How to Create a Marketing Campaign that Stands Out

Plenty of us have witnessed a marketing campaign gone wrong. Remember that recent Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner trying to settle a Black Lives Matter protest with a can of Pepsi? I just remember thinking (as I gagged), “How did that actually make it to market?!” Yet despite some major fails, marketing continues to be […]

The post How to Create a Marketing Campaign that Stands Out appeared first on CXL.

Plenty of us have witnessed a marketing campaign gone wrong. Remember that recent Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner trying to settle a Black Lives Matter protest with a can of Pepsi? I just remember thinking (as I gagged), “How did that actually make it to market?!”

Yet despite some major fails, marketing continues to be the differentiator that sets a brand apart within a crowded market.

Look at Nike. In stark contrast to Pepsi, Nike’s Colin Kaepernick campaign will likely go down as one of the most impactful pieces of marketing in recent history.

Or look at MailChimp, a startup-turned-$400-million-revenue-machine that is always creating viral campaigns that set them above their competition, like this recent “Did You Mean Mailchimp” one.

Recently, I designed a strategic marketing campaign for a company called Help Scout—a helpdesk software tool. Like Nike and MailChimp, Help Scout is in a crowded market; my campaign helped them stand out.

Three strategies for creating marketing campaigns that stand out

Whether you’re executing a quick n’ dirty one-off promotion or a full-fledged multi-channel strategy, here are three strategies for creating marketing campaigns that stand out.

Strategy #1: Ask The Experts.

In the book Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, Jake Knapp and the partners at Google Ventures outline a process for delivering data-driven, research-backed projects.

They advocate using testing to learn about your market—rather than spending days (or months) conducting research before ever getting a test out the door.

Within the week-long process, one of the first steps they outline for a successful launch—and one that I use when crafting every marketing campaign—is to Ask the Experts.

sprint week process
Sprint advocates rapid testing to learn about your market.

As the authors describe them, Ask the Experts sessions are “a series of one-at-a-time interviews with people from your sprint team, from around your company, and possibly even an outsider or two with special knowledge.”

The research method helps you incorporate as many sources of information as possible into your campaign. When paired with other research (like customer surveys, personas, interviews, and competitive research), they can be a powerful value-add to your campaign.

Typically, a session will run for one hour, and the questions I like to ask when conducting a session are:

  • What are 1–3 benefits of this product, service, or business?
  • What do you think are the challenges I’ll face/need to solve for when creating this campaign?
  • Any special advice/things I should consider when crafting this campaign?

Selecting the experts for your interviews is never easy. My advice is to seek out those with the most knowledge of the theme, feature, product, or concept of your campaign. From there, select experts across disciplines who might provide an idea or thought that you wouldn’t necessarily come to on your own.

For the campaign to launch Help Scout’s new live-chat tool, Beacon, I conducted six, one-hour Ask the Experts sessions with stakeholders across the company.

Here were the common answers I received to the above questions:

Question Answers (Combined)
  • What are 1–3 benefits of the Beacon live chat product?
  • Beacon makes customer service scalable by leading with relevant help content, suggested answers, and search.
  • Beacon is human-first by always connecting customers to a human, never a misleading bot.
  • No need to cobble together a complicated tech stack. Users can access email, live chat, help docs—all in Help Scout.
  • What are the challenges I’ll face/need to solve for when bringing Beacon to market?
  • Support teams perceive live chat as leading to an increase in customer expectations for instant responses.
  • Support teams are afraid that live chat will increase ticket volume.
  • Any special advice/things I should consider when creating this campaign to launch Beacon?
  • Be weird.
  • Lead with the creative, not with the goals.

What I discovered from the Ask the Experts sessions is that the live chat tool aims to scale, humanize, and simplify customer service. But to communicate those benefits to the wider public, the campaign messaging also needed to tackle internal perceptions that live chat increases customer expectations and support ticket volume.

I would have expected that the (intentional) lack of proactive messaging—a feature that lets you ping customers before they start a new chat—would have been a top concern. That’s because I’m a marketer and see the value of proactive messaging for driving sales.

But when it comes to customer-service professionals, their core motivation is much different. Providing reactive support in a timely manner to meet customer expectations is a higher concern.

Ask the Experts was a critical method to broaden my understanding of needs on both sides of a product launch—a key to making sure my campaign didn’t promise an experience than Help Scout couldn’t deliver. Those sessions also reinforced another key component of the campaign: a design-led approach.

Strategy #2: Lead with the creative, not with the goals.

You might have noticed that another piece of advice I received during the Ask the Experts sessions was to “lead with the creative, not with the goals.”

That’s because Help Scout considers itself a design-led company. Design-led companies, as McKinsey notes, recognize that, increasingly:

customers prioritize the experience of buying and using a product over the performance of the product itself. In fact, customer experience is becoming a key source of competitive advantage as companies look to transform how they do business.

A focus on experiential design has four key factors:

  1. Really understanding the customer. Going beyond what customers want to find out why they want it.
  2. Bringing empathy to the organization. Making sure that a design lead is involved in high-level, strategic decisions, not just tactical implementation.
  3. Designing in real time. Ensuring that design is present during product development and has a seat at the table when business or technology teams establish limiting parameters.
  4. Acting quickly. Product development is iterative—rapid prototyping, fast changes, continual improvement.

The design-led approach was a bet that Help Scout made in the early days. Help Scout invests in product design and branding to differentiate within a crowded market. Visitors, leads, conversions, and new customers are considered a byproduct of having an intuitive product and a strong brand story.

It’s a research-backed strategy, too. Findings from a 2016 study by Adobe and Forrester showed that companies that put design at the core of their business are better positioned to tackle rising customer expectations in an increasingly competitive digital landscape.

“Putting design at the core” is not mere theory or a job title tweak. As the study reported, compared to non-design-led companies, design-led companies:

  • Spent more money on research and innovation.
  • Had tools and systems in place to test ideas with consumers.
  • Had a defined process for coming up with new digital consumer experience ideas.
  • Enjoyed greater market share and customer loyalty.

Look at Ikea. The former head of design, Marcus Engman (the brains behind product suites like the 2017 maximalist tropical furniture and collabs with well-known furniture and textile designers, like Tom Dixon) is a huge proponent of a design-led approach.

In a recent interview with Fast Company, where Engman is described as having spent six years “making Ikea weird,” he explained:

I want to show there’s an alternative to marketing, which is actually design. And if you work with design and communications in the right way, that would be the best kind of marketing, without buying media.

It was no surprise that during the Ask the Experts sessions at Help Scout, everyone’s advice was to stay true to the company’s roots as a design-led brand and get weird (like Engman) to stand out.

And believe me, we got weird with it. After all, if you want to keep your customers coming back for more, what works better than bacon?

Here are the creative assets the team devised for the launch of Beacon live chat:

1. An attention-grabbing video (did someone say bacon?)

Props here go to Meryl Ayres, the incredibly talented video producer who conceived of and brought this hilarious story to light. Who doesn’t want to use bacon in a marketing campaign?!

2. GIFs and images for social media

Designed by the very talented Sean Halpin.

3. An Instagram grid to really get the message across

Instagram grid
All Sean.

4. Plus, a more “in-depth” look at the many reasons why bacon doesn’t “scale” as well as Beacon (so you should definitely use Beacon to delight customers, not bacon):

All Meryl.

Strategy #3: Get emotional.

Facebook’s 2018 algorithm update focused on community and personal engagements; content that is liked and shared within communities gets preferential treatment. And inciting an emotional response with your content increases engagement (likes, shares, views) on Facebook.

Music is a primary driver, or “cue,” for an emotional response. Think of any horror film you’ve ever seen. Most lose their scary tone as soon as you put them on mute.

For the Beacon > Bacon campaign, I leveraged the power of emotional advertising by conducting an A/B test on the type of music for 15-second Facebook video ads. We tested the video above with jazzy/upbeat music, against this one, with what we called the “epic” soundtrack:

The goal was simple: determine which musical version incited the highest engagement on Facebook and then use that version for the rest of the campaign. I ran the A/B test for one week to a 95% statistically relevant subset of the designated audience and dedicated $500 to each version.

While the test was running, the marketing team also took bets:

After one week, the results were clear: Sean and I should never make bets.

The jazzy/upbeat version performed better across the board with 3x the Leads, 2x the Reach, 2x the Impressions, and a Cost Per Result of $1.48 against $4.28 for the epic version.

Creating an emotional pull for a campaign doesn’t need to be subjective—accurate measurement that supports a valid A/B testing process can answer amorphous questions like, “Which background music generates more leads?”

Conclusion

The campaign launched in August, and results so far have been great. The campaign has generated 120,000 video views, 5,600 leads, and 275 new trial sign-ups for Help Scout.

That success has been the outcome of a design-led approach:

  • We sourced ideas and concerns from stakeholders throughout the company.
  • Put the consumer experience and brand above stale marketing metrics.
  • Used a quantitative approach to drive an emotional response.

Interested in learning more about creating design-led marketing campaigns that’ll help your business stand out?

Join me in a webinar on January 10. You’ll get my framework for creating full-funnel marketing campaigns, including all the strategies, experiments, and tactics used in the Beacon > Bacon campaign.

The post How to Create a Marketing Campaign that Stands Out appeared first on CXL.

5 Content Marketing Strategies for Niche B2B Industries

The “classic” idea of content marketing—cranking out SEO-focused articles, ranking for hundreds of keywords, generating visitors, leads, and paying customers—doesn’t work in all industries. I worked with a company that manufactured moisture-resistant flooring adhesive. Even in this obscure niche, their napkin-math suggested that improper moisture management cost companies $1 billion in repair and replacement costs each […]

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The “classic” idea of content marketing—cranking out SEO-focused articles, ranking for hundreds of keywords, generating visitors, leads, and paying customers—doesn’t work in all industries.

I worked with a company that manufactured moisture-resistant flooring adhesive. Even in this obscure niche, their napkin-math suggested that improper moisture management cost companies $1 billion in repair and replacement costs each year. They’d built a range of products that completely solved the problem—but they couldn’t reach their potential customers.

They’d upload a list of product terms and related topics—moisture resistant flooring adhesive, subfloor moisture proofing—and their keyword research tool would spit back hundreds of “0 searches per month” results. Their typical buyers—facilities managers, architects, and commercial designers—rarely used social media. Their industry didn’t exist as a category on Medium; you’d never see “#moisturemanagement” trending on Twitter.

Many B2B companies run into the same problem, particularly those that are:

  • Complex, with products that require deep expertise to understand and use.
  • Niche, offering highly specialized products that are used in a handful of uncommon situations.
  • Localized, where the entire buying process happens within a small—sometimes offline—network.
  • New, when products are so cutting-edge that few people know they exist, let alone that they should search for them.

These obscure B2B niches seem completely resistant to content marketing, but they’re resistant only to one application of content marketing: writing blog posts to target high-volume keywords.

Content, including articles, guides, and case studies, can still generate prospects and customers consistently—you just need to approach distribution from a different angle.

1. Create movement-first content to build credibility

Way back in 2008, an obscure SaaS company called Zuora started talking—loudly and endlessly—about the “subscription economy.” They wrote hundreds of articles on the topic. They invested small fortunes in research reports to prove its existence. They even rebranded their business:

subscription economy zuora

All this, despite the fact that nobody had heard of the “subscription economy.” Netflix had barely started experimenting with online video. Spotify was in its infancy. Dollar Shave Club was still three years away from creation.

Their content wasn’t designed to rank for popular keywords and harness existing search volume. In fact, everything about Zuora’s dogmatic pursuit of the subscription economy seemed to flip the content marketing playbook on its head:

  • Instead of writing about industry best practices, they shared contrarian perspectives. Zuora was the first and loudest proponent of the controversial idea that subscriptions were much more than a new payment methodology—they were the heart of the modern economy.
  • Instead of tackling simple, well-defined concepts, they spent time and energy defining amorphous ideas. They took a host of seemingly fragmented industry changes—customers demanding more from their vendors, customer relationships lasting years instead of days, competing businesses appearing virtually every day—and found the common thread that tied them together: more companies and customers were switching to subscriptions.
  • Instead of chasing existing keywords, they coined their own. They wrapped up their entire theory in a pithy, if rarely used, concept. Today, the term “subscription economy” has entered the lexicon of businesses the world over.

We call this movement-first content: articles designed to inspire and build credibility, instead of educate and target keywords.

You know movement-first content when you see it. It’s sometimes called thought leadership content. Some people call the posts “essays” instead of articles. It looks and feels very different from content optimized for search since it isn’t beholden to any SEO tactics like word count and keyword density.

Jimmy Daly, Animalz

For Zuora, movement-first content achieved what run-of-the-mill SEO content could never do:

  • It built credibility with decision-makers. By shifting the focus away from basic educational content and toward high-level inspirational concepts, Zuora inspired the elite and discerning audience it intended to sell to—CEOs, founders, and executives.
  • It created powerful network effects. The company’s early articles were rarely discovered through search. Instead, they were shared in company Slack channels, emailed between VPs and investors, and featured in industry newsletters.

Most important of all, it built a defensive moat around their business, even though the “subscription economy” took months to gain recognition, and years to become well-known. Zuora’s founder Tien Tzuo is now regarded as a visionary, a man who predicted the shift to subscriptions before anyone else.

The strategy offered little ROI in the near-term, but the company’s tenacity means that, today, Zuora is the dominant player in a software niche they effectively carved out for themselves, with other companies left to piggyback on their success.

This approach isn’t just limited to enterprise companies. HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing captured the zeitgeist of a jaded marketing industry, rife with pushy, invasive tactics, and offered a vision of helpful, educational marketing in its place—resonating with their audience of marketing managers and executives in the process.

Copper’s Relationship Era does the same for the sales industry, and Dialpad’s Anywhere Worker paints a picture of simple, streamlined communication for SMBs.

2. Use targeted case studies to close dream accounts

Most businesses have a handful of target accounts they dream of closing—big, prestigious companies that could generate a whole lot of revenue in a single deal. For a flooring company I worked with, that white whale was Hilton Hotels: one company in charge of flooring purchases for 14 global brands across 5,000 locations.

A single chain-wide deal with the company would bring in millions of dollars, but traditional SEO content wouldn’t work—they needed to raise awareness for their products at the highest echelons of the company, a handful of people who couldn’t be counted on to Google “hotel carpeting.”

They adopted an approach we refer to as account-based content—creating articles and guides tailor-made to the needs of a single target account. This wasn’t broad-brush outreach, sending generic copy to thousands of contacts: This was carefully crafted, hyper-specific outreach, delivered to a dozen or so people at a single company.

The team pooled their knowledge of Hilton Hotels and poured it into a case study:

  • They anticipated the chain’s biggest challenges, drawing on their experiences with similar companies to flag the biggest problems Hilton was likely experiencing—rapid carpet degradation in lobbies, corridors, and meeting rooms, labor-intensive cleaning and maintenance, and huge replacement costs for damaged carpeting.
  • They loaded up on social proof, showcasing how other hospitality businesses had solved the same problems by switching to their brand of flooring, highlighting the testimonials and cost savings that resulted.
  • They extrapolated the potential savings across the entire business, offering simple but compelling projections of the financial impact this seemingly minor change could have on the entire Hilton business.

Instead of posting the case study online, crossing fingers, and hoping for Hilton execs to stumble upon it, they sent the case study via the most direct channels available:

  • Cold email—using the data enrichment tool Clearbit (shown in the GIF below) to find the email addresses of key decision-makers at Hilton and emailing them a direct link to the case study.
  • LinkedIn Sponsored InMails—finding Hilton contacts through LinkedIn and paying to send a sponsored InMail message directly sharing the case study.
  • Direct mail—going the old-fashioned route and sending a printed case study straight to each executive’s office.
clearbit search
Clearbit data made it easy to find the right contacts for account-based content.

The emails and messages were simple and direct: We’ve helped companies like yours save a small fortune. We can do the same for you. Here’s the proof. 

Even in an industry swimming in spam and cold outreach, the approach worked. The case studies were so obviously tailored to the specific needs of Hilton Hotels that the executives couldn’t help but pay attention—opening up a direct route of communication with every decision-maker involved in purchasing.

3. Partner with industry publications to reach hundreds of decision-makers

Run a Google search for almost any niche B2B industry, and instead of hundreds of beautifully optimized blogs and thousands of engaging articles, you’ll find a handful of niche, old-fashioned websites. These sites are often straight transfers of physical magazines, complete with editorial columns, industry news, and upcoming events.

The British call-center industry is a perfect example. Speak to any number of call-center professionals, and they’ll recommend a single website as their go-to source for articles, opinions, resources, discussion, and events: Call Centre Helper.

industry publications sites

Set up in 2003, the website has a strong network-effect moat that makes it harder for other blogs and publications to compete. It’s been the industry’s go-to resource for 15 years, covering every imaginable nuance of call-center operations in a staggering level of detail.

These old-school websites are a goldmine of potential customers. They cater to a concentrated audience of executives and managers—a veritable “who’s who” for any given industry. They create, curate, and share content on a regular basis, and, most important of all, are usually very receptive to guest contributions or sponsorship—providing an opportunity to get your business in front of thousands of extremely relevant eyeballs.

Virtually any type of content is fair game with industry publications sharing:

  • Webinars, like this webinar targeted directly at call-center managers looking to improve performance.
  • Articles, case studies, and eGuides, like this analytics whitepaper written by, you guessed it, a company offering call-center analytics software.
  • Free tools, like this Excel model for calculating how many call-center agents are required for a given call volume and desired response rate.

This approach isn’t limited to big, established websites. Talk to contacts in your target industry, and look for the handful of resources that repeatedly crop up. Anywhere that boasts a high concentration of your target audience is worth investigating, whether they’re:

  • Industry and trade magazines, either online or offline, like World Pipelines magazine in the oil and gas industry or CowManagement magazine in the dairy industry.
  • Niche industry newsletters, like Call Centre Helper newsletter.
  • Personal blogs, typically those long-established, poorly search-optimized blogs with a committed readership but little online footprint—like this example from Jeff Moore, one of Google’s recruiting leaders.

By partnering with any of these specialized publications, you can reach an entire industry—executives, founders, and senior managers with the power to purchase your product—with a single piece of content.

4. Target related keywords and siphon off relevant prospects

Niche products are almost always part of a bigger, broader ecosystem of products. Electrical components might be an integral part of guitar amplifiers. Obscure supplements have an important role to play in ketogenic dieting. Returning to our earlier example, moisture-resistant adhesive is a small subsection of the commercial flooring industry.

Even if there’s no search volume for product-focused keywords, we can attract potential customers by targeting higher-volume related keywords. If we use the flooring example, there are just 10 searches each month for our particularly niche product:

  • moisture-resistant adhesive, 10/month

But move a step up the buying process to the parent category of our product, and we come across the generic keyword “flooring adhesive”—and lots more search volume:

  • flooring adhesive, 350/month

Go up a step again, and we reach “commercial flooring”:

  • commercial flooring, 2,700/month

Often, these high-volume keywords are too competitive to feasibly rank for, so we can reverse the process to find better keywords in related niches:

keyword ecosystem

In this instance, “commercial kitchen flooring” is a subset of “commercial flooring.” Although we’re looking at a similar difficulty rating as our flooring adhesive keyword, this particular niche has significantly more keyword volume—800 instead of 350.

  • commercial kitchen flooring, 800/month

Apply the process again, and we find “commercial kitchen flooring epoxy.” This keyword is just as easy to rank for as “moisture resistant adhesive,” but instead of 0 searches per month, we’re looking at 200.

  • commercial kitchen flooring epoxy, 200/month

Crucially, a subsection of that traffic will have an interest in our flooring adhesive. Target enough of these related keywords, and it’s possible to generate a steady stream of customers—we just need to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I think of this as vertically integrated content: In the same way that glasses manufacturer Luxottica famously controls every step of the sales process—product development, manufacture, logistics, and distribution—we’re creating content to target the entire ecosystem of keywords our product exists in and siphoning off the small but lucrative portion of visitors that might become customers.

We can identify those potential customers in a couple of ways:

  • Encourage self-selection with highly specific CTAs. In the example below, a flooring manufacturer is targeting a big, broad, high-volume topic—the pros and cons of vinyl flooring—and promoting a highly specific B2B-focused offer: 6 Ways to Guarantee Commercial Flooring Success. Relatively few visitors will engage with the offer, but those who do are virtually guaranteed to be a great fit for the company’s products.
  • Raise awareness for the niche problem you solve. Some products are niche because of a lack of awareness, and these high-volume articles present an opportunity to educate your visitors. This particular company specializes in a type of flooring that’s often sold as an improvement upon vinyl. By writing about the pros and cons of vinyl, they can introduce their flooring as an alternative and encourage visitors to view their product line.

Once these potential customers have self-selected, more conventional marketing tactics can be used to encourage them to the point of sale: sending lead nurturing email sequences, sharing case studies and sales collateral, and offering discounts or special offers.

In many ways, this approach is anathema to traditional content marketing. It generates lots of irrelevant traffic. Conversion rates will drop through the floor. But, ultimately, it generates paying customers—and that’s the only metric that really matters.

5. Use Q&A content to funnel prospects to your products

For a CRM tool, ranking for high-volume, product-related questions like “What’s the best CRM software?” can generate a wealth of prospects and customers.

But what if your industry is too niche for these types of questions to have any search volume? What if nobody uses Google to ask “Which small business accounting tool has the best Google Sheets integration?” or “Where can I find a pricing consultant for a non-profit organization?”

These questions still get asked. They just happen on sites like Quora, Reddit, and Stack Exchange—localized, industry-specific communities on forums and discussion sites. Most niche industries have some form of representation on these channels, like:

No matter how niche your industry, there’s a good chance you’ll find hyper-specific, hyper-relevant questions on one of these sites. You, as an expert in your industry, can answer these questions. Though any single answer might generate just a handful of views and responses, each visitor will have an interest in your industry—and your products and services. Create content to answer hundreds of these questions, and, in aggregate, you can reach a huge audience of relevant prospects.

For example, Jason Lemkin—the founder of a successful SaaS company, and now an investor—has racked up 42.6 million views to his Quora answers, responding to niche questions like:

quora question

quora question 2

quora question 3

These Q&A sessions can have a real impact on your bottom line. For example, as an investor, Jason Lemkin’s customers are the founders and executives of software companies. By answering these questions, he’s increasing the likelihood of finding prospects, earning their trust, and encouraging them to the point of sale, by:

  • Demonstrating credibility and proving his expertise in the SaaS industry.
  • Building brand recognition and social proof, exposing his name and business experience to audiences of potential prospects.
  • Funneling prospects to his website by using his author bio and in-answer links to promote his company, his investment fund, and other businesses he’s affiliated with.

Finding relevant questions to answer is as easy as searching each site for your chosen keyword. If you’d like to be more selective with your answers, you can use a tool like Ahrefs to find questions that already rank well in the search results, guaranteeing some measure of relevant traffic:

  • Enter the site domain—like https://www.quora.com—in the Site Explorer tool.
  • Use the “Top Pages” report to order pages by their organic search traffic.
  • Filter by your chosen keyword—say, “SaaS”—to find relevant questions with high traffic.

ahrefs site explorer

As well as attracting visitors from within the Quora network, answers regularly rank for dozens of search keywords—in aggregate, that’s often hundreds of potential prospects reading each of your answers.

Conclusion

There are thousands of B2B industries that seem too complex or too niche for content marketing. In reality, content can still be used to generate leads and customers—it just requires a different strategy to create and distribute content in the right way.

Ultimately, there’s a lot more to “content marketing” than generic SEO-focused blog posts. Instead, you should try to:

  • Build credibility and leverage network effects by sharing essays loaded with contrarian opinions and novel ideas.
  • Create detailed case studies tailor-made to the needs of a single target account.
  • Partner with niche industry publications and share exclusive articles, webinars, and tools.
  • Create content spanning the entire product ecosystem, and use highly specific CTAs to encourage prospects to self-select.
  • Answer hyper-specific questions in industry-specific forums and communities.

The post 5 Content Marketing Strategies for Niche B2B Industries appeared first on CXL.

Freemium vs. Free Trial: Which Gets You More Paying Customers (Not Just Freeloaders)?

Freemium and free-trial signups have one thing in common: Neither generates revenue. You may agonize over the decision to choose one path over the other, but you can save that strategic energy for figuring out how to transition more free users into paying customers. This post details the freemium and free-trial models and considers the […]

The post Freemium vs. Free Trial: Which Gets You More Paying Customers (Not Just Freeloaders)? appeared first on CXL.

Freemium and free-trial signups have one thing in common: Neither generates revenue.

You may agonize over the decision to choose one path over the other, but you can save that strategic energy for figuring out how to transition more free users into paying customers.

This post details the freemium and free-trial models and considers the key questions—about your business, your market, and your product—that guide you toward the best option.

What both strategies are—and are not

Neither freemium nor free trial will rescue an ailing SaaS company. If your onboarding experience is terrible or your product uninspiring, you’re wasting time with the “freemium vs. free trial” debate.

A freemium or free-trial approach impacts the micro-conversion of an unpaid product sign-up. And optimizing for micro-conversions can undermine macro-conversions, especially if your marketing team never sees what happens after a form fill.

So what should you do first? Define your go-to-market strategy. As Wes Bush details, you have three options for a SaaS go-to-market strategy: sales led, marketing led, or product led. Both freemium and free-trial programs are product-led strategies: they show instead of telling.

If you haven’t committed to a product-led strategy, you can stop reading now. But if you’ve already started down the product-led path—and can get it right—there are plenty of benefits.

Why product-led strategies work for SaaS companies

Freemium and free-trial strategies can reduce customer action costs (CACs). Research from ProfitWell shows that both have lower CACs compared to no product-led option—with the gap continuing to grow:

customer acquisition cost freemium vs free trial

Even with a product-led strategy:

  • Will you still spend marketing dollars to get users to sign up for freemium or free-trial versions? Yes.
  • Will you still need sales support for some enterprise accounts? Probably.

But rather than spending marketing dollars on expensive, bottom-of-funnel ad buys—or on content that attempts to explain the value of a product—a product-led strategy lets consumers create their own “Aha!” moment. And if you’re not spending money persuading those users with ads or whitepapers, you can pour those resources back into product development.

Consumer psychology also suggests why product-led strategies may enjoy more success:

  • Endowment effect. We value things more highly if we own them. Freemium or free-trial access increases a sense of ownership and, therefore, may increase its perceived value.
  • Mere-exposure effect. If we’re more familiar with a product (person, or anything else), we’re more likely to have positive feelings for it.
  • Loss aversion. We fear loss. A pending end to a free trial can encourage a purchase. With freemium, it’s relevant only if a company bumps up against a freemium limit and must upgrade to premium or migrate to another product.

Despite the benefits, getting unpaid users to become paid users—”crossing the penny gap”—is hard.

The formidable penny gap

Scaling from $5 to $50 million is not the toughest part of a new venture—it’s getting your users to pay you anything at all. The biggest gap in any venture is that between a service that is free and one that costs a penny.

Josh Kopelman, First Round Capital

The penny gap is the transition point from unpaid to paid customer, and both freemium and free-trial options must convince users to cross it. The gap is even wider for freemium offerings: At the onset of the relationship, user expectations are that the product is free.

To dispel this perception, Sixteen Ventures’ Lincoln Murphy emphasizes the need to immediately and repeatedly remind users that they’re accessing the freemium version of a premium product.

So, realistically, how many of those freemium and free-trial users can you expect to convert?

Benchmark conversion rates: freemium vs. free trial

Benchmarks have limited value: A “good” conversion rate is one that’s improving. Still, which product-led strategy—on average—converts better: freemium or free trial?

As Ada Chen Rekhi details, free trials usually convert at a higher rate, but rates vary widely:

  • Freemium. Lincoln Murphy cites a 3% conversion rate for SaaS and B2B web apps; a 2012 article on several leading platforms suggested a range between 1 and 10%. Slack, in 2014, converted at 30%.
  • Free trial. A much-cited but dated Totango study pegged the conversion rate (for opt-in free trials) at 15% for SaaS businesses; the rate jumped to 50% for opt-out trials. Single-company reports in 2016 from Chargebee, Justuno, and Recapture.io ranged from 10 to 25%.

The spread of conversion rates stems, in part, from the myriad ways you can deploy a freemium or free-trial strategy.

Freemium, free-trial, and hybrid models

Murphy argues that the choice is not between freemium and free-trial strategies but between freemium and premium products. (The latter may include a free trial.) Why the distinction? Because a freemium version is an independent, forever-free product that requires a conversion strategy.

Too often, SaaS companies roll out freemium strategies under the assumption that freemium users naturally cross the penny gap to become paying customers. In reality, freemium users are often an unmonetized segment that helps top-of-funnel marketers hit their numbers—but little else.

It’s one of many critical distinctions. These are the others:

Freemium models

A freemium strategy offers perpetual access to a restricted version of a product. Restrictions come in many forms:

  • Feature limitations. This is the most common form of a freemium product—a no-frills version of its premium counterpart (e.g. Evernote).
  • Usage limitations. The freemium version limits storage or server access (e.g. Dropbox), or caps the number of users (Canva).
  • Advertisement additions. Not every restriction removes functionality. Freemium versions can also include advertisements as a limitation on the experience (e.g. Spotify).
  • Cross-sells. Some freemium products are fully functional (e.g. iTunes), but access to them is an entry point to an ecosystem that incentivizes future purchases (e.g. iCloud).

Other products are fully free (e.g. Instagram) with other means of monetization, like advertising. While not freemium products—there’s no paid version to which you can upgrade—they represent one end of the free vs. paid spectrum.

If freemium still seems like a barrier to acquisition, you’ve got plenty of money in the bank, and you’re crossing your fingers for a buyout by Google or Facebook, a fully free product may make the most sense.

Free-trial models

A free trial gives users full access to a product for a limited period of time.

In an interview with HubSpot’s Kieran Flanagan, Ty Magnin of Appcues suggests that a free trial is the “demo of 2018.” That’s because most SaaS products are accessible immediately via a browser or app and automate onboarding: they’re self-paced, time-limited demos.

There are two ways to structure free trials:

  1. Opt-in. Users sign up for free without including any payment information. They can explore the product until their trial expires, at which point they’re prompted to sign up—pay or get out.
  2. Opt-out. Credit card information is taken at the start. At times, a nominal fee such as $1 is charged, often to placate payment processors or to cross the penny gap early on. If the user doesn’t cancel by the end of the trial, they’re billed automatically.

An opt-in free trial typically generates more trials because it reduces friction at signup; however, an opt-out free trial generates a higher percentage of sales (often of the “Gotcha!” variety), as some users forget to cancel in time. Those near-term sales, while enticing, may erode a brand and hurt retention.

Credit-card walls are also a tactic to keep out the “riff-raff,” an option Murphy cautions against:

a CC-wall doesn’t prevent abuse, it just lets fewer people in so you have less abuse [. . .] putting up a CC-wall doesn’t make a lot of sense most of the time; it is often used to cover up things that should be fixed or because you don’t believe that your Free Trial is setup to convert customers (which it probably isn’t).

In other words, a credit-card wall has consequences, not all of them desireable: It will keep out bad and good prospects, and it will tank your sign-up conversion rate (while likely skyrocketing your post-trial conversion rate—see the benchmarks above).

a cloud guru trial
A Cloud Guru has enjoyed exceptionally high conversion rates for opt-out trials. Note that they clearly advise users of pending charges.

For some, opt-out free trials are essential—you may have more leads than you can manage or face rampant trial abuse. Nonetheless, sharpening targeting for user acquisition or offering a trial only to some users (e.g. those already on an email list) may reduce the need for an opt-out version (and sign-up friction for legitimate prospects).

Hybrid models

What should happen when a free trial expires? For SaaS companies with hybrid strategies, those users migrate back into a pool of freemium users:

(Image source)

If loss aversion isn’t enough to catalyze a purchase at the end of a free trial, a hybrid free trial–freemium strategy can keep those users in the funnel—assuming there’s a strategy to advance them through to purchase (or product advocacy).

Murphy highlights that concern in a similar user flow:

(Image source)

Well-known SaaS companies have succeeded with a hybrid model. (HubSpot offers free trials within freemium and paid versions of their products.) But how do you know which makes sense for you?

How to choose between freemium and free trial

As detailed below, the use cases for freemium are limited, and, if your company isn’t a fit, a free trial is the fall-back option.

Getting to that decision point comes down to answering questions about:

  1. Your business.
  2. Your market.
  3. Your product.

Questions to ask about your business

Who are you selling to?

Is it the same person who uses your product on a day-to-day basis? If not, a product-led strategy may not be right at all. (A sales-led strategy may work better.) On the other hand, a freemium strategy may work well with a bottom-up approach that requires time to scale.

slack logoConsider Slack: At a large organization, the eventual purchasing decision may come from the C-Suite (where it’s used sparingly, if at all), but the request for that purchase could develop over time as more and more departments within the company rely on it for communication.

The inertia that regular use builds—historical knowledge, platform familiarity, etc.—makes switching difficult. Reaching that level of inertia takes longer than the duration of a free trial.

Advocacy depends on widespread adoption, but users are not homogenous: Freemium accounting software may be simple to a college administrator but complex to an independent contractor. Ensure that “easy to use” applies to every target demographic.

What are your goals?

spotify logoCompanies like Spotify and Canva created massive user bases by giving away a high-value product. As Kieran Flanagan explains, however, each did so with different goals in mind:

  • Market domination. For a product like Spotify, a freemium version drove rapid adoption that established the company as the dominant business in a crowded market.
  • Market disruption. Canva isn’t trying to win a head-to-head competition with Adobe. However, its freemium version is good enough to create loyal users who would rather spend thousands on something other than Photoshop.

canva logoThe danger, of course, is that both market goals optimize for more free users. Spotify and Canva didn’t become freemium success stories until they monetized their user bases.

And, like bottom-up efforts, both were a slow burn that required tens of millions in funding to sustain the glut of free users that precedes revenue. To generate that financial support, a SaaS product needs mass appeal.

It’s why your market may be the best guide to choosing a freemium or free-trial strategy.

Questions to ask about your market

How big is your market?

If you ask Jason Lemkin of SaaStr, he’ll tell you that you need 50 million active users to make freemium work. (By “work,” he means building a $100 million business.) That’s why most freemium success stories feature products that appeal to most people.

Not everyone is hoping for an IPO, however, which means that freemium is possible in smaller markets if the conversion rate is higher and the revenue per paid user also rises. (Lemkin’s back-of-the-napkin math assumes $10 per month per paid user.)

As Vineet Kumar argues in the Harvard Business Review, it may be easier to identify the right model by targeting a conversion rate. Kumar suggests that a 2–5% conversion rate is a reasonable balance; the more niche the market, the higher you should peg your target conversion rate.

So, if your conversion rate is 35%, you may want to consider a freemium option to expand your market. However, if your conversion rate is less than 1%, you may want to restrict access.

The size of your market isn’t the only consideration.

How mature is your market?

What product are you displacing? Murphy believes the answer is key to identifying the right customer-acquisition strategy.

For B2B SaaS products, the added challenge is that the choice for consumers is often all or nothing: Companies have one CRM, one email marketing platform, one CMS, etc. That’s different from B2C SaaS products (Murphy uses the example of smartphone games), in which consumers may simultaneously use several.

Regarding displacement, there are three potential answers:

1. You’re displacing a popular commercial product. You’re entering a product category with wide adoption for which people expect to pay money—two key benefits. But it may also be the hardest market to break into; you’re a disruptor. A freemium approach, like Canva’s, may motivate users to try an alternative solution.

2. You’re displacing an archaic system. Does your SaaS product achieve something that a patchwork of spreadsheets currently does? Your product may offer a ton of value, but you’re also asking people to pay for something they currently get for free. (Or, at least, the cost of the existing solution is buried in extra hours of labor.)

Is a free trial enough time for users to establish a new habit? Or will it take the promise of a forever-free product to convince them to migrate a process to your product? If you think a freemium version is necessary to inspire a shift, beware that you’re replacing one free product with another. At some point, you’ll need to convince users to pay.

3. You’re displacing nothing at all. Are you offering a never-before-imagined SaaS product? Freemium could expedite adoption and dominance. After all, you have no competition—yet.

However, you also establish the expectation that your new service is free. A free trial may let you figure out quickly—and, perhaps, painfully—that there’s no market at all.

What is the network effect in your market?

Freemium’s core growth engine is social proof aka word-of-mouth marketing. To drive word of mouth marketing, a freemium business needs a community, typically an existing one which falls in love with the business’s product.

Tom Tunguz

Freemium requires an active, engaged market with a strong referral network to monetize (albeit indirectly) legions of non-paying users. Freemium products expect that a majority of users will never become paying customers; however, those freeloaders pay for their use by spreading awareness.

dropbox network effect
The network effect is stronger with freemium products—users share something of permanent value.

For generating word-of-mouth referrals, freemium beats free trial: Freemium is a product, not a sample, and, as a result, is worth sharing. Still, that sharing won’t occur organically. As Murphy emphasizes, freemium products must catalyze the network effect (e.g. Dropbox lets you give free storage to your friends.)

Identifying those trigger points—to entice new users and convert them into paying customers—requires deep product knowledge.

Questions to ask about your product

How expensive is your product?

An expensive product, according to Bush, doesn’t work with an opt-out free trial. (Bush argues against opt-out free trials in general.) For one, opt-out “free” trials often create a low initial anchor, like the nominal $1 fee, which makes the full price seem that much higher (to say nothing of the negative impact that even a one-penny price has on conversion rates—free is a powerful word).

Second, they yield unintentional purchases and, with a high price point, ones that may max out a credit card and infuriate users.

one dollar free trial
A $1 trial may create an anchor that makes a high-cost sale more difficult.

A freemium approach for an expensive product faces a similar risk: The penny gap grows wider, and freemium can devalue a high-end brand.

An opt-in free trial solves the aforementioned issues for expensive products. For inexpensive products, the decision point between freemium and free trial likely resides elsewhere.

Is your product easy to use?

No freemium offering comes without costs, even if those costs are a few GBs of server space. To ensure that onboarding and customer service costs remain low, however, freemium requires simple onboarding and total (or near total) self-service. (Bush offers another possibility: charging for user onboarding or folding those costs into the product’s price.)

As noted earlier, a diverse user base may make product onboarding suprisingly complex. And, of course, if users don’t understand how to use a product, they’re unlikely to become passionate advocates.

The same is true for free trials: The more involved the onboarding process, the greater the need for user qualification (unless you have resources to devote to added customer support).

How much do you know about your product?

Free trials use urgency to motivate a purchase. When trying to convert more free-trial users, you can test trial length—say, 14 days versus 30—but the variables are limited.

With freemium products, the variables are endless. Flanagan details the key questions:

[W]hat are the parts that are valuable enough that will help them spread the good word about how great that product is? And what are the features and things that they’ll need so much that they’re just going to pay you money?

If you want to learn which features users care about, freemium opens the floodgates. Freemium can serve, in effect, as a means to scale user research. You can rapidly test the addition or subtraction of features (to statistical significance) to determine which are stickiest.

At the same time, you may not have the patience (or funding) to endure an influx of new users. Piloting the software with a handful of companies may provide similar information at a fraction of the cost.

nytimes subscription limit

Ultimately, that data has value only when it connects to a user decision to upgrade. If you don’t know which features generate a sale—or, as The New York Times learned, exactly how many articles they should let you read for free (the answer was 10, not 20)—you won’t monetize those users effectively.

Of course, if your market is so small that you’ll never gather enough data, there’s no point opening the floodgates to begin with—a free trial ensures every user gets access to the most influential features.

Conclusion

Bush is fond of quoting Rob Walling: “Freemium is like a Samurai sword: unless you’re a master at using it, you can cut your arm off.” The default recommendation—from Bush, Walling, and others—is for an opt-in free trial.

That said, if your current conversion rate is high, a freemium option (or less-restricted free trial) may bring more users into the funnel and generate word-of-mouth to expand awareness.

In contrast, if you’re burning through cash trying to onboard hundreds of no-pay tire-kickers (of the freemium or free-trial variety), you should tighten the spigot.

And yet, in the end, the critical consideration is the execution of either strategy—rather than the choice of it—which has a far greater influence on how many evaluators become purchasers.

The post Freemium vs. Free Trial: Which Gets You More Paying Customers (Not Just Freeloaders)? appeared first on CXL.

PPC Automation: Is the Future of Paid Search Already Here?

Will PPC look like this in 2020? Probably not. Nonetheless, there are some amazing automation opportunities that make the life of Marketing Managers, CMOs, and PPC experts quicker and more efficient—especially for fast-growing companies that need to scale their campaigns. PPC automation is a massive topic. In this post, I focus on automation within Google Ads. […]

The post PPC Automation: Is the Future of Paid Search Already Here? appeared first on CXL.

Will PPC look like this in 2020?

Probably not. Nonetheless, there are some amazing automation opportunities that make the life of Marketing Managers, CMOs, and PPC experts quicker and more efficient—especially for fast-growing companies that need to scale their campaigns.

PPC automation is a massive topic. In this post, I focus on automation within Google Ads. Google dominates the search market, with about two-thirds market share (roughly 90% if you include image and YouTube searches). So, if you’re looking for new business and easy scalability, the search network is one of your quickest routes.

In this post, I’ll show which PPC tasks can and can’t be automated—and share insider tips on how we automate PPC management at KlientBoost.

I’ll break this down into four major strategies within a search account:

  1. Bidding
  2. Ad Testing
  3. Finding New Keywords
  4. Negative Keyword Refinement

Automating different functions and processes in these four strategies will save time, resources, and even ad spend.

1. Automating Bidding Strategies

So what can you do with the automated bidding strategies rolling down the Google Ads pipeline? Don’t get too excited just yet. The algorithm that Google uses has not beat, in bulk, human-optimized campaigns that are running on manual CPC.

So the simple answer? Start with manual bidding. Start low and conservative, then work your way up as you collect data—it’s the easiest way to make sure you aren’t getting caught with the highest CPC in your industry.

Google has made rapid improvements to their automated bidding strategies, like Max Conversions and Target CPA. (I’ve seen some wins with this that I’ll talk about later.) However, when I tested the automated bidding betas for over 150 of my clients, manual CPC still won out.

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked about automated bidding is which strategy to pick when. I’ve put together a quick “Use Case” table to help you. These use cases are not only backed by Google, but they’ve also been confirmed by tests in our accounts:

use cases automating ppc
Manual CPC may be the starting point, but let’s not forget the goal: automating PPC performance.

Running bidding experiments in Google Ads

I’m in love with A/B testing (like, in love). But with A/B testing, you need to minimize variables.

Typically, when people decide to test a new bidding strategy, they switch an entire campaign or even account over to their new bid model. That throws another major variable into the mix—time. How Manual Bidding performed in November versus how Maximize Conversions performed in December is not a fair test.

That’s why Google Ads has the best tool: experiments! Use the experiments tool to duplicate your original campaign and change whatever you’d like without touching your legacy campaign.

So, if you’re trying to find out whether an automated bidding strategy would improve your campaign, just experiment with one before adjusting your ad spend budget. Here’s how to set up an experiment in under 2 minutes:

The steps to create your draft in Google Ads.
The steps to create your experiment.
The finished experiment.

As you can see above, using Maximize Conversions beat out Manual CPC by 426% percent. And the best part? If your experiment wins, you can convert it to the main campaign without losing algorithmic learnings.

Third-party software to automate bidding

For most marketers, products like Kenshoo are too expensive. Kenshoo’s system integration and automation usually run around $10,000, with packages ranging between $2,500 (up to two ad platforms) and $25,000 (more than five systems) per month.

Eventually, Google will figure out how to beat manual bidding from the start. But it’s not there yet, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. As Adam Hallas from Mindstream Media confirms, “Going to manual bidding on your typical in-house business account is usually the best long-term solution.”

Still, within the four elements of PPC automation, bidding is the only piece that could be fully automated. Ad testing, finding new keywords, and negative keyword refinement take manual work.

Here’s how to speed those up with automation—while increasing the quality of the work, too.

2. Automating Ad Testing

A couple of tools within Google Ads can speed up your ad testing. If your account is small and has under 30–50 ads, you can pause the losing ad manually and begin a new test. But for accounts with hundreds of simultaneous ads, this process won’t work.

Thankfully, with Google Ads editor, Microsoft Excel, and the use of labels, you can A/B test any element across an entire campaign in under 90 seconds:

  1. Open up a campaign within the Ads Editor and navigate to the “ads” tab.
  2. Scroll up to the “Accounts” bar at the top and select Export > Export current view, and then open up the Excel document.
  3. Sort by the A/B test you would like to make. In my case, the “Try for Free Today” H2 lost. I’m going to replace the H2 with a new CTA.
  4. Change your test cells and label accordingly.
  5. Copy the new cells, reopen Ads Editor, and click “Make multiple changes.” (Make sure that the “My data includes columns for campaigns and/or ad groups” is checked.)
  6. Paste copied excel cells into Ads Editor. Review to make sure everything copied over correctly.
  7. Post changes to Excel and voila…you’re done!

You can view a silent walkthrough of the above seven steps in the video below:

[This post contains video, click to play]

Note: To declare a winner, track Cost per Acquisition (CPA), not click-through-rate. Anyone can place “FREE” in their ad copy and get tons of clicks, but we want to find ads that lead to quality clicks (i.e. from people who actually become customers).

But wait: What about Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)? If you aren’t aware of this new feature within Google Ads, here’s what it looks like:

The main benefit to these ads is the ability to test quickly—including multivariate testing. In the earlier example, you change only one element of the ad, which gives clarity as to what improved performance but slows overall testing.

Responsive ads allow simultaneous testing of up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. Google uses machine learning to test various combinations, find the best one, and show it more often.

My suggestion is to run manual and responsive testing side by side until your RSAs start to beat your manual format. Then, you can make the full switch and test RSA vs. RSA.

As with any test, make sure you

  1. Have enough traffic.
  2. Let the test run long enough.

You can use an A/B test calculator to help determine thresholds for statistical significance.

Since RSAs just rolled out to all accounts weeks ago, we don’t have enough data to promise that they’ll work better than manual testing. But they are another step in the right direction by Google to speed up the testing process.

3. Automating New Keyword Opportunities

Ads are important, but if you’re not maximizing the quality of traffic coming through, ads become somewhat irrelevant. So let’s focus on how to speed up the process of finding new keywords and putting them into what we call SKAGs (single-keyword ad groups).

Once campaigns are up and running, you’ll be able to identify which ones are converting. When you find search terms that are converting and have a substantial amount of impression/click volume, it’s probably worth breaking them out into their own SKAGs.

The main reason that we like breaking high-volume, high-converting keywords into their own ad groups is for bidding purposes. If the search term that’s consistently converting is coming through a broader keyword with a lower bid, you may not be reaching the full potential of that exact search.

By extracting the high-converting search term into its own SKAG, you’re able to bid more aggressively and maximize Impression Share. (For a more in-depth explanation on why we break high-converting search terms into their own SKAGs, check out this post.)

You can also download our free automated SKAG creation tool here. All the steps are within the Google Sheets template. Here’s a quick demo:

Step 1: Navigate to the “Master Exact” tab and enter new SKAG search terms into the “keyword” column.

Step 2: Navigate to the “FOR IMPORT” tab. Copy and paste all columns into Google Ads Editor under the “Keyword” section.

import keywords automation

Note: The next steps make changes in two “Ads” tabs because we test two ads per ad group. If you only want to do one ad, change only one “Ads” tab.

Step 3: Fix H1s in both “Ads 1” and “Ads 2” tabs. (They’re currently programmed to spit out the SKAG.) Cells will highlight red if they’re over the character count limit.

Step 4: Add your H2, H3, Description, Path 1, Path 2, and Final URL in both “Ads” tabs.

Step 5: Navigate to the “ADS IMPORT” tab. Copy and Paste all columns into Google Ads Editor under the “Ads” section.

ads ppc automation

If you’ve ever had to do this work manually, it can take hours to add 30 SKAGS. Now you can do 400 in 5 minutes.

4. Automating Negative Keyword Curation

Finally, the last—and most useful—automation tool for Google Ads is the N-Gram script. This script helps find junk keywords in your campaigns that drive up unnecessary costs.

An N-gram is a phrase made of “n” number of words: a 1-gram is a single word, a 2-gram is a phrase of two words, and so on. For example, “this four word phrase” contains three 2-grams (“this four,” “four word,” “word phrase”) and two 3-grams (“this four word” and “four word phrase”).

With the N-gram script, you can parse your entire account’s search-term list into chains of 1–5 N-grams by account, campaign, and ad group. You’ll come away with stats on how each N-gram has performed.

After you’ve added the script to your account, you need to change a couple of things within the script itself:

  1. The startDate and endDate. Set the time frame for which you want to pull search-term data.
  2. currencySymbol. Make sure that you are in the correct currency.
  3. spreadsheetUrl. For each account, add a new spreadsheet for this script to dump its data into. Be sure to add a new Google Sheets link to each N-gram script you use.

Once you’ve set up and run the script, go to your Google Sheet. It should look like this:

Based on your target CPA, you can identify all the N-grams that don’t meet the goal for the time frame you established. The N-gram script will populate all keywords in your campaigns (within your start and end date) into a single sheet.

In this sheet, you can filter by conversions to check which grams are generating zero conversions. Then, you can filter those failing to generate conversions by their CPA to see which are costing you the most. These are the terms you’ll add to your negative keyword list.

Without this script, you could be going through hundreds or thousands of keywords one at a time—manually checking each for conversion volume and CPA, then cross-comparing them. The N-gram script groups every common “gram” under one roof and identifies its performance across multiple keywords.

Be careful: Some search terms that exceed your CPA target may do so because your landing page experience is terrible, or because they’re in a bad ad group with high a bid. Make sure you manually review poorly performing N-grams before dumping them into a negative keyword list.

Conclusion

What’s the outcome of implementing these PPC automation techniques? Better performance and less time spent doing the work.

And the more time you save on your PPC wins now, the more time you have to spend on bigger wins—PPC or otherwise—in the future.

The post PPC Automation: Is the Future of Paid Search Already Here? appeared first on CXL.