Earlier this year, a good friend called me up to complain about how much money he had wasted driving traffic to his online store using Google Ads with almost no results. Exasperated, he abruptly ended his ad campaigns and — to no one’s surprise — got a call from Google marketing support.

Turns out he was spending money on keywords that weren’t going to do much for him. While this analysis was accurate and helpful, to him it seemed like too little, too late.

$16,000 of ad spend down the drain and he was not feeling too inclined to continue advertising with them. I think this is quite a shame because Google ads, done right, can be a really powerful tool in eCommerce.

Now, this example from my own network just happens to focus on Google, but I’ve heard disappointments like this from eCommerce business owners using all of the big ad platforms.

Why does it seem like the odds are stacked against the little guy?

Essentially, the whole ad industry revolves around how much you spend on ads. The ad platforms, agencies, and other intermediaries all take a cut of your marketing spend. This means their interests are not aligned with smaller businesses who are more budget-conscious.

Has any agency or platform ever recommended to you that you lower your monthly spend, even if it would help your business in the long run?

Multi-channel campaign optimization

My buddy already had big problems with his ads when sticking to just a single channel. These problems get compounded when expanding to multiple channels.

I spoke with a marketing leader at a Michigan-based cleaning supplies company, Image Wash Products, who was looking to grow beyond Facebook Ads and into paid search. Adam was much more experienced with the Facebook side of things, so he knew entering this space would be complex to navigate without the proper tools to help him manage his campaigns. He was looking for ways to manage multiple cross-channel campaigns, while staying in control and not wasting his whole day comparing reports.

The platforms themselves have some built-in automation already that is designed to help marketers like Adam automate common tasks. These options can allow smaller advertisers to leverage the power of Machine Learning.

Some of the big ticket automation tools are:

These can have a positive impact, however, they must be used with caution as simply switching them on might not lead to the outcome you want.

That being said, these can typically work well within the same platform. Google’s algorithm will serve up ads in the places and formats it recognizes have the best performance. Factoring all of this together, a marketing director like Adam would wonder: So how do these Google ads stack up against those we’re running on Instagram or Facebook?

Well, that’s exactly where it gets tricky.

All the platforms are claiming success, but which ones are actually performing? You need to combine the data and normalize it to ensure your reporting is accurate.

Cost and effort can quickly escalate for small businesses trying to manage this on their own. Measurement and attribution  get harder to pin-point with each additional channel you add, requiring you to either hire more people, bring on an agency, or invest in a rules-based or intelligent technology solution.

1. Keep it in-house

This is likely the most expensive option and will result in someone whose job it is to constantly monitor your ad accounts, analytics, and manage bid and budgets. A full-time, experienced marketer whose main function would be cross-channel optimization would mean–depending on your monthly spend–that they would be mostly working to cover their own salary!

For Adam, this was simply not an affordable solution.

2. Hire on an agency

Still a pricey option, but one that allows you to have a team of experts helping optimize your ads. However, with agencies, oftentimes the internal search and social teams actually compete against each other for relevance and percentage of ad spend. This can sometimes lead to motivations that don’t necessarily align with your goals as a business and don’t truly optimize your cross-channel campaigns against each other.

Again, not an option within Adam’s budget.

3. Leverage a software solution

A technology-driven solution is going to be the most cost-effective and least error-prone method. The number of variables that go into managing multiple, cross-platform campaigns is simply too great for humans to comb through efficiently and accurately. Using past performance to predict future success, calculating how much ad spend to allocate where, and moving budgets across multiple platforms are tedious for a human, but can be done instantly with a software.

As a marketer who struggled with pains of manual optimization for years myself, what drew me to Optily was its elegant platform, grown from years of working with agencies, that simply made it all easy.

A cross-channel marketer can now instantly receive insights into the effectiveness of their campaigns, get recommendations on the optimal budget allocation, and apply these recommendations directly from one dashboard.

With the internal, built-in automations that the ad platforms themselves offer, like Facebook’s CBO, along with an optimization technology, marketers can regain hours from their days while seeing significant improvements in overall ad performance.

Rather than just being forced to spend more for more clicks, campaigns that are performing better will get more of the budget. The spend stays the same, but results improve.

This is the option Adam ultimately went with and saw amazing results within just a couple of weeks.

I go into more detail on cross-channel optimization, funnel structure, and more, to help you succeed in online advertising in my new book.

Accelerate eCommerce Growth: A Proven Framework to Scaling Your eCommerce Business with Digital Advertising is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon, but we’re offering Small Biz Daily readers a free download for a limited time.

Brendan J. Hughes has been “doing” eCommerce and digital marketing since 1997. For much of his career, he has been responsible for devising eCommerce and digital marketing strategies to help businesses accelerate their growth. In each of those roles, Brendan was confronted with the perennial challenge of buying media across multiple platforms and how to get the best returns from across the big walled gardens of Facebook and Google.

Over time, Brendan got to know the co-founders of an ad-tech start-up called Optily whose mission is to level the playing field for small and medium-sized businesses advertising on the big ad platforms, such as Facebook and Google. Brendan joined Optily as CEO, realizing that the self-service solution developed by the team was a game-changer for eCommerce marketers.

Twitter: @BrendanHughes

Read Part One Here

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