July 15, 2021
Shout-out to Will Akhurst and the rest of the fantastic team at Brainlabs for taking the time to educate our team on the world of Google Shopping. They’re living their mission of being paid media innovators, and we’re glad to have benefited from their expertise.
I know what you’re thinking… Ladder is a marketing agency, Brainlabs is a marketing agency… why on earth would we pay them to teach us Google Shopping? Crazy right?
Well we do things a little differently at Ladder; we’re huge fans of radical transparency. That means admitting what we don’t know. And besides the basics of the channel, we didn’t know enough about Google Shopping.
You see, we’re a group of generalists. We work across every marketing channel for our clients, to test and learn what works for them. When we find something that works, we double down.
And it was time to double down on Google Shopping. We were suddenly working with a number of eCommerce businesses where Google Shopping was the best performing channel by far. We were running out of obvious stuff to test to scale it, and we needed to take it to the next level.
Rather than let his ego get in his way, Ladder co-founder Michael sent off an email to Dan, the founder of Brainlabs, an agency he respected.
To his credit, Dan responded by immediately connecting us with someone on his team that could help. You see, though both of our agencies think about marketing as a science, Brainlabs is at the industrial end of the scale.
They deal with clients who spend millions on marketing across tens of millions of keywords and product combinations. In comparison, our clients are small startups who want to get there one day, but for now are just tinkering away from their garage. In short, we’re not competitors.
So we bit the bullet, and took a shortcut most other agencies wouldn’t take; we admitted we didn’t know enough, and set about learning it rapidly from someone who knew more than us.
Most agencies would be scared to take this step. They’d worry it was a sign of weakness, and instead fake it till they made it. That option burns a lot of time and energy reading outdated blogs, piecing together best practices and trying to apply it to their specific situation.
Search for “Google Shopping” and you’ll find 55,400,000 different results. Narrow down the results to only show articles over the last 24 hours and you are still left with 737,000 options.
Realistically, we don’t have that kind of time on our hands. And we didn’t want to risk us getting it wrong by trying some outdated method. Many blog posts aren’t written by real practitioners – they’re usually too busy! Often it’s just a listicle compiled of regurgitated content someone else wrote that sounds good. We need to get things right the first time, and scouring articles isn’t the optimal way to do it.
Admitting you don’t know enough and asking for help, is the quickest way to learn. We owed it to our clients to get it right quickly..
So what was it like, getting trained by another agency?
Follow along as we execute our 2017 Marketing Plan!
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Brainlabs offers a host of training courses designed for “tackling any paid media obstacles you may be up against” and the course we paid for was titled “Brainlabs Shopping Training”.
In this course, taught by Brainlabs’ own Will Akhurst, we learned everything there is to know about Google Shopping (truly impressive breadth and depth of knowledge) in just a couple of hours. With our laptops open ready to takes notes, we were taken through a 50 slide presentation without any fluff; every slide was insightful and we found ourselves asking questions quite often.
(Note: this is another advantage of paying others to teach, the interactivity of the entire learning experience. The presentation was more like an in-depth conversation than a one-sided lecture.)
After nearly two hours back-and-forth, we absorbed a ton. We learned about functionality that we didn’t know existed and we discovered campaign structures that were utterly brilliant. And even better yet, after the presentation we all had an elevated expertise in Google Shopping along with a shared language to discuss the platform in greater detail.
Not only did we benefit as a collective, so did our clients. After gaining this new-found knowledge, we took what we learned and applied it to our clients’ accounts.
When discussing the presentation with fellow members of the team, one thing really stood out as being an immediately actionable insight – splitting out shopping campaigns into Product, Brand, and Generic campaigns.
There was a whole lot more that was worth investigating, but it was clear that adjusting campaign structures and adjusting bids in this fashion could have massive impact for several of our e-commerce clients. Just how massive? We’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.
After restructuring a Google Shopping account with over 3,000 products in their product catalogue we saw a jump in ROI from 328% to 545% using the logic above.
After a similar restructuring for a luxury home-goods client we saw multiple performance increases (as visible in the below screenshots). Most noticeably, restructuring the campaigns resulted in a nearly 100% increase in ecommerce conversion rate from 0.9% to 1.78%.
To better understand WHY we’d pay for something like this Brainlabs course, consider one of the most important attributes of the Ladder team: we value learning above all else (including ego!), and we share our knowledge with each other in order to succeed.
Education is important for a thriving company culture at Ladder. We take the time to put new hires through a proverbial “Hell Week”; 35 hours of classroom tuition in their first week; so that they can grasp a base understanding of everything that we do.
This is a complete team effort. With new hires moving from one workshop to the next to learn from more senior members on the team. The first two weeks at Ladder, you are expected to drink from a firehose (in a good way, I promise).
This is a tremendous strategy for ramping up learning to a sufficient level of competence, but to move closer to mastery of these concepts we need to supplement our curriculum. It’s also a great way to quickly get to know many different people in the company!
Now we know more about the topic and Google Shopping has become a part of this training, increasing the effectiveness of each new strategist we bring on board.
But how do we keep the team at the top of their game after that first week?
This is where we find value in investing in ongoing education: our ‘Ladder learning’ program.
Sometimes we host our own internal Ladder learning classes. But when we don’t have time to research sort through all the content out there, brilliant as it may be, to learn about a tool, tactic, or platform, we pay others to teach us.
And that’s just what we did with Brainlabs and Google Shopping.
Having an expert come in allows us to digest information faster, ask relevant questions, and follow up when we need more guidance.
We don’t need to worry about being served out-of-date or irrelevant material. We can focus on the content they are delivering and feel confident that what we are learning is worthwhile.
We’re paying for trust.
These experts are often specialists that spend 40+ hours a week using the skill they are teaching. We may have a solid grasp on a marketing topic, but by the nature of our work, we rarely spend 40+ hours a week in one specific area. We’re t-shaped marketers by necessity.
Learning from a trusted source like Brainlabs increases our confidence when laying out marketing strategy and tactics to clients. We can know that the tactic we are trying for the first time is worth a shot because we can based the tactic on learnings from a trusted source.
Trust alone is worth the investment, but we also see value in the enlightenment that an expert can bring to the table. To some degree, we don’t know what we don’t know. And by paying an expert to explain a complex topic, we can remove our blind-spots.
As an agency, paying others to teach us is crucial to successfully expanding the testing ideas and tactics we can implement for clients.
It allows for a certain level of quality control over the content we are learning and eventually disseminating to new hires – this is an important concept to grasp. Everything that we learn and put into practice eventually trickles down to new hires. Ensuring the quality of inputs (information) into our learning system at the top-level is critical for overall development as a team.
Imagine if senior members on the team were passing down click-baity, misinformed learnings to the rest of the team; this would be a disaster because new hires trust these individuals (and their competency).
Beyond the need for quality courses from domain experts, it helps us form a shared language – a common way to talk about topics and tactics. There’s no shortage of ways to communicate marketing concepts, and having a shared lexicon is a large value-add. It allows teammates to better communicate with each other. Whether they need to diagnose a problem, optimize a structure, or dream up new tactics having a language we can all understand is hugely helpful.
Paying others to teach you a marketing skill is not a sign of weakness, but a demonstration that you understand the value of your time, your employees’ time, and the expertise of agencies like Brainlabs and operators like Will Akhurst.
Spend time finding proper teachers and make the most out of these learning sessions. Recognize the areas where your team can improve and invest in these areas. This investment will help you maintain top-talent, stay on the forefront of marketing, and ultimately help your clients be more successful themselves.
Learning is a lifelong skill and promoting a company culture of learning will yield dividends beyond what you could have originally imagined.
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