DAC Blog Authors Fixed Budget? Four Steps to Building a Successful Digital Performance Strategy
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Fixed Budget? Four Steps to Building a Successful Digital Performance Strategy

Fixed Budget? Four Steps to Building a Successful Digital Performance Strategy

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Guest Contributor

More often than not, there are two major objectives to consider when leveraging search advertising.

1.   Spend “X” dollars over the course of a contract term

2.  Maintain some form of efficiency; at DAC, for many clients that efficiency is measured as cost per lead (CPL)

Achieving either of these independently doesn’t present any real challenge. So what happens when a business wants to do both?  Is it possible to have your fixed media budget and lead volume goals work together to provide profitability? After all, the nature of “efficiency VS fixed budget” sets them inherently at odds.

In short, the answer is yes, with a minor caveat. It doesn’t happen instantly. This point is key (to the chagrin of most businesses), and while it leaves much to be desired in the world of instant gratification that we’ve become so accustomed to, the reality is that digital is a data driven channel… and data takes time to collect and optimize.

The Challenge

New campaigns require accurate communication regarding obtainable results is essential to success – Without it, our challenge becomes magnified. Of course, there needs to be a target, a big win, it’s what accounts are sold on… however, it has to meaningful and achievable. Expectations need to be set appropriately. Without this forethought, you’ll likely face client disappointment and client interrogation:

“Why aren’t you hitting the goals that you promised to us?!”

“We need to fix this immediately, what’s taking so long?!”

I’m sure you’ve all heard similar responses to lead generation programs, and the frustration bleeds through every level of a project. In order to avoid these uncomfortable situations, I’m going to walk you through a process that will ease the collective conscious of all parties involved, with an added bonus of banishing some of those stress dreams that keep you up at night.

It’s a well-known issue. George Michie, a long time contributor to Search Engine Land, once eloquently labeled it “The Paid Search Uncertainty Principle,” likening the conundrum to a similar obstacle facing quantum physics. It’s easy(ish) to see the parallel, but it’s often difficult to overcome the obstacles it creates.

Everyone wants success right now, today. Yesterday, if possible. In most cases that just isn’t reasonable. We all want to succeed, this can’t be stressed enough. To help, here’s a list of four simple steps to support building a successful long-term digital performance strategy.

Set Expectations

If expectation is the mother of frustration, then how do we raise a happy account? The answer is simple in theory but often gets lost in the chase.  Start early. Manufacture a road map with goals everyone agrees to at the onset, include regularly scheduled updates to keep clients up to speed on progress, success and changes in course. e.g.,

Program Goals

  • Product A = $20 CPL
  • Product B = $10 CPL

example 1

This is an oversimplification of what is, in practice, an incredibly complex undertaking. Every business will have different needs, seasonal trends, and goals to account for. That being said, the fundamentals remain the same regardless of environment. By leaving no mysteries and holding yourself to the standard of your proposed performance, you minimize the chance of unpleasant surprises.


At the core of every new account sits a thorough strategy that applies your expectation roadmap to process. Everyone at this point knows where you want to go; this is how you get there. Tactics become road signs that tell yourself and your client what’s happening.

There are always external market factors that simply can’t be accounted for, unplanned fluctuations in demand, changes in industry ecosystems, and competitor strategy all have major implications on what affects the bottom of the funnel. Evaluate this as thoroughly as possible while staging your platform. Be predictive. Brainstorm
possibilities and imbed contingency plans where possible.

In a perfect world our mandate is clear

  • Reach CPL goals then work your way towards spending your budget at that efficiency through steady growth. Mission complete.

Since the planets rarely align in such a way, we have to pre-empt the demand that exists by having a robust plan on how to achieve objectives.


Execute your daily tasks at full tilt, and don’t compromise tactics. You want to minimize variables and optimize against a clean set of data. Stay ahead by maintaining control over all the tools and maneuvers you have at your disposal:

ü  Ad Content – Engage

ü  Ad Targeting (Keyword/Geo/Demographic /Time/Platform)

ü  Bids and Budgets – Play the Auction

This is the core of what we do; effectively manipulating these levers will set apart your ability to manage campaigns at the highest levels.

Test & Repeat


A few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you on pace to meet expectations?
  • What is the tolerance for change based on the data you’ve accumulated?
  • How can a new set of tactics change your results?

Answer these questions with your team, with your client, with your support network, with anyone willing to listen, and pick your next move. Be transparent with your determination and agree on either maintaining course, or making a change. Complete the circle with a fresh set of expectations based on the conclusion, update your strategic roadmap, and continue to grow the account ROI.

Wrap It Up!

As performance marketers, a hallmark of our service is nimbleness. Agencies have the critical knowledge and resources to get projects done faster than most companies on their own. However, a dangerous presumption is that fundamental KPI’s are just as quick to change, or maintain when changing hands. By using this guide you’ll stay ahead of those presumptions, enjoy higher client satisfaction rates, and be on the road to long lasting partnerships.

Do you struggle with this concept? Have you figured out a system that works for you? Share your story in the comments!

Interested in finding out more? Contact us today!

Guest Contributor
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