Microsoft Store: Finding the blend

Microsoft Store: Finding the blend

Striking the balance between creativity and analysis

“Our Bing Ads remarketing campaigns are more efficient than what we're using in Google, and the orders that come through have a higher average order value.” Natalie Barreda, Point It

 

During the 2016 presidential primaries, you’ve undoubtedly heard the name “Ben Carson” quite a bit. As it turns out, that famous neurosurgeon/politician isn’t the only one with a diverse and impressive career.

 

“I have had a very circuitous path,” laughs the “other” Ben Carson, looking back on the career route that would eventually make him global search engine marketing (SEM) manager of the Microsoft Store. “As an undergrad, I studied psychology and biology; I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician … I worked in rural clinics in Kenya and Tanzania, and I started a chicken farm in a leprosy colony in India.”

 

If you think that’s interesting, just wait. “Then I ditched all that and did music for awhile,” explains Carson. “I wrote and recorded my own music, licensing it to Red Bull, Lionsgate, the NFL and NBC.”

 

Some might be tempted to dust off the old mantra, “jack of all trades; master of none.” But for Carson, keeping his mind open to such random career explorations ultimately led to a passion that blends them all: paid search.

 

“I didn't want to go in one direction or the other, in terms of being extremely analytical or extremely creative — and for me, paid search and analytics is a blend of being creative while being a researcher as well,” explains Carson, who says with pride that he goes to work every day looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. “Now, I don't have to turn off either side of my brain. I have to be a creative problem solver. I have to think outside the box, but I have to be really analytical and scientific in terms of my approach.”

 

Finding that “sweet spot” between the two extremes is Carson’s specialty — and it’s why he is uniquely qualified for his job. “What I love about this role is that I get to use different natural aptitudes,” he reasons. “Microsoft gives me the ultimate opportunity, in terms of having resources to really scratch that itch, to say, ‘Hey, I've got an idea, I think it will drive revenue, here's the data that supports it, can I go test it?’ As long as you have a sound argument that's backed by data, a lot of times the answer is yes. That's what I love about paid search and applying it in this environment.”

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The remarketing plan

 

Ben Carson, global SEM manager, Microsoft Store
Ben Carson, global SEM manager, Microsoft Store

Lately, Carson has had a lot of ideas for business growth through remarketing — and Bing Ads has been providing him with the perfect backscratcher for that aforementioned itch.

 

“As a marketer, I'm fond of remarketing because it's extremely effective,” he says. “It's a tool that I use to be very successful at my job. It allows us to have a more personalized experience on the Internet.”

 

Utilizing Bing Ads’ Universal Event Tracking (UET), Ben has been working with Lisa Sanner and Natalie Barreda of Point It, a digital marketing agency in Seattle that specializes in paid search and search engine optimization.

 

“With Bing UET and remarketing, we test things in a controlled environment and see if it works,” explains Sanner, whose company boasts a diverse roster that includes not just the Microsoft Store but also Cisco and AT&T. “We’ll see if we need to tweak things, then roll it out again; it's really about proving a concept, and then rolling it out at scale.”

 

Barreda has similarly found the tools to be useful. “Rolling Bing UET out is essentially giving us the capability to do remarketing in search, which I feel like has become a staple for advertisers who've been advertising in Google for some time,” she says. “It really allows you to capture that low-hanging fruit.”

 

Point It takes pride in creating multiple “controlled environments” with its clients, and when something works, they spread it around. It’s no surprise that they’re enthusiastic about UET, a powerful tool that records what customers do on your website — then tracks conversion goals and target audiences so you have everything you need for Remarketing in Paid Search.

 

“Our Bing Ads remarketing campaigns are more efficient than what we're using in Google, and the orders that come through have a higher average order value,” says Barreda. “At this point, it's a necessity whenever you're setting up your campaigns, because if not, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.”

 

To back up that point, Barreda offers Bing Ads results that speak for themselves:

 

  • A 50 percent higher return on ad spend (ROAS) compared to Google AdWords, at 50 percent lower CPCs
  • A 5-10 percent higher average order value with Remarketing in Paid Search, with a 20 percent higher average ROAS
  • Using UET’s ability to share audiences across one client, Point It has leveraged additional audiences, doubling the amount of remarketing impressions compared to Google

The courtship

 

The way these three see it, remarketing is like asking someone out on a date. At first, the other person might show some interest — then, it’s all about making yourself as attractive as possible, choosing your words carefully and hoping for the best.

  

“It's kind of like thinking about the second and third date, versus your first date with somebody,” says Sanner. “And that's how we think about our ad copy.”

 

Carson agrees with that technique. “A lot of times, you don't even have to think about it as persuasion,” he explains. “It's more about reminding people of the stuff they've already expressed interest in.”

 

Sanner is quick to point out, however, that remarketing is a tool that needs to be approached cautiously — much like asking someone out for that second date. “There is a fine line between remarketing and stalking somebody,” she laughs. “Like ‘Hey, we know you've been to our site and here's 10 percent off because you left something in your shopping cart.’ You don't want to cross the line, definitely, with your ad copy.”

Tools of the trade

 

Asked about the one tool that he could never get through a workday without, Carson’s reply is as immediate as it is passionate. “Audience data,” he says of a key element of Bing Ads. “Bing Ads is becoming more robust within the UI in terms of segmenting and understanding audience data.”

 

“To me, when I'm answering or asking questions, that's where I start,” he expands. “I look at the user path, the journey, the different nodes that we have in terms of layering that on to be more targeted and more specific to our campaign. I would say audience data, and the shift toward insights around audience data, especially in the Bing Ads UI that is being built out and becoming more robust — that's absolutely the direction that Bing is going, and that's the tool that I use the most every day.”

The sweet spot

 

Inside Microsoft Store
Inside Microsoft Store

Using data, remarketing and other tools, Ben Carson is able to once again tap into the mindset that built his career. Rather than leaning too far in any one direction, he takes pride in finding that “sweet spot” between dating and stalking, over-analysis and educated preparedness, taking advantage of Bing’s growth while simultaneously harnessing its personalization.

 

“There's a lot of development happening with Bing; things are trending in the right direction,” he says. “What's really cool to see is Bing making up a ton of ground in terms of the UI. From what I've seen in terms of what's being developed, I think Bing is getting to the point where not only are they on parity with what Google offers in terms of the insights and the tools readily available, but they're starting to offer more that Google does not. They're starting to differentiate themselves in the market, and we're just now starting to leverage some of those tools.”

 

Carson has a rosy outlook for the future, and the new tools it will bring to help make his job easier. “The betas that they're rolling out, in terms of for instance the Image Extensions — that's a huge lever that we pull for the holidays, November through January,” he says of recent efforts. “And that's something that Google doesn't offer. For me, I love seeing the fact that they are not just trying to mimic or be on parity with Google, but they're actually doubling-down in certain areas to differentiate themselves.”

 

With all these tools at his fingertips, and such a diverse history, it seems like there’s nothing the “other” Ben Carson can’t do — so, who’s to say he won’t someday also run for president? “It’s been fun having this name lately, people do give me little jokes here and there,” he laughs. “Oh my gosh.”

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