You want to run a pilot program for a new ad network, but you don’t know how to structure it, how much budget to use, how long to run it or how to present your idea to management.
As it turns out, this is a problem many people have run into! Structuring a paid media campaign as a pilot program involves some key steps you won’t want to miss.
As CEO of Ignite Visibility, I have run plenty of paid media campaigns and talked to many executives. I’m going to lay out 8 steps to run a paid media pilot campaign and show you how to structure the entire thing—from start to finish.
What is Paid Media?
A paid media marketing campaign is one that you pay for (i.e. PPC ads and remarketing). It’s different from organic or SEO because it’s a way for companies to promote their content through sponsored platforms, like social media ads and display ads.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to get over the hump in terms of reach. Paid media helps you get more impressions, clicks, brand reach and web traffic. When done correctly, all of that leads to more conversions.
What is a Paid Media Pilot Campaign & Why Is It Important?
The risk of paid media is in the name: It’s paid.
A paid media pilot campaign costs money—obviously. With that in mind, it’s really important to develop a thorough strategy and implement consistent analysis and testing. This way, you’re reducing the risk of losing money while simultaneously boosting your chance of actually making an impact on your brand.
At the end of your pilot program, you can determine whether it’s best to shift gears or scale your pilot into a legit program.
Watch the video below or read the eight steps to building and conducting a pilot:
8 Steps for Your Paid Media Pilot
Breaking down your paid media strategy into easy-to-follow steps is definitely the way to go. You can recreate these for any pilot you plan to launch, regardless of ad network.
1. Take 10% of Your Monthly Budget
Take about 10% of your monthly ad budget so that you can use it for the pilot paid media campaign.
You definitely don’t want to use your whole budget. A solid 10% is enough so you can make an impact on your brand, but it’s not so much that you’ll regret spending it if the pilot doesn’t go according to plan.
It’s not the end of the world if you lose some of it, but there’s a good chance you’ll see that investment return in the form of conversions!
2. Apply a Target CPA
You’ll want to apply a target cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Ask yourself:
What’s the CPA that I want to have for getting a conversion from this network?
After an educated estimate, you’re going to apply that CPA. Set a low, medium, and high range. Throughout the paid media pilot creation and deployment process, tell your team that this number is what you have to hit to be successful. You’re defining what success means to you in these terms.
3. Make Sure You Have Ads, Landing Pages, and Proper Targeting for Your Paid Media Strategy
Before starting any paid media marketing program, you need to make sure you’re ready to go.
Make sure you’re prepared for your network by gathering the ads, landing pages, and targeting you need. This way, you can actually be successful on the network. There’s nothing worse than scrambling to build materials after you’ve already launched. It only leads to a stressed-out team and poor-quality content that delivers minimal results.
4. Set Your Duration for Your Paid Media Campaign
Run the campaign for a minimum of one quarter (three months).
If you start on a brand-new ad network and run your content for a week or a month, there’s no way you’re going to gather the data you need to have long-term, sustainable success. One quarter is a minimum for the pilot. You’ll be using the 10% monthly budget you set aside over the course of those three months, which means you’ll be spending a total of 10% of your quarterly ad budget. Be sure to include the duration in your expense calculations.
5. Review the Results
After the first quarter (or however long your pilot campaign is), you’re going to want to review the results.
You need to do a full review of every single piece of information you have regarding the ad campaign. Ultimately, you’ll gather the info and base it off of your normal metrics.
6. Compare Your Results to Other Networks
At this point, you understand how your landing pages and ads perform. You also know your CPA and what audiences you’re reaching. Take this data using a 10% monthly budget over the quarter and you can match your results against the other ad networks that you’re running.
You’ll want to compare it from a CPA perspective and a return on marketing investment (ROMI) perspective. Determine if the results are worse, about the same or better than your benchmarks. Based on that, you can make your next decision.
You’re going to do one of four options, depending on your campaign results:
- If the campaign went terribly, pause it.
- If it went poorly, scale it back some.
- If it went okay, resume it for another quarter and try to beat some of those numbers.
- If it went awesome, why not add more budget? That way, you can start scaling the channel that’s actually performing better than your other channels, thus driving more business for less.
If you decide to move forward in any way, see what’s next.
7. Create Ads You Think Might Beat Your Winner
Create a new landing page to test, and be sure to build it so that it might beat your campaign winner.
At this point, you’re going to create all new ads you think could actually beat the ads you ran in the previous quarter. Keep your best-performing ads live.
You’ll end up running the same process with new landing pages and new target audiences. Basically, keep in place what worked, and add something better. With all the different tools available to you in digital marketing, things can get interesting.
8. Review the Results After Another Quarter
After another three months, review your results. At this point, you’re six months in. You’ve got plenty of data and you understand whether or not the network is working. You understand your CPA and creative.
If your campaign is running acceptably, turn the pilot into an ongoing program and scale it. You’ll start that process again where you try to beat the winning ads, landing pages and audiences. But at this point, you’re going to either:
- Scale that network to the moon
- Make it a big part of your program and ensure that it’s within your diversified ad network portfolio
- Keep it the same
- Pull it back if it really hasn’t been working the last six months
Structuring Paid Media Strategy: The Bottom Line
The eight steps listed above are pretty much the extent of running a test budget and continuing to iterate on that process for paid media. Follow them and continue the steps cyclically as necessary and you’ll have a well-oiled paid media campaign in as little as six months to a year.