either case, the company should be clear in explaining:

Recruitment and hiring practices
Onboarding and training
Performance management
Subcontracting

Experience and Reputation
What industry does your company specialize in?
We already know that different B2B industries and verticals face unique marketing challenges that can be overcome with the right experience and expertise. That’s why you need to choose a lead generation provider that specializes in your target buyers’ industry, right?
Not so fast! The answer you should be looking for has to be a little bit more nuanced.
On the one hand, you want a lead generation company that’s well versed in your desired industry because it lets you:

Shorten ramp-up time and accelerate campaign deployment
Reduce time and cost of product training
Improve the relevance of campaign messaging
Navigate the ins and outs of the decision-making process

But you also want a lead generation service provider that has experience across multiple industries and verticals. These agencies can give you fresh insights and out-of-the-box thinking gleaned from a broad portfolio of lead generation campaigns.
How much experience do you have?
For most B2B companies, lead generation typically falls outside their core business. Still, lead generation needs to be handled by an experienced and seasoned provider since it directly impacts revenue and growth.
Experience is measured in a number of ways, and you should see to it that a candidate lead generation partner sheds some light on all of these key experience metrics:

Years in business
Length of time working in your domain
Size of their client portfolio
Number of related campaigns or projects completed

Can you cite other clients and what you’ve done for them?
Finding out about overall experience is one thing, but uncovering specific results is even more important. The only way to determine if a lead generation agency can deliver what it promises is to take a close look at client feedback and campaign results.
These details can typically be found in client testimonials and case studies. The key information to look for includes:

Appointments booked
Leads completed
Contacts profiled
Percentage of leads accepted into pipeline
Percentage of appointments converted into customers
Lift in prospects/traffic and leads generated

What is your reputation in the industry?
Another crucial piece of information to ask from a potential lead generation partner is how well they stack up against others in the industry. The best way to find this out is to ask a candidate provider to point to feedback from third-party sources such as:

Rankings on lead generation providers lists
Reviews from independent, third-party sources
Awards and recognition from industry groups

Be sure to do your due diligence on the reliability of these sources, and don’t take anything at face value without doing a little digging up.

Measuring Performance and Success
What will be the overall KPIs of the campaign?
Lead counts aren’t the only headline metrics to keep an eye on in a lead generation campaign. Depending on the scope of the project, the overall campaign KPIs can include:

Sales appointments scheduled
Leads completed
Net new prospects
Event attendees/registrations
Contacts/Records verified

The important thing is to ask a potential lead generation partner about broad measures of success for your campaign, and determining how these fit into your overall marketing or sales objectives.
What will be the KPIs for each campaign activity or channel?
Since lead generation campaigns are made up of many different channels and activities, it’s also good practice to ask a provider what KPIs they keep track of for each campaign component.
Take note of the different activities included in your campaign, and ask a candidate agency to explain the metrics they’ll be reporting to you for each of these. Find out what benchmarks and guarantees they’re measuring against.
How will performance be tracked and reported?
Lead generation campaigns are a data-driven effort. You only make informed campaign decisions if you have access to timely and relevant data.
That’s why the quality of performance tracking/reporting should be a decisive factor in choosing a lead generation services provider:

Types of metrics included in your dashboard and reports
Frequency of reporting and updates
Ability to customize and tailor reports to specific business requirements

Project Terms and Specifics
What will be the achievable goals of the campaign or project?
In the previous set of questions, we talked about campaign-level KPIs and activity-specific metrics to clarify with a potential lead generation partner. The next items to ask about are the tentative project or campaign goals based on your initial requirements.
Although you probably shouldn’t expect providers to set any firm guarantees at this point, they should also be open to giving out reasonable ballpark figures for:

Goals to be achieved at the end of the project or campaign
Milestones to be reached at different intervals
Tentative timelines and targets

How will I be able to monitor the campaign?
Most lead generation projects and campaigns tend to span several months and even years. The ability to stay up-to-date on developments and performance isn’t just a nice-to-have feature; it’s a must-have capability for successful campaigns.
During the agency selection stage, the following questions will help you assess how well a potential provider will keep you in the loop:

What dashboards and reports will you be providing?
Who will be my primary point of contact?
How often will you meet with me?
How will we keep in touch?

What will be my role?
Another thing to be clear about during the agency selection step is the nature and extent of your participation in the project.
Some turnkey lead generation service providers will handle practically everything in the campaign for you, from preparing the needed materials to nurturing prospects before the lead handoff.
Other providers, meanwhile, may require you to adopt a more hands-on role in the project, especially with planning and idea generation.
Can you tell me more about your pricing?
Lead generation customers often ask the wrong questions about pricing and costs. Prices tend to widely vary from one provider to another, but it’s typically very difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison between vendors.
That’s because prices depend on a host of different factors such as the agency’s experience, the scope of services, target market, lead qualification requirements, reputation, etc.
The main takeaway when it comes to lead generation pricing is that you ultimately want to take value into account, not just costs. So be sure to be thoroughly familiar with an agency’s processes, capabilities, and track record before weighing your options.
This article is originally published at The Savvy Marketer.