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 is educating our clients on the importance of tracking and the complexities of 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.
Just recently, AdWords overhaul of tracking gave us a scare when a normally-successful client’s conversions drop off the map. Turned out it was a technical error in translation from the change occurring on our landing page, but it revived the importance of working tracking for what we’re doing.
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. Basically, it means tackling the most important, most unappealing tasks first. I devote some serious time to just focusing on solving these issues before getting into emails and losing mental stamina.
After, I’ll have a 5 min huddle with our project manager to prioritize tasks and goals for the day.
Next is email. I’ll work through my inbox with the previously established priorities in mind, getting to the most important things first.
Next, I’ll be reviewing my team’s account checks to make sure everything’s working. Fingers-crossed that no more frogs appear.
This will either come before or after lunch depending on the frog and emails, but I’ll be onto my dedicated time blocks of an hour or so for things like personal development, company marketing, product development, etc. Those or a meeting if I have one scheduled.
After lunch I get back to emails. I’ll try to clear my inbox if I can, but it’s a one email at a time process.
More dedicated time blocks or meetings!
The final period of the day is actually pretty flexible as it depends on team/client and/or project requirements and goals. I’ll try to organize things for tomorrow if I can’t get them done and I’ll also prioritize tomorrow’s frog.
I make the day productive by using processes and tools that help us work on what’s important, stay focused, and be efficient. Some main ones 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. Digital advertising is just getting over the “get your message everywhere and anywhere you possibly can for as long and cheap as you can” phase. Next is taking a second to consider how authentic that message is and why the context of the message helps or hinders that authenticity.
Basically, I think that because even the not-so-tech-savvy people like your parents or grandparents are learning how to customize their internet experience and channels, marketers need to be able to pay more attention to how their ads are being received and whether they’re authentically conveying the brand’s message or even offering any value.
A great example of authenticity in marketing is our client eartheasy, a family business committed to providing practice products and information for sustainable living. Their site and the brands they work with are very authentic and are trying to make the world a better place.
For example, they carry the LifeStraw brand (by Vestergaard) which is an award winning personal water filter. For every LifeStraw water filter sold, they provide a child in Africa with clean 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. In turn, it’s putting more work on my plate as my role expands and 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 “choones.” Music keeps me focused and/or 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 poor and inefficient that you could easily spot hundreds of ways to 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.