3 Ways To Accelerate Your PPC Career Outside Of Marketing

As our team here at ProfitSpring continues to grow, I’ve found myself reflecting back on my career as a specialist, looking at the points of acceleration I had and the compounding elements that went into driving them. Sharing these with the team has been useful to guide development and progression.

I thought it would be useful to share the top three with the broader PPC community. My experiences may benefit anyone looking to transition to a career in paid media, those looking to progress in their roles or move from specialist to agency owner as I have.

Whilst I’ve had training from some really amazing individuals in the industry, I’ve found the real 80/20 lifts for me came from areas that I worked on to support my work but that aren’t directly related to it.

Let’s explore each in a little detail.

Working on your articulation

A few years ago, I found that the same themes of conversation would come up when working with clients, pitching services or training other advertisers.

I wanted to work on explaining these areas in a more concise way as the specialist (myself in particular) tends to default to the detail and a rather in-depth explanation because that’s what we’re immersed in day-to-day. Whilst this is useful when working from specialist to specialist, it isn’t always the easiest for someone like a business owner to digest.

I started by writing long form every morning from 6-7:30 am on whatever topic I had in mind. Initially, I was just getting everything out of my head. I could see the core parts were there, but the structure didn’t flow so it likely didn’t when I verbally spoke about it.

I’d then start to revise by considering a better way to say the same thing but more clearly to someone who potentially has no prior understanding of the topic. 

Once I was happy with what I’d written, I did a final pass-through just to make it the most concise possible version.

I found a great professional writer/proofreader on Upwork and asked not just for the amends to be made to the content I wanted to release as blog posts but also to give me a summary of the thematic issues I was making to strengthen my awareness when writing in the future but, more importantly, when I’m talking. 

I found it incredibly helpful having my writing torn apart professionally. I knew I was highly knowledgeable on the subject matter, but if that can’t be expressed and understood by a client, then a fantastic performance will only go so far.

As Richard Feynman famously said:

“If you cannot explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it.”

There’s a very well-proven relationship between how we write, how we think and how we speak.

Writing helps you to organise your thoughts. 

You aren’t just working on how you say something; you’re working on developing your understanding of the topic itself throughout the process. 

You’re solidifying what you know and how you present your knowledge, which will come across as authentic, confident and clear when you then talk about it to someone else. 

I had a number of issues to work on myself. The main one was just going overly complex on the specialism detail.

For me, reeling off for ten minutes about the power of machine learning, the benefits of RSAs, accessing real-time contextual data signals guiding the bidding process and much more (whilst enthusiastic and well-intentioned) isn’t as clear to a client as saying:

We need to start with Google Ads because that’s where we will reach people actively searching for your products and services.

This type of communication makes the world of difference to sales, retention and feeds directly back into your tactical day-to-day work.

It’s not a call for straplines and buzzwords or to not understand the detail. You need to understand the detail as the specialist but the client needs to understand how and why it benefits their business. 

Being able to get buy-in onto a concept you want to test or to explain why something is adding value and should be invested in further keeps the engine running and avoids missing revenue opportunities, as it proves the value.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

It’s long been known and cited in marketing that evoking emotion works to get engagement.

Addressing pain points or aspirations is a go-to, and it certainly works.

There’s a little more nuance to this, though, and we can look to psychology for the answers to why this is the case.

I’d started to notice that in paid search, in particular, it doesn’t tend to be emotionally triggering copy that performs best. As paid social really picked up with conversion optimisation, it also started to showcase that the most pragmatic and direct copy often drives more sales and revenue.

We’re only talking about performance objectives here, not brand awareness. That is qualified leads who want to buy and people who see an ad and then transact on the e-commerce side.

There’s a commonality between paid search and paid social when conversion optimisation is in play. 

The user is highly likely to be in-market to buy the product or service.

Pragmatism wins because the user is either already shopping around or is looking to shop.

Anyone who’s worked in sales will tell you:

“People buy on emotion and then rationalise the decision after.”

There’s more truth to this than anecdotal experience.

Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel Prize-winning book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ outlines this premise in amazing detail.

The synopsis is that we have two response systems. Our instinctive, emotional response system (system 1) and our cognitive rational response system (system 2).

The emotional response system fires almost instantaneously, hence appealing to emotions working well to get engagement.

What gets missed, though, is the very important second system, which is crucial for PPC and paid social.

I think of the rational system as the internal narrative voice that asks questions inside our heads.

If I see an ad for a relevant product on Instagram, the initial thing that stops me from scrolling is 100% the emotionally engaging copy or creative. 

What then starts to happen is something like this:

When will I get it?
What happens if it’s the wrong size?
Is it worth the money?
I wonder if it’s on Amazon? And can I get it from there?

These are rational questions that need to be answered. 

To bring this back to PPC and paid social, if these questions go unanswered, the user is more likely to continue scrolling or click through to the website and then bounce after having to dig for answers.

It’s imperative to performance copywriting and also conversion rate optimisation that consideration is put into these areas. You can do a huge amount of work on getting engagement, only to see it all disappear and not materialise into results. 

In paid media, we get billed when we get engagement, so whilst we want clicks, as we can’t have sales or leads without them, the efficiency of click-to-output is where profitability comes from.

Tools such as Hotjar or Microsoft Clarity make it easy to see post-click as you literally see people trying to dig for information or directly survey them as they’re bouncing due to having unanswered questions or doubts.

Search ads tend to address people actively searching for the product or service, so trying to evoke an emotion here isn’t usually necessary. As a metaphor, I’ve come in off of the highstreet, I know what I’m looking for, I’m in the shop, I’m just choosing between brands. Telling me I have a pain point I’m already aware of isn’t effective; telling me why your product is the one I should choose is. 

Paid social has an additional challenge. Presuming that targeting is correct and you’re receiving conversion data into the campaign to enable it to be presenting ads to those likely to buy, we still have to utilise emotion to get a fast response to stop the scroll and the distraction.

For me, I find opening a video creative or copy with something that addresses a pain point/aspiration works to get the engagement. This should be followed up with the top rationalisations to avoid a continued scroll or website bounce after the click.

I couldn’t recommend reading this book enough, as it’s transformed the way I write copy and carry out conversion rate optimisation.

It also raises your awareness level of your own responses to situations and those of others. This can be worth its weight in gold when it comes to conflict resolution and people management.

Commercial awareness

Having commercial awareness supercharges paid media.

Much like broader business, we’re spending and returning. There will be a desired ratio of the two, which simply is the only thing that means success or failure.

i.e. 

A 4:1 ROAS isn’t good if it’s not profitable for the client

A profitable ROAS when the client wants to take market share aggressively may not be the right approach.

Being able to ask questions like:

What is your average order value? 
What can you afford to spend to acquire a customer?
Which services are the highest priority based on revenue/profit?

Will give you clear strategic direction and the ability to deploy tactical activity that aligns towards driving real commercial value for your clients.

You don’t have to know all of the answers yourself but you do need to have awareness and consideration.

Key ad platforms like Meta and Google have fully moved to a commercial ads position, which is great news for advertisers and businesses alike.

We’re able to bid for revenue and leads at target cost

Entering the wrong targets in this algorithm area of advertising so frequently leads to the old computer science adage of:

“Rubbish in, rubbish out”

Commercial awareness stops the common scenarios of budget not being prioritised to the 80/20 products and services, running activity that could never have been profitable based on base auction costs or making changes that might be marketing best practice but aren’t viable for the client.

Aligning your activity with the clients’ business elevates you from a service provider to someone who’s adding real commercial value.

You’re also then speaking in a language that they talk in and appreciate, which ties back into section one on articulation. 

I’ve been told in the past that I have a very corporate finance way of looking at PPC like this. 

It was never something I intended. I was trying to distill conversations around campaign targets and activity to their most fundamental truth—what is objectively not viable and, therefore, what is at least viable. 

You don’t need perfection. This is where commercial understanding and profitability tend to go awry. Getting to the above is the 80% you need to take action, get started and find out without chucking a load of time and ad spend at the wall to see what sticks.

Knowing what’s break-even and loss per sale from an acquisition perspective removes the anxiety around performance and tells you if what you’re doing is working or not.

When you know you’re on the right track, you’re on it and you can go full speed. When you’re not, you know to act quickly as you’ve set the conditions for break-even and failure.

This allows you to reduce fear of failure and concentrate on being creative, strategic and taking action to grow the account and business that you’re working on.

Conclusion

I hope these three areas help show you how you could elevate your skills and, hopefully, your career in paid media. 

Each of them has been invaluable to me on my journey and I have long-standing client and partner relationships as a result.

I would recommend picking one and focusing on it only for a period of time to ensure the knowledge and new ground has a chance to avoid becoming overwhelming. 

As you develop, each area will support the other, so there’s a compound benefit in pursuing any of them.

Looking for a career change? We’re always open to hearing from great specialists. Get in touch

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