Episode 236 Featuring Alex Bond

PPC Marketing with Duane Brown

PPC Marketing with Duane Brown

Duane Brown is the CEO and Head of Strategy for Take Some Risk, an eCommerce brand that specializes in growth strategy, PPC marketing, and revenue optimization. Duane has been called an international man of mystery and digital nomad by friends. He has lived in 6 cities across 3 continents and visited 43 countries around the world. Over the years, Duane has had the opportunity to work with brands including ASOS, Birdies, Pela Case, Jack Wills, Rose & Rex and FTD/ProFlowers.

On this episode, Duane and I talk about how what makes a good landing page, PPC Marketing, the value of being well-traveled, and much more.


What is Take Some Risk

Duane Brown: So like we work both with e commerce brands to help them scale up and do more what they already want to do, which is basically makes more money. I think last year we launched our own, you know, mini e commerce brand, which revolves around selling digital products. 

So in this case, we sell a lot of like courses and programs and stuff like that. We did it for two reasons. One, there's tons of people who want to hire us, but then we don't have the budget. So being able to product size our knowledge made a lot of sense and do it on Shopify because Shopify is a great program. 

And then on the other flip side, since 90% of our clients are on Shopify, it seems like a good initiative a couple of years ago to really spend more time on the other half of the platform. Other half being things that are not marketing related that we wouldn't necessarily touch, you know, uploading products or organizing products and building the website and stuff like that. 

And even though we don't do that stuff, you know, I think us and our team having a better experience with that it just makes us better when it comes to working with clients as a whole.

Strategy and Consulting phase: Streamlining client's processes

Alex Bond: My goal is to break down this conversation into the different types of services that you provide and kind of peel back the layers on them a little bit.

So to start off with strategy and consulting, right? So part of the ideation sessions in the strategy and consulting phase of your services includes how to better streamline a client's processes. What specifically are you attempting to streamline in that process? And how can companies heed your advice to the fullest value? 

Duane Brown: Yeah, I mean, obviously for every client, what we streamline is a little bit different. But oftentimes when let's say you're a hundred thousand a year revenue business.

Or two or 300, 000 a year business, those processes you have, you kind of take with you as you get to half a million and a million. 

So processes could be everything from getting data from one platform to another platform. So from, you know, Shopify to Clavio or Shopify to Google ads or Shopify to Facebook. So helping streamline, you know, how, how data goes from platform to platform. Also, sometimes clients have multiple apps that do the same thing, but don't, they don't necessarily realize it. 

They've got the, for lack of a better word, the Shopify main integration app that Shopify promote. But then they have another app that does something that's very similar or the exact same thing.

We often call them the app graveyard. You go into anyone's Shopify store and there are apps that they've installed, but they don't use and they still run.

And so get rid of some of those apps and saying, okay, what are the things that we're trying to achieve with apps? And how do we minimize the apps we're using? So there's less code on the site and the site goes faster, but maximize our potential.

For using those apps to streamline our processes, you know, if a client isn't on, let's say Shopify plus, you know, streamlining stuff could be, you know, figuring out, you know, which clients are VIP, which clients are not VIP.

So some stuff around like reporting and stuff like that. So we try to sort of figure out what clients are trying to achieve and how to either move around data or minimize the amount of apps they're using to achieve the outcome they want, which is like just freeing up their time to work on more stuff.

And obviously that's a little bit different. If you're on Shopify plus versus not Shopify plus, but the process is the same and figuring out, okay, well, these are the things you've been trying to do with apps and which of these apps actually do it. And let's get rid of apps that don't make a lot of sense.

Alex Bond: And how often should a company be doing that? Should there be, you know, a poll every four years, or is that something that should be paid attention to every week, every month? I mean, what should that trimming of the fat, those milestones look like? 

Duane Brown: You know, I think once a year is a pretty good thing to do because it's an easy cadence. Remember, let's say your slow time in the company is like August, you do your spring cleaning, quote unquote, in August. I think spring cleaning also involves things like going into ad accounts, Google Analytics, removing access for people who don't work at the company for all the agencies. 

You know, really tighten up your security as well. Cause often times brands will just leave people with access forever. And I'm like, well, you haven't worked with this person in five years. Why do they still have access to all your data?

So we think a yearly thing is a really good cadence. Some big brands maybe do it a little bit more often, but I think if everyone did at least once a year that's better than what most people do right now, which is usually they don't do it at all because it just gets to the bottom of it to do list.

Alex Bond: No, I think that's really, really sage advice. Another part of the services that you provide is attempting to impart the value of a good landing page to your clients. And part of that is thanks to your experience working at Unbounce. Can you elaborate on why a good landing page is valuable? 

Duane Brown: Yeah, I mean, I think if anyone is old enough to remember The Simpsons when Homer found out about the internet. And he built his own landing page. Remember that episode, it was not a very good or pleasing landing page. 

And so, you know, I often think it's kind of like people who've got an ugly baby. Everybody thinks their baby is beautiful. Some babies are not beautiful, right? Landing pages are the same way. Everyone thinks their landing page is beautiful, when some landing page is actually just not beautiful.

And so if you've actually got a beautiful landing page that your customers like, and it's not about whether I like it or you like it or Alex like it, it's about if your customers like it, then that means you have more people converted. We often have to remove our title vision when it comes to looking at things we've made and really analyze it from a critical point of, like, is this gonna be good for customers?

And is it gonna get customers to convert, you know, often means having to land a page with copy that speaks to the customer's need, the customer's pain point, you know, for a good example, we've got a client that sells women's pajamas so often talking about things like our pajamas will keep you from being unsweaty at nighttime, so it's like moisture wicking, or I can help you get a good night's sleep.

If you've got like hot flashes, menopause, you know, it's really digging into why people want to buy a product and having that speak to those values, those pain points on the landing page up to including, you know, most women are always really happy when a pair of pants comes with pockets.

It seems like a trivial thing to us men, but most things for women don't have pockets. And so when you tap into that, you want the rotation to reflect that. So it speaks to the people and it creates a really good experience. 

And so making sure that your landing page isn't speaking to you as a merchant or an e commerce manager or to me as an advertiser is really important because it's all about your customers at the end of the day. It's not about you or I or anyone else. 

Good vs. Bad landing page

Alex Bond: So the difference between a good landing page and a bad one, is it as simple as bad copy versus good or it's speaking to a customer versus not? I mean, what are those, those differences between a good and bad landing page? 

Duane Brown: Yeah, I think at a high level, there's that because that's the biggest issue we see with one of the pages we look at is often people write it from their own perspective, what they think customers want versus what customers actually want.

And then once you get the copy down, I mean, it really comes down to design stuff and layout and how you organize all the content. You know, some people are good at organizing content. Some people are not, you know, everything from like the font you pick to the font size to, you know, the colors you use, those things also matter to making a really nice landing page.

Because going back to my original example of Homer Simpson, if you remember the landing page he built, it wasn't very pleasing because there was tons of animation, tons of things moving. It was hard to read stuff. There's too much going on. So really just thinking as you go from content block to content block on your item page, you know, does this make sense?

Does this content block have a title? Can people read this font? Can people read this text? Oftentimes text can be too small, you know, even for someone who's got like no glasses on it. So it's like add copy first because that's what people read and see.

And after that, it's about font size, colors, layout, design, it's far better to have a short landing page that's punchy and makes sense than trying to make a long, a long landing page that nobody wants to read and is just ugly to look at.

PPC Marketing

Alex Bond: Moving on to the PPC or pay per click marketing area of services. What are some of the discrepancies between the different distribution platforms that you're operating with?

Duane Brown: Yeah, I mean, obviously you've got things like Google and Microsoft on one end and what people call paid search. You've got things like Facebook, Instagram, Snap and TikTok on the other end, what people call paid social, you know, oftentimes You know, you're trying to either push or pull people into your website.

You know, with Facebook and stuff like that, you're trying to like push people in your website based on like you show them an ad, but with, you know, with Google and stuff, you're targeting people based on what they're searching and you're trying to pull them into your website because they've searched for something you're bidding on from a keyword perspective.

You know, I think the big thing that brands need to realize is, you know, when it comes to whether you hire someone in house or a consultant or a vendor or a freelancer or an agency, when it comes to like paid advertising. It's often more like a game of chess than a game of checkers. And what I mean by that is, it's often about thinking about what you're going to do and the different moves you're going to do.

If you're going to hire someone and they're only going to think about tactics, and all you do is tactics, then you probably won't be as successful as an agency that thinks about strategy, thinks about what we're going to do. You know, you've got a to do list of a dozen items. Making sure you pick the right two or three things to work on that list of a dozen items means you're going to move things forward.

Picking the wrong things to work on for Google or Facebook or Tiktok or Amazon ads means you're going to either fall behind or not move anywhere. It's kind of like a car getting stuck in mud. You can spin your wheel, but you're not going anywhere fast. So I think sometimes people often mistake the idea that like anyone can run ads, but running ads is no different than engineers, lawyers, doctors, you know. 

Any of those people like it's a skill and either you've got the skill or you don't just watching some videos on YouTube or reading some stuff on Google isn't going to make you prepared to actually run accounts at the end of the day. But I think on top of that, you know, the other thing people need to think about is there's a difference between like knowledge and experience, right? 

Sort of, I've got 10 years of knowledge, so to speak, or some people might say I have 10 years of experience. I have worked in the industry for 10 years and experience is great from a length of time, but I think when it comes to experience, people have to figure out what knowledge people have in between there.

You know, what do they actually do and what they worked on? Because you could easily have. You know, two years experience five times because you haven't progressed in your career, and though you've worked for 10 years, you haven't actually gone very far versus someone who's maybe got one year or five experience, or they've got two years experience and three years experience, right?

They both have that 10 years experience, but the knowledge within that experience of 10 years is very different. And so I think brands need to do a good job of figuring out, like, what does this person actually done during that length of time and can they actually help us achieve our goals? 

You know, and I think the other thing I always tell people, you know, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, you know, something's too cheap. It's probably not going to work out. It's kind of like Simpsons, you know, you wouldn't hire him to work on you. Why did you just only hire the cheapest person to run your ad account? 

Alex Bond: I love the analogies that you're using. And frankly, I think your reflection on what I call armchair experts is pretty accurate. You know, I think the industry can be deluded with people who are selling, who are armchair experts selling their experience with little credibility or knowledge due to the fact that people can have that immediate access to something.

Where a 30 second TikTok video is giving me perceived value compared to someone who's actually had the experience of yourself, who's who's steadily climbed the ranks, learned what works, learned what doesn't and what have you. So, in terms of actual PPC, is that more valuable of a metric compared to, say, like a CPM or are those comparable things and if so, why? 

Duane Brown: I think they're just different your pay per click or cost book and some of that like what you pay for a quick, you know, that's kind of like what we call like an upstream metric, right? It's a thing that happens, you know, at the top of things. 

So you've got like your clicks, your impressions, your cost per click, your ad spend. Right. You know, if those numbers look good, you then have sort of your downstream metrics, right? You've got like your CPA or your ROAS, you've got your revenue. If you're in e commerce, you've got your return on ad spend.

And oftentimes if, you know, if your downstream metrics are not looking really good and people aren't converting, you then have to look at your upstream metrics and see if there's something wrong there. Are people not clicking on my ad or the wrong people clicking on my ad. And so they're not like one's more important than the other necessarily.

It's just that they serve different functions at the end of the day, obviously. You know, most people's North Star is going to be either CPA or the CPL or the return on ad spend, but you need to make sure that everything from upstream to downstream metric wise really makes sense for you to achieve the results you're going to get.

You know, it's easy just to say, well, we're getting lots of clicks and nobody's converting, but you have to figure out why no one's converted. And it could be the wrong keywords, you're targeting the wrong searches. It could be the wrong ad. It could be the website, you know, is telling someone on Tuesday.

You know, one thing I think with what we do especially, and this applies really to marketing as a whole, but I think especially paid ads, people often think, you know, you put 100 into Google, you're going to get back 500 or 1000. And the challenge with that is, in theory, you could get back 500 or 1000, but if your website isn't ready to actually accept a conversion. 

You don't have the best website possible, you can do everything right on Google and still fail because your website isn't doing its job. Because we often say that the website is half the work, right? Half the work is getting the ad accounts correct.

The other half is what happens when someone clicks on the ad and that post click experience on your website. So both of those things need to happen simultaneously in work in order to get the sale with paid ads. 

Alex Bond: And correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard that there is kind of like a prime number. In terms of what is going to give me the best return, it's not necessarily 500% on every number when you give the example of like, if I spend 100, I'm going to get 500 back. That doesn't mean that if I put in 1000, I'm going to get 5000 back. So is part of your role finding out what that kind of like, perfect ad spend is to get the best bang for your buck?

Duane Brown: Yeah. I mean, that's what you call is like the law diminished return, basically. You know, there's a point to where you spend more money and you're actually making less money than if you spent less money.

And so, yeah, we work with clients to try to find the balance. Some clients have more flexible budgets, so they're willing to spend more and see what that ceiling is. You know, other clients are like, I can only afford to spend 20,000 a month. You know, maybe they're Canadian business, maybe they're American business, maybe that's just what their limit is and so our job.

You know, with client B where it's 20,000 as the limit, it's figuring out how to optimize that for the best outcome possible. Whereas client a, where they had a more flexible budget, you know, our goals to figure out, okay, what can we spend to hit sort of our profitability, but not go beyond that where we're losing money every month for some clients we have, we know their CPA needs to be somewhere between the 30 mark and the 35 market.

So we're always trying to optimize and increase ad spend while keeping the CPA within that line. And this is like an e commerce client, but we use CPA because they only have. You know, really three products across different colors. And so if we optimize for that 30, 35, CPA, you know, we know at the end of the day, regardless of what we spend, we're going to be profitable because there is a limited number of products you can buy on the website.


Targeting the right audience

Alex Bond: And you mentioned previously, you don't want to garner the wrong clicks. How do you ensure that you're targeting the right audience? 

Duane Brown: Yeah, I mean, there's lots of things. I mean, obviously you can do a bit of research to figure out what keywords you want to bid on if you're doing search campaigns. So Google's got keyword planner, you could put in your website, you could put in keywords you think people are going to bid on for that product.

You know, if you're going to do a performance max with Google or a standard shopping campaign, you're going to want to build what's called the shopping feed. So very similar to doing your key research. You're going to try to figure out if someone's going to search for this product I'm trying to sell.

You know, what would they search for and use those keywords they would search for and apply it to your product title and your product description and build a shopping feed that's based on how people search for products. You know, a good example I'm going to probably talk about next week is like if you sell soap, you know, the scent or the smell that the soap gives off.

If it's like a citrus soap, you might want to also put the words like orange or lemon because citrus comes obviously in different flavors. And so put sort of the flavor of the citrus in your product title, in your keyword. So someone searches for like orange flavored soap, or orange scented soap, or lemon scented soap.

You're more likely to rank for that than if you just put citrus soap, which could be anything. And it may convert, but it probably won't convert to something that's like orange citrus soap, or lemon citrus soap. So a lot of it's research, a lot of it's just trying to understand the product and how people search for it, and then applying that to either keywords or shopping feeds.

And then Google has what they call a search term report, so as, you know, you run ads and spend more money, you can see what searches people did to trigger your ads and your keywords, and then you can figure out, okay, if this doesn't make sense, maybe add it as what they call a negative keyword, so don't show for in the future.

That only really applies to search campaigns and standard shopping, you can't apply negative keywords to performance max, just to do to have Google set up the campaign when they launched it, but using the search tool can really help you understand if you're going after the right people or not. 

Revenue optimization

Alex Bond: One of the problems with paid advertising as, as you've already mentioned, is that it's all for naught if those users don't convert. So that brings us to kind of the next stage or the final stage of your services, which would be revenue optimization. How do you differentiate between an unsuccessful advertisement versus a successful advertisement with a poor conversion? 

Duane Brown: Yeah. I mean, a lot of times you could just be running a task. So you might have ad A that's been doing really well for the last couple months and you have a new idea for an ad copy and you have ad B and you run them against each other and try to see which converts better. You know, sometimes you'll send potentially traffic to a custom built landing page. That's another way to run a test to see if something's going to work or not. 

But a lot of it's trying to figure out, you know, what's working and what's not, looking at the data you have either in Google ads or in Facebook or even in Google analytics and then use that to figure out, you know, what we should turn off, what should we turn on, what's working it's a little bit easier, obviously, if you're doing things with a custom landing page.

So let's say, you know, I'm a merchant, I'm going to launch a product June 1st and really hyped about it. Well, today's May 4th. You know what you probably want to do If you're really thinking about things ahead of time is maybe you want to watch things Early in the sense that you've got sort of an early access list, right?

So you run some campaign saying hey, we're watching this product on June 1st Why don't you give us your email address so we can announce to you on June 1st when the product goes live because maybe that person is on the West Coast or they're in Europe and you're based in, you know, EST and so the time zones are going to be very different than the launch.

So that's one good way to like test out ideas of who the right target is if you do early access ads because then you can take that list of emails you've collected. If you're putting them into Klaviyo, for example, you can build a separate list of early access people and see if those people actually convert come launch day or they convert over the next year because it's a separate list.

Alex Bond: That's fascinating. How do you essentially bolster a campaign's ability to convert users while it's currently active? 

Duane Brown: Yeah, so I mean, there's things you could do. You could always look at the campaign to see if it's wasting money, you know, or you're spending money on keywords or ads that are not converting. If you're targeting like America, are you spending money in certain states that aren't converted and maybe you want to remove that state? 

Maybe you spend a lot of money in Texas, but Texas doesn't convert, and all the people convert in like Illinois, Florida, and California. You know, outside of maybe looking at things from a location standpoint, keywords, or ads, you know, you may just want to see, again, like the search term report, you know, see what's going on there and see if there's things you should remove, or not even remove, but add as a negative keyword, because maybe Google thinks that like, what's been searching for is white.

You've been in on when the semantics of those two words are very different, you know I always use the example of like milk chocolate and chocolate milk. Google thinks those are the same thing but we all know that like when you drink and when you eat and so maybe you want to add one of those as a negative keyword to your account.

So those are some ways you'd look at like optimize and outside of what you'd probably do you know on your website as well if things are not converted as well. And then obviously if things are going well and Google says you could spend more money in a campaign you can obviously just increase your budget and see if there's an ability to continue to acquire clicks and conversions. And revenue while increasing your budget. 

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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