Pay per click (PPC) advertising is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies available. Like search engine optimization (SEO), it places your company's message directly in front of prospects at the perfect moment - when they've demonstrated interest and intent.
Think about this for a moment.
I know several window replacement companies that send post cards to neighborhoods where they are currently doing a job. While targeted direct mail can produce a positive return on investment, what percentage of the people you send cards to:
A) Read or even glance at your postcard before they toss it out with the rest of their junk mail?
B) Are in the market for new windows?
C) Are in the market for the type of windows you want to sell?
Thinking through this example, you can quickly see why many direct mail marketers are happy if they get even a 1% response rate! These days, the odds of reaching a truly targeted prospect using direct mail are somewhere between slim and none (note: even with the slim odds, you can generate sales cost-effectively with direct mail).
PPC advertising is great in that it eliminates some of the marketing waste by allowing you to ONLY place your ads in front of people actually in the market for what you sell. For example, if your focus is historic wood windows, you can adjust the settings in your PPC campaign to make sure that your ads do NOT show up when people search things like, "vinyl windows", "best price on fiberglass windows", etc.
While this all might sound great, there is a catch - several of them actually.
Here are 3 secrets to running a successful PPC campaign:
1. Know your numbers (BEFORE you launch your campaign).
To run a successful PPC campaign, you have to know your numbers. At a minimum, you have to know:
You should also have a very good handle on your company's profitability and cashflow. Ultimately, to manage an effective PPC campaign, you have to understand the maximum you can afford to pay per click. It's impossible to know this without the information above (and then some). I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your numbers BEFORE you launch a PPC campaign.
If you don't know the percentage of your website visitors that convert into leads, you CANNOT run an effective PPC campaign. Similarly, you cannot run an effective PPC campaign if you don't know what percentage of leads your sales guys turn into appointments and sales. Marketing today, without exception, is a numbers game. Know your numbers are be prepared to FEEL what it's like to waste money.
Now, it's worth noting that you may have to spend a bit of money on marketing just to learn your numbers. A lot of business owners see this as a waste. It's not. When you spend money to generate enough activity to learn your numbers, you're investing in intelligence. You're spending money to generate the activity required to get some key metrics that you'll use in the future to generate some serious profit.
When you track things the right way, no marketing investment is really a waste. You either get results or you get data, and contrary to what some of your contracting buddies might tell you, data is incredibly valuable. Some of the most successful and profitable companies in the world win ONLY because they have data and information no one else has.
Most business owners that test pay per click advertising select their keyword bids based on ego. DON'T DO THIS. What you bid for each keyword you target must be based on the economics of your business. Don't assume a competitor paying for the top spot on Google (at an insanely high cost per click) knows what he is doing. At this point, most of them don't. Select bids based on your ego and you'll end up as just another contractor on an industry forum whining about how terrible PPC advertising is. In nearly every case, if you tried PPC and it went terrible, you either failed to execute correctly or you're not tracking things the right way - you might have stopped 10 yards from the goal line and you didn't even know it!
You're probably shaking your head in disbelief but it happens all the time.
Track everything. If you think numbers are boring, go watch the movie Moneyball and hire an accountant (or an online marketing expert that thinks like one).
2. Analyze your competition.
If you have a competitor investing in PPC, with a little bit of research, I can tell you EXACTLY what they are spending each day, which keywords they are fighting for, the techniques they are using to convert clicks into leads, etc. You can find almost the exact same information. All it takes is a little bit of money (well worth it) and an time (more for you than for me because I know where to look).
Go to Google and search for keywords related to your business. Do you see your competitors in the PPC section of the page (typically the top and the right side of the search results page)? What do their ads say? Go to their websites. What are the calls-to-action? Look at the source code of their site - are they tracking things the right way (and what actions are they tracking)? How does what they are offering compare to what you're willing to do? How can you differentiate your business?
3. Learn everything there is to know about the PPC platform you are using.
Like everything in life, the devil is in the details. If you're going to have any hope at running an effective PPC campaign, you need to learn everything there is to know about the platform you're using. For most of you, that means learning everything you can about Google AdWords. Seemingly little things can make a HUGE difference in terms of your return on investment.
For example, failing to bid on the keyword 'custom bottled water' using the exact match keyword option cost one local custom labeled water company $36,000 in lost profit (over the course of the year). Amazingly, he this same business owners till profited from the endeavor - just not as much as he could have (or should have). If you're going to generate a positive return from your PPC campaigns, you have to know and understand things like:
If you're a small contractor, you might have more time available than money. Invest in learning this stuff. If you're a bit larger, you've got to ask yourself, "is this the best use of my time." To grow a business, you should only do what only you can do.
Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising can be a highly-effective way for contractors to generate profitable leads and sales, but it's whether it's a homerun or a strikeout depends on the how you play the game.