Ep. 72 – Interview w/ Dmitrii Kustov

How to Leverage Paid Advertising for Better Results

When utilized the right way, paid advertising can generate results that will have a significant impact on your B2B marketing campaigns. It can also help to strategically offset the delay in the initial growth in organic rankings. In this week’s conversation, we sit down with B2B digital marketing expert Dmitrii Kustov (Marketing DirectorFounder at Regex SEO) to talk about why paid advertising should be part of the marketing mix, how it works together with SEO, and what common mistakes to avoid. Dmitrii also elaborates on what metrics to focus on and which trends in paid advertising B2B marketers should be paying attention to.

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Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Dmitrii explains why paid advertising should be part of the marketing mix [1:33] and how it works together with SEO [5:50].
  • Some common mistakes / misconceptions that Dmitrii has seen when it comes to paid advertising:
    • PPC paid advertising is not future proof [8:16]
    • Overtrusting the automated features on paid ad campaigns [11:18] 
  • Dmitrii shares his experience with improving his client’s ROI on ad spend [14:57]
  • Dmitrii’s advice on setting metrics for paid advertising: Focus on the “pure ROI” [19:00]
  • Some trends in paid advertising that B2B marketers should be aware of:
    • The push to use more automated campaigns [25:19]
    • The emphasis on user experience [26:53]

Companies & links mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

SPEAKERS

Christian Klepp, Dmitrii Kustov

Christian Klepp  00:00

Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for B2B marketers that helps you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry, and take your marketing to new heights. Each week, we talk to B2B marketing experts who share inspirational stories, discuss our thoughts and trending topics, and provide useful marketing tips and recommendations. And now, here’s your host and co-founder of EINBLICK Consulting, Christian Klepp. Welcome, everyone to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast where you get your weekly dose of B2B marketing insights. This is your host, Christian Klepp. And today I am joined by someone who is on a mission. And that mission is to help B2B companies to plan, strategize and get the most out of their marketing budget through data driven initiatives. So coming to us from Houston, Texas, Dmitrii Kustov. Welcome to the show.

Dmitrii Kustov  00:50

Well, thank you so much for having me. I’m very glad to be here.

Christian Klepp  00:53

It’s great to be connected, Dimitrii. And I’m really looking forward to this conversation. Because I mean, you can’t really talk about B2B marketing initiatives and not throw in something that’s data driven and measurable right? So..

Dmitrii Kustov  01:06

Yes.

Christian Klepp  01:07

So let’s get this conversation started. This is going to be fun.

Dmitrii Kustov  01:10

Yeah, absolutely.

Christian Klepp  01:11

All right. So Dmitrii, among other things, you are an accomplished entrepreneur, and you’re an expert in digital marketing for B2B. But for the purpose of this conversation, let’s narrow down the topic to improving paid advertising for B2B marketing. So talk to us about why you think B2B marketers should include paid advertising in the marketing mix.

Dmitrii Kustov  01:33

Okay, so paid advertising is a quite a broad part of digital marketing. And there are many facets that you can kind of put under paid advertising arena. Typically, whenever people talk about paid advertising, most would associate… most business owners associated with Google ads. But that’s not necessarily true. Really, technically, any, any advertising that you pay for, that happens online would fall under the paid advertising channel. And whenever we talk about marketing strategy, whenever we talk about paid advertising, whenever we talk about any online marketing initiatives, in the sense, you have to try and test everything. If you have not done Google ads before, try test it, make sure you record all the data. And what we preach is data driven marketing. So if you don’t have data, don’t trust your gut. That’s our saying, don’t trust the gut, trust the data. And you need to make sure that whenever you do all those tests for different initiatives, Google ads, Bing ads, Facebook ads, any other social media ads, sometimes you can even test paid advertising on third party websites, maybe there is a online magazine or forum that is specifically for your industry. And they have a lot of visitors to that website. And they have like sponsored spots or something. Absolutely test it. Try it. And again, the most important part is to record the data so that you can make decisions about ROI or return on investment, to compare all those channels and different platforms between each other, which one works the most, for you the best for you, and so on. So yeah, don’t have to just kind of stay only in one platform, try everything and make sure that that none of the data is lost.

Christian Klepp  03:39

Yeah, no, that’s absolutely right. Would you also say that… Would it be fair enough to say you probably should start small and then with fewer initiatives, rather than spreading yourself too thin across different channels?

Dmitrii Kustov  03:48

Of course, yes. So you start one by one. And let’s say, let’s say you start with Google ads, of course, make sure that the budget that you are testing with is not too low, that will and can dilute the data and results. Because if you’re not getting enough of results, enough of metrics, then you’re not going to be able to make the decision whatsoever. Because let’s say, you’ve got only like, you know, 10 visits a month from that initiative, and there were no leads, well, you can’t really make any decision. So make sure that your budget is high enough, but you don’t have to go overboard, either. And you do it one by one. So let’s say start with Google ads, and take, let’s say, $1,000, $2,000, or whatever it is. Test it, see how it works. If you see that it’s working; the return on investment is positive. And it’s actually bringing results, you can keep doing it. And then you add one more. And then you start testing that one, if you see that the first initiative did not work, then you stop that initiative and move the budget into another one. And this way, it’s kind of easier to measure everything. Because you only have to worry about just one channel. And it also, especially for smaller businesses, budgets are typically low. So you don’t have to worry about, worry too much about not having enough budget. So that’s, that’s going to also help you with planning and strategizing, and just budgeting for a quarter or a year, or whatever time period you base your strategy on.

Christian Klepp  05:38

Yeah, that’s absolutely right. Um, you actually got me thinking about another question, which I thought I’d throw into the mix here. But how do you think paid advertising can help what B2B marketers are doing, say organically?

Dmitrii Kustov  05:50

Alright, so all of the marketing, including traditional marketing, really any marketing initiative, all of them should be working together to bring you towards closer to a goal, business goal you have. In that regard, what you have to think about is, let’s say, let’s say it’s a content campaign. So you created some kind of downloadable PDF, maybe some kind of awesome blog, whatever that is, maybe you came up with a new product, whatever it is, you always have to think about how all of the marketing channels can work together in the best way possible, to promote that new piece of content or new product, or whatever it is. So when we talk about organic results is SEO. So let’s say you created a content piece, and it’s very much SEO optimized, and it starts ranking organically for certain key phrases. While you can definitely help with to offset initial growth with paid advertising, maybe you post it on social media, and you spend a few hundred dollars on promoting that post so that you get exposure quicker. And maybe you spend on a very specific target on Google ads for that blog post, maybe before you rank for that post organically. Because if your industry is very, very competitive, let’s say I didn’t know like ice cream, right, though, if you use in some kind of production of ice cream, there is so many companies, there’s so many competitors, and those competitors are big, and they have huge budgets, so it’s going to be very difficult to compete with them right off the bat in organic search because they have so much budget behind it. So while you are developing your brand, while your organic rankings are growing, you can offset that delay by spending on ads, basically. So that’s how all of that works together.

Christian Klepp  07:57

Okay. Okay. That’s fair enough. Um, you brought up some of these already in the past couple of minutes. But you know, moving on to the next question, it’s talking about the common mistakes and misconceptions you’ve seen out there when it comes to paid advertising, specifically for B2B. And you know, what B2B marketers should do to address these.

Dmitrii Kustov  08:16

There are a couple of really big ones. And I’ll try to cover a few. So one of the biggest ones probably is that PPC paid advertising is here to save the world. I strongly disagree with that. When you look at pretty much any, especially online marketing channels or activities, paid advertising is typically in 90% or more, is going to be the most expensive channel per lead. And it kind of is when you don’t know the ins and outs when you don’t think about it too deeply. It sounds like it should be the best channel because it’s in a sense pay to play. You want people to go to your website, only whenever they click on your webs, on your ad, on your link. That’s the only time you pay. But when you kind of start thinking deeper, when you start analyzing it, the pay to play model is not future proof. So if you stop paying tomorrow, you’re not going to get any traffic, unlike, and unlike, let’s say, organic search, or email marketing or anything else, because all those other initiatives, they have this snowball effect, you. If you rank organically on the first page, most likely you’re going to be on that first page for quite a while before other competitors takes you over. So all of the budget you have invested before, it works for you in the future. Unlike paid ads, you only literally pay to play, let’s say email marketing, as you send emails, as create an email marketing campaigns, it grows your audience, you gather new emails, it builds up brand awareness, and so on, and so on. So that also kind of works for the future. And that’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions, it is probably definitely the easiest channel, the paid advertising, because it’s kind of very easy to understand, it’s very easy to see results very quickly. You know, if you spend $100, tomorrow, do you get sales for over $100. And in that regard, it’s quite nice. But you have to, especially in the world of business, we’re not here for one day, we’re all here for at least, you know, maybe a decade or longer with some kind of exit strategy. But the idea is to build the future, the idea is to invest in the future. So that’s probably one of those misconceptions that most, most not data driven. marketers and business owners make. Another one is or it’s a whole suite of mistakes and misconceptions is that, especially nowadays, when the online, the digital world is talking about AI, and artificial intelligence, and algorithms are very, very smart and all that. And from there, there’s this misconception is that Google or whatever platform you use for advertising, knows better. And therefore there is a lot of these automated campaigns, there’s a lot of automated strategies, and you kind of set and forget, and Google automatically will do everything for you. And they will do it in the best way. That is incorrect, from all of the data we see from everything, all the tests we do, that is incorrect. And when you start thinking about it, it also makes sense, Google’s goal is to make as much money as they can. So in a sense, it’s much better for them if you spend more money. So what they gonna do, and again, if you think about kind of the return on investment approach, even on Google’s end, and if you think about those types of corporations, they’re gonna do the least they can to keep you. So if your return on investment is basically like, let’s say, if you spend $100, as long as you make $102, you’re probably going to be spending money, or whatever that plus margin, right, so let’s say like $110. So that is going to be enough for Google to say, well, you know what, your ROI is positive. So you should spend more, they’re not gonna go and do it, they’re not going to try to get $300 out of your $100 spent. So that’s one of those huge things that I hate about automated campaigns. And I’m a believer that there is a place for it, definitely. But in general, I prefer a lot of things done manually, or at least in the beginning, you have to control it as much as you can. And as you get more data, as the platform’s get more data, then you can trust… start trusting the automated features only on certain campaigns only on certain parts. And even then you have to monitor it very, very closely, and even still do adjustments manually.

Christian Klepp  14:11

Well, those are some really great points. And I think, you know, going back to what you said earlier, to a certain degree that all this technology and the AI, it has made certain people complacent, right? And you know, as rightfully pointed out, this still requires a very strong, like not just human aspect, but like people to be actively involved in the campaign, you know, you still need to, you still need to monitor the results, you still need to iterate and adjust accordingly. Right?

Dmitrii Kustov  14:42

Of course, yes.

Christian Klepp  14:43

All right. Um, this is an opportunity to, hopefully highlight a case study of yours, but like, talk to us about a challenge that you and your team have managed to solve in the past 12 months or so.

Dmitrii Kustov  14:57

We have this client that we’ve been working for 3 to 2.5 years or so now, specifically for paid advertising. And the challenge was, they’re fairly big company. They’re serving customers on a national scale, they have a very good solid budget of several hundred thousand dollars in advertising marketing budget. So they are definitely not a small client. And they have been fairly successful with most of their marketing initiatives. And when they came to us, their goal was to not necessarily fix things, but to make it better. And this is the types of projects that I really like. I’m a huge data nerd. I love all of the nitty gritty stuff. And, you know, when you kind of look at something that is working, and the common saying is, if it’s not broken, don’t touch it type of thing. Yeah. I don’t really believe in that. There’s always room for improvement. And that’s one of those case studies, one of those clients that we were able to help with that, at the first glance, it looks like you know what your return on investment is 200%. You’re set, don’t touch it, it works. But then we started digging, digging and digging. And over, basically a course of the year and a half or so we were able to increase from 200% ROI to almost 600% ROI. And it does take a lot of digging and does take a lot of brain work. But that’s what I love doing. And if anybody’s interested, you can find different case studies on our website. And we try to explain different and how we got there.

Christian Klepp  17:08

That’s an incredible achievement. 600% ROI. Is that what you said?

Dmitrii Kustov  17:12

Yeah, it’s like right under 600. Yeah.

Christian Klepp  17:16

That’s, that’s incredibly interesting. But it’s, it’s funny, you brought up that quote, like, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And I think the approach that you were using was more, it reminded me of this. This process that this, the Japanese came up with in the 90s, for automobile manufacturing, it’s called prevention before detection. So I think that that kind of sounds like the approach that you were using here.

Dmitrii Kustov  17:41

In the sense, you know, the whole if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it idea. If that was the case for everybody, there would be no innovation, we’d be still driving Ford T50, or whatever they were called, those old first cars, you know, the first first cars, and it would be literally no innovation. So it works. Definitely, that approach works. But that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to make things that are already good great. Or even better.

Christian Klepp  18:19

Absolutely.

Hey, it’s Christian Klepp here. We’ll get back to the episode in a second. But first, is your brand struggling to cut through the noise? Are you trying to find more effective ways to reach your target audience and boost sales? Are you trying to pivot your business? If so, book a call with EINBLICK Consulting, our experienced consultants will work with you to help your B2B business to succeed and scale. Go to www.einblick.co for more information.

On the topic of paid advertising. Talk to us about the goals that B2B marketers be setting and what metrics should they be measuring?

Dmitrii Kustov  19:00

This one is a very easy answer on the surface, but when you start digging, it’s not as easy as it seems. And the metric I believe in is what I call a pure ROI. Return on Investment. When I mean pure, it means after… basically like a net profit in a sense. So let’s say you are not… you have never done, as a business owner, you have never done any marketing and you have a fairly successful business. And all you do is I don’t know let’s say sell products on the street corner type of thing in the little shop and all you have is just people walking in buying your ice creams or something and going on there,  jolly path. Now, if you’ve never done any paid advertising or really any other marketing, you might be still turning profit. And it’s okay. Now, somebody came to you and says, You know what, you can double, triple, quadruple your business, but you have to spend in marketing. The typically whenever you talk about marketing campaigns and ROI, the only thing people look at is what they call kind of like a return on ad spend. Meaning if I spend $100, on my ads or advertising, do they get more than $100? And then if it’s, let’s say, $101, everybody’s happy. That is so incorrect. What you have to think about, okay, let’s say your advertising budget is or advertising spend is $100. Well, did you think about paying maybe hiring somebody else to manage it? Right? So did you add that to your costs? Did you let’s say, if you if you did hire somebody or hire the agency, let’s say you hired somebody internally, did you think about their, like health insurances, and vacation pay, and expense on extra electricity and buying some kind of desk and, you know, stuff like that small stuff, that typically business expenses, basically, all those things are not considered. Other things that that definitely, definitely increase your actual costs are, maybe you have to outsource some kind of landing page development, maybe you have to do content writing. Whatever all that stuff is, most people forget about it, then just look at the actual advertising spend. And if they got more money out of it, and as long as it’s literally by $1 more, everybody’s cheering, that is not the approach you should take. It should be, it should be, you have to look at that pure ROI. After all of the expenses. Even like things like for example, cost of goods sold, if you’re selling some kind of part for, you know, whatever that part is, or product, it costs you as a business to, to produce that part. So you have to include that too. Because if you spend $100 on advertising, and then you sold $102 in products, well, it’s not like 100, literally all of this sales are net profit, you have to spend on the cost of goods sold and keeping the lights on and so on, and so on. So this way, you start losing money before you realize it. And that’s when I say pure return on investment, basically pure net profit after all of this spend. That’s the only metric that makes sense in the business world. Definitely, there are other types of campaigns like brand awareness and whatever else. But at the end of the day, even if it’s brand awareness, it’s definitely going to be a long term investment. But at the end of the day, you still have to look at is that increasing your bottom line? That’s the only question in business world. The rest of this stuff does not matter. Short term. Sure. Long term. Absolutely not. So yeah, there you go. That’s the main metric.

Christian Klepp  23:32

Okay, no, that was a really great answer. And I thought that was a really apt comparison, you know, like, gross versus net profit and the way that you broke it down into such detail. It pretty much sounds like that, you know, you touch some things like overhead. Third party, like if you’re engaging a vendor, for example?

Dmitrii Kustov  23:51

Right.

Christian Klepp  23:53

So, okay. Dmitrii, give us something actionable here, right. So because this is also part of what the show is about, so what can B2B marketers do right now to improve their paid advertising?

Dmitrii Kustov  24:06

And there are so many different things. I can talk about that for two weeks straight. But tying back to the previous question and answer, go ahead and calculate that pure ROI. Because you go to Google and the Google ads, let’s say platform, and then it will tell you a return on ad spend. And it might be positive, you’re getting more in terms of sales than you’re spending. But again, just look at that pure ROI. You have to make sure that you are within your margins, net margins, gross margins, and so on and so on. So that’s a very simple thing. You can really quickly do maybe with your… depending on the size of the team, your business owner, your accounting team, whoever they are. And, yeah, if you see that you’re losing money, well pause the campaign right now.

Christian Klepp  24:56

Okay, that’s, that’s pretty straightforward.

Dmitrii Kustov  23:59

Yeah, exactly.

Christian Klepp  25:02

Alright. As you’re well aware, paid advertising has changed so much in the past few years, it’s important for B2B marketers to understand how these changes will impact their work. So, and you brought, you brought up a few things, but what are some of the current trends in paid advertising that you think B2B marketers should be aware of?

Dmitrii Kustov  25:19

Right. So over the last, maybe year or so, especially Google, and really everybody, they are pushing more and more of that AI, the artificial intelligence and automated strategies and all that stuff. And unfortunately, they kind of forcing you to use it almost in a sense, especially Google. And, as a marketer, it makes me very sad, because I see the difference, like the performance of those automated campaigns, and they’re just not good. So it does seem to be like that’s a trend in not just paid advertising, but really, marketing in general, a lot of automation, a lot of, you know, AI and whatever else. And that’s what I’m seeing being used more and more and has been pushed more and more. And that’s unfortunate, and it does seem like it’s indefinitely, it’s definitely in our future. The only thing is, you have to… if you use those just be very, very careful. And maybe, if you’re not, if you don’t have to use them, don’t use them. And again, just don’t rely too much on on those. So yeah, that’s the trend that I’m seeing pretty much everywhere. And then the other thing, especially on Google, the other types of marketing, paid advertising, like Facebook, or social media, anything like that, there’s not going to be connected. But anything with search engines, there is a heavy push within the last year or so on… really, it’s all about user experience. So if your website is loading slow, if your website looks really horrible on mobile devices, then you’re going to get not penalized, but it’s going to cost you more basically. So you need to make sure that all of that stuff is taken care of. That all of the technical stuff. They’re called core web vitals. That’s one of the metrics recently Google started paying heavy attention to, but in general user experience, what and how, what happens to users when they go to your website, and how they behave on that website? After the they go to it, after they land on it.

Christian Klepp  27:55

Okay, okay. I mean, those are, those are some great insights. And that was a great segue into the next question, which is kind of interconnected. But what do you see as the biggest challenge in paid advertising for B2B companies right now?

Dmitrii Kustov  28:11

PPC, paid advertising, again, is not the best channel, it’s just in terms of advertising,  in terms of marketing, it’s not the best channel. So the biggest challenge that I see as a agency owner, is it’s kind of difficult to explain and show the differences or get across that the reasons the paid advertising is not the best. And unfortunately, for a lot of especially bigger companies, when the commands, when the decisions are made by not marketing people, they don’t know the ins and outs. So they just say, well, I was going to spend a million dollars on paid advertising and then $2,000 on organic, which does not make any sense. So that’s the biggest challenge, a realization of importance of different marketing channels of how to spread or divide the marketing channel (budget) between those marketing channels, the marketing budget between marketing channels, and where and how to utilize all of those campaigns in the best way possible so that they work together in the most efficient way. So I would say that that’s the biggest challenge of in short, underutilizing other marketing channels or certain marketing channels.

Christian Klepp  29:56

And at the end of the day, it also needs to start with a with a strategy of some kind, right and an understanding of like, okay, so why are we doing paid advertising is…, you know, where does our target audience go to look for information? Or what are they looking for?

Dmitrii Kustov  30:13

Right, right. Yes. Yeah. In terms of just the strategy, absolutely, you have to have a strategy. Without it, nothing’s going to make sense. Whenever I talk about the strategies and kind of business growth and stuff like that, the analogy is very simple. It’s as if you were driving without a destination. The journey might be fun, but you might never get to the destination, which actually you should go to, or it’s gonna take you like 40 years, you know, he didn’t have a map of the desert. So, yeah. It’s what the strategy is basically a map. That’s, that’s all it is. And if you don’t have it in front of you, if you don’t have it, set, then you just gonna be… you’re asking for trouble.

Christian Klepp  31:13

Absolutely. Okay, so here comes the bonus question, Dmitrii.

Dmitrii Kustov  31:17

All right.

Christian Klepp  31:18

If you had… and of course, this will probably never happen. But just in case, if you had 10 times the marketing budget you have right now, what would you spend it on? And why?

Dmitrii Kustov  31:31

It’s gonna definitely depend on different businesses. But at the end of the day, the answer is actually very simple. I would invest it in the most efficient marketing channels. That’s all there is. And for each business, that channel can be and will be different. Because industries are different. Audiences are different, and so on.

Christian Klepp  31:57

Okay. All right. So, Dmitrii, thank you so much for coming on the show today. So you know, please do us the honor of introducing yourself and letting people know how they can get in touch with you.

Dmitrii Kustov  32:05

Of course, yes. So my name is Dmitrii Kustov. As it’s been said earlier, I am the founder of Regex SEO. We are located in Houston. We are a full service digital marketing agency. And if you would like to reach out to me directly, you can find me on more or less all social medias. My handle is @DigitalSpaceman. And we’re in Houston.

Christian Klepp  32:34

Like the guy in the background?

Dmitrii Kustov  32:36

Yes. You know, we’re in Houston. So NASA space. The whole idea of digital marketing is to reach new heights reach new horizons. So yeah, and digital spaceman on social medias. And you can always call us or send us a message on the website: regexseo.com.

Christian Klepp  32:56

Fantastic. Fantastic. Dmitrii, thank you so much for your time. This was such a great conversation. Um, take care, be safe, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Dmitrii Kustov  33:06

Yeah, thank you so much. It was very, very, very much fun. And in the future, I hope we’ll have this conversation again.

Christian Klepp  33:13

Absolutely. All right. Take care. Bye for now.

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. To learn more about what we do here at EINBLICK, please visit our website at www.einblick.co and be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

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