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by Stephen Beach
on November 11, 2020

Blowing Marketing Budget on Paid Ads with Little ROI? Do This Instead

We’ve been working with small and medium sized businesses to massively fuel their company growth through digital marketing for the last 10 years. One of the most common conversations we get into with prospects and clients centers around paid digital ads. You may be familiar with related terms like pay per click (PPC), search engine marketing (SEM), search marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), etc.
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A pay per click advertising campaign is meant to do one of two things: 

1. Increase brand awareness: simply getting more eyeballs on your brand (referred to as "impressions" or "views" of your paid ad.

  • Example: The brand ads on the right sidebar of Facebook. Seeing them, even though you don't click on them, counts as an impression.

2. Generate conversions: encourage people to click your ad and follow some sort of marketing funnel.

  • Example: Clicking on an ad at the top of your Google search results page, which takes you to a website where you can sign up for a webinar, or where you can fill out a form to download an industry research paper.

Today I want to share something with you that I share with business owners on an almost daily basis – a word of warning. 

When weighing where to spend your marketing dollars, take into consideration whether you’re investing in something you own, or something you’re renting. 

I liken this decision to buying vs. renting a house. Think of your website as a house – it’s your single biggest, most powerful marketing asset. This is what you own. The branding, the website domain, the content you’ve developed, everything in the website – that’s all 100% owned by you.

Like a house, a website is a long-term asset that you own – it’s yours. To most small businesses, a website is their house. You own the website, it should be positioned as your biggest marketing asset. 

When you buy paid ads (SEM or PPC), you are renting space. When you stop paying the bill, the ads go away. Poof, gone forever! They’re temporary. On the surface, paid ads offer a simple and compelling way to generate more business. I see a lot of businesses spending big marketing budgets on paid ads to do one of these two things: increase brand awareness or generate conversions. But with small businesses, all too often I see companies put money into a short-term, rented space item like paid ads. When it doesn’t get the results they were hoping for, the bill stops getting paid and the ads go away. 

Then what happens? The eyeballs you paid for are gone, they’re on to the next competitor. The assets you built (the creative search and banner ads you paid for) are archived. You’re back at step 1 trying to figure out: “how do I bring more awareness to my brand, how do I build my list of contacts I can market and sell to?”

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What to do instead? 

Focus on building or improving your house first, and make sure it’s set up as an educational, helpful resource that attracts ideal clients to it (brand awareness), then work to convert that website traffic into qualified leads that want to talk with you. Here are the steps we generally advise clients to follow: 

Step 1

Build your website with a structure that is optimized for search engines, and feature consistent content that is educational and helpful to your target audience. Grow your website traffic with this type of “organic” search audience to at least 1,000-2,000 website visitors per month. 

  • Keep in mind, for financial advisors, only ~1% of your website traffic will be ready to actually talk with you about financial planning or wealth management. What do you do with the remaining 99% of your website visitors? Short answer: offer them different pieces of information that they’ll find helpful, no matter where they are in the “buyer’s journey” – the process of making their decision of whether or not they want to work with you. Doing so will keep them engaged and allow you to continue to market to them over time.

Step 2

Focus on designing the content on your website to convert visitors into qualified leads. That is, when 100 people come to your website, at least 1-3 of them should be willing to provide you with their contact information. If this isn’t the case already, spending money on paid ads will be a huge waste of money.

  • In order to convince 1-3 out of every 100 people to give you their contact information, you need compelling messaging, educational and helpful content, attractive lead magnets like eBooks, PDF checklists, premium videos, questionnaires, etc. Your website visitors must see value in  the content you provide in order to share their first name, last name, and email address. No value = no new contact information from a prospective client.

Step 3

Set up marketing automation to nurture those leads to the point of sales conversation. This is most often done with an “email drip” campaign. These emails should be segmented and hyper-personalized to each audience, because each audience has different challenges, wants, and needs. Your clients have different personas, so marketing to each persona’s needs is critical to your success.

Step 4

Now you are ready to supplement your website with paid ads!

Stop the madness: it’s time to reverse the order

In the wealth management space, it seems the industry standard is these four steps in reverse order. 

When you buy digital ads without having your house (website) in order, that would be like trying to sell your house to potential buyers when it needs a bunch of maintenance. The windows are broken, the front door doesn’t have a lock on it, the roof and A/C needs replaced...the person shopping for a move-in ready house isn’t going to buy that house! All the work you did getting the potential buyer to do a walkthrough for that house is wasted. The buyers won’t even go in, they’ll stay in their car, take one look, and keep driving to their next prospective house. 

Same thing goes for your website - you could spend PPC money to bring people to your site. They arrive at your site, then leave. Obviously, this is of very little value to you - you’ve got what marketing folks call a “bounce” – someone who “bounces” off your website after only viewing one page. They see your brand, which is positive. But they aren’t compelled to take the next step to engage with you. From there, the visitor will go to your competitors’ websites and browse until they find something that intrigues them, that pulls them in in such a way that they want to raise their hand and say “yep, here’s my contact information, I’m ready to hear more.”

So, I’d strongly recommend that if you’re considering a paid ads campaign because you want to boost your digital marketing results and see some ROI right away, that you step back and think about the bigger picture of how website visitors will experience your brand. How will they engage with you? When someone sees the ad and comes to your website, that’s great. But put yourself in their shoes, what does their journey look like once they reach the front doorstep of your house (website)? If you haven’t cleaned up the house in awhile, I beg you to start there! If you’re not willing to clean, or more likely, don’t have the time to clean – then please hire cleaners to do it for you!

Paid ads vs. website marketing: how much should I spend? 

How much should invest towards improving your own house vs. getting some quick wins with paid ads? As a general rule of thumb, we advise people to look at PPC as a supplement to your primary digital marketing tactics. Let it enhance but not define your digital marketing strategy. For wealth management companies and financial advisors looking to invest in their own long-term assets, I’d recommend that 75-90% of your digital marketing spend go to your website, your house. The remaining 10-25% can be spent on the rented space, the paid ads, once your house is in order. 

Prioritize your own website as your most powerful marketing asset and work to turn it into a lead generating machine that works 24/7, 365 – I guarantee that in doing so, you will enjoy more predictable and sustainable digital marketing ROI. 

Want to see examples of how companies in the wealth management industry have invested in their websites to generate ROI on their marketing spend? Send us a note and we’ll show you what others in your industry have done and walk you through how to start prioritizing your house over rented space. 

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