How Six Months At Fountain Changed My Approach To Digital Marketing

I started working at Fountain in April 2018 as a digital marketing consultant, with a specialism in PPC. These 6 months have given me ample time to absorb Fountain’s approach to digital marketing, as well as see the outcome of this approach first-hand.

Digital marketing was no stranger to me and I was used to working in an agency environment. For a good agency too. I’d consult on colleagues’ accounts, launch campaigns, and produce audits.

I’m proud of my track record and thought I’d learnt pretty much everything I needed to know about platforms like Google Ads.

Wrong.

There’s an adage that goes something like, “A truly wise man asks more questions than he can answer”.

Well, I’d stopped asking questions.

 

So how exactly did my new job get me thinking again?

Fountain has an internal website, affectionately named “Fountain of all Knowledge” which is the source of every business process you could possibly imagine.

My first task was to essentially read all of it – the entire website – which was in retrospect a great starting point because I also started to learn about their culture. There was a lot to learn too, and I’m glad there wasn’t a quiz.

Also, I would like to add how warm and friendly all the staff were when I first joined. That isn’t to say that my other workplaces weren’t warm and friendly – but Fountain staff were just that little bit extra! Later, I realised that was because my colleagues here are treated so well, which goes to show how much they are valued here.

1. Ad Split tests

I was particularly surprised at the extent of ad split testing. Even smaller accounts can have their ads reviewed and re-written as often as every month. Surely this wasn’t worth the effort? It appears that I was wrong, again, and it certainly is worth the effort.

When you think about it, ads are everything – they are often the first impression a user has of a client’s business, so the ads need to make an impact. I’ve now seen first-hand how click-through rates and conversion rates can keep increasing with relentless ad split testing.

2. Internal Reviews

Another thing that surprised me was the extent of the internal reviews. Whilst we acknowledge that things don’t always go to plan, Fountain does everything they possibly can to ensure that nothing goes wrong.

Fountain have special people who go by the title “Quality and Optimisation Leads”, or “QOLs” for short. These colleagues review every aspect of any new campaign or new ad-copy before it’s sent out for a client review.

Meanwhile, there was me, confident and self-assured, and certain that this was an epic waste of time. Who wants to wait around while your ads and campaigns go through a series of reviews?

But I was proven wrong, yet again.

The second AdWords campaign I created whilst working here was a Display campaign and was missing some content exclusions and a device bid-adjustment. A simple oversite (which surprised me) but this potentially saved the client money.

3. Campaign Experiments

Never have I ever performed more than one campaign experiment in a 6-month period. I was in for a shock because Fountain tries to run a campaign experiment every month. A popular item to split-test is the campaign’s bid strategy.

I always was (and still am, a bit) sceptical of using automated bidding methods. There’s something about handing over a portion of your responsibility to a machine that doesn’t sit well with me. Turns out that sometimes, when the stars align, automated bidding is highly effective! Of course, sometimes it really isn’t – but the culture here means that we are encouraged to test, test, test – so we know for sure.

Because of the collaboration, we have a fairly good idea of when it’s worth trying. Collaboration means that time isn’t wasted, plus we can say for certain whether a bidding strategy is effective or not. After all, every account is different.

4. Internal Meetings

I’ve always erred on the side of caution at internal meetings, preferring instead to focus more time on working on an actual account. I just never believed there was much value in internal meetings for account managers and believed that internal meetings were usually for the benefit of just one or two individuals.

Every Monday, all the Fountain staff gather together in one room to kick-off the week. These meetings are brief, but the directors share company news such as new prospects, new clients, and other company activities. All in all, it adds a bit of motivation and keeps everyone on the same page.

Every week, account managers log the performance of their accounts’ KPIs into an extremely large spreadsheet. Directors and QOLs review this spreadsheet, generating their own questions and suggestions.

Using that spreadsheet, us account managers gather together every week to discuss account performance over the last 7 days. This collaboration helps share success and has given me ideas for my accounts that I never would have considered before; like ways to utilise custom-affinity audiences, custom in-market audiences, and advanced remarketing techniques. It also ensures that everyone has a background on everyone else’s accounts, which is particularly useful if someone is away on annual leave.

Ultimately, this collaboration has helped me to learn even more than I thought possible. Who remembers which bid strategies ignore bid adjustments and which ones multiply them? Did you know the eCPC already takes into consideration the user’s device, or that the “Optimise for Conversions” strategy completely ignores basically all your bid adjustments?

So, it turns out I was wrong again – internal meetings can be useful (so long as they’re done properly!).

5. Pareto Principle

They are big on 80/20 here, also known as the Pareto principle. Essentially, to Fountain this references prioritisation.

I was used to spending 80% of my time working on the part of an account that isn’t doing so well because that other bit is doing just fine without much attention. And after all, you really want the whole account to work great, right? Not quite.

Something I never really thought about before was that most of the time, 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. So really, we should spend 80% of our time working on the 20% of the account that brings in the most business (instead of the other way around).

Or in other words, spend most of your time making the best bits even better.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes working on that other 80% is worth it, but 80% of the time it’s probably because it wasn’t set up properly in the first place. One of my pet peeves is when people don’t give a campaign (or ad group) a proper chance – always perform diagnostics before pausing!

But what I really like is that the approach at Fountain takes that sort of thing into consideration; they understand that it’s not as black and white as just 80/20 all the time, but what this methodology does do is remind us of how we are spending our time. This is also an important factor when you consider the importance of long-term optimisation.

6. PPC that’s more than PPC

I believed that working at an agency meant having clear boundaries on who is responsible for what; the marketing agency managed the marketing and the client manages the website, right? No, unfortunately not (I was wrong again). That was something that I thought was true, anyway. But it’s not, kind of.

One of the most important numbers in digital marketing is the conversion rate. Everyone knows that, but it’s something I didn’t really think about in much detail. As it turns out, I should have.

Ads don’t convert. Sure, you can make tweaks to make a conversion more likely, but the conversion rarely happens at the actual ad.

The ad’s job is to generate traffic and manage expectation, but it’s the landing page’s job to generate the actual conversion.

Then it becomes so obvious – why didn’t I think of this before? Optimising the landing page is part of optimising a client’s PPC account!

Boundaries are still important; Fountain don’t manage websites – but they do generate landing pages or advise the client on what to do differently.

The end, or just the beginning?

Being at Fountain has certainly broadened my view and has also taught me much more than I thought was left to learn. It’s true that different products and tools are coming out all the time, but its how you use those products that matters. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been using those products much, much better.

 

 

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17 October 2018

By Lee Sproat

Lee Sproat

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