When digital marketers talk about trends, we mostly focus on what new ad products or targeting options are available, changes Google has made to an algorithm, the impact of AI – our focus is on technology. But is there a more human element to marketing that we should be paying more attention to? In this spotlight, we explore a number of topics with Vantage Search’s PPC specialist Kevin Clark, including his top pick for most interesting industry trend – authenticity in marketing.
How would you describe your company in less than 100 words?
We’re a tight-knit, small team of marketers. We’ve managed giant clients, small clients, clients that want to do everything, and clients that expect everything. We work hard, but we can also be goofballs sometimes. We love seeing our campaigns pay off for our clients and that’s where we get most of our pride, and it’s also the main reason we return to work every day; knowing we’re helping our clients’ businesses grow.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
The biggest challenge I face currently is educating our clients on the importance of tracking and the complexities and limits of conversion tracking and conversion attribution. It seems like every day there is a new channel or a new regulation that makes it more difficult to track conversion attribution over the long term.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get to work and I “eat the frog.” Who needs coffee? I kid. One of our former managers used to say this, and it’s stuck around in the office. It means tackling the most important, most unappealing tasks first. The way we do this is by reserving our mornings for working on the tasks that are the most important for the long-term success of our clients’ businesses and our own. It’s actually quite frowned upon in the office to be responding to emails or your Asana inbox in the morning as that means you’re not staying focused.
Processes and tools are essential to making our days at Vantage productive. Some of the tools that help us work on what’s important, stay focused, and be efficient are: Asana for communication and organization; Swydo for transparency, results and tracking; and OPTMYZR for adjustments, changes at scale and automation.
What do you think is the most interesting trend in digital advertising now?
Authenticity. In today’s day and age, with social media and the power of the internet, the reality of products and brands is just a click away. We are now seeing more and more brands who are reliable, respectful, and real rise up to success. These brands don’t look to please everyone, but they have values and morals, and they stand by them no matter what, with transparency, flaws and all.
This is interesting to us as we are always rooting for the businesses who look to make a difference, listen to their customers, are humble (realize that the customer is the hero, not them), and are passionate about what they do.
One brand we’ve been lucky enough to work with for the last four years is Eartheasy; a family owned ecommerce business with a mission to enrich people’s lives and ensure a healthy future for our world by providing solutions for sustainable living. Through this mission, Eartheasy has established themselves as a trusted source for quality products sourced from reliable, environmentally conscious suppliers with fair trade policies.
One such solution is the LifeStraw water filter. The award-winning LifeStraw technology was originally introduced in 2005 for people in developing countries who don’t have access to safe water and as an emergency response tool to filter contaminated water following natural disasters. Later came consumer versions designed to meet the needs of outdoor enthusiasts, travelers, and all those seeking daily hydration. Through LifeStraw’s Follow the Liters program, each consumer purchase provides one school child in a developing community with safe water for an entire school year!
Do you see any trends specific to PPC reporting?
I would LIKE TO SEE a new trend towards a more holistic reporting approach. We currently report individually on each ad network, but what the client needs most, and often only has the time and energy for, is a summary for all of their advertising efforts combined. We will always provide individual network reporting, but this should be secondary to the big picture.
There are 3rd party tracking systems out there that provide this data, but they aren’t designed as reporting tools. Maybe Swydo can integrate with some of these in the future!
What are the biggest challenges you face in PPC campaign management?
The digital advertising space is now so massive and continues to grow (as in new network, new features, new tracking, etc) at such a fast pace that it now takes much, much longer for new account managers to become experts. This has required us to put a lot of time into developing a solid training program as training is a slow and serious process.
What are the top 5 tools or apps you use almost everyday?
Asana: allows us to prioritize and delegate things to be done for ourselves and for other members of the team. We use the checklist task organization system to prioritize tasks, keeping the most immediate and important visible above the fold. Everything not pressing or to be worked on that particular day, we keep under the fold to try and reduce the stress of a bazillion tasks. Sometimes tasks just pop up, though and you’ve got to eat the frog even if it’s not frog eating time.
Microsoft Office Suite: Mainly Excel & Outlook. Excel for data analysis, manipulation, and sometimes just copy and pasting ad copy/ads from one network to another like AdWords to Bing. Outlook for keeping up with outbound communications not internal to Asana or Skype.
OPTMYZR: Keeps our AdWords accounts optimized. Saves a bunch of time with automatic checks, builds, spend projections, budget adjustments, bidding, etc. I would recommend.
GSuite: Google Drive is where we keep everything. And in a backup drive somewhere. Extremely useful for updating/sharing docs and files on-the-go with the team. Google Sheets: similarly on-the-go, but also for dynamic updates for our scripts + other automated stuff for our accounts that can update on the cloud.
Harvest: Time tracking. Lets us know our personal budgeting patterns for task types as well as project budgets that we don’t want to lose our shirts on.
iTunes: love them “Tunes.” Music keeps me focused and in a good mood for when the work stacks up or the office construction crews need to hammer or drill or buzz saw for eight hours straight.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Working for the Canadian corporate division one of the world’s top luxury car brands that I’ll leave unnamed. Their processes were so archaic and inefficient. I quickly spotted hundreds of opportunities to improve customers’ experiences and make everyone’s work lives better, but there was so much red tape and corporate politics that it was impossible to change anything.
I have always been someone who likes to tackle inefficiencies and improve processes, but I guess what I learned was that it was imperative to me that I work for a company that shared the same passion for continually improving that I do. Luckily for me, I found that here at Vantage.
What people have influenced your thinking (and why) and might be of interest to others?
I’ve been enjoying Neil Degrasse Tyson lately as we’ve been working a lot with split testing and other kinds of ad, landing page, etc tests. His scientific method (at least his presentation of science) is both entertaining and educating and I think it’s something, weirdly, to take away for both doing and reporting on these tests. We’ve got to make discovering and creating better performing variants and such more entertaining so that we can convey their value better. He’s a positive force in the universe, for sure.
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” – Abe Lincoln
Haha, love this one and how it pertains to the online space. There was a recent period where everyone did seem to believe everything they read online and no one checked sources. It’s unfortunate how many marketers use dishonest tactics and how many people still fall for them.
What advice would you give yourself when you first got started in digital advertising?
Don’t get caught up in the latest trends and focus more on the big picture. A systematic approach will generate longer-term results than the latest strategy trend focusing on short-term results.
Kevin Clark, Senior PPC Manager & Detail Freak, Vantage Search. Kevin’s managed huge accounts during his many years at Vantage; steering six-figure monthly ad spends profitably and safely to their target goals. He hates inefficiencies.
But Kevin’s greatest love comes from his hatred: fixing inefficiencies. His extreme attention to detail (borderline obsessive) drives him to find and create spreadsheets, formulas, macros, scripts, and/or software to make our accounts run like well-oiled machines. When not making money for clients, you might find Kevin snowboarding, trail running or playing hockey (he’s a goalie–he will save your PPC account). You can reach him on LinkedIn or at @vantage_search.