In this opinion piece, Yoghurt Digitial head of biddable Becky Cheseldine (pictured) talks about making the most of a big budget.
It’s finally happened. You argued your case, described your vision, dug your heels in – and at long last, you’ve been #blessed with the bountiful seven figure Google Ads budget of your dreams. You never thought you’d see the day.
Planning out a big budget is quite a craft, especially if it’s for a long campaign. The right approach will drive growth through efficiencies and scale. The wrong approach will squander your hard-earned resource. This is particularly true for Google Ads, where every single click represents either business growth or a wasted opportunity.
So, how can you guarantee success?
Here’s my advice: For a moment, forget about the money. Seriously. The size of your budget should never be the key influence of your core strategy. At Yoghurt Digital, we believe the fundamentals of a successful campaign never really vary, no matter what the budget. Blame it on our small agency hustle.
What I think does vary is what’s right for your specific brand compared to another. To be effective, your strategy and execution must be based on your unique business goals, not some generic “best practice” approach. Anyone can build a Google Ads account with keywords based on a website – Google will even do some of it for you. The part that often gets missed is the ‘why’. Why are you selecting those keywords? Channels? Audiences?
Brands that don’t have a clear, data-backed strategy in place to answer these questions risk losing out on underutilised channels, and wasting money on ones that aren’t ultimately relevant to their goals. Sure, a seven-figure slice has a lot of potential – but only if you’re smart about how you use it.
To show you what I mean, here’s a rundown of my strategic approach to online budget planning across Google Ads activity at the agency:
- Don’t try to kick goals without KPIs
With larger budgets, it’s easy to fall into the trap of immediately planning activity by execution, before first clarifying the overall goal of your campaign.
Each channel has its relative pros and cons, and each plays a different role in the customer journey. So our first step for any budget is to ensure we fully understand what a business wants to achieve.
To do this, we ask questions. Lots of them. And you should, too. As well as identifying KPIs, look at things like seasonality, advertising restrictions, expansion plans and previous activity in order to get the big picture.
- Comb through the data with a fine-tooth comb (and then again with a microscopic fine-tooth comb)
Once you know what you want to achieve, you need to think about the best way to get there. This means having a solid understanding of who your audience is, how they behave online and how they interact with your site.
To do this, look to your data. We recommend pulling data from analytics tools, ad platforms and your ad manager to see how each of your channels interact with the customer journey.
Remember: Always make time to identify the different paths to conversion to ensure you aren’t overlooking a channel’s impact.
Depending on your campaign, there may be limitations to what data you can access. I’ve worked with a number of new-to-market brands that had no account history and the product had never existed before – but that didn’t mean there wasn’t data. Third party tools, Google insights and Google planners can all provide helpful insights into things like expected reach and the competitor landscape.
- Pull a Moneyball and pick your best players based on data
In 2002 American baseball GM Billy Beane changed the game forever by using data analysis to handpick a record-breaking baseball team for the Oakland Athletics. Simply put: Data helps you pick winners.
Once you’ve collected your data, you can evaluate what does and doesn’t work across different channels. From there, you can identify your top-line mix of channels that will work best together to achieve your goals.
We recommend starting to build out your cross-channel audience and creative approach first, before diving into your individual channel strategies. That way, you avoid falling into the trap of siloed strategies that lead to inconsistent user experiences. This is especially important with larger budgets where you are more likely to be spending upwards of 75% on branding activity and need to ensure that awareness is being captured and utilised.
- Throw away the crystal ball and make some real forecasts
All you need to predict the future is the data you already have, and the insights and trends you glean from it. Having an accurate forecast to work back from has multiple benefits, including:
- Improving efficiency and decision-making by helping identify channels or strategies that are outperforming or underperforming
- Confirming the roles you expect each channel to play to hit the overall goal of a campaign, which stops hasty budget changes mid-campaign if, for example, an awareness channel isn’t driving an efficient ROI
- Providing visibility on any expected trends that your campaign should follow
- Setting a good benchmark for the end-of-campaign reporting and future campaigns
- Keep your eyes on the prize and plan your tests
Every campaign offers an opportunity to learn more about your customers and how to best optimise your channels. By planning out some of your tests prior to launch, you can ensure you’re getting answers to questions that are key to helping achieve your business goals.
As a benchmark, we usually recommend for larger campaigns that you run at least one test per channel each month.
Making the most of your big budget
Never underestimate the power of a strong, data-driven strategy to direct a budget. If you don’t take the time to do your research, you’ll risk losing out on areas of real opportunity. You also won’t have set yourself up to drive quality insights from your activity, which you could have leveraged in other channels, used to gain a better understanding of your audience and harnessed to drive sustainable growth.
No strategy will ever be completely perfect from the outset, but if you remain agile in your approach and continually track performance back to your forecast and goals, you can drive incremental improvements as you go.