Paid advertising strategy: the basics

Gartner research shows CMOs have shifted spending commitments across their channels and programs, with paid digital (digital ads and search ads) being one of the top priorities in 2021. 

With that, there’s been a rush to push out campaigns and spend allocated budgets without necessarily taking the right approach.  A familiar go-to is often Google Ads, but it’s not the only channel. In this post, we share some of the basics around digital advertising to help you stop and think, and question, whether you took the right turn.

Do I need to take a left turn, u-turn or go straight on?

At the end of the road, take the next turn. 

The truth is, there is no correct route. Paid advertising has to be part of a blended multichannel approach that meets the customer’s digital journey. So if you’re looking to implement an effective paid advertising strategy, you’ll need to take a step back and consider these things before jumping into execution and spending hard: 

Setting objectives

Paid advertising can take many forms, so it’s important to start thinking about its purpose before creating any campaigns. Without setting clear goals, you’re basically directionless.

Ask yourself the following questions, ‘Why am I doing this?’, ‘What am I trying to achieve?’ ‘What do you want people to do when they see your ad?’ and ‘How does this relate to the other activity that we’re doing?’. 

That could be:

  • Raising brand awareness
  • Generating leads
  • Increasing sales conversions

Once your objectives are agreed upon, it’ll help you manage expectations, determine budgets and metrics.

Budgets 

Every marketer’s favourite topic! It can be hard to prioritise your digital marketing activity to get the most out of your money. Social Media Examiner proposes using the 20:60:20 as a rule of thumb. 

This includes 3 categories:

  • 20% on education, engagement and audience building 
  • 60% on generating leads and conversions 
  • 20% on retargeting 

Make sure you pace your ad spend by segmenting intended spend, so you can learn quickly first and then act on your insights. 

Who is your target audience? 

There are a lot of targeting options available on paid advertising platforms – so it’s vital to make sure you’re hitting your ideal customer personas. Consider who is likely to be in your buying group, influencing it, or even joining it in the very near future.

You can leverage information such as:

  • Demographics
  • Geographics
  • Gender 
  • Seniority 
  • Job roles & functions
  • Groups
  • Interests 
  • (And much much more) 


Depending on your objective, you may want to find new audiences similar to those that already buy your products and services – or you may want to get laser targeted and focus on small, discrete audiences.  With digital advertising, you can easily expand your audiences or layer target approaches to get more specific, detailed targeting.  It just depends on your objective.  

A critical element to consider is the accuracy and viability of targeting. Using your own first-party data as a starting point is a great way to help the platforms understand how to reach people similar to those that have already purchased or interacted with you.  

The main aim is to make your audience as relevant as possible to the goal of your ad. 

Choosing the right platforms for your audience

So you know your target audience, but do you really know who they are? 

In order for paid advertising to have an impact and reach your desired target audience, you need to use the right advertising platforms. Knowing where your audience are ensures that you’re fishing in the right place. 

For example, we recently did some audience analysis to understand social and web consumption patterns, reasons for use and media preferences.  To date, we’d been advertising on the Facebook Feed to reach the audience, but this analysis showed that whilst Facebook was their preferred platform, it was for Facebook Messenger, not the Facebook Feed.  Our ad strategy went out of the window!  We felt it was better to engage with them in browsing mode, versus chat mode, and so we switched the strategy to where they actually were, which was Instagram and LinkedIn.  

Doing a bit of research and a deep dive into your audience and their ‘actual’ preferences is critical to ensure you build out the right media plan.  

Talk to us if you want to understand where your audience is and their preferences.

Aligning the strategy to the digital journey

For any marketer that’s taken the time out to map their buyer’s journey, they know the number of touches required before they become an opportunity. The key to an effective paid advertising strategy is to not only know what that journey looks like, but also to know how to treat each stage within your paid advertising campaigns. 

It’s important that your paid advertising isn’t  operating in silos. The different channels should all be working together to accomplish the appropriate goals (both channel related goals and overall marketing goals). The aim is to embody a ‘right person, right product, at the right time’ approach and move the prospect through the journey to becoming a customer.

Do you need help steering your paid advertising strategy in the right direction? 

Our dedicated Digital Team work closely with clients to ensure they are getting the most out of their paid advertising strategy, researching the right audience and gathering  meaningful insight to get it right. If you would like to discuss how we can support you, get in touch. Contact Us

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