If your business does online advertising, chances are you’ve had a bad experience with a marketing agency before.
Your sales may be dropping. You may not be getting the results your business needs.
You’re either concerned about not getting as many orders as before, or terrified because you’ve been running a loss with your online ads for the past few months with no sign of progress.
And with every month you waste, the more money and market share you’re losing.
In most cases you won’t know what exactly is going wrong.
But it becomes a bigger problem when your marketing agency doesn’t know why either.
Today I’m going to show you how the CEO of a security camera business went from watching his returns dip by almost 50% to switching agencies and stabilizing his revenue again, and even increasing online sales by 33%!
All he had to do was switch to the right agency for his business’ needs, and apply this simple, step-by-step process in the sections below.
Table of Contents:
I was looking for an agency because my Facebook marketing results were getting so inconsistent. We lost a lot of revenue that we feel could have been gained had things gone differently.
Step 1: Why Kowa CCTV’s CEO Switched Agencies
Prior to working with us, Kowa CCTV already had a solid social media presence, with over 44,000 followers to-date.
But one of the most important tools they had at their disposal was proof that their products actually fit with market demand and sold well.
Their surveillance systems with free installation were a hit with their target market. So they knew people were still buying for sure.
So why did their sales start dropping?
Like thousands of other businesses that use Facebook marketing, things started going downhill when Facebook started lowering their ads’ reach in late 2019.
That meant Facebook ads now reached fewer people, and you had to pay more to reach the same amount of people.
The changes meant business owners and marketing agencies had to adjust their strategies to maintain results under the same budget, or else results were inevitably bound to drop.
And although Kowa CCTV’s previous marketing agency was doing good work, sales started dropping significantly after Facebook’s algorithm change.
The agency couldn’t get Kowa CCTV’s Facebook sales back up, didn’t have the strategic expertise to bounce back in time, and the CEO made the eventual call to switch agencies.
Step 2: Defining Kowa CCTV’s Goals
To ensure the agency switch would be a step in the right direction for his business, Kowa CCTV’s CEO needed these 2 primary goals fulfilled:
1. To understand why things weren’t working, and for us to develop a reasonable strategy that would allow us to learn, improve and provide consistent results. Only then could his business move forward in the right direction with online marketing.
2. For all results and working processes to be completely transparent – The CEO needed to know what we were doing in his Facebook marketing campaigns to avoid the same outcome from the previous agency.
While he shouldn’t step in and micromanage, he needed the security and benefit of knowing exactly how things worked instead of being in the dark about his marketing campaigns.
I needed a proven agency that could fit well with us and help solve my business’ issues. The sales from Northstar’s campaigns have fulfilled this issue completely as they have committed to do from the start.
Step 3: How Kowa CCTV is Breaking New Sales Records Now
3.1 Mindset Change – Switching Agencies Doesn’t Mean Starting from Scratch
In the problems section we talked about Kowa CCTV’s decision to switch agencies. But the CEO’s big decision itself was the first part of the business’ solution. Why?
Because changing agencies isn’t always that simple.
In most cases it isn’t just a black or white choice. And according to most of our past and present clients who have switched agencies before, here’s why:
a. The relationship between client and agency is too strong – This normally goes one of two ways. The first is you and your agency really get along, because they’re good, genuine people who truly care about your business.
But results have been dropping for a few months. And you don’t know whether it’s because your product isn’t a good market fit, or the agency just isn’t skilled enough.
There’s pressure in the air, but you still choose to work with them because of the good relationship you have together.
The other case is you and your agency may be stuck in a toxic loop of people-pleasing, where the agency says yes to everything you ask for while giving you ok-ish results.
You feel in control of the work, but results are nowhere near where you expected, despite you feeling the need to micromanage everything.
In both cases, both you and the agency are suffering.
Your business is suffering because it isn’t getting the results it needs, and the agency is too preoccupied with pleasing you to focus on making strategic decisions that actually move the business forward.
b. If the agency leaves, your data goes with it – Most agencies protect their intellectual property, and that means their strategy, their campaign setup and all valuable market insights belong to them.
That basically means everything they’ve done to help your business grow gets taken back the moment you leave them.
While that’s how business mostly goes down in the agency game, it means you’re generally held at knifepoint whenever you want to leave.
And no one likes feeling trapped.
Now here are 2 absolutely crucial steps you need to take before switching agencies to ensure the above doesn’t happen to you:
1. Understand that switching marketing agencies doesn’t mean you have to rebuild everything from the ground up.
One of the biggest benefits of online marketing is that all data is trackable.
Even if your agency left with the whole strategy and Facebook insights, you still have valuable data like the number of orders you received on your end, to help you find your best-selling product.
Any reports you received during your time with the agency can also be useful in developing a new strategy.
In fact, we didn’t start Kowa CCTV’s Facebook marketing campaigns from scratch when we took over.
While the previous agency left with most of the data, they did good work prior to Facebook’s algorithm change, and made ads that did get orders.
But since it’s also normal to have some ads that didn’t get as many orders, we used every bit of this data to develop our strategy: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Doing so allowed us to continue doing what was already good while not repeating the same mistakes from the past.
Being data-driven from the start was the secret to the success of Kowa CCTV’s new marketing campaigns.
And that’s precisely why most agencies protect data: Because it brings them success, and they think the data is theirs.
That’s also why we never keep anything from our clients. We want them to be successful in the long-run, not “only for as long as they’re working with us.”
When you pay premium fees for agency work, you shouldn’t only be paying for the services.
While the agency owns the strategy, remember that you should own your business’ data no matter what, even if the data was generated by an agency.
Now I’ll explain how to implement all of these concepts in Step 3.2 below.
But first, here’s how to find the right agency to trust your data with:
2. Look for a marketing agency that tells you what your business needs, not one that tells you what you want to hear.
Most business owners already know this by principle, but end up falling victim to account managers who want to keep them happy for just one month longer.
Let’s put it this way: Which kind of doctor do you keep going back to visit whenever you’re sick or need a health checkup?
Do you return to the doctor who asks you routine questions and prescribes the same medicine without batting an eye?
Or do you come back to the doctor who straight-up tells you you’re going to die in 20 years if you keep working 14-hour days with no rest, and coaches you on how to stay healthy?
Naturally you’d like to talk to the first doctor more. But in your heart you know the honest doctor is who you need. And that’s who you keep coming back to in the end, for your own sake.
It’s the same idea when you’re looking for a marketing agency.
Most business owners think agencies are just an outsourced service. And most agencies don’t let them think otherwise, because it’s just easier not to go the extra mile.
That’s why the relationship between a business owner and an agency should be a partnership, not a one-sided job.
That’s the best way to ensure you are both accountable for the business’ growth, and that the business owner is never kept in the dark about the strategy.
3.2 Implementing a Data-Driven Strategy with Clear KPIs from the Start
Now that we’ve understood the thought process behind making a partnership with an agency work, here’s how we drove the actual results for Kowa CCTV, and how you can apply all of this to your business as well:
a. Splitting the marketing strategy to target audiences at different stages of the buyer’s journey
One of the most powerful tools in Facebook marketing is the platform’s ability to separate those who already know who you are from those who have never heard of you before.
Logically you would focus aggressive promotions on people who already know who you are, because they’re more likely to buy.
Someone who has never seen your products before, on the other hand, would not understand what problem your product can solve for them. So that means lower intent to buy.
This thought process was directly reflected in Kowa CCTV’s Facebook ads. We split audience targeting in the ads based on 2 types of audiences:
- Cold Audiences, or people who do not know about Kowa CCTV, and
- Re-targeting or Remarketing Audiences, which are people who already do know about Kowa CCTV.
Here’s the gist of the strategy: We showed Facebook ads with Cold approaches to people who didn’t know about Kowa CCTV. And if they still didn’t buy, we hit them with ads that used Remarketing approaches to ensure these people would buy.
The cold ads focused more on an educational angle to inform and persuade the audience why Kowa CCTV’s surveillance systems mattered to them.
Here’s what a cold ad looked like:
The ad clearly focuses on providing the audience with everything they need to know before making a purchase. From product specifications to pricing, everything is put into this one ad.
Cold ads are designed and worded as if you’re meeting the audience for the first time.
It’s like a job application, where people are first expected to send their resumes over and write a killer cover letter that shows you how their skills would benefit your company.
Then if you like their application, you’ll call them in for an interview. That’s where the remarketing/re-targeting comes in, because they now have to do whatever they can to get you to hire them.
Remarketing ads are designed to convince people who have already seen your product, but aren’t entirely convinced yet.
So discounts, testimonials, or the number of satisfied customers could all be good approaches to try out.
Here’s a remarketing ad for Kowa CCTV’s seasonal promotion, shown to people who already knew who they were:
You can see a couple of key differences in this ad compared to the cold ad.
First, the primary focus is the sale itself, bolstered with red designs for more urgency.
The copy is also shorter, with little focus on education and a full emphasis on a call to action, asking the audience to buy with the discount.
RECAP: Split your audience targeting into cold and remarketing stages and make ads that reflect those stages, to ensure you get the most sales as possible within a given time.
So that’s the audience targeting done. But all of this would be completely useless if it wasn’t for this next step:
b. Focusing the Entire Strategy on Getting 1 KPI: Messages
When you do marketing campaigns, it’s either you’re getting more purchases from all the work, or you aren’t. Cut out the ‘what ifs’ and stick to KPIs that are really in line with your business’ needs.
After watching their sales drop by almost 50% Kowa CCTV needed a way to get more sales: not comments, shares, reach or page likes.
But as we’ve learned through the years of serving clients globally, tuning your social media ads for direct purchases doesn’t always result in more sales.
Instead, the key KPI behind Kowa CCTV’s success was the amount of messages they were getting in their Facebook Inbox.
Let me explain why. Their primary audience—small business owners and homeowners in Thailand—can likely go to the local hardware store and buy some cameras if they wanted some.
The audience needed to know how Kowa CCTV’s systems were more worth their money compared to other brands. And that’s where messages came in.
In our experience we have found that for Thailand, messages via Facebook’s Inbox are currently the highest-converting form of communication.
Although messages require more effort, it’s generally worth all the work you put into it.
Of course Facebook ads could already show the audience what the products were all about. But at the end of the day, most people need to ask questions before making their purchase.
All sorts of discussions can happen within messages between you and the customer, from inquiries about product quality to new promotions. Even payment slips are submitted via Inbox after already making a purchase.
The KPIs for Kowa CCTV were thus simple: Get more high-quality messages, while decreasing the average cost per message.
Why? If they could get more messages from people who are genuinely interested, at a cheaper cost, then we would actually be spending less to get more.
And if ads we made didn’t get cheap, high-quality messages, we tested new variations with the same audience until the cost per message decreased while sales increased.
Bam, Facebook algorithm beaten (at least until Facebook changes it again that is). And all that was needed were a few tweaks to Kowa CCTV’s marketing strategy.
But how did we know everything was working, anyway? And how did we make sure the CEO could keep track of everything we were doing?
That’s precisely what we did in the 3rd and final step of this strategy:
c. Recording Everything in KPI Sheets
You can’t measure progress without a reference point.
That’s why we agreed with Kowa CCTV’s team to fill in KPI sheets on a daily basis.
We as the agency would fill out the total ad budget spent per day and the amount of messages received. Kowa CCTV’s team would then fill out the number of overall confirmed orders and revenue for the day.
That way, we always knew whether what we did was working or not. If sales were increasing from our efforts, we were on the right track.
If not, we tested with other approaches based on the data gathered from what we did before.
And the best part was the CEO had full transparency on whether we were doing a good job or dropping the ball at any given point.
So now that we’ve played down all of the info above, here are the results of all that work:
Step 4: The Results
Here are the results of all the work from steps 1 – 3:
As you can see we achieved new all-time high monthly revenues in August and September 2020. Keep in mind this strategy worked during Covid AND during a time where the Thai economy is about to sink into a recession!
But the best part was the CEO could finally see his marketing campaigns openly and transparently.
Every baht spent or gained was recorded, with the objective of making each month better than the last.
I’m truly impressed with Northstar’s professionalism, data-driven processes and accurate revenue forecasts. I would undoubtedly recommend Northstar’s services to other businesses.
Step 5: What Can You Take Away from All This?
1. Switching marketing agencies doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch.
Online marketing lets you leverage every single bit of data you have.
Your data can and should be used to lay the foundation for the new agency, as it tells them what went wrong and what can be done better.
It’s also always best to change agencies as soon as you know you can’t work together anymore. Honesty and transparency are the hallmarks of lasting partnerships.
And the more time you waste with something that doesn’t work, the more market share your competitors could take up.
That’s why there’s no use settling for mediocre results with no visible way forward.
2. Always be data-driven.
The age of viral one-hit wonders and one-practice-beats-all strategies is over.
The simplest way to develop a sustainable ad strategy is to sync your sales goals with your marketing efforts from day one. Make your marketing efforts share 1 KPI, and tie everything back to the amount of sales you’re getting.
If the observed KPI doesn’t work, pick another KPI, hypothesize that it will effectively lead to more sales, and test it until you find a winning formula.
For Kowa CCTV, for instance, it was the amount of messages, as it fit best with their customer demographic.
What Does the Future Look Like for Kowa CCTV?
Kowa CCTV’s CEO is looking to branch out to neighboring markets when Covid subsides.
He’s also planning to introduce a couple of new products into the security camera industry very soon.