045: Destination: Digital Marketing Data with Duane Brown
Join us in this episode as Duane Brown, Founder & Head of Strategy at Take Some Risk Inc., shares his unique journey from college in Canada to the realm of digital marketing, unveiling the power of mentorship, strategic PPC tactics, and the often-overlooked nuances of data analysis in advertising.
Key Points + Topics
- [1:22] Duane Brown attended college for Public Relations (PR). In Canada, “college” is more hands-on learning than university. After three years at college, he attended university for business and marketing. About two years into that program, he realized the four-year degree was not what he needed. So, he transitioned his coursework to achieve two certificates in lieu of a “normal degree.”
- [2:23] He originally attended college because of its affordability. He took what seemed practical. At university, he focused much more on learning things he didn’t already know and simply finishing a challenging project. Many of the skills you learn at university are just about finishing something.
- [4:04] To Duane, a mentor is a couple of things. Part one is that they’re rooting for you to succeed. Part two, they do NOT give you the answers. They guide you along the way. They’re more therapist-like and know to ask the right questions.
- [5:18] His first job in advertising was NOT easy to get. They made him go through multiple rounds of interviews and assessments. He later learned the reason behind the stringent requirements was that the previous two people had not lasted long in the position. He really wanted the job; he’d grown tired of writing press releases. When he started the advertising job, his boss, Clint, was the whole digital department. Eventually, they hired another person for their department, and he was fine on paper. But personality-wise, he simply didn’t jive well with the other members, Duane included. Clint counseled them that they didn’t have to get along, but they did need to do what needed doing for the client. He taught Duane how to be diplomatic and thorough about client management and how to be a better business person.
- [12:42] These days, Duane is mentoring a few different people. As each of his mentees is very different, so too is his mentoring style with each of them. He has one-on-one meetings each week and quarterly goal reviews. He knows it’s important to determine what motivates people and what they want to work on. People like autonomy, learning, and mastering new things. He tries to find what they care about and how the company can help support that.
- [14:53] There are many routes to take in the digital marketing world. Duane admits his path is PPC mostly because it was the focus given to him at his first job. He liked it and was good at it. He believes now that if he’d had the opportunity to learn SEO earlier in his career, he might have been interested in the skills but not enough to master it.
- [17:04] One of the PPC basics that tends to be underestimated is good ad copy. Sometimes, people overcomplicate things. He offers the analogy of trying to start a lawn mower that won’t crank. Many people will immediately turn to take off the cover and start tinkering with connections and knobs when the cause is that it simply doesn’t have fuel. In PPC, if a campaign isn’t performing, people will often try to adjust automations, targeting, negatives, and more before just trying to improve the ad copy. Finally, he and his team have a general Three Day Rule. This means that if a given PPC campaign is not performing well for a day or two, that’s fine; that could be an anomaly. But if it’s still performing poorly at three days, that’s a trend, and you need to take action. This job is all about taking action, even if it’s scary.
- [22:30] Duane has managed budgets of up to a million dollars a month in ad spend. When working with a larger budget, there are certain challenges. Usually, with a budget of such high spending, you will be operating on a global scale. There are more moving parts. He recalls a campaign he worked on in the past. It was a shopping campaign, and a change was made on the website, leading to the shopping campaign failing to track conversions. It should have been caught because it was among the top converting campaigns. But it slipped under the radar because it was just one piece of a much larger ecosystem.
- [27:40] Many advertisers will try to simultaneously lower costs and increase revenue. Duane advises against moving both levers at the same time. They focus on the most important goal first (as determined by the client). Often, that will mean first lowering the cost to acquire a customer. First, they cut all the fat. Then, as they audit, they look for opportunities to change things and increase revenue. They’ll only take revenue-increasing measures once the account has been stable for a few months.
- [30:38] Duane thinks many people don’t necessarily overlook data so much as they fail to delve deep enough into the data. Oftentimes, they’ll simply look at the campaign level. But if they dive down into the ad group, keyword, SKU, and ad levels, they would likely find some adjustments that helped improve performance.
Guest + Episode Links
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/duanebrown/?originalSubdomain=ca
- Website: https://www.takesomerisk.com/about/
- Blogs: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/author/duane-brown
- Articles: https://www.appbind.com/agency-connect-featuring-duane-brown/
- Twitter: @DuaneBrown
Danny Gavin Host 00:05
Hello everyone, I’m Danny Gavin, founder of Optige, marketing Professor and the host of the Digital Marketing Mentor. I’m really excited to introduce our guest today, Duane Brown, founder and head of strategy for Take Some Risk.
Duane has been called a digital nomad by friends. After living in six cities across three continents and visiting 40 countries around the world, he now lives in Toronto, canada, helping e-com and SaaS brands grow through data, cro and marketing. He was also named one of the 25 most influential PPC experts by HANAP and marketing in 2017, and he definitely has been a PPC expert since then. Besides being a Google Ads guru, he’s a Shopify partner and expert. Today, we’re going to be talking about PPC marketing, travel and a whole lot else.
Duane Brown Guest 01:18
Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s good to meet people virtually whenever you can. I went to school for college, which is probably a little bit different than how college works, maybe other places so I can. Canada College is more like hands-on stuff, so you go for theater or in my case, I went for public relations or PR. So I did that for three years and then I went to university and did sort of undergrad and a mix of business and marketing and then about two years in I realized that going for the full four years probably wouldn’t really matter. No one would care because I would have been like I don’t know 30 or something like that when I graduated.
So I skipped the whole degree part and just went for two certificates at the university level with a focus on business and marketing. Because at least back then when I graduated, it made, I think, more sense to do both college, university, because some people just had college and some people just had university and I’m like, well, more education isn’t bad, I should do both and try to get an edge out there on the market. And I was already working when I was doing university, because I did university at night time and I was working during the day and I felt that combination would give me an edge. Hopefully it worked out. But hindsight’s, 20-20 usually.
Danny Gavin Host 02:20
So were there any experiences both inside and outside the classroom that were impactful in directing your path where you are today?
Duane Brown Guest 02:25
I mean college was really like affordability, Like I could afford college. I couldn’t afford university. Like you know, I just raised my single mom. I don’t really have some sort of nest egg, so I took what I could do and what I could afford and it seemed practical. And I think when university hears about learning things I didn’t already know, so you know balance sheets and things of that nature I learned more about like marketing, maybe from an international perspective, because I took a couple of international classes.
I don’t have that part of just being able to meet other people, because being at nighttime is usually for more mature students, so people sort of a little bit older than those who might be going to university or college for the first time.
So I think those things were really sort of impactful. And then also just finishing I was not doing this the other day but there was a person in my college program for PR where I think this was their second or even maybe even their third program they were taking at the school but the other two they didn’t finish and we were now in third year and last semester and they were thinking about quitting and we’re all like, well, why wouldn’t you just finish, like you’ve come so far, five or six semesters, why wouldn’t you just go all the way and finish it, even if you don’t think you’re ever going to use it? So I think one thing people don’t always realize is, like college, university is more about can you start and finish something than necessarily what piece of paper you got, because I don’t write press releases anymore and no one really cares about that, though having the ability to write things very succinctly is also very helpful in what we do.
Danny Gavin Host 03:48
I love that perspective. Doing something and being able to finish, I think, is the big thing these days, because we live in that society where it’s like things happen so quickly and like it’s easy to move from one place to another. It’s easy to just start something and move on. So I think it’s a good lesson. Let’s jump into mentorship. How would you define a mentor?
Duane Brown Guest 04:06
I think a mentor is kind of a couple of things. I think it’s someone who partly is rooting for you to succeed because you want to have a sort of a healthy mentor. Right. You could have negative or bad mentors. And I think also a mentor doesn’t necessarily tell you the answers. I think they more help sort of guide you along the way.
I think if someone tells you the answers, that’s maybe more of a coach, which there isn’t anything wrong with having a coach. I mean, we see coaches in a lot of professional sports and other arenas. But I think a mentor is more like guiding you along the way, maybe asking really good questions so you think about things maybe from perspectives you didn’t think about before. You know a closet may be a slightly therapist there, potentially, depending on what you’re talking about. So I think that those two qualities really help sort of guide you and ask you the right questions and think about things you wouldn’t notice or think about. And then you probably don’t like to work for the person or report to the person, because usually the best mentors are sort of outside of your day, job or company, wherever you work.
Danny Gavin Host 05:01
I love the adjective, although it’s a noun of therapist. I don’t think we’ve heard that yet. But yes, there definitely is an aspect of knowing your mentor being your therapist. They just don’t get paid as well.
Duane Brown Guest 05:13
No, they don’t they don’t.
Danny Gavin Host 05:17
So let’s talk about one of your early bosses, who I believe was one of your most influential mentors at your first advertising job.
Duane Brown Guest 05:23
I did a couple of years at PR after I graduated college and then I moved into advertising and this job was not easy to get. Anyway, tell you, it was probably the hardest job I ever had to get. I went through like four rounds of interviews, there was a psych test and there was a phone interview. Now I understand after I got the job that part of the reason it was so hard was the last two people didn’t survive the company. One took the job shortly, like short term, because they eventually want to get a job with the government, which they left, I think, in less than six months, maybe less than four months, and then the other person before that just didn’t survive. So I think they really want to put people through the paces to see who really wants the job. But I really want the job because being a freelancer wasn’t going that great. You know, I was in my early 20s, didn’t know what I was doing, and I really want to get into advertising because, like, right in press releases is just not my bag or an interest, and so I got the job.
And then Klimt was my boss and so the department that was just digital was just him. The rest of the agency, you know designers, account managers, you know all those sort of people were more on the traditional side of things, so they did. You know radio ads, tv ads, newspapers, all that sort of stuff we used to in the 0708, 09 life. You know about the IE financial crisis. And then my boss Klimt. He was just a digital guy. The whole point was like hiring me or hiring someone to do more you know the executional stuff so he can go out and sell. Looking back on that, you know he was a good mentor, I think in a lot of ways even though he was my boss, because I think a lot of us in the top he was all about like doing things that’s in the client’s best interest. You know we should all be like working together as a team, not trying to compete, because eventually, you know, we grew the digital department from like 9% to 25% of our revenue, which meant we had to hire someone, and the person we hired maybe on paper was great, but nobody really liked the person in the company, like no one. We all thought the person was slightly weird for various reasons. They did things that maybe just culturally, were not what you do in a workplace and maybe that was just a cultural thing from their background, potentially.
But me and this person would often sometimes butt heads like they didn’t want to do you know, work X, so to speak, or task X, if you will. But task X is why he has a job or why I have a job. And so, even though you don’t want to do task X, if you’re going to like to open up a folder and look at it and see that there’s work for task X, then maybe you should just do task S versus leaving it open all day. So then I can’t edit it and do the task if I need to get it done. So we’d often butt heads and I’m a very like no-nonsense person. My boss is like OK, well, you two don’t have to like each other or get along, but you do have to do it within the client’s best interests, and so if you’re going to open the document, just do the task. Or if the client has a request that is like X, y and Z, then we just need to do X, y and Z, right, we need to like say what we’re going to do and do what we say we did, so that clients are happy, and then also, I think the client was also.
We had a lot of big clients and they were always very demanding. So I think it was very good, like, ok, you know, read three emails two or three times and make sure, like you understand what the request is and just be like diplomatic sort of speak. When you get back to the client, it’s like OK, we can’t do this. Here’s why it’s technically not possible. He also has alternatives. So I think he was a really good boss and mentor in a way like God. I mean how to be a better business person and also try to get clients to understand that some things we can’t do because it’s just technically not possible. So it was an interesting job for two years.
Eventually the company went under because our parent company got bought by another parent company and then we all merged together and the people over in Europe decided that, like we’re a great company but we’re too small, we don’t make enough money, so we’re just going to shut it all down, which is unfortunate.
But it was a great two years in a lot of ways because I learned a lot about, like you know, managing a team and running an apartment and mentoring people myself, trying to get people to like do things they need them to do, so we can like get to where we want to go and then even just work with other departments, because any other department has different goals.
Like you know, the account team just wants to sell, but they want to sell things that are going to be higher margin because they get paid a commission. But if they sell things that are higher margin, get paid a commission, well, that doesn’t help us in the long run which obviously didn’t because then the bottom falls out we can’t sell radio, we can’t sell TV, we can’t sell print and digital, can’t make enough money quick enough to replace all that revenue we lost. And so it was an interesting job. I just learned how to like work dynamically with different people who maybe have opposing goals than you, even though you both want the same thing, which is make a shit ton of money and have a job at the end of the day.
Danny Gavin Host 09:45
And during that job, would you say, your PPC skills or digital marketing skills were able to hone them in, or did you learn them on that, or was it something that you developed on your own?
Duane Brown Guest 09:53
Yeah, I learned them on that job Because before that I did more comm stuff, pr stuff. Even on my first or my second day in the job, quint was like a book. It was like one of those books you’d buy. I was like, how did you PPC? But this is like 2007. So like there’d be a lot of books on the topic.
So for the next few days I basically read that book cover to cover, because one of our clients was like, hey, I want to do this like ad words thing back then, because obviously Google Ads was called Ad Words Back Then and it was a lot easier back then. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean there wasn’t a lot of advertisers, especially in Canada, if there wasn’t a lot of competition. Google Ads was way different. It was a lot easier. There wasn’t many like features or options or settings, and so that job took me from everything of not knowing everything really when it comes to PPC, but knowing things about like at least banner ads, other stuff, telling everything that I needed to know in those two years, even things like how do you use Google Analytics, how does it goals, conversion tracking a year and we started running Facebook ads as well. So like, how does it have Facebook and how do I run those? And Facebook ads obviously back then were very different. We also had a research emotion. If you’re old enough to know what that is, if you’re not old enough, it’s a common call, just Blackberry, for those young people who are listening. So we had them as a client. We’d run ads across the Americas, South Africa, in Europe and a lot in America, especially like Florida, Austin, Atlanta, places where they had hubs or offices.
And so figuring out how to do conversion tracking on an ATS or an application tracking system where jobs are was really important, because our client was like OK, I want to spend $25,000 this month, which was a lot of money back then. I want to put these jobs in, like Brazil and Atlanta and in Florida. How are we going to track this success? And so a lot of it was figuring out how Google Analytics works and how do you track things and how do we make sure it works? Because not that I couldn’t say no to Blackberry or RIM, I easily could if something didn’t work, but oftentimes the requests were doable. It’s just no one has to figure out how to do it in the company, and I had to sit down and be like OK, well, read these Google things or call up Google support back then when you could.
So I learned a lot in those two years about things like lead generation and conversion tracking and how to set up just conversion tracking. It was very much baptism by fire, because my boss he’s out of the office, he’s talking to clients, he’s trying to win more business, he’s working with an account manager and a lot of things are just pull your boots up by your bootstraps, so to speak, and figure it all out. So it’s the best of both worlds. But I think even today a lot of people don’t have that skill. They can just figure things out, like Google, meta, microsoft, they all have really great support doc systems, but people rather just ask someone how to do something versus trying to go look it up and learn it themselves. And that missing skill, I think, is what really has people struggle. Because if you can’t figure out how to do something basic, how are you going to figure out how to trouble something when it gets complicated or complex?
Danny Gavin Host 12:40
So let’s talk about how you mentor others. I believe there’s three people who report to you now and that you mentor. So what’s your style? How do you motivate them?
Duane Brown Guest 12:48
Each of the people are really different, so my style is going to be different for each person. We do sort of quarterly reviews. I’ve got one-on-one with each person each week and so part of my goal is to learn about who they are as a work person, as a learn about who they are personally and what motivates them. Some people on our team might be motivated by money, some people motivated by more time off or a big arrays at the end of the year or whatever. So part of my goal is to figure out what motivates them and then also figure out what do you actually want to work on? I think part of that is to learn about what. Why people stick a job is that there’s a bit of autonomy, but also ability to either learn something or master something. There’s that book Drive that talks about autonomy and mastery as options. So I try to figure out what people care about and then figure out is a way that the company can help support that thing they want to learn or do.
Anytime I interview someone, I always tell them they will never 100 percent be happy in this job. I’m never 100 percent happy and I own the company, so I don’t see why you would 100 percent be happy, but I will do my best to figure out how the company helps support your goals or dreams, if they’re work-related or not. Someone said I want to work on it. I mean this wouldn’t happen, but I want to work on an airline. We probably never won an airline, but maybe we could win a travel client or something like that. That’s closely related. So part of my mentor is figuring out what problems they have, what they want to learn, what they want to do and how I can ask them a question to help guide them along the way.
When I first started the company and had people, I often would just tell people the answer, which in the short run, is great because the job gets done the way I want. But I shouldn’t have people do it the way I want them to do it, which is sometimes the way I would want to do it, like I would personally do it. People should do it the way they want to do it, as long as the outcome is what we want. So the outcome is the same. That’s all I should care about. I shouldn’t care about the little steps along the way. So that’s something I’ve had to learn as a boss, I think about managing people and then also just figuring out what they care about, like I said. So I can sort of nudge them along the way and get them to do the things they need to do.
Danny Gavin Host 14:50
You’ve practically always been in digital marketing since college. Obviously you had your PR days. Most of your positions have focused on PPC. What drew you to PPC over the other realms of digital marketing?
Duane Brown Guest 15:00
That’s more because I got it in my first job. This is like when PPC and here’s a book to be honest, there was no opportunity to do SEO. In the first job. We did some programmatic, maybe some display stuff like that, but PPC was just what I was given and I liked it and I thought I was good at it and I made a lot of sense and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t probably two years later that I really started to read about PPC and read, like Moz has the SEO Bible for beginners one-on-one on SEO. So that’s really why I got into PPC.
I look at SEO these days and I’m like, even if there would have been opportunity to learn SEO even seven or eight years ago so half my career almost maybe would have learned it on the side as like a good thing to know. But I’ve never mastered it. And these days I understand the basics of SEO at least enough to know when people are bullshitting a client and I know enough to know when something like makes sense or doesn’t make sense at a very basic level. But I wouldn’t master it, so I wasn’t so much of a choice as much as like here’s the thing you need to learn for the job. I didn’t really know the difference 100% back then between PPC and SEO necessarily, and so I just took the opportunity and ran with it.
Danny Gavin Host 16:12
So when you look back at now, kind of where PPC has gone and SEO has gone, are you happy with how it turned out?
Duane Brown Guest 16:17
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s two sides of the same coin. If the situation was the first and I got an SEO back then and I did it for 17 years and we have the same conversation and I know a little bit of PPC, I’ll probably say the same answer. But yeah, I mean, it’s what I do, it’s what I’m good at, you know, I think, because I don’t do SEO generally or at all. Really, I probably think it’s more complex than it maybe actually is if I was practicing it for 17 years and being a practitioner. So, yeah, I’m happy, I can’t complain. I think there’s lots of opportunity when it comes to PPC. There’s lots of platforms. It’s an ever changing, evolving industry. Maybe it doesn’t feel sometimes that it changes as much as SEO potentially does, but it does change as much as maybe we just don’t talk about it in the PPC world as much as maybe SEO people do talk about it. It always sounds like Twitter and LinkedIn.
Danny Gavin Host 17:02
So, given your experience and expertise in paid search, are there any basics of PPC that you’re always sure to utilize on new projects or for your own company?
Duane Brown Guest 17:10
Yeah, I mean the big basics is thinking about things like, we do a lot of e-commerce, so we read a lot of customer reviews. A lot of people buy the product. What are the product? People often underestimate the value of really good ad copy. People see your ad, whether it’s a shopping ad or a search ad or a discovery ad. Google now has a new ad type called the ManGen Sounds made up, but it’s a new ad type campaign. So I think people often underestimate really good ad copy. You could have the right shopping feed, you could have the right keywords and the difference between success and failure could be just writing better ad copy, because maybe your ad copy is the issue, assuming that your shopping feed or skews or the keywords weren’t the issue. So I think that’s something really good. I mean.
Something I want to talk about with the teammate the other day actually is sometimes people overcomplicate things. Sometimes the solution is actually very simple. The analogy I give is you pull a lawn mower outside of the garage, you’re going to try to mow the lawn and it doesn’t turn on. People would often try to say, oh, let’s pull off the cover and see if the wires are just connected or if they’d go really complex when maybe the issue is, if it’s a battery operated lawn mower, maybe the batteries need to be charged or there’s no gas in the lawnmower. Sometimes the solution is actually very simple and we try to overcomplicate things. Even though, in some ways, google and Meta has gotten more complex because of automation, it’s actually gotten really easy because they want you to simplify things, to make it less complex than it used to be.
Trying to simplify things, I think, is number two, add copies, number three and then beyond that, if something’s not working, I always say they need to change something. If you see something that’s like it’s day one, it’s day two, it’s day three of the week, so this week is Wednesday. If it’s Wednesday and something didn’t work on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, then maybe make a change of some sort. Don’t watch the thing that’s not working, continue on throughout the week. The campaign’s been running for a month, three months a year, and then all of a sudden it stops getting conversions On Sunday. It’s now Wednesday. You need to make some sort of change. Watch something break and then not do anything. You might as well not even watch to break because you didn’t take action, and so I think taking actions were very important.
People often would just look at something, see a problem and then not do anything, when, if you don’t do anything, you’re part of the problem. You need to take action and make a change, even if that change is something that simple as, like, I’m going to lower the budget or I’m going to change the ad copy. Those are two simple changes you can make in a campaign, depending on what the problem is. That could turn things around, but just watching, hoping that it’s going to turn itself around, is probably not going to be the case, because our general rule is if something happens over one or two days, that’s an anomaly. A campaign could have a bad day, it could even have a bad two days, but if you’re on day three or you’re on day four, well, that’s a trend. So you need to take action and do something come day three or day four so you can turn things around.
Otherwise, the campaign is probably going to continue on the same path and not do anything. If it’s a week, it’s in a week two and you haven’t done anything. That’s not good. That is what probably pisses off clients more than anything. It’s like they saw a problem and they just let it keep on going. It’s like a train that’s barreling down and it’s going to crash and you don’t do anything. Like why wouldn’t you do anything? You know the train is going to crash. You need to do something.
Danny Gavin Host 20:28
As you’re speaking, I’m thinking of so many different things, but that example of the Lawn Mower kind of reminds me. I’m sure we both grew up this way of programming VCRs right, where people just had a hard time doing that and maybe it was just like plugging it in or turning on the power button, but that kind of brought that in my mind. But yeah, it’s interesting how people are scared right when a campaign is barreling down and they’re scared to touch it and they’re like, ooh, it’s going to get better, better. But I love that idea where I think that’s a great rule and advice. You know 72 hours hasn’t changed. You better make it. You know you’ve got to make a change or else it’s just going to keep going.
Duane Brown Guest 21:00
Yeah, I mean, if a campaign’s gone from good to bad, it’s probably going to turn itself around, right, because what change? It could be people aren’t buying the product you’re selling or the service you’re selling. Right, it could be Google has entered you into like a bad auction, so maybe you’re as being spent on display content or YouTube content, like something’s fundamentally changed outside of the norm, and so you’ve got to figure out how to remove that sort of issue or that X factor or whatever, so you can get things back on track. And yeah, I get it. It can be scary and that’s why we can have the 72 hour rule.
Like I see, clients have a bad day all the time, even our clients that make $30, $50 million a year. They can have a bad day where numbers are really low or there are no sales potentially, or there’s like one sale. You know, it can happen. There was a bad day, there’s even a bad two days, but at three days I’ve learned, with three days that are cut off, where I’m like, okay, well, it’s been three days, I need to do something.
And you start digging in this campaign more you know, start figuring out, like what has actually changed, right, you know, is it Add perform worse. Have the keywords performed worse? Have the skews performed worse? Okay, those things aren’t the issue. Okay, let’s go get where this campaign is showing up. Is it on like, google.com. Is it on YouTube? Is it a display? Start going through your list of where issues could be, figure out, like what the problem is, where the issue is, and then figure a solution to that if you can. Otherwise, you’re just gonna sit there and see that campaign just get worse and worse and even though it’s scary, you’ve got to take action. This job is all about taking action and sometimes, even though it’s scary, you’ve got to do it.
Danny Gavin Host 22:29
Let’s talk about scary things. You’ve managed ppc campaigns with budgets of all sizes, from a few hundred ad spend per month Up to, I imagine, half a million or maybe a million a month. What are some of the challenges you experienced working with the larger budgets and how did you overcome them?
Duane Brown Guest 22:43
Yeah, I mean, imagine campaigns after a million dollars a month. You know the challenge is usually, all things being equal, you’re probably doing things on a global scale. You’re probably not just running ads in america unless you saw a product that everyone in america wants to buy On a repeat basis, and you’re probably maybe running ads on google and, you know matter, facebook. At that point, you know the biggest challenge as you have larger budgets Even though larger budgets are easier to manage, all things being equal, versus a smaller budget because you have a longer runway you know the biggest challenge is there’s just more moving parts and so you’ve got to like keep your eye on more things. It’s kind of like someone on stage juggling plates or juggling balls. Right, you’ve got more things in the air to make sure things are going well, from like conversion tracking To just like spend is going correctly. You know you set up the campaign correctly. You know we’ve all seen campaigns where somebody meant to set up a remarketing campaign but they didn’t add the audiences. Someone meant to set up a non-marketing campaign but the ad audience is anyway. Just lots of little basic mistakes. It’s easy to make when you’ve got, you know, dozens or maybe even a hundred campaigns across three or four ad accounts, because you’re marketed in in north america, you’re marketed in europe, you’re marketed in australia, new zealand, parts of asia, so the larger budget gets. The challenge could be, especially if you’re in you know six or seven figures. It’s just that you’ve got more things going on and you’ve got to have a better System in process or standard operating procedures of how to, like, check performance, make sure things are going well. You know.
A good example for a client that we’ve had for three years is, early on in year one, one of the depth people made a change in the website, which we just find changes happen once. That’s off the time, but it was a change where it worked out that the shopping campaigns start stop delivering conversions but all our search campaigns were fine, and so someone on our team didn’t notice that, even though they should have because, like, some of the top campaigns were shopping campaigns and so, as you just spend more money, it’s just really keeping an eye and like, what are my top campaigns? Are they delivering consistent sales? Is conversion track and working? You know, people often ask you what the difference is between.
You know, small and small. I think everything is just at a larger scale and you’ve got more moving parts and and for me personally that’s more fun because you can test more stuff you can try more things You’re more likely to have somebody at google or meta reach out to try some sort of beta or some sort of alpha. But if you want to step up and play with all the adults, sort of speak and not be, let’s say, at the kids table If you think of like small budgets as a kids table, even though it’s not because small butters are hard work You’ve got to be prepared to just work at a larger scale and have more things potentially break google wrong.
Danny Gavin Host 25:20
So in your agency, you know, with like these large accounts, as you’re explaining it, it’s a lot of work. How many accounts do you know individuals manage, especially if they’re managing like a large account?
Duane Brown Guest 25:31
It really depends, and so what we look at is not just you know, the size of that account or when it’s being spent. You know we’ll get sort of like the work involved. You know, just because somebody spent $100,000, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be more or more than someone spending $10,000 a month. In theory it will be, but a client could have $10,000 and have five locations and just have a lot of small changes that need to be done because they’re dealing with small locations. Um, but when it comes to just doing the work and how many people manage, we look at both the ad account and how much work it’s going to be involved. We also look at things like client communication, you know email, time, meet and time, and so we package all that up of like how much time do we think it’s going to be involved in this client, from Doing stuff in the ad account to things like strategy and research, and then we apply a number to that and then we add up someone’s numbers across all the clients and we try to get them somewhere in the sort of, you know, eight to 15 number. Usually people are somewhere in the 12 to 15 range, uh, and that usually means they might have anywhere from four clients to six clients. Uh, usually averages up to four to six.
But we try to figure out what it’s going to take, because I think the thing with Smaller clients that people don’t always realize is, outside of it being more work, is sometimes you need to come up with more ideas.
Right, because you have a smaller ad spend and because you may have less data coming in, you may have to come up with a lot more ideas to figure out how to get the account to work.
Build an ad account from scratch is really really hard and there’s lots of people who would never do it, which is why you see agencies say, oh, we want to take on clients that already spend 20 or 30 or 40 or 50, because it’s easier to manage an account that’s already spending money and someone’s already cracked it. Then it is to get an ad account that hasn’t spent any money and get it from zero to 10 or zero to 20 000 dollars a month. That is way more work than going from 20 to 30 or 20 to 50. You know we love small accounts that need to be cracked, because it teaches you how to build an ad account, how to build systems that you can scale up an ad account, and part of that is making sure we take on An ad account and a brand we think we can sell. It’s a really good skill set that most people just don’t have.
Danny Gavin Host 27:34
So, along those lines, many of the success metrics you list for your past campaign work include both lowering of costs but also increasing revenue. It can be difficult for some to manage working both of those you know levers Simultaneously. How do you approach a new campaign in that way?
Duane Brown Guest 27:50
Yeah, so we pick up, we pick, which is going to be important. So if a lot of clients usually like lowering their cost to acquire our customers usually the first thing we work on, because part of the reason they’re not hitting there you know, either there a cost or the row ass or something like that is because they’re spending too much money acquiring a customer. So it’s a temporary. Night will actually be one year since we took on a client. Obviously this is public about after that date. So people are going to hear and think, uh, yeah, this happened before. Uh, so it’s going to be a year with that client. But basically you know it’s the client sort of in the sports hobby area. Uh, and, and they were on a call with them. They’re like, well, you know how you can help us make more money and I’m like I honestly don’t know, but what I do know, basically what you said, is we need to both lower the cost to acquire our customer but also increase your average order value. That way it’s cheaper to acquire a customer but you haven’t each customer spend more money, so that your return to ad spend actually increases. You know, oftentimes agencies will probably work on one or the other, but it’s few for agencies to try to work on both, and even though I can guarantee that can convince every customer that comes to the website to spend more money, the more customers we can convince them to spend more money, though, is better off than not having tried to convince them to spend more money, and so, when it comes to like cost versus revenue, we generally work on lowering the cost to get rid of things that aren’t converted in, get rid of things that are wasted money. We’ll often see ad accounts that have things like youtube campaigns run in or display campaigns run in, where, if you’re a small advertiser spending a bit of money, or even if you’re a large advertiser spending a bit of money, you’re just gonna start with google. Set up money on display or youtube is often wasted money. So we cut all the fat, figure out the two classes to acquire customers based on what’s working. Then we audit. Obviously, as we audit the account, we try to figure out okay, how are we going to fix this account? Do we need to consolidate campaigns? Do we need to break out two campaigns? Do we do change some sort of set-in or feature in the campaign? Then, once we get things stabilized, where we have pretty consistent sales coming through. There’s a pretty consistent, let’s say, cpa to acquire the customer. Then we can worry about scale and revenue at that point because the ad account is stabilized.
To me, people try to scale an ad account too quickly. It’s like oh, I’ve got a week or two of data. Things are consistent. How do we scale? I’m like a week or two of data is great, but you want to have a month, two months, three months of consistent sales that you can predict what you’re going to have sale-wise and then you want to try to scale things. You don’t want to try to get a little bit of data and scale because you’re impatient. Impatience is often a thing that breaks more so ad accounts because people are trying to do things too quickly. That’s how we tackle it. We hammer away at the CPA and then we worry about scale. We don’t try to actually do both at once, which is probably what most people try to do, but I rather spend a little bit of money or less money than what the client was spending, get things consistent and then figure out how to scale. For us, trying to scale at the same time is trying to lower the CPA. You can’t actually do both at the same time.
Danny Gavin Host 30:34
So it’s obvious, both in your career choice and the many successes listed in your experiences, that you like metrics and data. Is there a particular metric, as it relates to PPC, that you think is particularly interesting or is perhaps often overlooked, given the insight it can provide?
Duane Brown Guest 30:49
Yeah, I don’t think people necessarily overlook things as much as maybe they don’t spend enough time looking at the data itself. So the perfect example is you’ve got five campaigns in an ad account. People often just look at the data at a campaign level. They won’t go to the ad group or the keyword or the skew or the ad, even though a campaign can look really great at a high level. When you start to go to the ad group or skew or keyword or ad level, you can probably start to see opportunities to cut the fast, just to speak of things that are actually not working, which could improve your performance. Clients says they want a five ROAS and you’re out of five ROAS and that’s great, but if you can improve your performance, you could then spend more money. So I think it’s sometimes just looking at the data from different angles as well. So if you’ve got a shopping campaign whether it’s standard shopping or performance max or Pmax people call it in the industry looking at things by size, age, gender, color, all the different ways, you can slice and dice your skew data and understand what’s selling, what’s not selling, what’s working, what’s not working. So I don’t think it’s so much.
People don’t look at the metrics or don’t care about the metrics or there’s only one metric to look at, because people just don’t look at enough data as a whole to understand what’s actually going on in the ad account. I often say, when it comes to ad accounts, you want to know the ad accounts so well that you can predict what sales are going to be when you come in on a Monday, because you’ve gotten such consistent sales and maybe one week it’s 50 sales and one week it’s 61, one week it’s 55, but you kind of know as an average how many sales you should get in theory, so that if you’re coming on a Monday and there’s only 30 sales over the weekend, well then you know there’s a problem because you should have had closer to 50 sales or closer to high 40 sales. So I think people just need to do a better job of understanding the pulse of rhythm of their ad account and looking at the data more and, quite frankly, just giving a shit going frankly and understanding what’s going on.
Danny Gavin Host 32:38
I assume a lot of people don’t dive deeper and they just look from the top. But I love that example or I guess that you know some sort of concept, where you know it so well that you know what to expect and because you do, when things are a little bit off, you know something’s wrong and you can actually jump in and make a difference.
Duane Brown Guest 32:55
Yeah, I often tell people on the team like, if I know it so well, maybe you don’t always know what is off. When you look at the account, you know something’s off. And then your job is to figure out like, okay, are the top five or 10 campaigns performing great, are the ad groups working, are the SKUs working right? You start to dig in and we’ll get the basic stuff, because often it’s just the basic stuff that needs to be reviewed and compared, you know, this past week to the week before that, or this month to that month, right. So you want to kind of like a spider sense a call. You know something’s wrong, but you don’t always know what it is sometimes and you just have to go through your process of figuring it out. You know what’s off.
Danny Gavin Host 33:25
I thought, an interesting LinkedIn post. It was actually about GA4, Google Analytics 4,. You know a lot of people, especially with all the changes, and a tactic. You know people are getting lost. But I think the point of that author was like you really have to know your business well and if you know it well then you can use a tool at GA4 to help you navigate. But if you’re just relying on the tool, that can be difficult and you may not be able to use it properly. So I feel like those themes are quite similar.
Duane Brown Guest 33:52
Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty important. You know. Often say you know tools are there to support you and help you do your job better. Tools aren’t there to do the job for you. People often think if they just get a tool they’ll be better at their job. But it’s not really how a tool works.
Danny Gavin Host 34:05
So you’ve worked with many different brands and industries in your career. Do you have a favorite vertical or a business type that just seems to really work well with your approach?
Duane Brown Guest 34:13
Yeah, I mean, I think as an agency when we started we kind of just took on anyone, because back then I wasn’t trying to start an agency, I was just trying to pay the bills and freelance. And then, you know, towards the end of year one and into year two, you know it needs to end just sort of like e-commerce, direct consumers, saas, brands, so those are kind of the industries that I’m into. They’re fun to work on. There’s tons of business out there, which is always a good thing.
There’s so many different varieties of styles in e-commerce businesses so it doesn’t get boring Even though it’s e-commerce and they sell online. You know what they sell, how they sell, who they sell to, all really different. So it makes the work fun. I’m sure those are things I like to work on. There are other things I would enjoy working on, but either it doesn’t pay very well or just be a headache. I like the idea of founding a nonprofit now and then, but I know working on a Google grant account would just be a pain in the Ass and so I don’t want to do it.
Danny Gavin Host 35:03
Yeah, it’s tough man with those limitations and then people are expecting you to spend $10,000. It doesn’t doesn’t always work, it does not. So you’re clearly no stranger to hard work, including hard work that can be surrounding a hard topic like your work for the NSPCC in London. How did you get connected with that organization and how did you protect yourself from getting too personally involved with a very hard-wrenching topic?
Duane Brown Guest 35:26
Yeah, I mean, when I was in London I had the job through a recruiter, which is cool. I think I was their second choice. I think the first choice spouted out for some reason. Maybe their first choice got a different job somewhere else and they liked it. So they called me, said I was so interested and I was.
I was doing some freelance work at that point and you know I just came in and she did my job, my job is to figure out how to advertise our different services we offer to young people. You know, talk with other people in the organization, understand through what we do and how it works. I think in general I try not to bring my emotion, you know, to the job as a whole. I think bringing your motion to anything, even if we work on e-commerce, can be bad because your motion kind of clouds your judgment. Kind of like during the pandemic I, even though the pandemic was really hard and I never wish the pandemic can, I try to really just focus on work because it’s something I could control, and try to like leave my feelings and emotions about the pandemic for after work, and it wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but I think that focus of have something to focus on was very helpful.
Danny Gavin Host 36:26
So, as we mentioned in the intro, you’re a traveler. You started working abroad early on in your career. You’ve worked remotely at numerous points over the years. Then you wound up back in your home country when the pandemic and travel restrictions happened and many people were forced to transition To the method of work you’d been doing for some time. So how did the pandemic impact your travel plans? Were there any commonest steps or successes you saw with your friends and co-workers as they started to work in a different setup than they were used to?
Duane Brown Guest 36:51
Yeah, I mean, the last trip I took was like at the end of February of 2020.
I actually went to see a client in New York and I started not thinking about taking that trip because you heard rumbles of something going on in the world in early February. But I took the trip down the last and thankfully that was okay. You know, obviously just not just not traveling really. So once I came back from New York at the end of February 2020, obviously I didn’t go anywhere else for 2020. And then the only trip in 2021 that I took, as I moved from Montreal, which is in Canada, back home to Toronto in 2021, so a couple years ago and then, other than that, I just didn’t travel, which is something I love to do. Since I sent you my bio, I’ve hit a few more countries, so I’m at 48 countries right now. I just went to Greece a month ago, which is really good. I went to Portugal for two weeks as well, and so, yeah, I just didn’t travel during the pandemic. It’s just like it wasn’t safe. You couldn’t really do it and even when you could do it, the risk of getting COVID didn’t seem worth it, even though I had all my vaccines and stuff like that. So, other than doing that trip in 2021. I didn’t really travel till the end of 2022. I went to New York, to Chicago and to Portland, which are all favorite cities in America for me, because I felt okay, if I’m gonna travel, at least travel somewhere where, if there was a problem or issue, I can relatively easily get back home to Canada. But not after this. I take a flight. Right, I could take a bus or a train or something like that if I needed to, if flights were delayed or whatever. So not being able to travel wasn’t really that great, but I think it was a really good opportunity to like work on the business and focus on that.
And now that we can travel, you know, I went to you know five or six countries in the summer, spent, you know, month over a month in Europe, and so now that I can travel, I just travel as much as I can, and I think the pandemic was good for a lot of people Wanted different ways, because I think it made people realize what are the value, what do they care about, and try to focus on those things, which I think is really important, things I care about. Value has really trained. I love to travel. I just realized I can’t travel because it’s the health pandemic, but I’ll be a trauma one day when it does, I’ll go travel for it.
You said I’m gonna go for a month in Europe, again because it’s been in a month in summer in Europe is really nice, and I’ll probably go to Europe for a couple weeks in winter to see if it’s Nice within our Canadian winter, because I want to go somewhere that’s warm and even though I could go to Asia, obviously, and I could go to South America, I’m curious of what Europe is like in winter, especially like southern Europe. So you know, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece. I think it’s a warm enough place for me to work remotely. That’s still a decent time zone for like North American clients.
Danny Gavin Host 39:14
That’s awesome. And when you travel, do you ever travel with friends, or is it pretty much solo?
Duane Brown Guest 39:18
It’s mostly solo, though when I can, I do travel with friends. I am trying to get various friends right now to do various trips. You know, I think the challenge is that I work for myself and, being that I also work remotely, it’s easier for me to get time off and travel. I don’t need to go through like two rounds of approvals or fight with other people to get time off, and then most of my friends also have partners. So it’s figuring out when are people free to travel?
It’s a lot harder to travel these days because there’s just a lot more factors to take into account, but I’ve told each of my friends I’d love to go with you somewhere in the next year or two. Here’s the place you said you want to go. Here’s a place we both said we want to go. So really, the balls and all my friends of course to see. Do they want to do it? Do they want to make it happen? Well, otherwise, why keep on traveling to see the world? Because I don’t know when I should put their travel plans on hold, I will wait for other people to figure out when they can travel. You should just kind of do the things you want to do and then friends will come along Whenever they can.
Danny Gavin Host 40:15
Yeah, I think that’s a great perspective. All right, wait. So it’s time for a lightning round. I’m gonna say some categories and you’re gonna let me know what comes to the top of your head.
Duane Brown Guest 40:24
You are my number one favorite place to travel so Vietnam and Portugal would be my two fair places to travel to. Both have a very good food scene. It’s really easy to get around. I spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2014. It’s been a couple weeks in Portugal this past year and I’ve been to other countries for a longer period of time, but the food seems really good. It’s really easy to travel around. I just had a really good experience and sometimes we go to a country you just feel kind of Maybe not at home, but you feel super comfortable in the country, and both Vietnam and Portugal did that for me.
Danny Gavin Host 40:53
And because you feel comfortable in those places. Do you like to go back to those types of countries?
Duane Brown Guest 40:56
Yeah, I mean, I’m already gonna go to Portugal for public week in February, definitely to go back to Asia, because I only went to Asia once and I spent about three months there, and so I I smoke was boarded around Asia. I spent three weeks in the Philippines as well. Didn’t want the Philippines as much, but hopefully I’m gonna go back, probably in 2025, and do a big trip in Asia.
Danny Gavin Host 41:12
I know that you’re someone who likes to cook or tries to cook. What’s your favorite dish? That?
Duane Brown Guest 41:16
you like to cook, been trying the last couple years to try to eat like a more Mediterranean diet, and so what I mean by that for me it was personally is try to eat like less beef and pork and try to have more everything else. So I love, you know, fish and seafood and stuff like that. So I definitely would say cooking like salmon and fish in general is probably up there is the thing I like to cook. Other than that, it obviously just depends on the season.
If it’s winter, I’m a big fan of things like stews and soups because being single it’s good. I can put it like leftovers in the freezer and then take them out when I don’t want to cook or there’s like a snowstorm outside I can’t leave. And then, beyond that, I’m technically not cooking anything but just putting it together like some sort of salad. It’s really easy, even if it’s just a fruit salad I enjoy because it’s a really easy thing to cook. Outside of doing things Like Uzo it is really easy to cook. Often do that with cheese and like spinach and other awesome things.
Danny Gavin Host 42:07
And then, finally, I know you’re a little bit of a reader and you like mystery books, so who’s your favorite author?
Duane Brown Guest 42:11
Yeah, I mean for the last 10 years I didn’t read as much as I used to. So the last couple years before I moved back to Toronto I didn’t read as much. So the last couple years I’ve been reading a lot of mystery books. So, like Robert B Parker is a really good author, so many read a lot of his books more than anything else. And then also going through things like big publications who put out their best books of the year, and so going through those with the last couple years and see if there’s anything that interests me, sort of book the other day called Gone girl, I think it was. It’s about 700 pages, large-sized font tax. It was an interesting mystery book. It didn’t end the way I thought it would end, but it was a good read if I’m right, I think they made a movie adaptation of that interesting.
Okay, I didn’t realize that. Yeah, it was on some sort of list. I read the best books on my cover and was gonna pick this up and it was like it was a pretty good read.
Danny Gavin Host 42:59
Yeah, it’s with Ben Affleck. I never read the book, but the movie is pretty hectic, so I’m sure the book is even better.
Duane Brown Guest 43:05
Okay, I’m gonna have to check this out, see if we can find somewhere online, because I did like the book and I’m curious. Would it be like a movie in a film?
Danny Gavin Host 43:10
Yeah, so cool. Dwayne. Where can listeners learn more about you and your business?
Duane Brown Guest 43:14
Yeah, I mean, obviously you can take some risk. So you got like a blog and we have like other resources, material that we have. Other than that, I probably spent a lot of time on Reddit. I spent a bit of time on LinkedIn. I definitely don’t spend as much time on Twitter or X as I used to just the last couple years. So, yeah, I’d say, like LinkedIn, reddit and then just following along while we’re doing on our blog is kind of the best way to stay in touch.
Danny Gavin Host 43:39
Super Well. Thank you so much for all the nuggets today. You painted a lot of pictures for me, but also really, really great advice. And thank you, listeners, for tuning into the digital marketing mentor. We’ll speak with you next time. Thank you for listening to the digital marketing mentor podcast. Be sure to check us out online at the DM mentor comm and at the DM mentor 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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