Most agency owners and managers will agree that every client is unique. This is particularly true if you have clients that operate within varying industries with their own specific target audiences. What becomes clear over time is that there is rarely a cookie cutter template for which channels may suit each client best. As an account manager, it is your responsibility to decide if a particular strategy or channel is working and if not, to find an alternative solution.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the process for determining which foundational channel is work best for your client as well as tips for pivoting when performance is lagging.
The major ad platforms: Google, Facebook, & LinkedIn
Before I get into the client-specific details, lets run through the primary marketing channels I will be focusing on:
- Google Ads
- Facebook ads
- LinkedIn ads
Obviously, the best advertising strategies will be cross-platform. And, of course, there are a number of other channels—Twitter, Pinterest, Bing, just to name a few. But to help with foundational PPC strategy, I will be going through the major players that most clients will be looking to advertise on. Understanding which of the largest platforms you should construct your strategy around is a good starting point, but of course, it always gets more complicated as you go. Despite their similarities, it is well documented how different these platforms are to market on. The key to deciding where to start lies in analyzing the client first.
1. The client’s goal
The best place to start regardless of the following elements that I will walk through is always the client’s primary goal.
While you’re onboarding new clients, asking the right questions is paramount to establishing what the client really wants out of paid advertising. Often, clients won’t have a clearly defined concept of what they actually want out of running paid ads. I’ve found that many people are driven by the knowledge that they need to grow their business and paid advertising is a smart way to doing so. It is—but you need to get more specific with goals.
Without getting too deep into the process of vetting new clients, it’s important to walk away from the introductory call with the knowledge of how their core business is run and how you can best supplement it with paid marketing. The key components of this aren’t necessarily in a hierarchy so you have to look at them as a whole in order to make the right decisions.
2. Business type
After establishing the client’s goal, understanding the business type is the next step to determining which channel to use. Although Google and Facebook work well for both B2B and B2C, some features of each are better catered to one or the other.
Let’s break these down at the highest level.
Business to business marketing can be tricky for those who are new to it. Without any experience, one can walk into paid advertising for these businesses with assumptions that aren’t necessarily true. Many will jump to the conclusion that a channel like Facebook won’t work for them because they are going after decision makers for other businesses. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as Facebook allows for a variety of B2B targeting options. Additionally, the myth of the user being in a specific “mind set” is one that I hear often—but, let’s face it, most of are thinking about work a lot. Especially business owners.
When targeting social media platforms for B2B purposes, it’s important to understand that you are targeting individual users. These individual users also happen to be those involved with business decisions (with the correct targeting). Many B2B companies will often make the assumption that LinkedIn is where they should start. This isn’t always the best decision. B2B companies often have longer sales cycles with marketing funnels that tend to have more layers. Because of that, I’ll discuss how to determine which channels to start with for these clients later on in the post.
Business to consumer marketing on paid platforms is quite different, as the conversion aspect may be primarily tied to direct sales. Due to the nature of these businesses, it makes more sense to use both Facebook and Google to start (particularly shopping and catalog sales for ecommerce). If the client has historical data that can be leveraged, this may help in your decision-making process. The key to successful B2C marketing really comes back to the specific campaign objective, as branding and direct sales will determine where you’re allocating your budget.
3. Funnel stage
The other component that directly relates to business type is the funnel stage. Clients with larger budgets will likely require more complex strategies that target multiple layers of the funnel. Marketing funnels for B2B and B2C vary, as do marketing funnels between various businesses and industries. With that being said, you need to identify which parts of the funnel your client wants to target and adapt your strategy from there.
Top or middle of the funnel
When the client wants to drive volume and generally develop a lead nurture program, Facebook may be the best place for you to start. A low-friction offer like an ebook, sign up, or anything with a reduced form will perform best where general costs are lower. Facebook is a good place to start for these types of offers because you can target a wide audience and reach them for relatively lower costs. A mistake many clients will make (particularly in the B2B space) is wanting to go directly to LinkedIn to drive volume, but LinkedIn often costs more and isn’t effective for every industry. The Google Display Network (remarketing and custom intent audiences) is another effective top of funnel channel. Keep in mind, however, with these channels that ad creative is a major component in the success of the campaigns.
TL;DR: Use Facebook ads and Google Display for top of funnel promotions.
Bottom of the funnel
For low-funnel offerings I’ve found Google Ads to be most successful. Facebook can be an effective low-funnel platform, but only for certain products and industries. If you are going to target a low-funnel offer for a client on Facebook, I suggest starting with remarketing to website visitors or a nurtured custom list upload (CSV file of leads already in their database).
This changes for B2C clients, as “bottom of the funnel” may be a sale of a product. If that is the case, then Facebook may be the more cost-effective platform. The key to determining this is the target return on ad spend, or ROAS, that you want to get from the product. Google Shopping campaigns are also effective for B2C or ecommerce products, so my suggestion would be to split the budget between that and Facebook.
TL;DR: Google Ads and Facebook ads (in particular cases) for low-funnel offers. After that, experiment with LinkedIn for B2B clients.
It’s important to fully understand the industry that the client operates within and who their target audience is. You’ll want to gauge how defined and niche this audience is or if it is relatively broad and accessible. My point here is that if you don’t have the necessary remarketing audiences or assets to create lookalike audiences, you will find Facebook to be extremely difficult to advertise on, especially since the platform has removed many detailed targeting options. For less defined audiences, it would be a better strategy to focus on the value proposition of the client or promotion. That way, you would be building a strategy for intent rather than a persona for audience targeting. And, again, you’ll want to understand the industry type—B2B and B2C industries vary.
Intent vs. persona
If you are going after the intent of a product or promotion it makes more sense to start with the Google Search Network. Targeting a variety of search queries related to the problem that the promotion or product solves is the best strategy for audiences where the pain points are what they have in common.
If the audience is clearly defined either by demographic, work, interests, or behaviors, then the best platform becomes a little bit more difficult to choose. In this scenario, you’ll have to refer back to funnel stage, as well as the industry type. A good example for intent-based target audiences would be for services like lasik procedures. The audience can contain any demographic as long as they have trouble seeing properly.
Understanding the “industry type” will allow you to make a more calculated decision on which platform to devote your clients budget and effort. Many B2B industries perform better on Facebook than they do on LinkedIn, which can be rather shocking for many folks who market for these companies. I’ve found that sales and marketing related companies perform particularly well on LinkedIn while others have had mixed results. With this level of uncertainty, I always keep LinkedIn open as an option, but it’s rarely the first place I go to try to drive results. I also try to take into consideration how active the target audience would be on LinkedIn. The beauty of Facebook ads is that the platform has so many placements the individuals are frequently active on. If the audience can be defined on Facebook, it is a great place to start for any industry!
The final component when it comes to deciding which platform comes down to your client’s advertising budget. If they have a high budget that they want to use to test out multiple platforms, then you should certainly experiment across the board while optimizing and refining over time to allocate to the strongest areas. If the client has a relatively low budget, you will have to be a lot more careful where you devote your efforts. Use the previously mentioned business type, promotional type (funnel stage), and target audience as tools to guide you in the proper direction.
Another thing to note is the client’s organic presence and web traffic volume. If these are strong, then your first strategy should be to build remarketing campaigns to try to attain the lowest hanging fruit. Facebook and Google are both effective remarketing platforms—particularly Facebook, where the ad copy can be tailored specifically to the web audience.
Know when to pivot
When you’re building an online advertising strategy for a new client, results will take some time. But knowing when to adjust and when to pivot is important—almost equally important to determining which platform works best. Knowing when to pivot and test new channels comes down to:
- The results and costs that are being driven.
- What you learn about the target audience as you get started—new opportunities can be identified the more you learn about a target audience.
- The quality of the leads or the average order value of the sales you’re driving.
Pivoting isn’t necessarily always a last-ditch effort to make things work. In most cases, you don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket. If you have budget allocated across multiple platforms, pivoting may just be the natural progression of finding more traction on one platform versus another and deciding to allocate more budget there. You also want to take into consideration your own personal instincts. If you’ve been managing accounts for some time, you will have built up a number of reference experiences that will help you make decisions when in a tough spot. Trusting these instincts is important in growing your expertise.
Identifying the best platform for your client
We covered a lot. Let’s review the steps you should take to identify the best foundational ad platform for you client:
- Establish the client’s goal.
- Identify business type (B2B vs B2C).
- Understand the marketing and sales operations of the client.
- Understand the industry.
- Determine if an intent or user approach is stronger to start with.
- Take the client’s budget into consideration.
- Pivot and change strategies when necessary.
With all clients you take on, you should require access to all channels regardless of where your strategy is going to begin. This allows for you to build remarketing audiences in all of them and make any adjustments in strategy much easier in the future. One thing to remember with paid advertising is that you can plan and strategize, but you will never know how performance is going to play out until you get started. With that being said, it’s always best to be prepared and put yourself in the best position to succeed.