Should MSPs Be Paying An Ad Agency or Freelancer To Manage Their Ad Spend?

As someone who has spent thousands of hours in the Google Ads platform in the earlier part of my career, I saw first-hand the effect that ongoing optimization could make when it came to campaign results. My clients at the time wanted to leverage this exciting new advertising opportunity that Google had to offer (called Adwords back then) but they had no idea where to begin.

I found myself taking over these fledgling accounts, pouring over the keywords, bidding strategies, and ad copy to turn them into expertly crafted lead generation machines. I was hyper-focused on this one platform, which became a stepping stone into the IT industry and eventually where I am today.

With all this being said, you would think that I would be the first person to tell you that you need an expert to manage your self-serve PPC accounts (whether it is Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn). On the contrary, I don’t believe this is true 100% of the time. I have witnessed first hand MSPs managing their own PPC accounts and with a little time and dedication they have been doing just fine.

One thing that is driving the do-it-yourself trend forward these days is that the platforms themselves are getting smarter. Their learning algorithms are able to automate the optimization and produce results in weeks that used to require months of human optimization. That being said, there is no “feel” for these type of campaigns. They essentially run themselves and sometimes they run straight into the ground.

What I have ultimately realized is that there reason there is no hard and fast rule in this case is because no two MSPs are alike when it comes to their use of the platforms and the role that it plays in their overall strategy. Positive results were more a product of their overall strategy than their obsessive optimization on a campaign.

I recently caught up with fellow MSP Marketer, Paul Green of MSP Marketing Edge to find out how he recommends his clients approach PPC marketing and how it fits in to the overall big picture of how they grow their businesses. Here is what he had to say:

Since both Paul and I both agree that the decision to outsource this function is made entirely on a case-by-case basis, I thought it would be helpful to describe a few of these scenarios that I have noticed to be common. Here a few situations that I have come across that I have led me to recommend one direction versus the other:

When Hiring An Expert May Make Sense

You Don’t Have Time To Learn The Platform

If you have a paid advertising strategy in place but simply don’t have the time to execute, then it will definitely make sense to hire a freelancer or agency to manage the accounts. Being realistic about your time is actually a strength that will lead to faster decision making. This is far more efficient than telling yourself that you will do it and then never getting around to it, leaving it ultimately undone or unmanaged.

You may be tempted to instead push this off to an internal employee such as an administrative assistant or help desk engineer. Don’t do it. These are pay-to-play platforms which means these employees will be learning on your dime. The amount of time that it will take them to become as efficient as an expert is far more expensive that hiring someone that already knows what to do.

You Have A Sizeable Budget To Invest

If you are going to invest a modest amount (over $1,000 per month for example) in paid ads across all platforms I would recommend hiring someone to manage them for you. At this point, the management fees that you will pay will likely be recouped based on the improved performance of the campaign. The fees will also make up a smaller percentage of the overall cost, since most providers adjust the fees based on a scale.

In this situation, your risk is far greater when you are doing it yourself. You could very well spend your entire budget and get nothing for it, which means the larger your budget, the larger your losses. To put this into perspective, you may make a $10 dollar bet on a basketball game without knowing much about the teams that are playing. However, if you were going to bet $1000, you would be sure to take the time to research the teams, know the statistics, and listen to an expert’s opinion.

You Can Afford To Wait For Results

If you have the ability to make a long-term investment into the growth of your business, then hiring an expert is the clear and obvious choice. In this case, you are likely looking to see a return over 12-24 month period and you will have given the proper amount of time for your “expert” to prove their value.

It used to be that you could get a campaign so well optimized that it goes into “maintenance mode” and the person or team managing it has to do very little in order to produce consistent results. I have found that this is no longer possible with today’s platforms, as the performance often swings in both directions quite frequently. This is one of the primary reasons that this investment needs to be evaluated over a long period of time and not in short windows.

When Doing It Yourself May Makes Sense

Your “Managed” Campaigns Aren’t Working

I wrote earlier in this piece about the “gamble” of doing it yourself and how the higher your financial risk, the more willing you should be to consult someone that knows better. On the other hand, if you continued to lose every bet you made (even though you were getting advice from an expert) then the advice you are getting is not doing you much good and you may even be better off without it.

Similar situations occur in marketing as MSPs hire a local firm or individual to manage their campaigns but still yield no results. In this case, I would recommend taking back control of your account and getting a second opinion. From here you can decide if you want to try to learn the ins and outs of the platform yourself to bring the campaign back to life or if you would rather just find a new expert to pass it off to.

Most Of Your Budget Is Going To Fees

When I started my PPC management business, it didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t help everyone. Many businesses that were interested in my services simply were not willing to spend enough money for it to be worth my time. For example, if they only wanted to spend $500 per month and I was charging a 25% fee, then I would be invoicing them only $125 per month for what is essentially hours of work creating and optimizing campaigns.

Some PPC providers will take on these low-budget customers but charge 50-100% fees to make it worth their while. If this is what you are paying, then a substantial portion of your budget is going toward management and not the actual clicks themselves. In this case, it may be best to transition to a do-it-yourself strategy, since at least then your entire investment will go toward the traffic that you are ultimately trying to produce. Even if you achieve only half the conversion rate that your expert otherwise would have, you still would have wound up with the same result.

You Want To Experiment At Your Own Pace

Marketing is all about experimentation. You come up with ideas, test them out, and then perform constant pivots until you find a way to make them work. I am all for MSPs taking a few hundred dollars and putting it into new platforms or ads that they have never used before. Not only will this help them discover high growth opportunities but it will also keep them engaged in this side of their business rather than farming it out and hoping for the best.

On the other hand, it is important to understand that each individual experiment has to eventually end. You need to eventually form a hypothesis on whether or not your experiment worked and if so, how will you continue executing going forward. I also would not assume that if it didn’t work out the first time that it never will. It could be possible that something was overlooked in the campaign development that could have made a significant difference in the outcome. Overall, throwing around a few dollars “boosting a post” that you are proud of is just fine, as long as you have realistic expectations regarding the results.