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Paid vs Organic Marketing: Which is Your Choice?

An Interview with Drew Blumenthal

Welcome to E-Coffee with Experts, an interview series where we discuss all things online marketing with the best minds in the business.

In this episode, Dawood chats with Drew Blumenthal, Founder and CEO at Digital Drew SEM.

Drew shares his opinions about the log standing paid vs organic marketing debate. He also throws insights onto what are the makings of a successful PPC campaign and how to effectively measure it. He talks about the hashtag strategy he follows and how he uses organic marketing.

Read this insightful conversation and stay tuned for the next steaming cup of E-coffee.

From the paid marketing angle, the most important thing is conversions and trying to find conversions that you could quantify and get consistently.

Drew Blumenthal
CEO, Digital Drew SEM
Hello, everyone, how is it going? Today, we have with us Drew, Founder and CEO at Digital Drew SEM. I want to start with some digital and paid questions. But, it would be great if you could introduce yourself and your company to the viewers.

Sure. My name is Drew Blumenthal. My company’s name is Digital Drew SEM. I am headquartered in Manhattan, New York, in the Upper East Side. I’ve been doing paid ads for the past five years. I got my first experience as an intern in college, where I worked for a few agencies and really got to see how much I was fascinated. Then right out of college, I worked at two large ad agencies on really big accounts. After that, I decided to go off on my own and for the past three years, I’ve been doing clients on my own across a wide range of e-commerce and lead gen on Google ads, and Facebook ads, mostly.

At the age of 24, you worked for some time and started your own agency. Tell us a little bit more about that journey because that story would be inspirational for our viewers.

I’ve always been a very independent thinker but there were just so many processes. It was really long hours and I felt that I could do so much better on my own. It was a month or two before I did go off on my own. I started working for a very small client, just on the side and getting paid to do it. And I’m like, “Oh, my God, I could do whatever reporting I want.” I could set up whatever metrics I want. I really liked it.

It was the beginning. Of course, you start out and you make a lot less money than if you work for someone else. But then, I’m like, “I can’t believe I ever worked for somebody else.” I get my own freedom, my own control. There’s more risk involved, but there’s also just so much reward. Now I actually do work more hours than I did at the agency, but at the end of the day, it’s mine. I get to call the shots. Everything that I’m building, I own and I feel that’s so much better.

Absolutely, and you're doing a fantastic job. I know paid is your skillset. So, when you are planning a lead generation campaign for a client, how do you decide the division of budgets between platforms - Google, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn?

Some of it is based on the CPC. You can see on Google what the keyword CPC is going to be and make sure that you’re getting enough clicks. It’s better to start with a few platforms. Try and do everything and do it really thinly. It depends on what competitors are paying for. You should keep a budget of at least like $2,000 per platform per month. That way you get enough data to learn. If you’re going to spend only a few $100, try and urge the client to either wait till you have more money, or try and focus on one platform.

If someone came to me and said I have $1500, I could do the research to really see, is it worth it or maybe you just do social media. Try and figure out if there is a good lead hook that could get leads in a lower CPC and a higher conversion rate. But then at the end of the day, I put clients first. It’s better for me to say to a client, let’s just wait a little bit or let’s just plan this campaign out a little bit better. Spend a month planning than it actually is to try and rush into something, spend the money and not generate the quality leads the client is looking for.

Talking about social media, how have you seen social media evolve over the years?

In a negative way, there’s a lot less control compared to what you used to be able to do. For instance, years ago with Facebook, you could put in someone’s direct household income, and you’d be able to target them by that. There used to be a lot more interesting behaviors. Now I rely a lot more than I used to unlike look-alike data and retargeting. There’s just a lot less control than there used to be.

Even for now, when you create a new campaign, you have to verify the business first, before you can even upload a customer list. So there’s just a lot more regulation involved than there used to be. That’s where your own first party data is so much more valuable. You can’t rely on Facebook as much as you used to.

You have worked across industries and clients. Look-alike is a very important targeting factor because you don't have a lot of other things. When you talk about look-alike data, is there any set rule that look-alike the audience 1% or 5% works? Or do you test it out for each client?

I’m a firm believer in testing. So, I create a lot of different audiences. I create the 1%, the 5%, and the 10% and have them compete against each other, and then pause accordingly. It depends on budget, how many different audiences I make. For a small budget, I’ll make around 5 different audiences to test. If it gets bigger, I can make 10 or 15 different ones and then I can create different look-alikes from different events in the pixels.

So if someone wants to attract leads, I can create look-alikes directly from leads, or if they have a customer list, then directly from that. It’s a lot about testing. If a client comes to me and they’re not doing well, I usually see one audience and one creative, and I’m like, “well, you’re not doing well, because you haven’t tested the algorithm enough”. The algorithm will do what you tell it to do. You have to be testing a lot of different audiences, and not be afraid to pause audiences and try something new.

I have had a lot of people coming to me who are trying to do lead-gen on Facebook. What works best on social media, and particularly Facebook the approach of using content as a trigger point to nurture prospects or direct lead-gen campaigns?

One thing that’s a big no is those pop-up lead forms. Nobody goes to the website and when you contact them, they don’t necessarily know who you are. So I think there’s two approaches you could go through, and some of it is based on decision points. If something is a longer decision point, capturing those emails is a really good way to utilize Facebook. So if you have something that people want, and you could get their emails for less than $5 an email signup, you can scale that really easily. You need a good nurture campaign after that, where you have the email sequences set up to nurture them after you collect that email. You can’t just collect the email and let it sit in your inbox. You need to strategically have your welcome email. You need to have four or five emails that are really effective. You need to strategically warm them up to the action that you want them to do.

Or if you have a contact form on your website, you could use the tag to tag that welcome button, and then try and capture leads that way. But again, you need to be creative. So you would need a good video or a really good image, and good tags that can really build that kind of trust in that relationship. So that way, when you bring them to the contact form that they want to do it. The thing with Facebook or LinkedIn or anything is, whatever conversion action you want to track, you need to be able to get it consistently. If you’re not able to get at least three to five consistent conversions a week, then the algorithm isn’t learning. It basically means the audience doesn’t trust you or doesn’t like what you’re doing. Therefore, you need to find a conversion action that you can get several conversions minimum per week for it to work to your advantage.

How do you track the performance of your social campaigns? How does one set the right benchmarks? How do you go about tracking the entire performance?

Well, if it’s lead generation, that’s when you track how many leads you’re getting. But then again, you need to make sure that the client is following up with these leads and you need to be asking them, “Okay, how are these leads doing?” Are they good leads? Are they bad leads? What else can they possibly telling you? So that way, you can make adjustments accordingly.

The algorithm with lead generation doesn’t necessarily know after that conversion is met, like what’s going on past that. You need to have that strategic call follow-up, or that email follow-up, and you need to follow up more than once. The worst thing that can happen is, you set up a lead generation campaign, you generate a bunch of leads, and then you ask, “Well, what is your follow up?” and the client says, “I don’t know, I follow up with them once and leave a message.” That client isn’t going to last. You need to have clients that could be a part of that follow-up process too.

When I have a lead, I put the lead in my CRM, and schedule those follow ups until I get that hard No. So if the client says, “oh, follow up with me, in two days.” I have it scheduled in my CRM to follow up with that client in two days, and send them a message to hear back from them. If you don’t have clients that are in lead generation that are doing that, and have that process, you need to have a conversation with them and say, “Hey, I’m willing to build this for you.” You need to build it yourself and have this process because if they don’t have a process of following up, they’re just going to get a bunch of leads, and it’s not your fault. They’re just not going to be a sustainable client.

What are your thoughts on the statement that organic social has died?

I don’t think it’s dead. Even with Facebook, organic, I still see clients do really well. It’s a more competitive space, but you need to provide quality. For instance, Gary Vaynerchuk is the king of organic content. He gets thousands of views, because he knows how to make the algorithm work to his advantage. If you’re going to put out garbage that took you two seconds to write or some stock image that you put out there, you’re gonna say organic is dead because you’re not getting engagement with it. It takes a skilled person and time to build out quality content. If you can build out quality content that your followers will engage with, then you can make organic work for you. Paid works better with organic, but you can get a lot of reach and engagement, if you can put out content that people like and engage with and comment on. That’s the key to doing really well with organic. So I don’t think organic is dead, and this is coming from someone who’s a majority paid.

How do hashtags improve social media activity? And what makes a good hashtag?

It’s like the Dewey Decimal System of social media. Hashtags are what people are searching for. That’s how you can get discovered by using the right hashtags. The people who just throw up hashtags and use it for the sake of doing it because they think it’s cool, they’re not going to get much from it. If you strategically think of your hashtags for each post, like what is someone going to be searching for, if someone searches for that, and actually saw my post, would it be a value to them. That’s how you could use hashtags to be better for you and work to your advantage. So I think, with social media, people get to the point where they’re like, “Oh, everyone’s on Instagram, so I have to do it.” and therefore they don’t produce quality content and hashtags. That’s where it falls short. It’s like, “I’m not getting followers, because they don’t spend the time with it.” They just try and put a post in five minutes, and think that that’s going to grow.

AI seems to be becoming popular, every day. When you talk about PPC, what are your thoughts on manual control of PPC versus automation?

I always use automated bidding. I really like AI. But again, I still check all the accounts every day. I’m still doing a lot of manual checks with the automation. So the dynamic ad groups were great, responsive ads were great, automated bidding works really great. However, you still need a human to man the machine. That’s where I love AI and I think it’s the future. If you just set it and forget it, that’s where it’s going to be problematic.

Are you a fan of chat bots? A lot of sites now have chatbots, what are your thoughts?

I think they’re really great and I like chat bots. If you’re going to set up automated sequences, you need to be very thoughtful with the sequences. You still need a human to check on them. If you’re going to have a manual chat bot, you need to have a human readily available to answer them. It’s another automated machine, which is a tool, but it’s all about the wielder behind the tool. It’s a great resource to have, if you use it properly.

My thought process is if I go to a website as a user and interact with a chat box, my intention is to chat with a human, right? If that chat bot is giving me answers to very popular questions, and I even have an FAQ section, it's a very tricky thing. It's a good resource, but it's all about how you plan it or how you use it. A user can get frustrated because he wanted a chat with a human, but he saw a chatbot, and he did not get the response it made.

Again, it’s about the user experience. You can use a chatbot to create a better user experience. But, if you want to set up an automated sequence with your chatbot, it’s not something you could do in five minutes. It’s something that you have to think out the whole path and what someone’s gonna want. It’s about how to predict user behavior, which again, something that needs to be really thought out and strategic and adjusting as needed. It’s not something you could just set it and forget it and just assume that it’s working well.

When you are auditing the content of a website or your landing pages, what is your strategy? What is your approach towards auditing a website for content?

It’s got to consistently convert. That’s the number one thing. When I look at a page, I don’t want it to just be pretty. There’s so many pages out there that are pretty but not functional. So you need to build that trust, answer somebody’s question, and then have some type of CTA that’s easy to find and desirable. That’s what’s going to make the page do well.

So if you launch a landing page, you want testimonials on there. You want a video on there, you want a clear demonstration of what the services and the offerings are. And again, you want that CTA to be like, sign up for an email and get this valuable resource. Then, you’ll be able to run ads and get leads for under $5. But again, if you put someone on a pretty page, and they don’t feel that trust in that connection, then you can launch ads and get no conversions out of it. So it’s kind of looking at a page from a very functional type of perspective.

How do you increase content consumption across channels?

Some of it is about getting the right engagement. It is about understanding your audience and what they actually want or what they’re listening to. If you create content that you think you like, but your audience doesn’t, then it’s not going to provide any value. At the end of the day when you create content, looking at it from a long term strategy, you don’t make money on the actual content but the content builds you as a thought leader. That way people will refer to you and will remember you. Content is a long term strategy. It’s a long term play for a long term game. If you’re putting out content and getting frustrated because you’re not getting clients right away, it’s a long term patient strategy.

What are your thoughts on optimizing for voice search?

Voice Search is interesting. I do see it in some of my ads and I could clearly tell that it’s a voice search. It’s good for some businesses, but it’s not good for others. So voice search is very automated, it’s not visual. If you say, “Hey, Google order X, and you can actually provide some value in that search or answer someone’s question without them actually seeing a website, then it’s a good thing. I think voice search is going to continue to grow as more people use Siri, as more people buy home devices.

People have to adapt to it. I think that more people are still going to be manually typing things in and looking things up on search engines. It’s so new that if you get into Voice Search now and utilize it, you’re going to be a pioneer for it.

Any special tip you would like to give our audience so they can directly implement and get benefits from?

From the paid side, the most important thing is conversions and trying to find conversions that you could quantify and get consistently. If you’re struggling with your ads, that’s a great place to look at what conversions am I optimizing my ads for. How am I tracking it? How am I quantifying it? Am I getting it consistently? If not, try to reconfigure what my conversion should be? How should I optimize for those conversions better to get them more consistently?

Thank you so much for your time today. We'll catch you again for more information and knowledge bombs.

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