Digital marketers succeed when they tell stories to customers, prospects, and to an organization’s leadership. But for a group that is great at telling stories to customers and prospects, marketers sometimes don’t do a good job translating the results for internal stakeholders or clients.
We often assume that our internal audience understands the same issues that we know. And many times internal audiences don’t know how to ask for the information to be presented or how to apply campaign results and other transactional information to an organization’s goals.
In this month’s spotlight, Silver Beacon Marketing founder George Bounacos shares how customized reporting that consolidates data across all marketing channels vastly improves stakeholder understanding, as well productivity tips and more.
How would you describe your company in less than 100 words?
Silver Beacon Marketing believes that the Internet helps organizations make the world a better, more positive place in which to work and live. We help private and nonprofit clients do that by creating search optimization, advertising, social media content and promotion, and marketing analysis that supports their goals.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
We want every interaction with us to be frictionless. We keep our client roster small so that every client can reach us fast. We’ve all been a part of large organizations and understand that the customer experience can get diluted as more layers of management and non-practitioners are added.
Everything we do revolves around helping our client succeed. Once clients see that philosophy in action, they remain trusted partners for years.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
We receive reports 365 days a year addressing client digital activity. We’re looking for the exceptions that need immediate attention. Those reports generate at 1 a.m. our time and are emailed to multiple people. They include everything from transactions to web traffic to social media activity to page speed and other technical measures.
Every PPC and social media account is tracked through project management tools that can integrate with others. We’re big fans of Asana and Drop Task.
When possible, we set meetings and calls for afternoons so that mornings are reserved for doing the work that keeps our clients making progress to their goals. Afternoons are then reserved for client communication and project work.
Besides acquiring new customers, what is the biggest challenge in growing your business?
Being sure to budget time for skills improvement is always a challenge and akin to the cobbler’s childrens’ shoes. It’s the first thing to get cut in every size organization, and it’s the thing that none of us should skimp on. Our world changes too fast to expect that someone with an outdated skill set can be effective.
What do you think is the most interesting trend in digital advertising now?
Voice interfaces are going to be a challenge, but also an opportunity. Everything from creative to measurement is going to have to adjust. Imagine attribution in a world with new interfaces and data privacy regulation.
Do you see any trends specific to PPC reporting?
No client will accept or should be asked to accept different reporting from each channel. We helped advertise a series of events for environmental advocates across multiple organizations and cities in 2018. Our reporting combined creative and metrics from campaigns on Twitter, Bing, Google, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Even small organizations expect consolidated reporting at that level.
I hope that the current trend toward reporting about organization-wide goals instead of transactions continues to grow. We can tell great stories using data that would have resided in multiple spreadsheets only ten years ago.
Can you give us a real-life example how this approach leads to improved communications?
To build upon the example I mentioned above, Silver Beacon Marketing was part of a tiger team assembled by communications professionals promoting an international environmental advocacy event. We provided the social media and search advertising in the weeks leading up to the event and then through the week long event.
Our internal audience and ultimate client was a group of marketing and administrative leaders from a coalition of leading NGOs and nonprofits focused on environmental advocacy. Some were practitioners, many were strategists, and all had differing levels of expertise, familiarity with each other and us, and learning styles.
The story that they needed to hear would be fueled by data from Twitter, Bing, Google, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. They wanted to understand pre-event attendance signups, streaming counts, attendees and influencers who were amplifying our content, and what channels had great reach.
Combining our reporting across channels and in different styles meant that we could use widgets that showed the creative alongside tables of data and ad-hoc text we added to each section. Saving the report online and using a custom shortlink meant that we could create the same URL structure for decision makers and influencers to study every night.
Some people wanted only the data and we could tell them how many millions of impressions were generated, in what countries, and in what channels. Others wanted to see the best performing creative. But everyone wanted to read the short summaries we wrote at the top of each report and the callout notes we added in many sections.
Can you imagine assembling a report like that 5 or 10 years ago without manually transferring data to a spreadsheet? Or including creative from social and search side-by-side on the same page without using screen captures?
The way that you tell your story is going to influence your audience’s first impressions. That’s why we are thrilled to be Swydo customers.
How will these trends impact advertisers in the future?
There is already increased profitability even as the most common pricing models change. Advertisers and platforms are smarter. That’s going to put additional pressure on agencies to deliver value in new ways that don’t require advertiser investment.
What are the biggest challenges you face in PPC campaign management?
We serve clients who advocate in the environmental, political, gun violence prevention, and similar do-good spaces. The shifting attitudes around abuse by national governments or astroturf campaigns by bad actors create increasing challenges for transparency, disclosure, and list management. That rate of change will accelerate as the U.S. figures out how it will regulate data privacy.
What are the top 5 tools or apps you use almost every day?
- Swydo – for our daily and weekly reports
- StatCounter – a real-time analytics package we use in conjunction with Google.
- DropTask – for personal & work task management
- Google Analytics
- Facebook Business Manager
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
One of my part-time jobs in college was working as a cashier at a large drugstore chain. I was always bored. The work was basic, but was easy to get wrong. The till had to be exact. Any mistake was grounds to be cited. You had to stand in the same spot, be a great customer ambassador, and do this boring job for hours with zero tolerance for monetary mistakes.
That job taught me that no one tolerates mistakes around money. It’s easy for some people to shrug off rounding errors or other problems, but handing a customer the wrong change or ringing up an item for the wrong amount was unacceptable to individual consumer and the company. I try to be that exacting about data and other people’s money today.
What people have influenced your thinking (and why) and might be of interest to others?
Simon Sinek’s TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, is 10 years old, but the lessons are timeless. There is a good reason why it has more than 40 million views.
I’m also a big fan of Avinash Kaushik and his approach to analytics. His weekly newsletter is thought-provoking and one I always read.
And I read everything that Jakob Nielsen publishes about usability. I’ve been reading his work for 20 years and find great value in his firm’s insights.
What is your favorite quote?
“Stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion.” — Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.
Where do you see your company in the next few years?
I hope that we are still chasing our passion. We want to work with organizations that are changing the world for the better. There are more financially lucrative opportunities, but nothing enriches your entire being the same way as working with other passionate business leaders to help make positive change in the world.
George Bounacos began an obsession with online revenue generation in the 1980s. Four startups he has been part of have sold for a combined $96 million.
He created online content for companies that evolved into CompuServe, AOL and others before moving to e-commerce. While an executive at CARFAX.com, he created the company’s Buy Back Guarantee program and led revenue generation across more than 20,000 businesses.
George served a three year term on the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission, is a frequent judge of George Mason University’s School of Management capstone case competition, and guest lectures at GMU and to various business groups. The topics of those talks include Using Private Sector Techniques in Public Service, Online Influencers, Advanced Business Models, and New Venture Creation.
George holds individual certifications from Google in Advanced Search Advertising and Display Advertising. George is also Google Analytics certified. He takes a lot of Google tests and has been a Swydo customer since mid-2015.