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Q&A with Julie Warnecke, Founder and CEO, Found Search Marketing

Julie W

What made you want to start your own digital marketing agency, Found Search Marketing?

I got my start in the digital marketing world at Google, serving as the fourth employee on the AdWords Sales and Operations team from 2001-2006. Google AdWords (now known as Google Ads) was a young platform at the time and was starting to make its way into the online advertising space. I mainly worked on scaling customer support teams, but I was also part of the team that launched AdWords Select, a new CPC platform that changed the digital landscape. Additionally, I worked on the industry-changing AOL syndication deal, which helped assist an advertiser support infrastructure. In 2006, my passion for helping businesses grow through data-driven and results-oriented paid media marketing sparked a new venture; I moved back to the Midwest and started Found Search Marketing (FoundSM) and still serve as the CEO today. It really came down to the fact that I’m a Midwest girl at heart, and I wanted to bring my expertise to that region.

The digital marketing industry is always changing and evolving. Of the more recent changes, which ones do you believe will make a lasting impact?

Data has never before been so easily accessible, and our understanding of how to use large amounts of data is constantly evolving. The role analytics plays in directly influencing your success and incorporating data from customer relationship management (CRM) programs has made a significant impact on digital marketing and will continue to do so. A CRM database is the key to a high performing paid media campaign as it stores all relevant customer data, including demographics, purchase history and behavior. This creates more effective segmentation and personalization for target audiences, with ads that are directly relevant to them and their preferences. Utilizing CRM data leads to an improved ROI for a digital marketing campaign.

The importance of creative content has also evolved over the years, as effective content leads to more conversions. We know that the more relevant a paid search ad is to a user’s search query, the more likely they are to engage with the ad. The same can be applied for advertising on social media. The more the ad creative resonates with the interests and behaviors of the targeted audience on social media, the more likely the user will take action. We’ve also seen the importance of testing creative content before implementing it in a campaign. The impact testing has on campaign results proves it will remain a crucial part of the process when implementing paid media campaigns.

Additionally, the role of AI in the creative process will make a lasting impact. AI will help optimize processes to make the most out of digital marketing campaigns and will support how we use creative pieces in content planning and SEO practices.

How can marketers make the most out of a digital marketing budget?

Hedge your bets on the biggest upside, lowest risk opportunities first. Start by testing one channel or platform, then apply the remaining budget once the channel has proven to generate sufficient ROI. Digital marketing can include more upper funnel brand activity, which helps drive awareness and set the stage for performance-focused campaigns. The main goal is to create synergy between the various objectives of a campaign. Measure your campaign performance to understand what’s working in order to achieve the greatest ROI from your budget.

What’s the biggest mistake(s) companies make when trying to put together a digital marketing strategy?

The biggest mistake when putting together a digital marketing strategy is a lack of preparation. If you’re not prepared, you won’t be able to define measurable goals. Establishing goals is step one, and marketers can build the strategy from there, but it can’t be the other way around. It’s vital to have initial conversations about what success looks like and how to track it. When tracking success, it’s also important to identify target audiences and that you’re tracking the appropriate data points to determine the ROI.

Another mistake companies make is not testing when it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO) in a paid media strategy, also known as pay-per-click (PPC). An effective paid media strategy is crucial, as it offers the chance to create exposure for a company’s product or service offering and increase their brand awareness in a short period of time. Not testing or considering how to optimize the landing page in a paid media campaign will result in visitors leaving the page and a decrease in leads or conversions. Your landing page must stand out while also being easy to navigate. The target audience can click on your link from an ad, but if your page is outdated or is set up in a way that makes it difficult for the potential customer to navigate or find a product, your lead stops there.

What would you say to those companies who think a digital marketing agency isn’t needed since they may do it in-house?

Many companies may think handling digital marketing in-house is the most cost-effective way to achieve results, however, I’d ask them to consider if they’re hitting their revenue and growth targets and if their in-house team is feeding their pipeline with quality leads. If the answer to those questions is “yes,” keep doing what works, and take it as far as you can go. If the answer is “no,” consider adding to your team with an agency.

It’s also important to recognize that paid media must be leveraged at scale. For example, at Found Search Marketing, we’ve started to manage several accounts that were previously handled in-house by the company. We typically see that businesses train a mid-level manager to execute all paid media needs, and they often don’t have the experience or capacity necessary to handle all campaign facets. While there are a wide variety of competencies that make a campaign work, it’s difficult to have all competencies measured and handled by one person.

In the long run, handling digital campaigns in-house ends up costing more money. The manager executing all paid media needs may only be an expert in one channel or platform, especially if they’re focused on lead generation. This causes the cost per lead to increase, resulting in a higher cost of doing business and hurting their bottom line. Ultimately, companies want their digital marketing campaign to succeed, which won’t happen if the campaign is mismanaged and not supported by the appropriate amount of resources. By working with a digital marketing agency, businesses have an entire team of experts at their disposal, with broad expertise, the capacity to take on larger campaigns, and the efficiency to achieve stronger results.

What advice would you give to marketers looking to stand out in the digital marketing space?

I’d first ask them if they are focusing on strategies that highlight their ability to bring value to their customers. Your digital marketing strategy should be shaped to amplify the value you create and make it easy for your ideal customer profile (ICP) to engage with you to learn more. It’s also essential to stay updated on industry shifts and new technologies. Staying on top of new technologies, being invited to participate in a beta test from Google or Facebook, and allocating a small budget toward innovation in ongoing work is how marketers can find new opportunities and differentiate themselves in the space.

Additionally, having strong creative content as part of your marketing mix is key to standing out in the digital realm. Marketers must engage in creative testing throughout the campaign to develop impactful messaging and discover which ad creatives are most effective. The testing process allows marketers to find the creative content that will resonate most with the target audience, testing various image and copy combinations. Creative testing will help you determine which concepts resonate and lead your audience to take action to boost overall campaign performance.

Marketers must also develop capabilities around data analysis and performance trends, as measurable data is crucial for success. For example, at Found Search Marketing, one of our core values is quantifiable outcomes. Driving results and increasing business value for our clients is our deepest motivation and mindset. While we have a dedicated Data & Intelligence team, all FoundSM employees are trained to analyze results from a campaign. As marketers, we need to educate all team members to be experts in understanding data generated from a campaign and ultimately be able to use that data to inform actionable next steps.

What are some of the biggest successes you’ve seen and what made them successful?

At Found Search Marketing, we always go above and beyond for our clients, and this value of being focused on the client is what sets our campaigns apart and makes them successful. We act as a partner rather than a vendor, serving as a true extension of our clients’ team, and we allow our campaigns to be highly customizable depending on clients’ specific needs. For example, a healthcare interoperability company engaged with our team at FoundSM, as the digital agency they were working with previously wasn’t meeting their marketing goals or growing at the pace they expected. Prior to working with us, they were running paid search campaigns and launching new website content. This strategy wasn’t yielding lead growth or attracting the right audience.

They came to FoundSM looking for expertise to improve existing paid search and social execution and to grow organic brand presence to reach new audiences and decision-makers, and we rose to the occasion. We rebuilt the entire campaign structure to align with our partner’s goals. After reaching a steady lead volume, the team navigated a backend customer relationship management (CRM) change, demonstrating a flexible and unique approach to working with clients. Because of our partnership, the company was able to reach new targets and experienced an increase in leads and sales opportunities.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic in every industry, and this is also true for digital marketing, with AI revolutionizing the world of paid media. AI marketing enhances the customer journey, improves results, and boosts ROI. AI will help guide campaign setup, streamlining the process, improving efficiencies, and saving time on manual processes. The technology assists with audience targeting, as the algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and trends in consumer behavior. This allows marketers to create highly targeted audience segments based on interests, demographics, and online behavior, increasing the chances of audience conversion. AI can also quickly create content at scale for companies, including multiple versions of ad copy to allow for more accurate testing. Successfully integrating AI strategies and tools into paid media campaigns is essential for marketers and will only continue to lead to improved workflows in the future.

Additionally, with the launch of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) in July, this new platform is changing how digital marketers inform campaigns. GA4 is already influencing the future of digital marketing because it makes PPC marketing efforts more efficient, allowing for easier data-driven decisions. It creates better tracking for conversion events and places more focus on a digital marketing strategy. These improvements are game changers for analyzing data and provide the opportunity for marketers to make smarter decisions, explore more ad groups, and build more organic traffic. Digital marketers can leverage GA4 in new ways that can increase user interactions and lead to more profitable campaigns for their paid ads.

And finally, social media trends continue to change every day. Take the latest platform, Threads, which launched as an alternative to Twitter in early July to millions of users. Despite the platform being the latest form of social media, Threads’ user engagement has already decreased. As marketers consider whether or not to utilize the new app, it’s crucial to not lose sight of goals. Instead of joining the app simply because it’s the newest social trend, we need to first decide what purpose the channel serves and if a platform like Threads would meet our desired goals. Establishing goals is always the first step in a successful digital marketing campaign, and it’s important to use those goals to inform campaign decisions.

Another large social media trend that continues to be popular is short-form videos like the content produced on TikTok. The platform has made improvements in recent years with ad formats that are more conducive to lead generation as opposed to only brand awareness. YouTube has also joined the short-form video trend with its “Shorts” feature, which are vertical videos with a 60-second maximum length created using a smartphone and uploaded directly to the platform. Although Google is still the primary space for achieving high-performing campaigns and an increased ROI, platforms like TikTok and YouTube will continue to create space for lead generation on their channels in the future.

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