An hourglass set down on a wood table

The Secret to Digital Marketing Success is Time

When it comes to ad campaigns, there’s no magic switch you can flip to start seeing immediate results. Instead, successful ad campaigns require time, patience, and iteration to produce quality leads.

Setting up a campaign itself has gotten easier: digital platforms have become more user-friendly over the years, although there’s still a learning curve. But before you even get to the point where you’re building out a campaign, there first needs to be some solid keyword research. This crucial step ensures:

  • You’re targeting high-traffic keywords that are also relevant to your organization 
  • Your ads are appropriately tailored to the keywords you're targeting
  • You’re campaign budget is right sized to compete for the keywords you're targeting
  • You aren’t missing any opportunities for high-value keywords you hadn't initially considered

It’s important to remember that a keyword is a factor, not the factor. There’s so much more to consider, including audience demographics, interests, and location. And all of these considerations may differ vastly based on where you’re planning to run your campaigns: Google, Bing, Meta, TikTok, and other outlets also have platform-specific nuances. 

Digital marketing, whether paid advertising or organic search efforts, is a highly iterative process. Even after research, campaign optimization is enhanced during the learning period. 

Then, We Wait: The Learning Period

Testing is a critical step, whether for a paid search campaign or email outreach. One of my digital marketing colleagues at OHO uses a great analogy: building an effective campaign starts with a bulldozer, then a chisel, and finally a toothbrush. And that fine-tuning takes time. 

During this learning period, the goal is to gather enough data to make statistically sound decisions. That often involves starting broad and narrowing the path as we learn. For example, a broad term could be “business school” vs. the more specific “part-time mba ohio.” The latter shows more intent. How long does this learning period last? Generally, here’s an idea of what to expect: 

  • First 7 to 28 Days: Let the ad(s) run
  • Month 2: Iterate based on digital ad performance 
  • Month 3: See things take shape

It’s safe to say that the three-month mark is likely when you’ll start to gather good insights that will help inform the rest of the campaign. After 90 days or so, you’ll have a better idea of where (geographically) ads are getting traction, which ad copy variations are most effective, and where you might want to shift your budget. 

Remember: The more you know about your audience, the better position you’re in at the start. Coming into a campaign with robust audience data can reduce “the waiting game.” 

Making Data-Informed Decisions & Course Corrections

It sounds simple, but you can’t make data-informed decisions without good data. 

AI and algorithms can be helpful to get started or to course correct, but a good campaign manager who can see the nuances related to a brand, audience, industry, or other aspect specific to the campaign is still essential. While there are automation tools available, manual curation is incredibly valuable – especially when it comes to tweaking ad copy based on data. 

Part of this refinement process also includes choosing which metrics you’ll focus on during the learning phase (and overall campaign). For example, cost-per-click is rarely the end-all-be-all of KPIs. Quality vs. quantity is a real consideration when measuring Google ad performance. 

Having the Right Expectations: When to Start Your Digital Campaign

Can you launch an ad campaign quickly? Yes. Should you? Probably not. 

Digital advertising platforms have become easier to use and embedded AI tools allow for quicker set-up. But just because anyone with a budget can quickly create a campaign, it doesn’t mean that campaign will be successful. 

Sometimes an organization will begin a campaign to meet a more immediate need, perhaps even as a knee-jerk reaction in a time of crisis. For example, enrollment numbers are lower than expected by a specific date. While there are strategies that can help in times like these, because of the learning period scurrying to start a paid search campaign might not yield the “fast results” a school is looking for. 

Having a solid digital marketing strategy to begin with is one way to lessen the need for last-minute scrambling. But that can be easier said than done; there’s always a chance that unforeseen factors could catch an organization by surprise. If you do find yourself needing more immediate results, it’s best to focus on audiences you’re already familiar with, perhaps even repurposing past ads. 

Patience is Good for Your Budget

When it comes to paid digital campaigns, making wiser decisions directly impacts your bottom line; moving too fast or making less-informed decisions, on the other hand, wastes precious marketing dollars (that you may have had to fight for tooth and nail). When a campaign is strategic, data-informed, and closely monitored, you will spend less and gain more — and that’s good for everyone.

The Value of an Experienced Campaign Manager

There’s a lot more to building a digital ad campaign than finding an audience and picking keywords. It also takes a deep understanding of the overall search landscape, including knowledge of the ever-changing privacy policies on key platforms and devices. 

It’s more important than ever to invest in continued professional development for digital marketing team members, such as setting aside a budget for industry certifications or conference travel. If you don’t (yet) have the qualified talent on your team, consider partnering with a digital marketing agency who can not only help you optimize your budget, but also help you discover new opportunities. 

Whether you utilize an internal individual or an external team, digital marketing success depends on having an adequately equipped campaign manager in the driver’s seat. And that success also takes a little bit of patience.  

OHO Interactive specializes in digital marketing strategy for higher education and healthcare. We’d love to talk with you about optimizing your paid and organic search campaigns to generate quality leads and boost enrollment.