The Paid Media Cube: A Framework to Clarify and Communicate Your PPC Strategy

Imagine you’re a PPC marketer working at a retailer specializing in hip, junk food clothing. Your clever use of paid spend made the Bacon Strips Crew Neck an all time best seller, nice work!

the bacon crewneck

Pictured: the highly successful Bacon Strips crew neck (via Getonfleek)

Then, let’s say you get a new VP of Marketing, and in your first meeting together she asks you to explain your PPC strategy and ways you’d improve it.

You spend all day optimizing PPC campaigns, but you’ve rarely needed to step back, evaluate, or justify your PPC strategy to others.

So self doubt kicks in, and you start asking yourself questions like:

  • “Do I really understand my PPC strategy?”
  • “How can I explain my approach to this VP without getting into the weeds?”
  • “Do I know what my next steps are?”

Without a clear understanding of how you’re approaching your paid spend, stakeholders only see your hefty budget, leaving you under pressure to deliver results.

In this post I’ll cover a framework for clarifying and communicating your PPC strategy to any and all stakeholders to prove confidence and good understanding. Because—no matter how complex your plan— stakeholders on your team should ideally understand how you’re defining success, and how to support you in execution.

Andy CrestodinaAndy Crestodina of Orbit Media agrees:

“Clarity is key. Keep [your paid strategy] simple and explicit. If there’s anything confusing about your plan, you’ll pay for it later in wasted time and/or budget.”

Further, this post will walk you through the Paid Media Cube framework for identifying any opportunities you might be leaving on the table.

Four questions to clarify your PPC strategy

To better clarify and communicate your PPC plans, first answer these four questions:

  1. Who are you trying to reach?
  2. Where are you going to reach them?
  3. How are you going to reach them?
  4. What are you going to offer them?

If you can’t answer the above in one to two sentences, your strategy is not clear. Go back to the drawing board, go through your campaigns, and get these answers.

Now I know, at this stage, you’re likely thinking:

  • “It’s not that simple, Tom. My PPC strategy is more complex than these four questions!”
  • “We are running PPC ads on several channels like AdWords, Bing, Facebook, and Display.”
  • “We are targeting multiple buyer journey stages such as awareness, consideration, and decision stages. We can’t possibly answer four questions for everything.”

To ensure the aforementioned four questions are helpful, I’ve found it’s best you further visualize and map every piece of your PPC approach into buckets. Beyond explaining your strategy, you need a tool to help you identify opportunities for improvement and growth.

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Enter the Paid Media Cube: a tool to visualize and clarify your PPC strategy

Typically your PPC campaigns will involve display, paid social, and paid search channels within the awareness, consideration, and decision stages of your buyer’s journey.

The Paid Media Cube below helps you visualize your PPC traffic at the intersection of both your traffic channels and buyer journey stage. Once filled out for your paid campaigns, it can help you spot gaps and opportunities for growth.

Below is an example of what your campaigns would look like using the Paid Media Cube. I’ve mapped it out below as though we were planning paid spend for our junk food clothing line…
The PPC strategy Paid Media Cube, by SCUBE Marketing

Pictured: The Paid Media Cube featuring traffic channels and buyer stages (via SCUBE Marketing)

Looking at Paid Media Cube for the first time, you likely have 3 questions:

#1. Why do the names vary in all squares?

The names you see in each square stand in for campaign names. You may have a different terminology because of targeting or your naming conventions.

#2. How do I fill in each square?

Consider all the campaigns you have in your paid media accounts and think about the buyer journey stage your target would be in. Then map each campaign group to the appropriate square for the right stage and the right channel. Of course this leads us to the third and the most important question.

#3. Why map all campaigns to traffic channels and buyer journey stages like this?

This exercise helps ensure strong message match.

Your message and offer have to align to your buyer’s expectations at different stages of their journey, and make sense via the traffic source from which they discovered you.

This means your ads, landing pages, and offers will be different for display campaigns in the awareness stage versus paid search campaigns intended for the decision stage, for example.

The cube gives you an opportunity to step back and re-evaluate (and improve) your message to the paid media traffic you’re targeting.

Moreover, to better represent buyer intent, the colors of each square are different, beginning with cold colours (low buyer intent) and gradually increasing to hot colours (high buyer intent).

The reality is that your PPC campaigns may not be as complex as the example above. Instead, you may have something like this:
the partial paid media cube

Identify gaps in traffic channels and buyer stages with the Paid Media Cube (via SCUBE Marketing).

Once you map your campaigns to the Paid Media Cube, you can grow in few different ways:

  • Launch campaigns for a few buyer stages within the same traffic channel. If you notice are only running campaigns in the decision and consideration stage, you can expand into the awareness stage to ensure you’re not missing out on any opportunities.
  • Launch a new PPC channel you haven’t tried yet. If you are only running campaigns on paid search and paid social channels, test the display channel.
  • Expand your PPC channel approach. I.e. If you are running paid search campaigns on AdWords, replicate them in Bing Ads.

For best results combine the four questions with the Cube

Now you have two important tools: the Paid Media Cube and four questions to ask yourself about your campaigns.

Since each square in the Paid Media Cube represents a different stage of buyer intent, you’ll want to answer the four questions for each square.

For example, your company comes up with a new Chicken Ramen Sweatshirt product line, and you want to target geeks, EDM music fans, and junk food eaters on Facebook (paid social traffic in the awareness stage).
The ramen sweatshirt

Chicken Ramen Sweatshirt (via Beloved Shirts)

Here is where your campaigns would hypothetically fit into the Paid Media Cube:
four questions in the paid media cube

Answer the four strategy questions for each square above…(via SCUBE Marketing)

The answers to the four strategy questions would look like this:

  • Who are you trying to reach? Geeks, EDM music fans, and junk food eaters.
  • Where are you going to reach them? Paid Social (Facebook Ads).
  • How are you going to reach them? Target pages about geeky gadgets, EDM music, and junk food.
  • What are you going to offer them? Free ideabook with apparel ideas featuring Ramen noodles along with a 20% coupon for their first order.

Overall, after you complete one square, repeat the question process until you can clearly articulate the factors of your PPC strategy in full.

Stay ahead of the game

Once you have clarity yourself, you can easily communicate your PPC strategy to others.

Paid media marketers face pressure from all sides. Not only are you expected to produce results, but it’s also up to you to prove the value of your campaigns to those without a thorough understanding of your efforts.

Using the four questions I outlined above, alongside the Paid Media Cube, you’ll have a great start for clearly outlining your PPC strategy to others, but even if you’re fairly autonomous or independent the Cube will help ensure you’re running a full funnel of campaigns and not missing any potential opportunities.

Looking to boost your PPC ad results even further?
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About Tom Bukevicius
Tom Bukevicius (boo-ka-vicious) is a Principal at SCUBE Marketing, ecommerce marketing agency delivering results through PPC and CRO. Tom’s motto is, “Magic bullets are for losers. Execution is key." Check out Tom’s new SCUBE Rating self-assessment to improve paid search campaign efficiency.
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