“Bing Ads basically enables us to target the entirety of the Australian search landscape.” — Group manager of media products Cam Pegg, Sensis
Over the last 10 years, Cam Pegg has worked with some of the biggest digital brands in Australia. Today, a lot of his clients fix toilets.
The change was welcome — in fact, he pursued it. Pegg is the group manager of media products at Sensis, a marketing services company that works predominantly with small and medium-sized businesses, including retailers of home and garden equipment, auto repair companies and, yes: plumbers. It’s also Australia’s largest publisher of print directories, such as the Yellow Pages and White Pages. Sensis has more than 200,000 digital and print customers, about 8,500 of whom pay for its media products and services, which include search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO) and social advertising.
“The Sensis opportunity came up, and it seemed like a really interesting challenge to me,” Pegg says of joining the company in December 2014. “My work to this point has been primarily on big brands with large budgets, big campaigns, lots of stuff going on.”
While big companies with large budgets are often the focus of agencies and other marketers, they hardly represent the country’s business landscape; the Australian government reports that small businesses account for 97 percent of Australian businesses across all industries.1
Sensis itself may be big, but like most companies in Australia, its clients are not. “That’s probably the thing I really enjoy most,” says Pegg. “How can we help small businesses to compete against companies that are much bigger and have more resources?”
To answer that question, Pegg first needed to understand the challenges of running a small business. “Our customers are good at doing their thing; they’re good at being plumbers or bookkeepers or florists,” says Pegg. “They don’t necessarily have the time … to really optimize their campaigns and get the most out of them.”
The “campaigns” to which Pegg refers are search engine marketing campaigns. Sensis is an SEM reseller, meaning it has partnered with both Google AdWords and Bing Ads to offer its customers the best of both worlds: a media product it calls “Sensis Search Ads.” When businesses buy Sensis Search Ads, Sensis brings those customers reinforcements in the form of “Campaign Managers,” who are SEM experts who set up and optimize businesses’ campaigns. Explains Pegg, “Our message to our customers is, ‘We’ll deal with all of the complexity of working out where the best place to put your ad is.’”
Where is the best place? To answer that question, Sensis relies on a company that uses algorithms designed by a rocket scientist. Acquisio is a comprehensive performance marketing solution that allows resellers, marketing agencies and other businesses to analyze campaigns’ performance, clone ads and manage budgets for thousands of accounts from both Google AdWords and Bing Ads. Some of its optimization tools, such as its unique bid and budget management (BBM) solution, are even automatic.
Others of its tools are standard search advertising features offered across AdWords and Bing Ads. Call Extensions, for example, allow businesses to display phone numbers directly in their search ads, letting customers either click to call or dial the number in the ad. Pegg calls Call Extensions “one of the key features” Sensis uses with its small-business customers. That’s not surprising, as using Call Extensions with Bing Ads generates 3 to 6 percent more clicks, on average.2
Technology as advanced as Acquisio’s comes at a price — one that a company as big as Sensis can afford, but its customers cannot. “We can create the economies of scale that are needed to offer access to platforms like that to small businesses,” says Pegg.
Part of Pegg’s job is to determine whether or not the technology actually works. He explains, “We’re trying to address that challenge of ‘How do we take platforms and services that have worked really well for really big brands that have big budgets and turn that into something that will deliver similar sorts of uplift for small businesses?’”
There’s only one way to know for sure. Acquisio analyzed data on Sensis’ customers “in aggregate” — all approximately 8,500 of them — after Sensis started using the platform a little less than two years ago. Acquisio had something to prove; Sensis abandoned its last platform due to a number of challenges, chief of which was underspending.
The change is striking. Using Acquisio’s bid and budget management (BBM) solution, Sensis increased spending on struggling accounts — accounts spending 50.6 percent of their budgets, on average — to an average of 85.2 percent.
In its data analysis, Acquisio credits more than just itself for Sensis’ success. That’s because when Sensis turned to Acquisio, it also turned to Bing Ads.
In the roughly two years since it started using Acquisio, Sensis has displayed its customers’ search ads across Google AdWords and Bing Ads. Pegg takes care not to play favorites. “We position ourselves as being ‘platform agnostic,’” he says. “We don’t prefer Bing over Google or vice versa; we just say to our customers, ‘We will give you the best performance for your ad spend.’”
So when its clients’ costs per click (CPC) decreased by 16 percent after it added Bing Ads, Sensis kept its promise and acted on the good news. All accounts running on AdWords now run on Bing Ads as well, and Sensis now allocates a generous percentage of its accounts’ initial budgets to Bing Ads. “Obviously, if we can get the clicks for the lower cost, we will do so,” says Pegg.
They often can. According to Acquisio’s analysis, Bing Ads helped Sensis:
- Increase clients’ clicks across all channels (Bing Ads and Google AdWords) by 18 percent.
- Reduce the average CPC across all channels by 16 percent.
“We’ve found that with Bing Ads, we are driving a better bang for our buck,” Pegg says. Indeed, Acquisio found that clients’ CPCs are 40 percent lower with Bing Ads than with AdWords. Pegg explains that the difference is due to Google’s high search volume in Australia. “We’re finding that particularly on AdWords — because that’s the market dynamic here in Australia — the marketplace is becoming very competitive, so that obviously drives up the prices there,” he says. In such a marketplace, Bing Ads helps small businesses find additional clicks at a lower spend.
“We’ve found that with Bing Ads, we are driving a better bang for our buck.”
- Group manager of media products Cam Pegg, Sensis
Bing Ads has an added impact on some of Sensis’ smallest customers: neighborhood businesses that may also operate in niche industries “such as air conditioning or food delivery trucks operating in a very small area outside of Melbourne,” says Pegg. “Regardless of how small the budget is, it can be quite hard,” Pegg explains, “because the volume of searches for those services is just not there.” But because Pegg observes very little overlap between Google searchers and Bing searchers, Bing Ads can give these businesses the missing pieces of their already-small audiences. “It basically enables us to target the entirety of the Australian search landscape.”
It’s a landscape — and an industry — that’s growing rapidly, says Pegg. “There’s a lot of activity going on in this space,” Pegg says of the SEM industry. “The level of change makes it a really exciting area to work in.” Pegg says there’s rarely a dull moment. “I can’t come to work and point to a typical kind of day because there’s so much change in the industry,” he explains. “The depth and breadth of the client base that I have here makes it an incredibly dynamic environment. I don’t do the same thing day-in, day-out, which I love.”
One thing stays the same at Sensis: its partnership with Bing Ads. “We want to see how far we can ramp up our spend on Bing Ads while continuing to perform well,” Pegg says. If Acquisio’s data is any indication, they’re on the right path.
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1. “Small Business Data Card,” Treasury of the Australian Government. December 2014. http://www.treasury.gov.au/PublicationsAndMedia/Publications/2012/sml-bus-data
2. Internal Microsoft Data, July 2015.