How to get the most out of your ad campaign (part 1)

Most units at the U of I deal almost exclusively with performance marketing campaigns (vs. brand campaigns). These campaigns have a specific action you want the user to complete, such as apply for a program, buy a ticket or donate money. And at the university, our offerings are typically high-involvement purchases, similar to a car or a house. This means that, for the vast majority of cases, our audiences are not going to see an ad, click an ad and make a purchase all in the same interaction.

So what does that mean for you as you consider your ad campaigns?

When marketing our offerings, there are a few things we can learn from sales professionals. Sales professionals would have to make thousands of calls a day to reach their goals if all they did was ask people to buy their stuff during the first call. But sometimes, that is how we run our ad campaigns. We ask for a commitment before we’ve even gotten to know one another.

By doing some work up front, you can create campaigns that use your budget more strategically and, like a sales professional, allow you to move your audience through a sales funnel where you can create awareness, qualify the lead for interest, qualify purchase intent, and create opportunities to close the sale. Below I'll discuss some of the structures you can put in place to make the most of your ad campaign budget.

Daily Budgets

The first element of campaign structure is to always use daily budgets, not campaign-level budgets. Daily budgets will allow you to prioritize audiences, prioritize specific ad sets/tactics, and give you flexibility to move budget to better-performing aspects of the campaign and to move budget up and down funnel throughout the campaign.

Funnel Construction

Before you start creating any assets for your campaign you will need to determine the funnel you’re going to use. Your budget, audience size, and goals are going to help determine how many layers your funnel can, and should, support. At minimum, every campaign should have a prospecting layer, with the goal of identifying people that might be interested in your offering, and a retargeting layer where ads are sent to people that engaged with the prospecting layer. Optimally, if budget and audience allow, I like to include a third layer for high-involvement purchases.

These three layers are prospecting, interest, in-market. Depending on the platform, you will need to determine what tools you will use to signal movement down the funnel and how long you will have a prospect stay at each layer of the funnel.

Audience Structure

Most campaigns that I work on have a primary audience and then a handful of secondary audiences. For many marketers, it is tempting to create a single campaign/ad set/tactic where all of these audiences are combined because it is a lot easier to set up. For many reasons, this is a mistake. 

The right way to structure your audiences is to create a separate Campaign/ad set/tactic for each audience. By doing this you will be able to easily see how each audience is performing and have the flexibility to properly optimize your campaigns.

In a followup post next week, I'll cover the most critical element of your ad campaign: the Creative Structure. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to explore any of these concepts further.