Jim Banks, CEO of Spades Media on PPC, Podcasts, and Audio ads

October 14, 2022 | Interview

Welcome to Rankwatch’s Marketing Lego thought leader interview. Today we will talk to Jim Banks, CEO ofSpades Media, about his journey of creating a successful marketing agency. We will also talk about PPC, Podcasts, and Audio Ads.

Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s Marketing Lego Thought Leader interview. My name is Harshit Gupta. I am the director of business alliances of two amazing marketing SEO tools, Rankwatch, and WebSignals. And we have a very special guest with us today, the CEO of Growth Agency, SPADES Media, Jim Banks. Jim, Welcome and I am so happy to host you today.

Hi Harshit, nice to be here. Thanks for inviting me to come along and speak.

Please tell us a bit about your journey. How are you, like when you were trying, and how you got to where you are today?

Wow, that’s a really kind of interesting question. So I was actually born even though I’ve got a British accent, an English accent, I was actually born in Scotland. But when I was like four years old, I went out to live in Hong Kong. I lived there for 20 years, and did all my schooling out there. And then after sort of 20 years in Hong Kong, I decided to come back to the UK and try and see if I can kind of get a job. So I did twelve years working in insurance for financial services. I did that for about twelve years, and every year I made more money, but every year I hated the job more and more. And around the mid nineties, the internet had just started. I got really kind of hooked on it. I got my first Apple computer. Actually, my first Windows Computer with Windows three, that was my first Windows computer. I was running up really big telephone bills because we were paying dial-up. So obviously when broadband came about, it was fantastic. All of a sudden, just like one fixed fee. So I became really interested in the internet as a potential career opportunity.
So my first job in digital marketing, if you like, I was basically the national sales manager for a web design company. This is about 1999, and obviously, we would build great websites for people, and then the clients would say, well, what do we do now?
And obviously, the next thing is, once you’ve actually got a website you need to try and do some SEO and rank the site and just basically do some marketing of it. So for me, it was a case of, okay, we built the websites, and all of a sudden you need to learn about marketing. Right. So I learned a little bit about sort of, again, SEO, PPC wasn’t really a thing back then, but I sort of soon became aware of the fact that PPC was something that people could do.
So that’s where I switched my attention. And really since then I think in 2000, I set up my very first sort of specialist paid search agency. I sold that in 2006. I then got involved in affiliate marketing. I did that for a couple of years. Then I got involved in programming back in 2010 and really sort of like 2010 to 2012. I was really learning about programming, but I was sort of semi-retired, right? I took a little bit of a break and just sort of relaxed and chilled out for a bit. And then in 2012, the agency that I’m running now, Spades Media, I set that up in 2012. So this is like our 10th year of trading, I would guess it’s probably although it’s an agency, I call it more of a consultancy. So we’re a consultant agency and advisory. We do a lot of advisory work for people, consulting, training, as well as running campaigns for clients that we work with. And in some cases, we’ll run just one aspect of their marketing strategies. It might be they need help with Google and we’ll just run their Google Ads for them.
But it could be that some clients that we work with don’t have any sort of marketing expertise at all. So we run like everything. So we run all their Google, all their Facebook, all their Microsoft, everything across the board.

Got you. I think S in the Spades basically stands for both Superman as well as SEO, right?

It’s an acronym. So it was like SEO, PPC, affiliate display, email, and social media. That’s kind of what the SPADES stood for. And obviously, I think the sort of solutions that we provide to customers has changed a little bit since I came up with the name. But obviously I stuck with the name.

Why did you stop SEO? I’m curious.

I think in some respects, back when I first started doing SEO, it was sort of a lot of keyword stuffing and really it was kind of Black-hat stuff, like stuff off-page, right? Stuff that really kind of got you into trouble. And I always kind of said that what we were really doing is we were helping Google back then to learn the things that they needed to kind of fix in order to make it safer for the kind of the end user. Right? So I think in some respects it wasn’t a case of like, I didn’t want to do SEO. I just think it was one of those I think I was better at PPC, right? So I just kind of chose to do that rather than doing kind of like something else that I wasn’t particularly good at. I think the thing is, I met up with a lot of people back in sort of 99, 2000, and I realised they were technically much better than I was in terms of the kind of coding side of things and just understanding how everything worked much more sort of articulate when it came to writing ad copy and stuff like that. So that’s really kind of why I elected to kind of go down the route of running sort of paid search rather than organic. It’s not that I don’t believe in organic.
I always say to people, look, although we are a paid search agency, I want you to do well organically. Because if you do well organically, it means that we’ll have more budget to kind of spend on paid traffic. Plus, paid ads give you better quick results, right, compared to organic, which needs a lot of discipline, right!
And I think it is really a hardship. The thing is that SEO and PPC work really well together, right? I think the SEO team can learn so much from the PPC team, and the PPC team can learn so much from the SEO team. If they work together in a business, then they can achieve really good things.

That’s true. One thing I really love about paid marketing is it kind of gives you because it is quick in nature, right? It helps you so much, refine your messaging to your audience, and understand your audience better so quickly. You can simply run an ad with a really good title that you feel is something that will really work with your target audience. But then again, the Matrix and the KPS say something different with you or try something else and make that work. So that’s the beauty of PPC, like quick results.

I’ve always said to people that, like, PPC or paid media is not a magic wand. Right. It doesn’t make up for a bad website, poor product, or bad customer service. Right. You’ve got to provide all of those as well.
You can’t just have good paid ads and expect to kind of do well, right? So you need to have everything kind of working again, cohesively and collaboratively for the betterment. I always kind of say to people, I say to my clients, I don’t care about your experience, I care about your user experience. That’s for me, this is the most important thing. If I can provide your end users, the people that buy your products or your services, if I can provide them a good experience, then overall everything will work, right? The platforms we work with will be happy because we’re providing a good service to customers. My clients will be happy because they’re getting good sales, and I’ll be happy because I’ve got happy customers.

Really got you. One other thing that your agency does and is pretty good at is consulting people and enabling them with the top-notch CRM and automation tool HubSpot. Right? When did you start doing that? What are the specific modules of HubSpot Educated?

Yeah, we became a HubSpot partner, like, probably, I guess it must have been 2016, something like that. So probably five or six years ago. And again, I think it’s sort of like we decided to invest in an enterprise level CRM, because what we found was we were sort of building websites. We had our own website in WordPress, and we found that we were spending a huge amount of money kind of bolt things on to kind of WordPress because what WordPress gave us was the kind of the core but there was bits that we needed to kind of add on that really weren’t included. So we load in additional plugins and some customizations and everything else, right? And we found that sometimes there was all this kind of like people were trying to hack into WordPress and we kept having to kind of update it and change hosting and it became really troubling.
And for me, I wanted to kind of like the CRM should be something that kind of like supports our business, not something that we have to go in and worry about content delivery networks and stuff like that.
So I think in some respects HubSpot is again, I think of it a bit like a Swiss Army knife, right? So it’s got lots of different kinds of components and not all of those components will be beneficial and relevant to every single customer, right? So some customers will get a lot of value out of the workflows whereas others will get less value out of it because of the way they’ve got their sort of marketing and sales team structured. So for me, I think again, what I’m trying to do ideally is have an individual conversation with one person but do it in a way that sort of becomes a bigger sort of scale proposition, right? So again, it’s really I want you to think I’m talking to Harshit rather than I’m talking to a big group of people but really, again, I’m using this sort of technology to help provide that. And again, what I can do is I can use what they call smart content. So I can create a page rather than having to create ten different versions of the page. I can use lists that people are on or pages that people look at, channels that they come from to dictate what the content on that page actually says.
So it’ll be good for things like Quality Score and Google Ads. I can kind of change it so that if the keyword is on the page I can actually change the title. Change the description. Add keywords into the page. Add them as alt tags on images. Do all sorts of things like that. Which again doesn’t necessarily impact the front end in terms of how it looks but it certainly helps with your quality scores on the back end when it comes to kind of what people think of it.

Definitely. I think it also kind of gives a better advantage to the end client as well because then your duty is not just limited to just delivering leads. You’re also like with the CRM, you’re kind of like enabling this team as well, which we convert those leads to the actual clients and that is something very critical for business. Right? What will you do with all those leads that you’re not able to convert?

Them because again, really, I mean, the marketing and sales need to have a kind of a contract between them to say marketing’s job is to deliver high quality and high quantity leads, right? Sales job is to kind of follow up on those leads in a timely way and close the loop with feedback to say that somebody bought a product or that they made an appointment with somebody to see them. So again, that information should really be fed back to marketing and then from there, marketing can feed it back to the platforms.
We want to make sure that if we’re telling Google to kind of find leads for clients, that they find the right lead to begin with. It goes across the sales, sales does the business, closes a deal, then sends that back. So we can then upload that data to Google to basically say that keyword on that day, on that device, on that particular one with the kind of the click ID, that’s the one that generated a $5,000 sale for us, bringing more of those. Right, and then that way you’re kind of closing the loop and helping Google with their machine learning and artificial intelligence to learn what to do when it comes to what ads to kind of serve up. Because I think so much of what’s happening now in today’s day and age, so much of it is moving to this automation. Right. So what’s happening is that certainly with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, they’re all moving to kind of dynamic, creative, right? So you give them a bunch of titles, a bunch of descriptions, a bunch of images, and they will create the ads on the fly based upon the kind of context of where somebody is.
So it’ll be like device location, time of day of the week, what they’ve done historically, what they’re in market for, that will really dictate what the ad should say. Rather than you having to create 1000 ads, you can just say, right, there’s, 15 titles, four descriptions, a bunch of images, and then Google will go off and make the best ad for you and give you that data and then every single person is getting a unique experience rather than being everyone seeing the same ad.

I think you made a very good point here. Basically one of the biggest struggles that businesses have is and even the marketers are basically attributing, right? Which channel is actually generating you qualified leads and that is getting converted just like you mentioned, communicating it back to that particular channel. This is something which is really working. How do you cope up with that? Is there a few tips for your viewers, basically to help them out?

Yeah, I think attribution modelling is a really important piece of the puzzle that I think a lot of businesses struggle to do well.
And I think part of the reason that they struggle to do well with it is that it tends to be that within an organisation, there’s no one personal group of people that own it, right? And what you tend to find is that the SEO team will be claiming credit for everything, the paid search team will be claiming credit for everything. The email team will be claiming credit for everything. The social media, the content, the organic content creation team, they’ll be claiming credit for everything. And what you tend to find is that usually what happens is that it’s really all of these components working together that actually brings about the conversion taking place, right? So, again, if you’ve done the right work at the beginning to set up your buyer personas, right, then you can actually map out what that journey typically might look like. And you tend to find it in an omnichannel business, right, that the touch points could be 10, or 20, it could be 15 different touch points before people actually get to where they need to get to, right? And I think you get a lot of people talking about the sort of top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.
And I think when you look at it, I mean, that’s a kind of really simplistic way of looking at things. Now I think people talk about funnels and now I think if you look at HubSpot it is now more about the flywheel and it’s about removing the friction from that sales journey, which is using all of the different touch points in a way that helps people move people along. Because if you think about it, if your objective is because I think a lot of people, the objective they think is to just generate sales, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it could be to generate loyalty, sometimes it could be to bring people back, right? So, again, if somebody is, let’s say you’re a site that does dating, right, for argument’s sake, right? So people will either do one of two things. If they join up for a dating agency, they’ll either find somebody, in which case they won’t need a dating site anymore, right, or they won’t find somebody and they’ll have seen all the people that are in their area and they’ll decide to cancel their subscription. So you as the kind of content owner, the dating site, you’ve got to try and do things to make it more appealing for people to stick around, right, and ultimately that’s like hiring new people to come in so you’ve always got new people for them to see.
But equally. It could also be that you need to start looking at sort of changing your pricing models when people might be tempted to kind of leave.
So if you can identify from your data that typically people will last for four months what you want to try and do. That’s why you see people. They normally sign up for six months and get a discount because it’s more cost effective for them to have somebody for six months knowing that they’re probably going to leave after four. Then to do it month to month. Expecting them to do six months. And they leave after three. Right? So I think in some respects, like I said, I think that Attribution modelling is really important because I think so many people make decisions about whether to continue with a channel right, based on really poor data. And again, I will give you two very specific examples. So a lot of people now are listening to podcasts. They’re listening to Spotify and stuff like that. So there’s an awful lot of advertising dollars being spent in audio ads, right. And obviously with an audio ad, there is no click through, right. So there’s nothing that people necessarily click on, right. So if somebody is listening to Spotify on their mobile, right, they don’t have a kind of like, I mean, yes, there might be a sort of a companion banner that goes with it, but that’s generally kind of like a very small percentage of the people that will see that, right?
So what you’re relying on is that somebody will hear your audio ad, hear what you’ve got to say, and then go to somewhere like Google and maybe type in your brand, right? But those two kinds of channels working together so you can kind of go with audio ads are horrible. They don’t perform very well, but really, they could perform incredibly well because they work in tandem with Google, right? So really it’s a case of you needing to look at all of the data in a holistic way. We use Google analytics. You can kind of set up an Attribution project in that. So we always suggest to people that they do that they set up an Attribution project. But I think also it’s a case of you just need to try and understand what the story of the data is telling you in terms of, again, it could be people are spending too long, too short, that you need to introduce things into your marketing mix that you don’t have now. Right, and I think programmatic for me was one of those. We introduced it into our marketing mix because we felt that a lot of people were leaving the ecosystems that people expect them to stay in.
So the Facebook ecosystem, the Google ecosystem, they were leaving those and going somewhere else. And we wanted to be able to continue the journey with those people when they left, right, and then obviously send them back into kind of like either the website or the social media platforms or whatever it might be. We just wanted to continue the story at that point. So we know that people have seen two or three of our stages of the journey, right, and we would pick up the conversation at the point in time that they got to in that journey.

In the recent few years, SAAS has gained a lot of attention. It has been around for a long, but a lot of brands and marketers have now started to take huge interest in this and there’s so many tools coming in the market right now around it. What are the tools that we prefer using and for your big campaigns mainly and do people think that it’s also your agency?

Yes. Again, we currently spend a ridiculous amount of money on tools to kind of set up campaigns, manage campaigns, report on campaigns, like competitive research and stuff like that. And again, I always kind of say to people that really you should be looking at it from the point of view of you probably should spend somewhere between sort of 5% and 10% of your overall kind of marketing dollars on tools and research to enable you to kind of do your job better.
Because otherwise, I cringe whenever I see people talking about what they post on Twitter, oh, I’m just kind of running tests on Facebook, I’m running tests on Google, I’m running tests here and there. It’s kind of like running tests is really expensive.


I think it’s much better to not run as many tests because you’re able to kind of do the research in advance and actually decide what will work based on the knowledge that you have. So again, that could be like market research for your clients. It could be competitive research in terms because again, I would say it’s sort of probably 70% of your success will come from what you do and 30% will come from what you do in response to what your competitors do.
So it’s kind of how do you kind of keep ahead of them? By being smarter than they are. That’s what you’re trying to do. So again, I think it’s really just a case of a lot of people go in with crazy high bids on Google because they think that’s where they need to go, whereas what we tend to do is we’ll work it from the bottom up so we’ll go in much lower and work our way up because we don’t want to give Google money we could avoid giving them. And there will be a point where you need to kind of try and find where the sweet spot is, where it’s kind of cost-effective for you to run it. You’re not losing much impression share, but you’re still getting the best results. Right, like I said, I think from the point of view of specifically some of the tools that we use, we’re massive fans of Supermetrics, so we use super metrics a lot for the kind of capturing of data. And again, we tend to find that what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to store the data ourselves to enable us to kind of do research at some point in time in the future, right? So we can have a lot of warehousing of data where we’ll use something like google BigQuery to actually sort of warehouse the data so that maybe we’ve got the ability to be able to kind of look at things like, again, maybe two or three years ago, is when people should be looking at what is the normal sort of traffic sort of solution.
Because I think if you look at it the last couple of years with the pandemic, right, the whole traffic and everything’s gone on its head, right? So I think you can’t really compare what happened last January to the January before or the January before, whereas if you went three years ago, that might give you a better understanding. And I think in most cases, most people don’t have that sort of data, right? They don’t keep data for that length of time because they’re not thinking for longer periods of time. They tend to think, I switch some campaigns on at 09:00 in the morning and it’s now 11:00 and it hasn’t delivered what I need, so I’m going to switch it off, right? And that’s, to me, again, I look at things in a much longer-term kind of way, rather than a shorter term, right? But equally what I try and do is I try and make sure I mean, I’ll tell you a funny story. So I was working for a travel company, and one of the ladies that worked for me, she came to me and she said, Jim, I want to kind of use this paid tool that we have to kind of create Facebook ads for us, right?
So when I actually looked at it, I mean, we were spending a lot of money on Facebook advertising at the time, probably $3000, $4000 a month, right? And this particular tool was like a sort of tool where it charged a percentage of the spend that we made, right? So I said to her, Let me get this right. You want me to spend more money to buy a tool that I pay you as a salary? Would it not make more sense for me to get two more reviews rather than a tool that will really again, a tool is only as good as the person pressing the buttons on that tool. I always kind of said, just going out and buying software for the sake of buying software is a really dangerous thing, right. If it’s a research tool, every single person will get the same research. Again. I love Semrush.
But again, it’s like if you do any sort of keyword research, the same data is available to every single person that has a subscription, right? So if you’re trying to kind of differentiate your proposition, how can you differentiate? And sometimes, again, I think sometimes that’s where you need to try and read between the lines or zig when people are zagging to get to the point where you can actually be ahead of where your competitors are.

That’s true. It’s a very interesting point. How do you differentiate it? I think still a human touch is required. And even though a lot of tools may claim that you can basically automate things, you still need analysts, right? That’s a big part of it.

“It’s funny. I’ve got it sitting here, right? This is a book called the Checklist Manifesto, right? Or how to get a Checklist Manifesto. And basically, it talks about like, airline pilots, when they get on a plane, they don’t just kind of sit down on the plane, buckle up their seatbelt, and fire the plane up and go. They have a whole checklist of things that they need to make sure are working before they actually put it in place. And certainly as an agency, we spent a huge amount of time documenting all of our sort of processes so that anyone that kind of works on a campaign follows the same process when it comes to research and kind of creative modifications and everything running tests, everything has a process and everyone follows the same process.
And I think that uniformity gives us the opportunity to kind of, like bring it back in. So, yes, we want to take advantage of the machine learning and artificial intelligence that Google, Microsoft and Facebook give us, but at the same time, we need to have an element of input into what that actually looks like and what it does and how it can impact the overall performance. Right, because again, like Google and Facebook and whoever else, they don’t know the businesses the way our clients know the business. Even if we don’t know the business the way our clients know the business. So we’re relying on them to give us the data to enable us to kind of run the campaigns, right? And again, if we’ve done our sort of buyer persona creation properly, then we’ll avoid a lot of the wasted kind of money that a lot of people seem to spend on testing things. Because we understand, I mean, everyone talks about how great TikTok is, but they’re not giving the context of who is their target audience, right? Because TikTok is snapchat. They’re typically for people under the age of 25, that’s their target audience.
So if your core audience for your clients are people over the age of 40 or 50, then picking up a snapshot would be a horrible place for you to go. I’m not saying that you wouldn’t make money, but I just don’t think it’s where you should kind of dive in feet first, right? Because I just don’t think you’ll get the same results. So I think sometimes, again, a lot of people say, hey, my business is now an eight figure business or a seven figure business. It’s like, yeah, but I don’t have the context of how much money did you spend on advertising and how big is your team and how many complaints are getting, what your returns like, I mean, there’s. So many pieces of the puzzle are missing in terms of understanding whether a business is doing seven figures, eight figures right. But they could be doing like twelve figures, I mean, that’s not a good business.
So, again, I think it’s really kind of again, you’ve got to have context of everything to be able to decide what makes sense. How’s the difficult client journey in your agency? How’s the onboarding process? Yeah, as an agency, we understand the types of customers that we’re looking to attract.
So a lot of what we’re trying to do is to make sure that everything we do is done to try and attract the right people to the agency. Because I think that the challenge is a lot of agencies, when they set themselves up, they go, yeah, we just kind of do Facebook or we just do whatever.
And I think you need to kind of like niche it down a little bit to kind of get to the point where you have a set of skills within the business that is good enough right, and not watered down because you’re trying to go horizontally rather than vertically.
So as a kind of general rule of thumb, we are looking for primarily ecommerce businesses direct to consumers. So we tend not to work with businesses that are startups. We tend not to work with businesses that have bricks and mortar stores. So it’s purely direct to consumer businesses.
Ideally, what we’re looking for is businesses that are doing between sort of one and $5 million in revenue now that are looking to do between sort of five and 50 million. That’s kind of like where we’re trying to grow them.
So we say we’re a growth agency and ultimately that’s our sweet spot, if you like. That’s not to say that we don’t have clients that are sort of outside those scopes. I mean, I’ve got some clients that are startups because I know the people from back in the day, right. So I’m prepared to kind of change the rules a little bit in that respect. And similarly with consulting, I mean, I consult for different clients and some of them are B2B, some are doing BGen, some are doing all sort of different things.
And for me, that tends to be more of a, you know, again, sort of I consult with people, they may kind of book a couple of hours of my time a month. That way we can kind of get on calls. They can kind of be kept abreast of the current legislation of what’s going on in the market and what new opportunities there are. Because obviously, we’re a kind of meta partner, Google partner, right?. Microsoft partners. We get access to what’s going on, right?. We know what’s here now, what’s coming down the line, right? What changes are going to be made? And we can help put the clients that are running stuff themselves, like in good shape so that they don’t find out in six months time when something new comes, becomes mandatory, that they go, hey, I didn’t realise that this was coming.

What special do you do? Because something which is always challenging, right, for marketing agencies. Right. So is there anything that you specifically do which is kind of like a differentiated agency as well?

One of the things that we do is when we kind of onboard a new client, we have a kind of a document. It’s called the first 90 days. Basically what it does is it gives us an opportunity. The way our kind of pricing model works is we typically have a fixed fee for that three-month period. Right. Because we feel that three months gives us long enough to be able to work with the client to understand what is required of getting good results for them. Right. Again, I think the challenge is very difficult to know in advance, when you’re trying to price something up, how much time you’re going to need to spend doing things right. So I always kind of say it’s a bit like the goldilocks, right? We could spend too little, too much. So I want to make sure I give every single client that we work with the opportunity to get success.
So I need to make sure we allocate the right resource to it. That they allocate the right resource to it. Because again, I’m usually a pretty good judge of character. There are occasions when we’ve dealt with clients who are pains in the as**s. And I don’t want to have a long-term twelve-month commitment to work with somebody that I think is going to be detrimental to my team, to me, to them. I just don’t think it’s going to work.
So it’s much better to have the opportunity in that 1st 90 days to flush out all of the challenges so that when you get to the end of 90 days, you know how much resource you’re going to have. And you can also, at that point in time, work on proper data to understand what a performance model might look like in terms of what your compensation could be moving forward. So that it’s very much in line that your efforts are rewarded commensurate with the value that you bring to the table. So if you deliver fantastic results for a client, you should get paid incredibly well for it.
And if you don’t have to do a lot of work right. Again, I say I’m embarrassed. I’m never embarrassed about it because it’s something I’ve been doing for a long time. But I have clients for whom I bill a lot of money, but I don’t have to do a lot of work because I’ve done all the research and the heavy lifting over the past 20 years to know what to do. They’re happy to do that. They’re happy to pay me because they know that things are going to go well. They’re going to get sales consistently. They’ll be in the ballpark in terms of where they need them to be, sort of in terms of the acquisition costs.
They’re happy with it. And they don’t say, how many hours did you work on it? Because that’s not what it’s about. It’s not about how much time you spend on a project. It’s about what the results actually end up looking like.

You are basically charging them for your experience. Right. And you have invested time filling these expertise.

Right, yeah, like I said, it’s a performance model. Again, as an example, because I work with e-commerce clients, typically Q Four is a very busy quarter, because most of the clients rely on that sort of Thanksgiving. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Christmas.
Then we obviously move into kind of like we’ve got Valentine’s Day coming up fairly shortly, right. Then we’ll have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. I mean, there’s lots of different things, but generally you tend to find that probably most e-commerce businesses that are selling products online will try and get a decent percentage of their revenue to come in that Q Four period. Right. Like I said, I bring a lot of people into the team to ensure that we can deliver the right performance for the clients that we work with. But I don’t expect my clients to pay me, like, in sort of March, April, May, or when things are quieter because it’s a performance-based model. They pay me less money during that period. And I’m happy with that because I know that I don’t have the kind of overhead of 20 people working on a project because the people that are kind of enlisted to help on the project, they’re there for that period of time when I know it’s going to be busy. So it tends to be much more fluid in that respect because my compensation is more fluid.
So like I said, there are some months where I’ll get paid a lot of money because I’m doing a lot of work. Some months I’ll get paid a lot less for a client, and I’m happy for that sort of situation to be the case.

Let’s bring the conversation to your core expertise. A lot of businesses actually struggle with which KPIs they should basically focus on. And how do you go about measuring your payers and improving their performance altogether?

Yes, I think the challenge for a lot of advertisers is that they’re trying to play to the tune that’s being played by the platforms they work with.
So they’ll work with Google or they work with Facebook. I’ll use those two as examples, but it really applies to others as well if you run ads on Facebook . So ultimately, Facebook kind of gives you the option of deciding on which pricing model you want to run, right? So you can choose the lowest cost, like maximum conversions, right? You can run cost caps and stuff like that. Generally speaking, again, it’s like in most cases, if you have a realistic kind of target acquisition costs and you’re looking to sell a product, that’s the only metric you should really care about. Honestly, like, I see people that say, I’m optimising for my add to cart or might initiate check out, and I’m like, Why? You don’t make any money if someone adds a product to the cart, right? Money. If you sell things, the only time you make money is when you sell things. So for me, I always say to people, so that’s really what you should focus on. And they go, yeah, but Facebook says I need 50 conversions a week. I’m like, I don’t care what Facebook says, right? Your focus should be on generating sales.
That’s it. And you should be generating the sales at a cost that is within the scope of your business actually being successful, right? So if you’re selling a product that is $40, probably if you take in all of the overheads of running your business, you probably need to make a 400% return in order to kind of break even, right? But again, you can kind of like say, well, different products will have a higher or lower margin, maybe have a different, higher or lower return rate. There may be lots of upsells, there may be kind of like lifetime value, right? And that’s not really an arbitrary 50 conversions a week kind of number. That’s something that is much more fluid, right? And you, as the business, you’re in control of that data. Facebook doesn’t know, they just kind of like throwing this number. You need 50 sales, right? Who cares, right? Similarly with Google, google always suggests you need to spend your bid below the threshold to be on the first page. So you need to spend $4 a click. It’s like, I can’t afford $4 a click, right? Because you’re not converting. For me, I can afford forty five cents a click, right?
That’s it. That’s all I can afford. So I always say to people, don’t be lulled into spending more than you can realistically afford to spend, right? So for me, it’s really just a case of being in some control of your own kind of destiny by dictating kind of what you want. So, again, the metrics that I care about will be typically kind of like return on ad spend, right? But I also kind of like have an eye on lifetime value if certain clients, again, I work with some clients where they have a subscription model, right? So they’re selling products that is a monthly recurring subscription, right? So for me, it’s like, we may spend more in acquiring a new customer in the first instance, but we have to spend some money in trying to kind of get people to re-engage. As an example, if you were a company that sold, let’s say you’re a company that sells like a meal delivery service, right? You’re sending a box of food out to somebody, right. What you’re relying on is that person actually consuming the content of the box. Because if they don’t consume the content of the box, they’re not going to buy another one.
If it’s blocking up their freezer, they’ve got this freezer full of stuff that they’ve ordered from a meal delivery service, right, and they don’t use it, then eventually they’re going to go, stop sending me the boxes. My freezer is full of stuff.
Whereas if you actually think about it, if they were using their ad strategy correctly and their email marketing, they would have a proper bonding sequence so they could actually send an email to somebody after, say, four days to give them new recipes or new ideas or new suggestions or user-generated content of people that have kind of created their own product.
Again, I try to make sort of fun and that’s something where, again, you’re not necessarily looking to generate a new sale. What you’re trying to do is consolidate an existing sale and get them to become a longer-term lifetime value customer where there’s significant value for them. And again, those are the sorts of things where I don’t really think an arbitrary target row has target CPA, LTV Target.
I just don’t really think that those cut the muttered as far as helping you to understand what you should be focusing on. Again, in simplistic terms, if you’re a company that’s generating sales, then my focus would be on, you know, optimising for a conversion website conversion. And if you are a business that’s doing B2B, I would say focus on generating leads. That’s it kind the of most cost effective way that you’re able to.

That’s true. It’s a very good point. A lot of marketers with business owners tend to focus a lot on acquiring new customers and not catering to the already big customer base altogether, retargeting them and using repurchases. And that is much more cost-effective, better results compared to acquiring, and your overall cost marketing cost drastically goes down and you make better returns.

Yeah. If you think about it, let’s say you run a Black Friday promotion, right? And you sold, I don’t know, 100 products in the SPADES of that Black Friday, right. 10,000 people that bought from you this year.
There’s no reason at all why those 10,000 people shouldn’t buy from you next year when Black Friday comes around and you can kind of put the right offer in front of them at that time. Right. So, for me, again, I always kind of say there’s a huge amount of money tied up in your existing customer base, both from a point of view of them buying from you again, but also from them, leaving you testimonials, reviews, ratings, telling their friends again, if somebody bought twelve times from you in the last year, that person is a raving fan about your products. Right. They should become an evangelist for your product. They should be the person that you should be looking to do interviews with. You should send a team, a film crew out to see them and film some proper professional shot video where you can actually get a real good testimonial from an existing customer. Why they like you, what you liked about, what they like about the product, what they like about the service.
The community that you have so many things that you should be doing. Again, if you said these are my top 5% of clients, those are the five that could probably generate half of your new customers just from them, kind of giving you the opportunity to kind of talk about how much they like your company. Because I can say my company is fantastic as much as I like if I have other people saying my company is fantastic, that’s got to be kind of the killer for me.

That’s true. Jim, since you have been one of the really early adopters of programmatic entities, please tell us a bit more about that domain altogether because long businesses have now started entering and leveraging the channel because of the need, right. What are the good ways to kind of like a starting point and become successful? Few tips that you can share with them and also if there’s any beginner tool that you would immediately like.

So the platform that we use is called Basis Technologies, right? And they have a really good educational portal, right? So first off, I would say if you want to learn about programmatic advertising, then bases have like an academy where you can kind of sign up for an account and you can learn all about programmatic and they talk not just about their own products, but they talk about the industry in a more holistic way. Which again, I think for me, there’s a huge amount of opportunity. There’s a company called Coursera , they have a load of different sort of training programs all about programmatic advertising and everything. I think to put into context, if you are buying any form of media, in most cases it is being bought in a programmatic way.
So even though I talk about programmatic as a separate thing, right. I mean, when you buy from Facebook and Google, it’s done programmatically, right? There’s far too many moving parts for you to be able to decide what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it, right? There’s way too many moving parts now within any sort of ad platform for you to be in a position to be able to decide what to do and the whole idea of programmatic is just like basically the decisions that used to be made by humans are now being made by machines, right? And ultimately they can do all the computations much quicker than we’ll ever be able to do. But I don’t think it’s kind of like just the machines on their own will do well. I think you need that human and machine kind of working together and that will be much better than just one or the other on their own. But when it comes to programing, I think the thing I like about it is the algorithms are kind of really kind of clever. You can kind of set it up. You can basically say, I want to run on these different exchanges.
There’s a lot of inventory that’s available that is unsold. So a lot of the inventory that Google has on the Google Display network, that’s more or less the remnant inventory. So they have the kind of Google Exchange where the premium inventory is sold. And in a lot of cases, it’s the same inventory that finds its way down to the Google Display network. And I find it programmatic. It gives me the opportunity to kind of go above the Display network to get specific deals in place with placements that I know have worked well for me, right. So I can kind of approach a publisher directly to actually say, you know what, I really like your site. I want to kind of buy a specific slot. I can maybe take a tendency there rather than because if you think of it, if you’re a publisher, your objective is to make as much money from selling the ad inventory that you have right, as you can.
So for me, it’s really just a case of the inventory that finds its way into the remnants, right? So that’s the kind of, like I said, the Facebook audience network and the Google Display network, right. That’s the remnant inventory that hasn’t been sold by the publishers at a more premium level.
And for me, I find in the programmatic ecosystem, I can be in a stronger position in the queue to buy a slot that I think is the right one for me. And again, they gave me a huge amount of data to be able to make those decisions, right? And then also they give it a platform to enable me to kind of negotiate the rates. Again, with Google, I can’t tell them how much I want to pay for the traffic. I can’t really tell Facebook how much you want to pay for the traffic. But on Programmatic, I can dictate what the CPM rate is by site, by app, by Exchange, I can kind of dictate all of that. And also I can kind of capture that information. But again, I think for me, programmatic in isolation doesn’t work very well. Programmatic, as part of an omnichannel sort of strategy works incredibly well.

And what’s the entry level budget that you would recommend to just entering the.

Yes, I think the thing is, from my perspective, when I was working with basic technologies, I needed to commit to spending a certain amount of money on a monthly basis in order for me to get a dedicated rep. Right, but if you didn’t have a dedicated rep, you can kind of probably set up an account with them for maybe $500 a month. And again, I think, again, in most cases, I wouldn’t go into it with the mentality of what’s the minimum commitment? I would go into it with the I’m doing well on Facebook, I’m doing well on Google. I want to now kind of expand my kind of opportunity because I think although some of the traffic will be the same people, there are definitely new audiences that you can kind of find that don’t necessarily go to Facebook or Google. Equally. There’ll be people that have left the Facebook and Google ecosystem to go off somewhere else and I want to be able to continue the conversation there. Right, and I think also, again, like with the programmatic side of things, I have the opportunity to do things like audio advertising, right. So again, I can target people that are running on SoundCloud or Spotify.
I can also do what they call hyperlocal targeting. So what I can do is, again, this is beautiful for things like if you’re an event company and all of, let’s say again, I’m a HubSpot partner and HubSpot has an event every year called Inbound.
And if you think of it, everyone that’s at Inbound is definitely dedicated to the HubSpot ecosystem, CRMs and everything else. And what I can do is I can basically target the venue that particular event is on and that becomes like the targeting is the mobile phone that people have in their pockets, right. So if they fire up any app again, most people, when they’re going to kind of an event, they’ll fire up like weather.com to look and see what the weather is. And I can have an ad that appears in weather.com right. By using hyper local targeting based upon the fact that I know they’re in that building at that time. What I can then do is obviously those people can then be put into an audience so when they scurry from the event back to their homes, wherever that happens to be, I can continue the conversation by running a remarketing campaign because it builds an audience of people who are actually in the venue. I spend a lot of time historically travelling to venues to speak at them and everything. And now I probably can. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do that because I enjoy it, right, but it also gives me the capability.
If I decide that there’s an event that I wanted to be at, I can at least have ads at the event even if I’m not physically at the event.

Got you. Can you please share one of the most successful case studies that you have? Because it’s been a decade now for the agency and would love to know about it.

Again, I think in some respects, again, I’m not a huge fan of case studies in the traditional sense, because again, I think sometimes people will give you a kind of top level, here’s the headline, but there’s underlying things that kind of deliver performance at a good or bad level, right. So I think in some respects, like, I’d probably go back to probably one of the most successful things that I did was I found and again, because I’ve done this a couple of times, it’s something I’m always looking for, but I always look for I call it a unicorn keyword, right. And a unicorn keyword is a keyword that you find that nobody else is using. Right. And it used to be, like, historically, there’s a lot more opportunity to find them because Google didn’t match things up the way they do now.
But certainly back in the day, you could find a keyword, nobody else was bidding on it. You kind of really do. Well, so I found a keyword that I was able to bid on my own. It was on yahoo. So it wasn’t even on Google property. It was on yahoo. Clicks on Google would cost me $10 a click would cost me ten cents on Yahoo.
I was getting probably four to 500 clicks a day, and I was doing lead generation, and I was getting paid about $14 a lead, right. And the offer that I was running was converting at about 35% to 40%. So from a conversion perspective, it was just like, insane. And I ran that offer for about 18 months, right. And again, it was a phenomenal opportunity. And ever since then, what I’ve tried to do is I’ve tried to go into every industry that I work with, with each client, right, and try and see if there are any unicorn keywords. Because if there are, then again, it really kind of does well.

I think the challenge is that a lot of it is people going. I’ve done this case study, and I had these many campaigns and these different ad groups and these ads and blah, blah, blah. And it’s just like, honestly, I think sometimes you can kind of like throw darts at the board and you’ll get lucky, right. And I think it’s got to be repeatable if you’re going to do something and repeat it time and again consistently, which is what we as an agency, we’ve done. We’ve been able to onboard a client, just generally speaking, as a thing, I would probably say for if ten people approached the agency wanting to work with us, we’ll probably decline eight of them because they’re not a good fit for us. And again, I think most agencies will bite your hand off to work with you. Whereas for us, we’re much more selective. I’ve got to like the people first and foremost, right? Because if I don’t like the people, then I just know that it’s not going to be a fun experience no matter how much money is on the table. That’s not really what drives our agency.

I don’t want it to be one of these, like we want to be a seven figure agency. Eight figures, I don’t care. That’s not really the driving force for me. What I want to do is work with like-minded clients that we can get on really well with, that we can kind of do good things collaboratively together, that we respect each other’s resources, right? So again, I don’t want them to kind of, like, hit on my resources and treat them badly. I’ve fired lots of clients in the past where they’ve talked badly to team members that I had. And I’m like, you know what? I care much more about my team members than I do about the relationship with you as a client. Right. And my team loved me for that.
But again, I didn’t do that. For me, it means, if you’re running an agency, your team are the most important people. Without your team, you’re nothing, right? And I just think it again, it’s sort of like I’ve seen too many junior people in an agency get completely slaughtered by clients, which is totally unfair. I just don’t think that should be appropriate.

I think in service in general as well, people working for you are your biggest asset in general, too. People should companies value their employees.

Again, I think that value has got to be more than just what you pay them, right? I don’t think it’s just about how well you pay them. I think there’s got to be again, most people go into an agency and they will go in because they have aspirations to kind of move up the ranks. They want to become managers. I always say to people like, you say you want to become a manager until you are a manager and then you hate being a manager.
But equally, they say, I want to run my own business. And I always say, look, once you run your own business, it’s a different sort of kettle of fish than kind of not running your own business. And they have aspirations to do it. And I’m like, okay, great. Again, I’ve had people that work with me in the past where they wanted to go off and run their own businesses, and I’ve actively encouraged them to kind of do that. And I’ve helped train them to make sure that when they did go and do it that they weren’t going to fall flat on their face.
Because, again, I know that as an industry, this is a growing industry, even though, again, I’ve been for 20 odd years. When I first started, there were probably less than a thousand people working in digital marketing, and now there’s probably half a million people just in the UK that do it, right? Maybe even more than that, I don’t know. Right, but again, there are still far too many clients that need help, the agencies to provide the help. And what I want to make sure is that if people are going to provide services to clients, then they’re skilled enough to enable them to do that properly. Because I want the clients to have a good experience and I want their end users to have a good experience, right? And if it’s done through my agency, great. If it’s done through another agency where I’ve been able to help somebody who set up that agency, fantastic. Again, I’m not so greedy that I want it all to be through me. I’m quite happy to spread some of the love around.

So, anyways, any horror story that you would like to share with us?

So, yeah, I mean, there’s one particular story which, again, I mean, this is more to do with the process, right? I remember being on holiday, I was in holiday in Cyprus, right, and I’m sitting by a pool, I’ve got my mobile phone, the phone rings and it’s one of my biggest clients who’s phoning me to say, he’s standing at the top of his building and he’s about to jump off the building, right? And I’m like, Why? What happened? And he said, Well, I’ve just had your invoice, right? And basically we were paying for the media, right? And what had happened was that one of my team had basically he had a sort of spend cap, we’d gone over the spend cap, even though we were delivering lots of leads and sales for them, he had an expectation of what we should have spent, what we did spend, and obviously, he didn’t want to pay the difference. And I could have argued the point, said, Well, I can’t get the leads back, right? The extra leads that I generated for you, you’ve processed them, you’ve made money from them, and obviously I can’t get them back, right?
I can’t put the money, I can’t put the genie back in the bottle, right? So once it’s out, it’s out. But I had to make a decision on what to do. So I basically had to fork up. I think it was about £30,000 to pay the difference between what I’d invoiced him for and what we’d actually spent. Because I obviously had a commitment to pay the money to Google and he had committed to pay me and there was that £30,000 difference and I worked on the basis. For me. It was better for me to retain the client.
Then to try and argue the point about getting that extra money and losing the client. Losing my reputation for me. And again, I think I kept him as a client for probably another 18 months, two years, and then he sold his business and moved on. And again, I mean, I’m still kind of good friends with him now. For me, having to kind of like, dig into my pockets and find £30,000 was tough and it was a bit of a horrifying for at that point.

I can imagine.

But again, as I mentioned, as an agency, we’re very process driven. So again, we have a stringent process now for if we are kind of holding the kind of responsibility for spending the advertising dollars, right. We have a process for ensuring that the client is okay with spending more than the original amount that was agreed.

Any final goals that you would like to share with our audience?

I have a Facebook group called Elite Media Buyers, which is a sort of side project. I mean, I say side hustle is not a side hustle. It’s really a passion project. I want to try and help develop and train the next generation of media buyers to do well. Again, I want to make sure that as an industry, we can continue to evolve and grow. So anyone that’s kind of watching this or listening to it, right, I mean, there’s a website, Elite Mediabuyers.com, and also a Facebook Group. And the reason I’ve got sort of two separate pieces is that Facebook Groups are very tenuous. Facebook owns it. They could shut it down at any point in time. We have a community on Elitemediabuys.com, right, where people can sign up to get a free account. They have a forum there, right? Again, I have a lot of people that are very questioning like, why do I need your email address and everything? Honestly, I don’t have time to kind of, like, send people spam emails. I just genuinely want to help the community do well in the future. And again, for me, it’s almost like I’m losing money on the Elite Media Buyers as a brand.
But I’m happy to do that because I think it’s a worthy cause and I want to try and grow that as much as I can. So anyone that’s kind of watching or listening, if you want to go to Elitemedovise.com, right, or I think it’s Facebook.com Elitemedized or Groups. Groups Elitemedized. Anyway, type Elitemedize, you’ll find it. And again I’d love people. You can see this little counter behind me. This is my YouTube channel, right? You can see it’s got a counter on their 306. That’s where I’m at the moment. I really want to kind of grow my YouTube channel because, again, I’m trying to kind of create more content on there to help educate the next generation of media buyers. Right, so anyone that’s watching, if you want to subscribe to my YouTube channel, it’s Youtube.com/Jim Banks1. Right. Again, I’d love it if you could kind of subscribe to the Channel and help me grow that. You can put it on the notes and go from there.

Thanks so much, Jim. Thank you for all the time and the valuable tips and lessons that you’ve shared. Thank you.

Thanks. I’ll shoot.

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