How 6 entrepreneurs used paid advertising to propel their business to success

Looking for instant results from your marketing? Then it’s impossible to look past paid advertising. An age-old tactic in digital marketing terms, paid advertising remains the King of instantaneous marketing success. And to be honest, there’s no comparison.

That’s because there’s just no other marketing channel around today that can get your ads in front of millions of laser-targeted consumers in just a matter of hours.

Be it on Google, Facebook, Microsoft Bing, Amazon, Instagram, eBay or something entirely different; every platform offers extensive targeting options for online marketing, every platform is home to an enormous and receptive audience, and every platform only charges you whenever your ad is clicked.

Quite simply, paid advertising in 2021 is as powerful as it ever was, and according to Google, for every $1 spent on Google Ads, an average of $8 is made in revenue. The other platforms aren’t far behind either. But where do you start?

In this piece, we talk to 6 entrepreneurs about the first steps they took when launching their paid advertising strategy, what they learnt and the success they gained.

Start low

Patrick Connelly, Co-Founder of Stellar Villa Pet Portraits

It’s always recommended to find your feet when starting out with paid advertising. If you’re going in with no experience running paid ads, then no matter how many books you’ve read or videos you’ve watched to prepare, it’s impossible to really get a feel for what it’s like until you’re under the hood of one of the platforms.

So when starting out, don’t be afraid to start small like Patrick Connelly did:

“When I first launched my business, I created what I call penny campaigns using Shopping Ads on Google and Microsoft Bing.

“The strategy is simple; create ads for all of your products at very low bids (hence the term penny campaigns). By listing your entire product catalogue, you will receive impressions that will generate clicks and traffic to your website.

“Assuming your site is optimised for conversions, this will generate some sales and your return on investment (ROI) will be exceptional as your average cost-per-click (CPC) will be very low.

“This method won’t get your business to the next level, but it’s a great way to get your feet wet in paid advertising and drive some additional sales while you work on other aspects of scaling your business. It will also allow you to start collecting data which you can use at a later date to optimise your campaigns if you decide to allocate more time and budget to paid ads.

“The end goal of paid advertising should not be to drive one time purchases, however it should be thought of as a way to acquire customers after which you will deploy a retention strategy and focus on the holy grail that is customer lifetime value.”

Concentrate on the basics

Paula Glynn, Director of Search Marketing at Pixel Storm

When first venturing into the world of paid advertising, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming to work out where to start. Paid advertising comes in so many different forms – there are search ads, shopping ads, display ads, remarketing ads, video ads, social media ads to name a few. And they’re available on so many different platforms too like Google, Microsoft Bing, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and eBay.

But starting off with something simple like Google Search is probably the best bet. This is where so much of the power lies, due to the keyword – the word or phrase when searching on Google, Microsoft, Amazon etc. The keyword tells you what someone wants, when they want it. And there’s no other marketing “tool” out there that can replicate this.

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That’s where Paula Glynn found her best results:

“We’ve tested a number of different techniques: Remarketing, Display and Search.

“We used Remarketing to try and increase brand awareness, but there was so much noise we had to pause it.

“We now solely focus on Google Search, as these have the strongest intent – we have the ability to select keywords we want to focus on based on the type of leads we need. We can separate out “web design” keywords and “web development” keywords and target those to different landing pages.

“We’ve done around 6 months of testing to work out the right strategy for us. Paid advertising is great as you can pause it when you are not looking for leads or don’t have the time to manage the enquiries.”

Don’t be afraid to branch out

Zhe Song, Founder of ABD Test

At times, though, you might have to branch out. Google search isn’t available for everyone. Though it’s audience is insanely vast, sometimes your type of customer is more likely to be receptive to your messaging on the likes of Facebook, Instagram or somewhere else, and it’s important to research this when you’re starting out. Or maybe, like Zhe Song, Google Ads just aren’t available in the location you want to advertise.

“Paid advertising is the most straightforward approach and is the easiest way to measure the returns and investments, but for Chinese Google Ads users, the biggest pain point is that it’s blocked for China users which creates a barrier in front of us.

“So instead, in the early days of our company’s history, we bought ads on Baidu (the largest Chinese search engine) which was very effective.

“We also buy the internal ads P4P (pay for performance) on Alibaba’s B2B platform, so we get displayed more to international buyers.

“Last year, we got one big customer from Alibaba from paid ads and eventually exported three full 40’DC containers which is an urgent Government procurement for Covid-19 lab testing supplies in west Africa.”

Remove wastage

Patrick Garde, Co-Founder & Technical Director of ExaWeb

One of the biggest issues with marketing in any capacity is the amount of money you end up wasting unnecessarily. Thankfully, one of the great things about PPC is that there are a number of ways to mitigate this wasted spend, be that through location targeting, negative keywords, keyword match types or another one of the oodles of features present in the world of paid advertising.

You just need to make sure you get everything sorted early doors, like Patrick Garde:

“We used PPC when we were first starting out by specifically targeting a specific location (Metro Manila) instead of the whole country (Philippines).

“We checked search terms daily and added negative keywords every day. This allowed us to filter the leads and made sure our PPC ads did not show irrelevant keywords or search terms.

“Another technique we used was to exclude location from irrelevant locations. Although we were specifically targeting a particular state (Metro Manila), there were times when our ads were shown to other locations due to them searching for the exact keywords that we have on the campaign.

“I can say that we’ve been successful through paid advertising as we just monitor our campaign sparingly by following those techniques.”

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Zero in on your target audience

Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal

A lot of avoiding wasted spend comes down to knowing your audience. But to understand them fully, you need to put the hard yards in. You may think you know them pretty well, but if you haven’t researched them, spoken to them and looked into the data, a lot of what you’ll be doing is simply guessing.

This is what Bryan Clayton tried to avoid after a few months of running his campaigns, and the results speak for themselves:

“Something I wish I had known when I first started out was that I could use big data as a weapon.

“For example, in a recent campaign we ran in Nashville, Tennessee, we ran campaigns with one ad targeting the entire metro Nashville area. The headline read ‘Local Lawn Pros in Nashville are a click away’ and I thought the performance of the ad was good with a click through rate (CTR) of over 1% and conversion rate (CVR) of 10%. But we needed to improve on it.

“We thought, ‘how can we make this more contextual and relevant to the viewer’? So we researched census data, looking at the average income and home values throughout the Nashville area.

“We found that East Nashville was populated with more working class, and a creative class demographic and we hypothesized this customer would be price sensitive but still not want to cut their own lawns. So we only ran a specific ad for them, with a headline ‘The Cheapest Lawn Mowing in Nashville. Lawn mowing from $20.’

“We then created a matching landing page. After running the ad for one month, we saw over 200% uplift in CTR and 30% uplift in CVR.”

Hire someone experienced or use a tool

David Miles, CEO of PPC Machine

Sometimes though, it’s worth consulting the experts. You could look at hiring a PPC agency or freelancer to do the work for you, but now in 2021, there are now some great free tools you can use too.

Adzooma is one of the most comprehensive. Integrated with Google, Facebook and Microsoft ads, it’s designed to simplify the process of advertising online and managing ads for every type of SMB. It’s plug and play, and comes with recommendations you can apply in a single click that will save you money and scale your business.

That’s the approach David Miles used:

“Regardless of how long you’ve been using PPC, there’s a hell of a lot of things to do and to keep an eye on and to be checking and optimising on a daily or weekly basis. And what I like about Adzooma is that it’s able to automate quite a number of things for you.

“For example, rather than having to check all the time whether I’m in danger of going over a monthly budget for an account, you can have the automation to make sure that that doesn’t happen, but if you do it shuts everything down.

“And I see it as well as quite a good backstop if there’s something I’ve forgotten to check myself, then the performance reports are going to flag that up and say you’ve missed this.

“Adzooma can easily save you five hours a week. But more than that, it avoids you missing things as well and helps you spot an opportunity that you wouldn’t have spotted otherwise. In a way, that’s worth more than saving an hour of your time”.

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