001: Speaking, Sparking Connections, Star Wars, and (Google) Shopping – Kirk Williams Talks Mentorship and Marketing

C: Podcast

Kirk Williams, Founder and CEO of ZATO Marketing, a PPC micro agency, discusses the benefits of dedicating yourself to learning, sharing your knowledge and wisdom, and more of his background. We talk about how seminary school helped him become the marketer he is today, along with his Father-In-Law, and how he defines a mentor. He mentions the processes he’s implementing to mentor his team today, and we discuss Performance Max and the future of Google Shopping.

Key Points + Topics

  • [4:00] Kirk’s educational background was in seminary school (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary). While in school, he learned the essential skills of in-depth reading, writing, understanding complex topics, and taking in a multitude of differing interpretations and backgrounds of ideas. This focus on communication and how people think has helped drive his career in digital marketing, especially PPC. 
  • [10:19] When it came to finding and building his team at ZATO, Kirk highlighted the importance of finding people who have curiosity and passion. Formal and secondary education can be beneficial, but it’s really about the individual people and doing a cost-benefit analysis of how they commit to projects and learning. 
  • [14:25] What is a mentor? At a real, base level, Kirk defines a mentor as someone who has the willingness and knowledge to offer help to someone in an ongoing manner. A mentor isn’t always going to be someone older than you or even in the same industry or field as you. Kirk’s father-in-law worked in insurance sales and, through dinner table conversations, helped guide Kirk in the digital marketing position he held while trying to finish college. He also stressed the importance of consent from your mentor, as well as respect for the knowledge and guidance shared. 
  • [31:15] Kirk’s still trying to figure out the details of how he is mentoring and fostering an environment of mentorship within the ZATO world now. For example, when asked an everyday question about where a feature is within Google Merchant Center, he’ll aim to answer the original question and provide the knowledge behind why that feature would be used or how to best leverage it for a given client. He’s starting a new process within the team’s weekly meetings, where each person chooses a topic, does a deep dive on it, and then later shares their learnings with the rest of the team. 
  • [34:30] Performance Max is Google Ads‘ new goal-based campaign type that uses Google’s automation to target more converting customers and focuses on sales conversions. Kirk highlights how little is known across the digital marketing and PPC communities about how PMax truly works and the specifics of how it targets customers. Additionally, he pointed out that it is primarily used to target bottom-of-funnel customers, which is great, but it should only be used as a piece of a larger puzzle for many businesses. The importance of continuing to bring in new customers through the top of the funnel through other venues shouldn’t be forgotten. 

Guest + Episode Links

Full Episode Transcript

Danny Gavin    00:34

Hello everyone. I’m so excited to be here today with Kirk Williams, the owner of ZATO PPC Marketing. And Kirk has like a huge long list of what he does and what he’s accomplished. I’m going to go through a couple of them.

Danny Gavin    00:46

Obviously, he’s the owner and lead strategist of ZATO PPC Marketing; it’s a micro agency dedicated to running Google ads for small and large businesses, and obviously staying on top of paid search best practices. He’s been named one of the 25 Most Influential PPCers in the world by PPC Hero from 2016 to 2021, which is so cool. He’s the author of two amazing books that I own both of: ‘Ponderings of a PPC Professional’ and ‘Stop the Scale’. He’s also been a conference speaker at many conferences from Brighton SEO to SMX. Actually, that’s the first place that I met Kirk was at State of Search in Dallas, Texas, and I think that might have been one of his first presentations. So, I kind of knew Kirk before he was the man. And then he also has his own podcast called PPC Ponderings, which is really great. The editing is amazing and the content even better. So, Kirk, how are you?

Kirk Williams    01:41

Good thank you, yeah no, that’s funny. I had kind of forgotten about the State of Search days, you know, years ago. That was, those were really good times yeah. I love that conference.

Danny Gavin    01:49

I know, it was such an amazing conference and for those people it’s a search conference in Dallas, Texas. Very regional. And the cool part about it was, you know, although it’s small, but like, it really brought in big speakers, but it also gave people the opportunity to, like, come in and show their stuff.

Kirk Williams    02:07

Yeah, there have been a few regional conferences like that I’ve been at, like Minnesota Search and SLC, I think it’s Utah DMC I think they call it. And similar to the one in Dallas, their State of Search, they, like it’s a very similar vibe, exactly what you described. It’s kind of like they bring in a lot of, you know, well known speakers who travel, but also there’s kind of that local vibe thing going on as well. So you just, so it’s kind of a small atmosphere but you have some big name speakers. It’s really fun, yeah.

Danny Gavin    02:37

Yeah, and for those who don’t, have never been to, like, an event or a conference like that. Especially in the digital marketing world. Like, so valuable. I can’t tell you, like, how much you learn. You know, as much as you can go on and follow blog posts and YouTube, but, like, there’s something special about a conference. You know, not every presentation is going to be amazing, but there are you really get some great Nuggets and it can change your whole year until the next time you go.

Kirk Williams    03:02

And I would just add, like, I think exactly what you said. You know, it’s not necessarily, I mean sometimes at those conferences you really do have presentations that are just that, that’s stuff that’s not presented somewhere else. It’s really good. I just, I have always thought that the benefit is exactly, you know, that networking aspect where you go and you can sit there, and then it’s like, it’s like talking about it in between the sessions. It’s like going to lunch and chatting with other people who are actually in PPC accounts, and just asking them some of those questions that maybe you don’t feel like voicing online, right, for the world to see on Twitter or Reddit, and just kind of pondering that stuff together, that there’s just incredible value with those, so.

Danny Gavin    03:44

Yeah, that’s such a good point. I’m glad you brought it up. It’s always about. Right, it’s like the, it’s like in design, the white space, right? It’s the time where it’s off and that’s where you can actually bring out the beauty of everything else.

Danny Gavin    03:55

So, today we’re going to be talking about mentorship in a PPC marketing micro-agency, and also the different facets of your life. And then also we’re going to get into Kirk’s specialty of shopping and Google ads in general.

Danny Gavin    04:10

All right. So we’re going to start off. Let’s get a little bit into your background, Kirk. So can you tell us a little bit about where you went to school and what you studied?

Kirk Williams    04:19

Sure, Yeah. I have deep school history in the marketing and business space in that I have never taken a business or marketing class. I actually have theology degrees, you know.

Kirk Williams    04:32

So ironically. I was just talking to someone about this, where in the PPC community, you’ll meet people. Like this person has a philosophy degree, this person has a, you know, theology degree, this person has a literature degree, whatever it might be. And it’s just a cool thing about digital marketing PPC is that it just brings all these people together.

Kirk Williams    04:53

I’m starting to meet more people with marketing degrees, but overall I just think that, you know, it’s been, it’s been attractive to anyone who has done a little bit of work. And there’s something about the creative plus stats analytic side, for certain people, that’s just a draw.

Kirk Williams    05:10

And that, and that’s what it was for me. Kind of stumbled into it actually, when I was pursuing my Masters in theology, and I just needed a job to basically, like, help me pay the bills, right. So sure, anything that comes along. A marketing opportunity came along and then eventually in that company I got into the PPC realm, and for whatever reason it just clicked.

Kirk Williams    05:34

I just, I just really love that aspect, that there were kind of both aspects. There was kind of a psychology, trying to figure out people and figure out how to, how you present benefits and that. But also it’s still like PPC has historically been very, like, data-driven, stats driven, analysis driven, right? It’s not just like you’re getting, you’re really thinking through this video, and thinking through an anchor video, and creating it, and it’s kind of hardcore audience and that. It’s also kind of, at least, especially when I started, it was even very, like, sometimes there was, like, mind numbing copy paste work involved too. Like you’d go through the keyword list, you just fill out this expansive keyword list, and then, like, set your manual CPC’s and adjust things manually. And for whatever reason, I just love doing that, so.

Danny Gavin    06:25

It’s amazing that, like, kind of you stumbled into it. But when you look back at like, your seminary theological background, I’m sure, as with anything we do in our life, like, it adds to who we are and what we do.

Danny Gavin    06:35

What do you think, like, from that experience makes you a better marketer or PPC marketer today?

Kirk Williams    06:41

I think a couple of aspects. I do think there’s some level of, like, a big part of theology is kind of diving into, like, the study of people and God, if you will, right? And even with differing opinions on that, you are kind of spending time, like, learning about people and how we, how we act, how we think, that sort of thing.

Kirk Williams    07:07

So it’s funny because I don’t, I don’t know if I’d place a, ‘oh hey, this is exactly what I learned’ that I tie, but I do think that, you know, when you just spend years kind of thinking through like, you know, what drives people? How do people make decisions? Like, how do they think? What kind of helps a person? Because that’s a big part of a big part of, you know, theology, right?

Kirk Williams    07:28

Really in any religion, is like, people are trying to change who they are at some level. There might be some level that someone is, like, unhappy with who they are and they want to change it, right? And ironically, a huge part of marketing is that I think there are ways you can be unhealthy about that. I think there are ways that you can be healthy about that. Like, hey here’s an opportunity to improve this area of your life, and then kind of figuring out how to how to present that and benefit.

Kirk Williams    07:54

So, I actually think that had probably some impact. More of a directly tied impact for me was I just had to read a ton of stuff. Like I just had to. I had to take a ton of books, read them, figure out, like, maybe the argument they were making, distill that, respond to that argument, and then like distill that into a paper. And then I had to do a ton of writing. So, I had to do a ton of reading, a ton of writing, you know, all at the same time. Especially it could be on different topics.

Kirk Williams    08:28

And I actually think that kind of helped directly train me to be able to consume a bit of different content, especially just in the PPC world, and be able to kind of process it, distill it into different points, whatever, think through the aspects of it logically, and then like maybe respond to that.

Kirk Williams    08:46

And so, that’s actually where I actually got going, is just writing. I feel more comfortable writing than I do speaking. I just feel like I’m able to better process my arguments and my thoughts, or even just process out loud, right? And so, I just found that kind of clicked with me and probably helped prepare me a little bit more specifically the PPC World, and specifically about, like, growing ZATO’s brand and getting awareness with that.

Danny Gavin    09:12

And I couldn’t agree with you more because, I think we’ve talked about this in the past you and I, but you know I also, I went to rabbinical seminary. So, we have a similar background in that case. And I credit a lot of, you know, the way I think and the way I’ve been, you know, successful in digital marketing is through the processes that I learned to think through things. To analyze and to communicate.

Danny Gavin    09:37

So I think it’s a great point, is sometimes it’s not about the subject matter, but it’s just the skills and everything that you use in order to get that, those are very transferable.

Danny Gavin    09:47

So you know I often find, you know, there’s always the debate and I’d love to hear your opinion on, you know, should you know, when you’re hiring someone, do they need a college education or not?

Danny Gavin    09:57

But, the Pro of, like, why would you want to have someone with a Bachelors, but going through that system, and kind of training their mind in answering things, right? That adds a certain pedigree that maybe you wouldn’t get if you didn’t go through some, like, formal higher education. I’d love to know what you think about that?

Kirk Williams    10:14

Yeah, it’s funny because there are such strong opinions on, all around, right? Like, yes, as with anything at this point in life, you know, pick a topic and you’ll find strong opinions at this point.

Kirk Williams    10:26

So, you know, we don’t do a ton of hiring. We’re small. You just see, I’ve just not had to do a ton of hiring to be honest. And so, like, it’s one of those things where I try to communicate like I have opinions, and then also like I have not done, you know, I’m not the person who’s hired, like, 4,000 people, and so I have all this data around it, right?

Danny Gavin    10:43

That’s fair.

Kirk Williams    10:44

Although I, for someone listening, I will shout out a book that someone, a few different people referred to me as you’re trying to figure out how to learn. What I’ve found, is, like, really fine people who are experts in whatever they do, and there’s almost a level of it doesn’t, it almost doesn’t matter, if it’s just interesting to you.

Kirk Williams    11:03

I started following a guy on Twitter, who’s like an expert at, like, strip mall real estate. You know, like the little malls, is like outside malls. I have, I have no intention of ever purchasing real estate. But like, just the way that he processes, and has some interesting just business ideas, was super interesting.

Kirk Williams    11:22

But also what I found is that individuals have, they have their own people they follow and resources that eventually, probably, will connect with you, right? And so, as I’ve found good people that are trustworthy in terms of just their knowledge and business, I’ve asked them. They have done a lot of hiring.

Kirk Williams    11:41

I’ve asked them like, ‘hey what are your go to resources,’ and the book ‘Who’ by Randy Street, I think. Jeff Smart, I believe. There was a couple of people wrote it. But the book, ‘Who’ it’s literally called. ‘Who’ was referred to me by multiple people. So I read it, and I don’t know for what’s worth I really, you know, liked it. So I’ll throw that out as a hiring idea resource.

Kirk Williams    12:03

But like, to answer your question specifically, I’ve just found that overall I decreasingly have a strong opinion on whether someone should have a Bachelors or not. And I am more kind of looking for, okay, here’s the specific role I’m trying to fill. Like, do they have the curiosity and the passion as they’re pursuing that? Do they have, you know, the ability to learn?

Kirk Williams    12:29

Do they have, in some ways, like, some level of education is needed, you know, we’re marketers. So like, if someone is not able to put a grammatical sentence together, and yet they’re supposed to be writing, like, forward facing customer ads, you know, that like, that’s not, that’s not that. We’re like, you know, putting them down for not having education. That’s like, that actually is a core thing that we need. We, our clients trust us in order to have an ad that doesn’t have spelling mistakes, right? So I think there’s some level of that.

Kirk Williams    13:00

So in some ways I think I’d say I would look at individual, like individual people as they come, and just whether that’s a fit. But on the on the flip side, I absolutely agree with the fact that someone who has been able to commit to a program, absolutely they’re, they’ve learned from it. Especially someone who really is a curious person. They’ve dug in.

Kirk Williams    13:23

You know, there are things that they’ve learned, soft skills. There are those things that they’ve learned in order to commit to be able to follow instructions to, right? To be able to do this stuff, I do think is valuable and so I, you know, I think there’s a value there.

Kirk Williams    13:37

And then you do have to do a cost analysis though as well in my opinion as far as, okay, well then, what are you going to invest for that degree program and what can it get you and all that? And then that goes into loans and all that stuff as well. But I certainly think that there is a lot of value as someone who’s, you know, done a couple of different higher education courses that don’t have to do with my career. I’m happy about that, to be honest. Like I don’t, I guess, regret it, so.

Danny Gavin    14:05

Yeah, I think, like you said, it’s complex. But I think if you can get a little bit of both, right? Find people with passion, but also find ways to see how people can, you know, work in structure and have good soft skills like that. That’s like the ideal, right? The marriage of both.

Danny Gavin    14:25

Cool. So, let’s now get into why we’re here today about mentorship and marketing.

Danny Gavin    14:32

So, the first thing I’d like to ask you is how would you define a mentor?

Kirk Williams    14:37

I think at a base level I would define a mentor as anyone who has the willingness and the knowledge to offer help to someone in an ongoing manner, and I don’t really think I’d limit it much more than that.

Kirk Williams    14:51

Like, I think that age doesn’t have a strong pull there. Although, sometimes you tend to see someone who’s older with amentor, but again, to me, it’s more of, like, the willingness. So, I think that’s there.

Kirk Williams    15:03

Like if you’re kind of annoyed to be a mentor, that’s, you’re probably not a good mentor. Like if you’re going to be annoyed with someone asking questions. But, like, if I think of people who have mentored me, it’s just someone who just was actually happy to help me and answer my questions.

Kirk Williams    15:19

But they also have the knowledge so that I can, or they have the knowledge to point me in the right direction even if they don’t know an answer, so.

Danny Gavin    15:27

Yea, I think that’s great. And it’s, that brings up a really important point about finding someone who is patient and willing. Because sometimes you find the people who know everything, but like, when you speak to them, like, they just want to run away because they just have no time. So, it’s, that is such an important trait.

Danny Gavin    15:45

You’ve mentioned that your father-in-law has been a significant mentor for you. I’d love to learn more about that because obviously that goes outside of, let’s say, direct business, you know? Did you intentionally go after and say, ‘hey, can I get your help’, you know? Or did it kind of develop naturally with your relationship with him?

Kirk Williams    16:01

Yeah, no. Yeah, good question. And to be fair, I think, let’s say both. Like you know, I love my parents. I think my father and mother have also been mentors in my life. As I think, kind of, specifically, business, I think that’s where I think more of my father-in-law.

Kirk Williams    16:16

So we actually, I mean years ago when we actually started the business and moved from Louisville, Kentucky, up here to Billings, Montana, part of that move was actually because, like, we needed the money to get out on the own, and take on our own, and take the risk. So we actually moved in with my in-laws.

Kirk Williams    16:34

And what kind of happened is, we just kind of had this suddenly organic mentorship. Where we would just be sitting around the dinner table and you know, chatting, type of deal. And I think it was just one of those, like, well, how did they go, right? And we talk about it, and maybe he talked through some well, hey, you know, so he’s an insurance agent, so ‘hey here, here’s some things. And here, I had this interesting situation happen with a sale that happened’, and he kind of talked through it. And then, you know, I would be able to say, well, hey, this occurred if you have any advice, right?

Kirk Williams    17:09

And so I almost kind of had this endless day-to-day someone who has just been down the road, and who I have since learned is an incredible salesperson.

Kirk Williams    17:19

And just not really this outspoken, like not typically who someone would think is a really good salesperson. Like a very type A, absolutely able, like, always has the answer right. Even if it’s the answer or not, always has the answer. You know, kind of like, I think of like the strong personality, used car salesman type deal, and I think that’s what I had in my mind as a salesperson. Which is why I always thought, man i just, I don’t like sales because that’s not who I am. I’m just, I just try to be a very honest guy, and that doesn’t work if you’re that sort of salesperson.

Kirk Williams    17:54

And like what I learned was that he just had this way of using, just kind of this honesty and this commitment to actually learning about them, to actually really identify what their actual needs were, and then just talk about, you know, how his, how his solution could help them. And it was almost one of those clicking moments for me as we would grow.

Kirk Williams    18:15

And so, you know, a lot of the sales that I’ve learned was, you know, directly because of him and just a lot of other wisdom.

Kirk Williams    18:22

My mother-in-law is actually, like, a brilliant, just in terms of finances and things like that, numbers and that. So she would help us process, you know, think through some of that stuff. And so, I think it was just ongoing access to someone who was really invested in us and really wanted, like, wanted to see us succeed. That was such a big deal for us and in terms of, like, what happened specifically for me in that instance, so.

Danny Gavin    18:48

That brings up such a cool point. That, you know, let’s say you didn’t move in with them. You may not have had those, you know, conversations and those moments. And so the fact that you, like, put yourself into that situation. I know you, like, didn’t put yourself in a situation to get a mentor, but you surrounded yourself by people who you could learn from. It gave you access to that opportunity.

Danny Gavin    19:16

You know, sometimes, you know, we’re looking for a mentor. We want a mentor. And it’s hard to find that. But sometimes just by getting closer to people, hanging around people, sometimes that relationship can come up very naturally. Instead of it like, okay, I need a mentor, like who should I choose?

Kirk Williams    19:36

Yeah, absolutely. I would agree with that. And that, I mean that gets into some different complexities as well, which is, I just think there’s a fine line between just being willing to immerse yourself and be with someone, and also there’s some level of consent needed from that mentor.

Kirk Williams    19:53

So you know, if someone is really skilled at business and you’re like, man, I’d really love to learn from that person, there just might be some level of, I don’t know, I guess I’d say don’t like sidle up to them and try to get them to spill their secrets in almost like a manipulative sort of way. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but like, i’ve experienced that to be honest and it really comes off as, like, rude and you kind of feel used. Because I actually think it’s a little important even in how you, how you communicate that, as a mentee seeking mentorship.

Kirk Williams    20:28

And then this is one of those, like this is a no brainer thing, but I have seen this so much and it really needs to be called out on a mentoring podcast. And that is, if you are going to someone to mentor, to be mentored, I don’t care if you absolutely hate what they have to say and think they’re an idiot. Like your job, in my opinion, this is my opinion. Like, if you see yourself as wanting to learn from something, like your job is to shut up and listen and ask questions. And if you don’t agree with them, that’s totally okay. Then, like, thank them profusely for their time and then don’t ask them. Don’t contact them again, right?

Kirk Williams    21:10

But like, I am surprised how many times I’ve had people who basically, like, reach out and they’re like, ‘hey, you know, really respect, you know, like your books,’ whatever. Just you know even for just a quick question. ‘Hey I just had a question on here,’ and like I don’t, I don’t need to answer that. Yeah, I can ignore that LinkedIn message. But I do want to help people like I’ve been helped. I want to help people.

Kirk Williams    21:30

I’ll spend time to get in and, like, share my thoughts and I’ll, and they’ll start, like, either arguing with me. And I don’t, I don’t mean in a questioning way. I don’t mean, okay, are you saying this because I’m trying to make sure I understand, because what I’ve seen is this, and so I just want to make sure. I don’t mean in like a, like a respectful, kind of pondering way. I’m mean just kind of, like, this all of a sudden, like, ‘well, you’re wrong.’.

Kirk Williams    21:52

I one time had someone say basically like, that wasn’t helpful to me. That was like, sounds good. And ironically, like, that person reached out to me again in the future and I, and I just, I just ignored their message in that instance. Because, like, you’d already communicated to me that, like, he didn’t value my health, which is totally, like, that’s fair, that’s his opinion. But, like, I have other stuff to do and, like, I’m not going to waste either of our time then, right?

Kirk Williams    22:17

And so in some ways, like, if you’re seeking help from a mentor, like, be humble enough to be willing to listen and learn. Because even if you think they’re wrong, it, they actually might be right. You might be wrong. Or if you don’t think they’re a good mentor, like to me, the polite thing is just to like thank them for the time they invested because they didn’t need to invest that time, even if they’re wrong. And then go find someone that you think is a better fit for you.

Kirk Williams    22:38

So I don’t know, just be polite and kind. In some ways might be the summary of that.

Danny Gavin    22:43

I mean, that’s honestly shocking. Because like, you know, Kirk, I put you on, like, the list of, like, uber, you know, uber, uber digital marketers. So, like, even when I, like, I reach out and have a question, like, oh, like, I know he’s so busy. But to think that people, like, will actually come out there, like, ask for your time but then blast you, it ,like, it doesn’t even make sense to me. It’s crazy.

Kirk Williams    23:05

And in this specific example, it was something that I didn’t, I didn’t have a great answer. And so, what I, it was one of those where what I did was communicated that honestly, ‘hey, I don’t, I don’t have a lot of experience with that, but here are a couple of things that you could pursue.’ And that was where the response is kind of, like, well that wasn’t very helpful, you know. Okay. I was kind of shocked, to be honest. I was like alright, but like that’s not the only person I’ve had something similar to that happen. And I really have had people argue, I’ve had people.

Kirk Williams    23:37

Here’s another one. Not someone who is even coming from like a negative standpoint. Someone who really is excited. They really want to, they really want to meet and learn from you. And sometimes, like, they kind of get in the way of themselves.

Kirk Williams    23:51

So like, if you’re someone who’s listening and you reach out to someone and you say, ‘hey, you know, could I, you know, could I ask you a few questions about,’ and they’re like, you know what, sure, we’ll go ahead and do that. Then they, as the person you’ve asked, who you know, purportedly has the knowledge that you’re trying to gain, they should be talking the vast majority of that call.

Kirk Williams    24:15

And I’ve had so many situations where I’m talking to someone who has asked me to hop on the call and help guide them on things where I talk, you know, 7 minutes of a 30 minute conversation. And I’m like, okay, I mean, you know, that’s in some ways like whether or not they valued my information is fine. But also, like, if that’s kind of what they wanted, they were, if they seem to be hoping to get some advice out of that, but, you know, they were just excited or maybe sharing like here’s everything, what to know, and they just kind of talk too much.

Kirk Williams    24:49

So, I guess that’d be the other thing, is maybe like if you have the chance to really connect with someone that you would like to learn from, I would actually prepare a lot beforehand. I would actually really have some good questions that you’ve pondered, thought through. Maybe think through, like, how you’re going to ask them to be succinct. But to communicate well because that time, like, if you’re talking to someone who’s just really a brilliant person in ecommerce D to C space, and they have thoughts on contribution margin or whatever. I was just listening to a podcast with Andrew Harrison and Bill Disandro, I think, about that.

Kirk Williams    25:26

So that’s on my brain, but, like, let’s say that somehow you get Bill on the phone and he’s willing just to help you out. You’re an ups, you know, you’re a person who’s just starting out, man. Don’t ponder what you’re going to say live on that call because you might never get that call again. And that might be the most valuable call of your life. Prepare for that call is kind of what I’d say.

Kirk Williams    25:47

And yeah, now I’m rambling, but I thought of that as well, that that’s kind of happened as well so.

Danny Gavin    25:52

No, I think that’s wonderful. You know, I know myself. I struggle with listening, and I think a lot of people do, you know? And right, it’s like we have to work on it. So I think that’s the first point.

Danny Gavin    26:05

Second point is, like, I’m, you brought back memories of, like, when I was doing my MBA and I could have these networking events, and, like, going up to, like, companies and people, like on one hand you want to hear them but on the other hand you want to impress them, right?

Kirk Williams    26:18

Yes, yeah!

Danny Gavin    26:19

You know, it’s like, it’s like, so I’m just, I’m thinking like Danny Gavin, you know? You know, 20 years ago or 15 years ago, and I can see, like, where I was there and now it’s like, man, I would approach that totally different.

Danny Gavin    26:31

So I honestly think it’s something that comes with maturity and time and age. But that’s why it’s important to have conversations like this, because some people don’t even realize that they’re doing the wrong thing.

Kirk Williams    26:42

That, that’s so interesting what you say. You’re exactly right. And I think that’s part of it. And here’s, you know, and this might be what you said, you know, you’ve learned from it. Here’s exactly what I’ve learned from that.

Kirk Williams    26:51

Which is, if you are the person talking about all that, you know, trying to impress. Because again ironically the odds are in this relationship and this is, okay, this is not a put down thing. This is just kind of the way the world works, right? If we’re getting started in something and we’re talking to a person, you know, we’re talking to a lady who is running a multi-million dollar company. She started from the ground up again. Like the odds are that she has more information from us.

Kirk Williams    27:18

So first of all, we’re not going to impress her with our knowledge. In fact, we’re more likely to, my brain went to, I think it’s apProverb, actually, in the Old Testament. That’s something like even a fool is considered wise until they open their mouths. I think that, look that up, and I’m pretty sure that’s a proverb in the Bible. And like, sometimes I’d keep that in mind that, like, the more that you talk to that person, you’re actually, you might, you might be trying to impress them. You might actually be revealing how much, like, you don’t understand about certain things and the way that you can really actually impress them.

Kirk Williams    27:56

Like if you actually want to make a mark on them, do exactly what I said before, which is think about it and then ask really good questions and then listen. Because I guarantee you the vast majority of other people in your position that they meet are doing the first thing. They’re just talking. They’re trying, they’re trying to show off. And like, they will remember the person who asked really insightful questions because like, we all are like that.

Kirk Williams    28:22

It’s like if someone asks an insightful question, I actually feel like I’m more impressed with that person than if they’re just starting to talk about all that they know, and eventually your brain actually shuts off, right? If someone who has a really good question and then stops to listen. Man, that person is someone actually who i think I listened to, so.

Danny Gavin    28:42

Yes, I think that advice is so valuable.

Danny Gavin    28:45

Let’s talk about you being a mentor. You know, you speak at conferences, you’ve written books, you have podcasts. Obviously there’s a component to it where you’re doing it, you know, to help your brand and your business, but I’m sure, you know, there is a part of you want to be out there to help and to teach people.

Danny Gavin    29:06

So what led you to do this and what you love about being, like, really a mentor for so many when it comes to PPC?

Kirk Williams    29:13

Yeah, it’s funny you say that because, for sure, just like everything in life, there’s mixed motivations, right? You know, like you put out a course. You spend time and energy to put out a course on, like I put one out Udemy of smart shopping, and then Google killed smart shopping. But, and like, all of all of the above, right?

Kirk Williams    29:31

Yes, I want to help people learn. I also want to, like, have the ZATO name be more out there and blah, blah, blah, right? You don’t put a Udemy, by the way, to actually make money, unless for some reason it goes, like, super viral and that’s very rare. So it’s more like the long term type benefit.

Kirk Williams    29:48

So, I think that that’s always been part of it, for me is, like, I just, I just kind of know ,like, as I try to put good content out there, it does help people.

Kirk Williams    29:55

And then there’s even something, I don’t even know how to describe it. There’s something in me sometimes, I’m just like, I don’t even care if no one reads this. Like I gotta write about my concern about PMax right now or something like that, right? Yeah so, some of that might be even just that personal drive thing there that is almost this, like, it’s I gotta write this or I’ll die, you know?

Danny Gavin    30:15

I noticed that from your writing style. I’m often, when I’m reading your book I can see that it is sort of like a self, you know, reflection, working out the concepts, you know?

Danny Gavin    30:27

So sometimes it’s not necessarily about, okay, how can I give the point over to someone else, but it’s like I need to figure this out, right? And then let me take this and share this with the world.

Kirk Williams    30:37

Yeah, absolutely yeah. I think to my wife’s chagrin sometimes, like, that’s even how I talk. Like, I process out loud. And so that was like, okay, thank you. Also, you just took 40 minutes to process out loud, you know. Sorry, honey, you’re right.

Danny Gavin    30:53

So, being in a micro-agency. And for those who don’t know what a micro-agency, it means it’s a lot smaller. We’re not necessarily looking to grow and get 100 people.

Danny Gavin    31:02

You know, I imagine that there is a lot of mentoring that’s going on especially because, you know, there’s only so much that you, Kirk, can do, and obviously there’s other people who are in the agency, and you need to transfer the knowledge to them. And so, I would just love to learn more about, specifically in the micro-agency kind of world, how, how do you mentor? How do you transfer knowledge?

Kirk Williams    31:23

I’m still trying to figure that out well. So, if my team ever listens, they’ll probably laugh at that question. I don’t. I don’t actually think I’m very good at doing that in our small organization. And I’m trying to get better at that.

Kirk Williams    31:35

And what I mean by that is like, we’re trying to figure out, okay, is there a better process for even us, like, training one another?

Kirk Williams    31:43

So one of the things we’re gonna try starting soon, and I mean this is an idea stolen from a lot of people who do this. It’s just, like, we have a small team. So hey everyone, you know, we have our weekly team meetings. Like everyone is going to take a topic and going to really dive deep, and then they’re just going to do a little presentation and teach us all and we can kind of ask questions.

Kirk Williams    32:01

And so then by that, hopefully by the time we’re done with that, like, you know, Google just changed XYZ up about whatever it might be. You know, responsive search ads. Okay what are some, you know, someone do some deep dives on articles that Brad Gettys has written, and then maybe Fred, and they’ve gathered data and then what are some really important RSA best practices, things like that.

Kirk Williams    32:21

And so that’s, I think that’s part of what I’m trying to insert into our process. I do try organically as we go. Some of that is just, like, as we’re chatting, you know, if someone has a question, my objective is not just simply to say ‘yes, that is correct. That’s how, you know, that’s what you should do in Google Merchant Center.’.

Kirk Williams    32:40

Like my objective is to be like, okay, so here’s how Google Merchant Center, you know, handles that. So when we have the feed, we literally just had this happen where I helped talk someone through because she was like, oh, ‘should we use a supplemental feed for that?’ I was like, ‘well, no, I think we should actually do that right within Merchant Center and the main feed, and here’s why.’ And you know we kind of talked through that. I tried to give the reasons.

Kirk Williams    33:00

So that, you know that probably, so it’s kind of happening organically a little bit here within our agency, and then trying to build that in with process as well. But also, I honestly don’t know if I’m super great at that within my own org. So we all, we’re all learning and changing and growing, so.

Danny Gavin    33:17

Finding the best way to spread the knowledge around, right? It’s not always easy, and we have to try. I love that idea of having, like, that presentation. That’s something that we do as well, and it’s so valuable.

Danny Gavin    33:29

And even when, let’s say, you know, I imagine when it comes to a micro-agency, pretty much everyone’s related. So in larger agencies, you know, you might have someone who works, let’s say in SEO department and they’re listening to like a Facebook presentation. But I feel like even in those sort of scenarios, like there’s so much you can gain from those sort of presentations.

Danny Gavin    33:49

So, let’s now move into marketing. I feel like this is so timely, so I kind of want to just jump straight into it.

Danny Gavin    33:55

Let’s talk a little bit about Performance Max.

Danny Gavin    33:58

I just got off a call. You know, I teach at U of H, and we had a project with a real life company. They’re a small ecommerce store that sells girl’s dresses and clothing, and you know. They run on Shopify, and you know, she had that automatic setup to run Google shopping campaigns. Comes along and says hey no more shopping campaigns, you got to run Performance Max. She had a horrible Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And she said, like, thank God I have a husband who, you know, he, we primarily rely on his income. Because honestly if it would have just been my income, I would have had a big problem. So, that’s crazy! Like, so what’s going on with Performance Max? I’d love to know, you know, what do you think?

Kirk Williams    34:45

So, I just had literally just had an extended conversation on Twitter about Performance Max today where I kind of, like, I’ve not talked about Performance Max a lot online, and I think this is why.

Kirk Williams    34:56

So, the timing of this is kind of humorous because I think I have a better idea of what I think about Performance Max and that is that I just don’t know. I think there is so much we don’t know about Performance Max that it’s very difficult to formulate hard opinions. And my concern is how much I’m seeing Google, and in some ways other advertisers, pushing hard opinions about Performance Max, especially when it’s in kind of the positive way. Because I, just there are certain aspects of it that I feel like I have unanswered questions too that are pretty big.

Kirk Williams    35:33

So a few of those, you know, a few of those would be, okay, first of all, what we’ve seen is that, overall, if you have and this makes sense, but if you have a lot of data, so you have a lot of conversion data, you have a lot of spend, you have a lot of ability for Google to just go nuts and really find stuff. At least even within directly tracked stuff, Performance Max really does seem to do well. It can just be very hit or miss, and tends to be more on the miss side for smaller accounts. But again, that’s oftentimes who Google suggests should try a Performance Max, right?

Kirk Williams    36:09

And so you just have like oddities there. Especially the disconnect between who they say should use it. And I don’t know, maybe that started to change shift within Google, but as far as I know, that you know, they’ve always been big proponents of ‘hey, this is, you know, this is for anyone in some way. So go ahead and try this. You’re just starting out? Sweet. Build a Performance Max campaign.’ So you have that aspect.

Kirk Williams    36:34

You have the aspect of we are very early in a, in a significantly account consuming campaign type. We are very early in identifying what that does to a bigger business reality. So what I mean by that is, if someone primarily uses performance Max, let’s just give it the benefit of doubt. Even if it is sending directly tracked sales and you’re hitting your ROAS, you’re hitting your efficiency targets. Like, what is that doing?

Kirk Williams    37:12

If you’re, so if you’re going to run that for the next three years of your business life, five years of your business life, like, what is, what is, what are they doing? Like, who are they actually running after in their, in their targeting, for their audiences especially? Are they primarily, and this is what a lot of people have kind of investigated and talked about, is that are they primarily, especially if you have a role as target on there, are they primarily pushing out your bottom funnel? Because if that’s the case, then like how is that a sustainable long term solution? If you’re just never really going after, you’re just never generating demand, you’re never really, you know, going after top of funnel stuff?

Kirk Williams    37:50

So at the very least, and this is part of what we do, when we do utilize Performance Max, we still utilize it in a fairly, like, comprehensive account wide. Like we have YouTube stuff running especially for top of funnel. We’re still very much targeting specific things, research. We’re still running standard shopping campaigns on the side as well. And we’re utilizing Performance Max.

Kirk Williams    38:12

So I just think that there are, there are some questions around that sort of, you know, that sort of mindset that still has me just going with Performance Max and we’re testing it. We have found it to be in terms of I keep saying directly tracked efficiency and revenue for a very specific reason, because based on what Googles tracking and what Google says as far as what you’re receiving, you know, then it then it can often do very well, especially if it has enough data and enough revenue.

Kirk Williams    38:45

But again, kind of that bigger picture of how it’s working within all of your marketing channels, I actually think, feels not fully answered, at least from what I’ve seen. So i’m just I’m concerned when people are just very much all in on PMax, even at the extent of primarily using Max because of those questions. So that was very long rambling reply, but again, like I said, it’s kind of in my brain as of this morning even, so.

Danny Gavin    39:11

But that nugget of where you’ve put in a ROAS target, and kind of like Performance Max, where is it targeting, you know, most probably lower funnel? On top of funnel? I don’t know.

Danny Gavin    39:25

I think that’s a genius insight because it’s like Performance Max is meant to be, like, taking everything together, right? How can I make YouTube more efficient? How can I make all these things? But if in the end of the day, like, it’s like you have the option to show on YouTube, but really it’s targeting the bottom of the funnel, and what was the point in the 1st place? So I don’t know, that makes me really curious.

Kirk Williams    39:44

Well, and some of that could be, and again this is just where I keep talking about time because I think that is important part of part of it, and that’s part of what’s been difficult with Google lately is stuff changes so quickly, it’s just it’s hard to see. Like Smart Shopping. Did Smart Shopping as a campaign type overall work in terms of big picture with, I don’t know, it only ran like 2 years, you know? Like that is just, that is not a long enough time to really identify, in my opinion, just the validity for businesses of a of a, of a marketing channel.

Kirk Williams    40:21

And so anyway, so PMax, there’s just still some stuff where I just think, okay, there are options to pursue harder after, like, new customer acquisition in terms of conversion goal settings. You can mess with different audience signals to Google, although even then they’re only suggestions. So Google still will run after whatever they want, but you can set an audience signal with your Performance Max campaign. It’s a suggestion.

Kirk Williams    40:46

Okay. So again, like, I’m just, I’m just curious to know overtime like are there marketers out there who really have done a lot of really digging into driving demand gen, and new customers, and they have visible success, and they have all of that, and they just really are not, are not ensuring that it’s brand. And I am, just to be very clear, because there might be someone watching who’s like cool we’ve solved that, we have, you know, but it’s kind of like the hack we apply the brand keyword as a negative, it’s like that’s not. It’s not just what I’m talking about.

Kirk Williams    41:19

I mean, okay, so you’re not just going after brand, we’re talking like bottom funnel visitors. We’re talking like people through remarketing and others who are more primed and you just can, as a business, only ever focus on those people. Is it part of your overall strategy where you just have really awesome demand gen, other channels going on. And in some ways, now you’re just treating PMax as like your bottom funnel strategy.

Kirk Williams    41:42

Ok, that that’s actually fair. But those are the sort of questions I’ve just not really heard people talking about with Max. It’s either someone’s like I hate PMax, or someone’s like I just I love PMax. And I just think it’s more complicated than that. At least we need to start asking these questions and pondering this together before, you know, Google forces everything to Max all the time and we have no option, you know, for anything else, so.

Danny Gavin    42:06

I mean, not to bring up conspiracy theories, but do you feel like things like PMax, like, are just here to like cover up? Like, it’s like, oh, we’re not getting enough retargeting spend, so let’s find a way to get people to do more retargeting. I don’t know.

Kirk Williams    42:22

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch at all because Google has been, you know, found out if you will, like sued their settlements in that for a variety of bad faith gestures that they’ve done, and I’m forgetting some of the names of those. There’s one that I’m pretty sure it has the word Jedi in it actually. Ironically when I say it’s like Blue Jedi or something, I can’t remember.

Kirk Williams    42:46

Mike, Mike Ryan. We’ve talked about this and he’s brought it up, like, I think project Bernanke is something like. So all that to say that, you know, I’m not, I’m not, I’m not saying, I’m not explicitly stating that they are doing something wrong. I’m just saying, like, there is, there is evidence that they are not unwilling to mess with, you know, ad targeting and that in a way that helps their bottom line, right?

Kirk Williams    43:13

So, if you have, let’s just say a campaign type like Performance Max, where you can target any placement within Google ads, so any placement within any auction that the system wants to target, and that. And there’s no, there’s no external visibility on that at all. So you know, like your question, right? And you know this, so I’m saying this more for your audience, but like your question, it’s very fair.

Kirk Williams    43:42

And guess what, neither of us can determine whether or not Google’s doing that because it’s completely hidden within the system. And so like is it that much of a stretch, where if they have some placements that are lower value but they have some spend to attribute and as long as they’re hitting your row as targets to slough off traffic and spend into those poor performing placements that otherwise someone explicitly targeting them would never choose. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch or conspiracy theory at all.

Kirk Williams    44:13

And that sort of campaign type, like, offers the perfect environment to do that in.

Danny Gavin    44:18

So bottom line is time will tell and we need to be patient and hopefully they’ll let it run a little bit longer so we can actually figure it out and it won’t be the next smart dropping.

Danny Gavin    44:29

So, near the end of our conversation, we know, or I don’t know if we know, but we’ll let people know, that Kirk loves Star Wars. So we’d love to end off with what are your top three, and it could be movies, it could be TV shows when it comes to Star Wars. What are your top three?

Kirk Williams    44:47

I think I’ll always be old school and that there was something about being a kid and watching Empire Strikes Back that was just this, like mind blowing, like the story the shifts inside of what happened in Empire Strikes Back just rest with me at an emotional level. And I’ll always love it. It’s, I think, it’s just always going to be number one because of, like, what I remember experiencing as a kid.

Kirk Williams    45:15

So Empire Strikes Back for me is top and then I’ll put Rogue One second. I loved Rogue One.

Kirk Williams    45:24

3rd is just a, I don’t know, a blend of like everything else. So yeah, I don’t, I don’t know if Mandalorian or Andor would kind of beat them, beat each other out. Because I like both for different reasons. I love how Andor was kind of completely different than other Star Wars stuff. I just, I love that. But I, but Mandalorian to me was just this awesome, like, fully Star Wars feel. I don’t know. I love the cartoons, I love rebels, and Clone Wars, and so anyways. So, all of, how about that, all of the Star Wars universe that’s not Rogue One and Empire Strikes Back would be number three plays for me.

Danny Gavin    46:02

And all of the wonderful opportunities in the future, right?

Kirk Williams    46:06

Yeah, exactly. Keep keep it coming. I will watch it. I will continue watching.

Danny Gavin    46:12

Yeah, it took like what, twenty, thirty years for them to actually get started, but now they’ve started, to keep going.

Kirk Williams    46:17

Now it’s a money machine, so why wouldn’t they? So yeah.What about you?

Danny Gavin    46:24

I’m a traditionalist. The first three films are you know, my heart. I remember going when they were remastered. I don’t know if you went to the theater when they were remastered for the first time. And so I remember going and yeah. So I think it was like in the late nineties and that was like a big deal. Like it was cool. So for me that’s special. I still haven’t gotten into the shows everyone’s telling me to, so I will. But it’s going to take some.

Kirk Williams    46:51

You haven’t watched them or haven’t gotten into them emotionally?

Danny Gavin    46:54

No, I haven’t had at all. I haven’t watched them yet.

Kirk Williams    46:56

Yeah. I don’t know which one I’d say to start with. I would say I liked again, like I say i’m kind of a person who just, I just enjoy it all. Like people will be like I completely hated number, you know, Episode 9 or whatever. I’m like, I just, I just enjoy it all. I enjoy it if it’s Star Wars. I always love Solo and the Star Wars story. And I think there was kind of a time like, kind of like prequels, there was a time where people kind of hated them, hated Solo. I’ve always kind of liked all of them.

Kirk Williams    47:24

The only one I’ll say is Boba Fett, to me as the show, the series is probably like my least favorite of the series, which is too bad because Boba Fett has actually always been my favorite character. So I was like, I don’t, I don’t know, it just got a little sometimes that, like the speeder bike gang, you’ll know what I mean when you get there, tt’s kind of like, okay, there’s a random like teen speeder bike gang, I don’t know, whatever.

Danny Gavin    47:48

I actually have to send you a picture. An employee of mine gave me a gift. It’s this giant framed picture of Boba Fett. But it’s made of little Darth Vaders and Stormtroopers, you know, like those little pictures. To make a big picture, I’m gonna have to send it to you. Like, it was so random. It’s like, well, that’s cool. So yeah, I’ll send a picture to you.

Danny Gavin    48:08

So what’s next, Kirk? Is it another book? Is it like, what’s your next big thing?

Kirk Williams    48:14

So I’m trying to build my YouTube channel so that might be my current focus. Merchant Center mastery. Hopefully Google doesn’t like totally change Google Merchant. If you do you’ll hear this loud wavering cry that you’ll be like what is that? It’s coming from up north in Montana because Kirk is wailing, but that’s currently what I’m trying to do.

Kirk Williams    48:33

I’m just basically trying to like go deep into here, just almost like random specific things you can do with Merchant Center to try to just help people know Merchant better. So that’s a big thing.

Kirk Williams    48:44

And then our PPC Ponderings podcast, we are we’re taking a little break from it. It just took a ridiculous amount of production stuff that I did and then I, the guy in my team did, which was fun, and it was, it was really fun to do. But it took a lot of time for each episode. And we were kind of like, okay we’re kind of tired, but our next season is going to be, and we might keep this up. We’ll see. We’re going to try it for a season, see how it goes.

Kirk Williams    49:08

But it’s going to be focused on PPC ponderings with perfect strangers, and it’s going to be, like, shorter interviews with like random PPCers that, like, we and nobody know, almost as a way of just, like, helping. Give access to people who don’t usually, you know, aren’t going to be the ones on the speaking circuit stuff like that, but each of them has just a super cool tactical here’s a really helpful tip. And then also we get to know a little bit more about them as people as well. So that’s going to be our second season coming up here in 2023 for our podcast. So probably those two things right now are on the road map.

Danny Gavin    49:47

I am so excited for that and I love how you give back in that way, the same way, that you were founded. Giving people different opportunities to do that as well. That’s why you are a first class guy. Where can the listeners learn more about you and your business?

Kirk Williams    50:05

Let’s see, I’m PPC Kirk pretty much everywhere on social, every channel. Although I will warn you, my TikTok channel, has, well whatever. I don’t even know, I’m old. All right? It started to shift from being PPC focused and like, I discovered that no one cares about my PPC videos on there, but they want to see my Lego Star Wars. So I’ve just started doing little things with Lego Star Wars.

Kirk Williams    50:25

But everywhere else, if you want, PPC knowledge is PPC Kirk. And then yeah, zatomarketing.com so for business, so.

Danny Gavin    50:35

Wonerful. Kirk, thank you so much for being a guest on The Digital Marketing Mentor. It’s really been a pleasure. And obviously, thank you listeners for tuning into The Digital Marketing Mentor. We’ll speak with you next time.

Danny Gavin    50:45

Thank you for listening to The Digital Marketing Mentor podcast. Be sure to check us out online at thedmmentor.com and at The DMMentor on Instagram. And don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts for more marketing mentor magic. See you next time.

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