August 19, 2022
Deep dive into our interview with SavvyRevenue's Founder Andrew Lolk, as we cover the best ad strategies for eCommerce businesses and how the agency found its niche to help digital native companies grow.
Entering the eCommerce space can be quite daunting for some. Once established, many take a well-deserved breath but are not quite sure what their next steps should be to maintain growth or reach the next level.
On this topic, we had the privilege to interview Andrew Lolk, Founder of digital marketing agency SavvyRevenue. In this interview, Andrew shares his story and breaks down the path he sets for his clients to achieve the advertising goals they desire.
Andrew: Pertaining to my career, the most interesting thing about me is that I'm originally from Denmark and never went to college or any higher education as part of my journey.
This was mainly due to the fact that when I finished my mandatory military service back in 2009, I jumped right into online marketing. After doing that for a few years, I realized that there was nothing I could go back and learn from university that I had not already experienced in the field.
So I decided to just keep going and creating media websites, mostly for affiliate marketing. After doing that for a while, I then started with Google Ads and played around with buying domain names.
One memorable story that really ended up changing the course of my career was when I bought around 40 domain names for affiliate marketing, and one of the owners of the domains called me and asked what I was doing with all these websites?
We ended up having a good conversation and wishing me luck. As the conversation came to a close, one piece of advice that he shared was to get out of Denmark, joking that the taxes were too high.
Six months after that conversation, I moved to Malta and started my own business. Within those first three months, I was able to furnish my apartment, which was my first company goal.
Directly following those first three months, a friend reached out and said he was starting a Google Ads agency in the US, asking if I wanted to come out and help train his team. Of course, I said yes, but what started as a one-week training trip turned into three months.
Ultimately, I became a third-party owner in an agency based in the US and Nicaragua with over 150 employees.
After living and working in Nicaragua for 6 years, where I met my wife and had my two children, I eventually sold out in 2017, moved back to the States, and ended up starting a new agency all over again - just differently.
Andrew: At the last agency, we would do everything for everyone, primarily Google Ads, but also SEO, online marketing, and website building. After that experience, I knew how hard it was doing marketing for everyone so I focused when I had the opportunity to start something new.
SavvyRevenue was created out of this hyper focus, we had one type of business that we wanted to specialize in and master. That was Google Ads, for established eCommerce businesses.
The idea was to do one thing first class and that was create the best ad strategies in eCommerce, without spreading ourselves too thin – and we knew the clients would come.
Andrew: Part of the push that led to creating SavvyRevenue was that I did not want to go back into the advertising world meaning I did not want to feel the tension you often get between clients and the agency. Because of our choice to specialize and focus, that tension has fallen away and we have a very good relationship with our clients.
Everything we do is product-focused.
A driving factor to this balance in our relationships is that everything we do is product-focused. We let our abilities speak for themselves, we don't have salespeople, and we don't have a CEO or managers from outside the industry.
Everyone in the company is knowledgeable in eCommerce and knows the pains many digitally-native brands face. Simply put, we enable clients to make informed decisions and achieve better results.
Andrew: It would have to be from early on when we were first starting to grow. But before we jump into the story, I want to say for context, that I had been used to running and working in larger agencies.
Ok, now time for the story. When we started out with SavvyRevenue, it was just me and co-founder Filip Lindblom. So I wanted to get up and running, and we hired four people in the course of a few months in Q4.
I knew that as you grow, some things get easier and some get harder. But since our target market was eCommerce, in hindsight, Q4 was not the optimal time to be onboarding, with Black Friday, the holidays, and January sales.
It worked out in the end but it was very difficult to onboard our new people because:
The lesson learned is not to hire during busy periods for your business unless you have the resources to allocate to them. I had to remind myself in different situations that we were not a hundred-person company anymore and make decisions accordingly.
Andrew: The hardest thing for many advertisers has been figuring out not only what is performing well but also what has been performing poorly.
In many industries, online advertising has been doing great due to the circumstances. We've all seen positive numbers, but now reality is setting in and a lot of businesses have been shutting down or struggling as things shift around.
Some companies have been able to ride the wave and keep the momentum going. These companies are the ones that have added more products to diversify their offerings and were not COVID-dependent products.
A good example is apparel; it’s doing really well right now but was not performing during COVID.
The ones we have seen with the most success are the ones who went back to business basics instead of just pushing into outdoor goods because it was popular over the past few months as an example.
Andrew: I would say It's not really a tool; we work with a lot of mid-level eCommerce businesses. We do not normally work with the giants in the industry and we do not handle the Mom and Pop shops. We work with purely digital eCommerce businesses.
The most crucial tool we find in this category of clients is tracking their performance.
The most crucial tool we find in this category of clients is tracking their performance. We need to track everything that they do, but once they reach a certain level of scale, this gets very difficult manually. Think about tracking, Facebook, YouTube, Google, SEO, and the website along with affiliate ads running; they are all measuring different things, a different attribution.
When you get to this point, you don't know what’s contributing to what or where success is coming from especially with European privacy protection laws such as cookie consent and GDPR.
We also know now that metrics such as email open rates were not giving us the best indication of performance. So performance reporting and knowing where that performance is coming from is key.
Performance reporting and knowing where that performance is coming from is key
Having a strategy and an opinion on what you do with attribution can really help. It doesn't have to be technical, you just need to really choose what to measure across the board so that you can compare performance.
Just knowing we are tracking this from this marketing channel and knowing what the outcome is, helps in making informed decisions and tracking success.
Andrew: Start with just being a good eCommerce business, building on your product base, having good logistics, and selling products on margins you can profit on.
Once you get past the business basics, my number one piece of advice is to invest in a consistent conversion rate optimization program running at all times.
Just investing a little bit of your marketing budget into conversion rate optimization can have a huge impact on your performance.
Conversion optimization is constantly testing and improving everything on your website; this could be visibility, usability, making the website convert better, optimizing images, and even just better reviews.
To implement this, all you need to do is change your mentality. Many marketers will happily spend a million on advertising, but nothing on analyzing in detail the impact of that spend with conversion rate optimization. This will put you ahead of the game if implemented correctly.
Andrew: The fluffy part is we try to go in and define what the issues are for our clients. From an online marketing perspective, it's about finding and highlighting segments of a product catalog or inventory that are over and underperforming.
Let's say you have 10,000 items; finding the 20% of products that are performing and converting the best is the key. You need to make sure your top performers show first and are prioritized.
We never let our clients show their products evenly and leave it to chance to get those clicks. Segmentations and prioritization are key and actually work great with the shift to automation.
Andrew: The biggest issue in my experience is attribution. We see it so often that businesses do not know what is coming from where. This is essential data needed to make informed decisions on strategy.
Consistent conversion rate optimization is key.
This goes back to the previous answer where I think consistent conversion rate optimization is key.
But this is a very tough issue to solve and we’re not the magic bullet that solves all their problems with one simple solution. It takes constant monitoring and adjusting to find the sweet spot.
Andrew: Understanding your business model and what marketing channels work for that business model is imperative.
There are two main methods you can implement. One is push marketing (traditional marketing) in which you try and push your message to your audience – think radio, TV, and billboards.
The second one is pull marketing (attracting people that show an interest in your product or have intent to buy). This can be targeting people on Google or even people walking into a mall. By their behavior, you know they have an intent to buy.
Do not just chase whatever tactic or strategy you hear from across the room.
There's an inherent desire for marketers to use both push and pull marketing methods thinking that they will increase results if they just use more channels. This is mainly because businesses see the success of others and think that if they copy their strategy, they will see similar results.
But you have to keep in mind what method fits your offerings. In eCommerce, if you have a pull product strategy, you have a lot of different products that you use to pull people into your store. Think Nike shoes; a lot of people want Nike shoes and a lot of businesses offer Nike shoes.
Don't just chase whatever tactic or strategy you hear from across the room and make sure you choose channels and strategies that work for your offerings and resonate with your target audience.
If you have a push business, you have something unique that you need to make people aware of for them to find you. You must have a good overall packaging of the experience. The same marketing strategy will not work for both types of products.
If you're a pull company, you don't have to be that creative; everyone sells Nike shoes, and even if you have an amazing ad and creative for that product, it's still only 1 out of your 10,000 items and you cannot give everything your attention.
That is why you need to focus on your conversion (logistics), building out a flywheel that you do things that make your business better.
If you have a push business, you have to be really good at the creative, the experience, and overall upselling of your products.
Andrew: This is a double-edged sword. The overall idea of automation is both the best and worst innovation that has happened to online advertising.
Let's take a Google campaign as an example. You can create a campaign that will do well without much effort. It will perform well enough for their business and because the automation is doing something for them, many feel that this is all they need to do.
I refer to this as (the pasta on the wall effect) where you just throw all your products into the automation algorithms and whatever does well will stick.
But what if half your products fall off the wall? Is this a good or bad thing? Considerable parts of your business may no longer be advertised and you need to find out what is stopping them from performing well.
Automation tells you they are not profitable or that they are performing well, but why? This is not where you should stop. This is the baseline of where you should begin in regards to optimizing your performance.
Don’t accept poor performance – automation is not smarter than you are – it’s only the baseline of what can be achieved.
Andrew: In general, I think that it's going to get harder before it gets easier, and maybe that's vague, but I’m referring to data and data protection.
How are we going to make up for data disappearing as marketers? It's getting harder and harder for the little guys and there are a lot of things right now skewing towards the big players: they have more data, more resources, and more access to data.
Marketers are going to have to learn how to optimize other parts of their advertising funnel to make up for this lack of targeting.
Marketers are going to have to learn how to optimize other parts of their advertising funnel to make up for this lack of targeting. I honestly don’t know what the future holds, but advertising strategies are going to have to adapt as the rights of individuals and data access will change.
Andrew: Too many people don’t look at marketing from the right angle. There is a barrier to entry for each platform/channel, but once you learn how the platform works either via an agency, freelancer, or in-house, you still have to tie it into your business.
If you are then still having issues with your marketing goals, you have to find the source.
And this is usually not a problem with the chosen marketing channels, but something in your business model that needs to be fixed, such as the push or pull strategies.
Don’t give up if things get tough; there are always avenues to pursue and eCommerce is everchanging, so don’t be afraid to try something new.
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