Tackling Competitors With Massive Marketing Budgets: Google Paid Strategies To Level The Playing Field

Coming up against a competitor with a massive marketing budget can be much like confronting a giant. As in the old story of David and Goliath, it is important to gauge the size of your competitor, but also to recognize the tools you have on hand. 

Traditional marketing channels such as Print, TV, & Radio can seem large, expansive, and expensive. It is important to be able to recognize peripheral strategies that offer a smaller price point and a greater return on your investment. Not only do other less-expensive, more-effective channels exist, but they can be utilized to use your competitor’s strategies against them.

Traditional Media Cost

The cost of traditional media varies market-to-market as it is largely sold on “impressions.” “Impressions,” in traditional media, are the amount of people that were supposed to have seen or heard your commercial, (advertisement, etc.) however, the actual number of people that absorbed your message is quite ambiguous. You’ve likely experienced a time where you’ve waited for a commercial break in a live sports broadcast or viewing of a new television show, only to step away and do other things. Reported “impressions” for traditional media numbers do not take this behavior into account. This such reporting is the great downfall of traditional media and their ability to relay actual results. That being said, I am not here to deter you from pursuing marketing through such mediums, but rather discover alternative, less-expensive methods to combat these strategies if your marketing budget doesn’t allow for such indulgences.  

Traditional media relies on Brand Awareness. If you’re listening to the radio, watching broadcast television, or driving past a billboard, the only way you are going to remember the advertisement you just saw or heard is through some sort of sensory memory. A catchy jingle or memorable phone number might garner leads, but even then, tracking the effectiveness of these mediums is still based off of general affiliation and conjecture. One can ask a customer through which medium they came to know the brand or business, but these methods of measurement are inexact and largely unreliable. 

Digital Paid Advertising & Campaign Tracking

While reporting agencies such as Nielsen & Rentrak/comScore have the information of credit reporting bureaus as well as vast television viewership reports coming from years of diaries & In home reporting units & more, nothing can compare to the tracking and reporting abilities of digital mediums. Anyone who has spent some measurable amount of time online can offer an experience of having a product or service that they may have clicked on or searched for, follow them all around the internet. This tactic known as “remarketing” or “retargeting” is made possible by the tracking capabilities of digital media. If properly set up, pixels can gather information about site visitors, what they looked at, and can even gauge how interested a person may be in the product or service in question. This information allows marketers to make more informed, intelligent decisions when developing & implementing their digital strategies. Consider this: when you pay for an on-air TV spot, your cost is determined by the number of impressions that television show/time period usually receives, generally based off of information obtained during what used to be a four-month rotation of sweeps periods. Four months out of the year, local television stations would run large promotions to help inflate viewership because the viewership recorded during those months would be used to determine what they could charge for on-air spots for the next year. In addition, until quite recently in most smaller markets, these reporting agencies relied on a segment of local individuals to keep a written diary of what they were watching when they were watching it. Without going into too much detail, you can already clearly see the problematic nature of this data. Add into this the knowledge that you are paying for “impressions” in television meaning how many people were watching during that time period, but you have no idea if they got up during the commercial break, fast-forwarded through a recorded broadcast which still can get considered an impression, or took any action such as writing down your name or phone number. Overall, it is really more of a guessing game, and an expensive one at that. 

Digital marketing’s power is in this data. We can see user behavior on a website in real time. We can gauge interest from data reporting time spent browsing, numbers of related pages visited, not to mention specific demographic & interest-level targeting with strategies that can produce more results, more specific results, and results at a fraction of the cost of traditional media. This is where alternative strategies can be developed & implemented to piggy-back off of, & potentially undermine a competitor’s large traditional marketing budget at a fraction of the cost. 

Digital Strategies to Counter Competitors With Massive Marketing Budgets

  • Competitor Campaigns

One of the primary purposes of traditional advertising is to garner brand awareness. Whether it is a memorable, branded phone number, an outrageous commercial,  or a catchy jingle, brand awareness is effective in traditional marketing and media. However, there is an “Achilles Heel” frequently ignored in this tactic, and that is digital marketing. 

Google PPC or “Pay-Per-Click” advertising holds many areas of opportunity when discussing targeting, user behavior, and cost-control. One such opportunity is what is known as a competitor campaign. Adwords Competitor Campaigns, also known as “competitor targeting campaigns,” allow a company to freely bid on any competitor’s brand name as long as they are not actively trying to purport themselves as said competitor in their ads. These campaigns tend to be inexpensive, and extremely effective drawing in consumers further down the conversion path usually creating more conversions for less. A campaign such as this can be a game-changer for a local business. Let’s say for instance you are a local roofing company with a smaller advertising budget. Your competitor is spending tens of thousands a month on television advertising, drilling their name into the minds of consumers. Twenty-to-thirty years ago one would expect the consumer to possibly write down the phone number they say or heard in the ad, or even the name to later consult a phone book. Nowadays, it is all about Google. Sudden hailstorm? Need a roofing company? Potential consumer: “Hey, what was that commercial we keep seeing for that one company?” *Googles That company* 

If you are bidding on that company’s brand name, you could pop up as one of the top three, if not the first search result. Think of it as if your competitor were a massive fishing boat, pulling up huge nets of the day’s catch while you are in your small speedboat, under the hull, getting to comb through the catch before they can pull it on deck. 

  • Bidding on Specific Products & Services To Undermine Marketing Campaigns.

Regardless of the market you are in, there will likely be advertisers within your space that are spending money on television, radio, print, or billboard advertising. As discussed above, these tactics can help to grow awareness of certain companies, but also, certain products. This leads to an opportunity for companies with a smaller marketing budget to capitalize on the awareness of certain products. 

For instance, to bring it back to the example of a local roofing company, a competitor could spend 30K+ for traditional advertising monthly, and slightly mention a specific service such as “metal roofing,” that they are pushing that season. 

Here is where I see two opportunities: 

  • Brand/Competitor Campaign on Google. (We’ve already discussed this above).
  • Bidding on Product/Service-related keywords

Similar to the strategy we explained above, you have the opportunity within Google to bid on specific keywords, and the latest hot product talked about all over Television and Radio is a huge opportunity. An example I like to use of this comes from a real-life experience with one of my clients…you guessed it, they’re a roofing client. Their competitor was spending 30K a month on television advertising during hail season in Colorado. They had two focuses: 1.) Their brand name and, 2). Metal roofing guaranteed to be the most effective, long-term solution for the inevitable Colorado Hail Season. 

My client had similar products, was a similar size and likewise, had similar capabilities to perform the same type and amount of work for their clients, however their paid advertising budget was only $1,700 – $2,000 a month. How could they compete with the Goliath-esque stature of the competing company’s budget? This is where this alternative strategy came in. We took a small portion of that budget, ($200-$300 a month) and focused it specifically on bidding on their competitor’s brand name, as well as the metal roofing products. Thanks to the specificity of tracking that digital marketing allows, we were able to see that 30% of their new customers came in through searches for their competitor. The large sum of money the competitor invested into awareness for their own brand and this new product increased search volume greatly, and we were then able to capitalize upon that search volume. 

  • Manipulating Ad Schedules To Decrease Cost & Remain Competitive.

There are times one can encounter a competitor within the same space/locale with a massive PPC budget. We see this most-frequently in the Law industry. Usually PI lawyers have the highest budgets to spend on their PPC ads, but we frequently see spends in the 100K level-and-up/month for all areas of law. One effective strategy we’ve found is to run ads after normal hours. Most law offices hold traditional 9-5 hours. Since the majority of them will be spending a significant amount money on “call now” ads to generate phone calls, which are usually only set to run during business hours, this frees up advertising space in non-business time periods. One such example is that of a Criminal Defense attorney who became a client with us at the beginning of growing his practice. His monthly budget for Google PPC ads ranged between $750 – $1500 a month which was menial in comparison to other local attorneys in his space spending upwards of 100K a month bidding on similar keywords. By running “call” ads after normal business hours with the client agreeing to answer the phone during said hours, we were able to generate a generous amount of leads at a fraction of the cost of his competitors. Where his competitors’ ads were clocking a $75+ Cost per Click, his were sitting closer to $20-$30 running during less-competitive times. This same tactic can be used in a myriad of industries to maximize the results of the advertising endeavor as long as the client/business in question agrees to answer phones and/or follow upon leads during less-conventional hours. 

Pixels and Exact Tracking For Informed Budget Allocation. 

We dived into the benefits of tracking that comes with digital strategy earlier, but I just wanted to expand upon this concept.

Tracking for Digital Marketing campaigns has become so advanced, it can be likened to the skills of a sommelier. When I see a conversion come through, it isn’t just a matter of drinking a nice glass of wine… I am able to determine (some or all depending on the specific conversion) the channel through which this customer was acquired, their past user behavior, (if any), what they searched that brought them to a website and ultimately coaxed them to purchase, and that is just the beginning. Imagine yourself as a chef with an uncanny ability to quickly see a person, and know their allergies, their flavor-profile preferences, and perfectly craft a dish for them.You are able to cut the fat of the guessing game and get to exactly what is most effective. A commonly-used phrase in the marketing industry is “spray and pray.” Traditional marketing, limited by their tracking deficiencies, is unable to shoot a clear shot. They spread their message as widely as possible and hope that it produces a return. Digital is specific, aimed, and potentially most-importantly, scalable.

No company should ever feel stunted by their budget unless it is so menial it cannot produce results in any medium. A little creativity in your strategy as well as informed data, analytics, and tracking can elevate you to the level of your higher-spending competitors. Budgetary decisions in your marketing should be grounded in hard data and analytics. Digital marketing strategies are able to provide such data & analytics and can help to take your marketing to a competitive level without excessive ad spend. Contact us for more information or to see how one of our Digital Strategists could help you to find your most-effective marketing strategy.