Digital marketing · Marketing campaigns

Looking for recommendations on online marketing management software


December 14th, 2013

Hi everyone,

We're about to launch our first product in January, and I'm considering either a) working with an online marketing firm to manage our paid campaigns (i.e., AdWords, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bing) or b) learning how to do so myself. Obvious the latter would be cheaper, but I'm starting from almost 0 knowledge about it, and worry that we're in a very season product cycle (Jan - Apr), so don't want to waste the ramp up time.

So question for the group is:
1. Thoughts on going with a marketing firm vs learning to manage the campaigns yourself, when you have a season business with fixed open and close dates?
2a. If you recommend working with a marketing firm, how much should the spend for those services be (excluding budget for ad spend, so just referring to fees)
2b. If you recommend do-it-yourself option, which management software would you recommend? Is there a catch all across the paid platforms I mentioned above, or do I need a separate one for each? I found this list of all of them, but even this is tough to filter, so any help on best experiences would be greatly appreciated:

Thanks everyone!
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December 14th, 2013

Hi Aasim,

I agree with Tim that on a small budget, you're not going to get enough bang for your buck by hiring a firm that charges either a percentage of ad spend or a fixed monthly fee (you probably can't justify the latter expense).

That said, SEM is a non-trivial task (in terms of time and expertise needed), so you would greatly benefit from having access to someone with a lot of experience who focuses on this area.

Rather than hiring a firm, I'd recommend that you check out hiring an individual consultant who charges a reasonable hourly rate and comes well recommended.  I've worked with John McLellan ( at two previous companies and been very pleased with the results and the price.   He did a good job managing our campaigns and also got us into display advertising and remarketing, each of which were more fruitful than our text-based search marketing spend.

There are a lot of individual consultants out there who do SEM, so if you choose to go that route, make sure that you get a couple of good references.

Tim Kilroy Analytics - LTV - Boosting Profits - Digital Marketing

December 14th, 2013

Hey Aasim- So much of this depends on who you are.
First, marketing software can be more difficult to use that the native interfaces of Google and Bing. So, try it natively. With regard to hiring professional help or not, it is really good to understand how much you are going to spend. With most agencies, they take 10-15% of what you spend. And if you are spending $4K, you get $400 worth of effort (in other words, not much). If you have a small budget (under $5K/mo), test and learn yourself. If you have a bigger budget and need to move fast, then hiring outside help in probably your best bet. We handle acquisition campaigns for retailers and would be happy to help you find the right fit between tools, skills and external help.


Alex Murray

December 18th, 2013

Typical agencies charge roughly 10% of the marketing spend you run, with a possible startup fee. In general, I've found that most agencies aren't very good and most deal with small accounts. I would recommend either finding someone with a diverse online marketing background, or going the "do it yourself" approach. If you do it yourself, I would read up about Adwords in Google's online literature. You can also lean on your account rep quite a bit. As for mgmt software, start with Adwords editor on your desktop. If things really take off, you can explore Marin or Kenshoo. Good luck! Alex

David Rauschenbach

December 22nd, 2013

Here's an answer for if your product is a software app or service.

I've been reading fresh material about this. From what I can tell, the general consensus nowadays is that the customer discovery process cannot be outsourced. The modern thinking is that the A/B testing has to be developed in your software, and coupled with weekly campaigns and pivots in both product and ad copy. And the software development of all that is as equally important as the product offering itself. A/B is an architectural facet nowadays, and not a bolt-on like in the early days. Founders are the only ones qualified to iterate on dialing in the value prop, and they'll be doing it on a full-time basis for as long as they're in business. The world didn't work that way even just 15 years ago, back when you burned money and built your product, before iterating in the process of customer discovery.

This doesn't apply to widgets though (and I assume you're not if you're on this website). If you're a flower shop or traditional SMB, marketers can obviously do a great job of optimizing your ad copy to help you compete for existing and well-quantified market segments, also even borrowing ad copy from competitors, using services like SpyFu to quantify ad copy results from historical data, by competitor website, and by segment and location. And those marketers already run one of the comprehensive software packages, and can plug you right into that.