Updated November 28, 2018
Riches in Niches
Dropzone Marketing is a growing digital agency for the skydiving industry. Targeted focus helps position them as industry experts while differentiating them from other digital agencies. The agency’s growth has been organic, mainly driven by word of mouth, since their niche expertise helps them acquire more clients and produce better results.
Talia Wolf is a Badass
More specifically, she's a speaker, trainer, and founder of GetUplift, a customer-centric conversion optimization agency. She's even helped a few skydiving dropzones in Israel with marketing. She's also jumped out of a plane 800 times over California, Chicago, and Europe.
Talia believes the most important aspect to the skydiving industry is the community. Skydivers help each other. Those with the most experience in the world are excited about jumping with beginners. Competitors even train each other for competitions. It's about more than just the fun of the sport, it's about the friendships that form as a result.
As digital marketers, it's crucial we seek to understand the factors that go into users' purchase decisions. Since no path to conversion is linear, it's important to understand your audience's priorities so you can be more relevant and present when and where it counts.
Check out Talia's post 3 Ways Skydiving Made Me Better at Conversion Optimization
Above All Else, Start Doing
PPC was not initially part of DropZone’s core services. They amazed and grew their clients with personalized service, design, and SEO.
As Dropzone grew, they recognized PPC was a service their clients needed. So Marcella learned AdWords. She managed a handful of accounts and their client roster continued to grow.
No Pain No Gain
As Marcella’s responsibilities increased, her team realized it was time to bring on new members to help manage their Digital Advertising program.
DropZone is adamant about only hiring a team member whose work ethic aligns with their culture and core values. As they've grown, their biggest challenge has been finding the right people to join their team.
Full Disclosure: DropZone is My Side Hustle
Shortly after joining Shape, a couple of DropZone’s SEO specialists recommended me to DropZone to help manage PPC. I was hesitant at first but soon realized it was an opportunity to understand the needs of Shape’s customers.
For several years I’d focused on marketing optimization (CRO) and it had been a while since I’d directly managed AdWords campaigns. To be effective with my time, I needed tools to help me focus on improving PPC results, rather than spending my limited time on the tedious, yet essential, tasks of budgeting and reporting.
Anxiety Doesn’t Take Time Off
I used to rely on an amalgamation of spreadsheets, macros, and scripts to track monthly campaign spend. The process required referencing budgeting spreadsheets then making budget adjustments within each ad platform.
Despite advanced spreadsheet configurations, I still worried about the risk of overspend when I couldn’t check on campaigns after several days.
At our former agency, the fear of getting berated by clients and/or client success managers prevented PPC analysts from enjoying time off. So we left with unused vacation balances.
Check out our post on How to Recognize and Address Burnout on Your PPC Team
When Pigs Fly
To be honest, I was skeptical of Shape’s PPC budget management capabilities. I didn’t give it the credit it deserved because I was there years ago when Jon—my then jeans-wearing-three-t-shirt-owning manager (now Shape’s CEO)—conceptualized the idea. Jon based the tool on our team’s monthly workflow and planned to leave our agency to start his own PPC budget management software company.
It was like when my brother said he was going to start playing board games online and people worldwide would watch.
Well, they both proved me wrong.
All Aboard the Automation Train
I travel often but I’m not a “good traveler.” I'm terrible at adjusting to time zones, lose track of what day it is, and suck at the metric system.
Then there's my most embarrassing quirk: I still use a PC. I blame Microsoft’s Bing editor (that used to only work on PCs), but deep down inside I know there's no excuse.
Anyway, I needed to learn Shape’s PPC management platform, so before a trip I deprecated my spreadsheets to transition all of my budget tracking to Shape. Then I hopped a plane to Scotland. What could go wrong?
After the conference, I was suffering from jet lag and a Scottish whisky hangover. To bypass the spotty WiFi, I was working offline to document 45 “Pure Dead Brilliant” PPC Tactics to Test from Turing Fest.
That's when my brain decided to ponder: What day was it and how many days had it been since I checked my clients’ AdWords campaigns?
The above contributed to a freakout minutes before needing to catch a train to visit my fiancé’s family for the weekend where internet would be even more elusive.
Overspend would devastate my reputation and those who recommended me. I couldn't let Dropzone down.
"Why did I delete those spreadsheets?!" was one of many unproductive thoughts that streamed through my head.
Seconds before my always-loving fiancé slammed my laptop closed, my trusty PC decided to connect to WiFi. In a momentary glance, I quickly verified all of my clients’ spend in Shape's budget dashboard.
My Aha Moment
In that adrenaline-punctuated moment, I also noticed I'd enabled AutoPilot.
So, even if my client's ad spend were to get close to their monthly budgets, the campaigns would pause to prevent overspend. Up to that point, I'd never fully appreciated the advantages of a two-way API.
Shape's PPC budget management platform prevented my untimely heart attack or, to be slightly less dramatic, a long train ride to the future-in-laws enhanced by stress-induced silence.
We boarded the train, toasted to Shape and my next hangover.
Taking the Bite Out of PPC Reporting
For the first round of Dropzone's monthly reports, I used their SEO reporting software which had limited PPC functionality. The software's report duplication was tedious, repetitive, and an ineffective use of limited resources.
This part-time commitment had become a time-chomping-shark.
So I suggested another PPC reporting solution: Google Data Studio.
Overview of Google Data Studio
Google Data Studio (beta) allows easy visualization of your data.
Using beer as an analogy, similar tools like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI could be considered IPAs. In contrast, Data Studio would be a lager.
While it might not pack the same punch, at the end of the day, I'm stoked to have it.
The advantage of Google Data Studio for PPC marketers is the ability to create live, visually-appealing, custom reports and dashboards using a drag and drop interface that doesn’t require coding skills.
Reports are dynamic and shareable (even with those who don’t have Google accounts). You can even collaborate with team members since Data Studio has editing permission features similar to Google Drive.
Clients can adjust dimensions and/or date ranges filters to review data without requesting static reports. Filters can also exclude data from displaying if certain information isn’t relevant.
With a Google account, get started by simply connecting your first data source.
Currently Available Data Sources:
Live data connections eliminate the need to manually refresh data in reports and enable date range analysis.
Calculated metrics allow customization of raw data using formulas similar to a spreadsheet. This comes in handy if you want to report the ROI of your AdWords campaigns.
Data types can also be adjusted similar to updating the number format within a spreadsheet. For example, you can update a conversion value to report as a currency rather than just a number.
The Less Than Optimal
Current data connectors are limited and blending of data across sources isn’t available yet. This means you can’t combine data from both Analytics and AdWords into one graph, chart, or table for instance.
Since Google Sheets is an available data source, some companies (including Shape) have built add-on integrations to circumvent the issue.
Update: As of July 2018, blending of data sources is available in Data Studio.
Beginner Data Studio Report Template
Learn the ropes of Data Studio by connecting AdWords as your first datasource. The following 5-page Data Studio report template is based on Dropzone Marketing's reports and uses some of Shape's AdWords data (SAY WHAT?!):
Customize Your Report in 8-Steps:
You'll need to customize your report with relevant information from your AdWords account to make informed decisions (like campaigns & keywords).
Note: The following screenshots shows what happens when you connect an AdWords account without any data (making for a boring-ass report - hence the name of the report in step 5).
1. Make a copy of the report template.
2. Select "Create New Data Source," then select your AdWords account and “Connect.”
3. Update field types to display in reports with proper symbols.
Use the search function to find fields that contain “value” and change all “number” data types
4. Create a calculated field for ROI and create report.
Select the blue “+” button above Field and a new row will appear
Build the formula similar to a spreadsheet. Metrics will auto-populate as you type: (total conv. value-cost)/cost
Select "Create Field"
Select "Add to Report"
Select "Create Report"
5. A copy of the template will open in a new tab. Rename it as desired
In edit mode, navigation will appear at the top rather than on the sidebar
To verify, toggle out of editing mode by selecting “View” in the upper right corner of the report
6. Update incomplete configurations (page two) with your calculated ROI metric.
Select a chart with an incomplete configuration. Select “Invalid Metric” from the right sidebar
Search and select ROI (the metric you calculated) to update the report
Repeat for incomplete configuration table at bottom of page
7. Customize theme to client's branding.
When nothing on the report is selected, the right sidebar displays Layout and Theme Settings. Select "Theme"
Update color palette and fonts to match your client’s branding
To update the logo in the header of the report, select Shape's logo and the right sidebar will allow you to upload a new image file
For more on customization: Data Studio Tips for Non-Designers by Seer Interactive.
8. Update metrics, dimensions and charts to reporting needs.
Add a Dimension to a Chart
To view campaign performance by device, select the table at the bottom of the device page (page 4). Select “Add a Dimension” from the right sidebar
Search and select “campaign” to add it as a second dimension to your table
Replace an Existing Dimension/Metric
Select the table and the dimension or metrics you want to replace from the right sidebar. Update with your preferred data (or remove entirely by selecting the “x”)
9. Have it dialed? Share your report. Amaze the customer.
Most humans don’t spend as much time in front of screens as us so it’s important to be flexible with how you’re providing reports. If clients want a hard copy of their report, Data Studio offers the ability to download the report directly or save the report as a PDF via the print screen.
Feel free to reach out on Twitter if you want help configuring your report.
Not a customer yet? Take our budget platform for a spin with your free trial and start scaling PPC at your agency with confidence.