Optimising Ad Spend: Sarah Baugh's Strategies for Minimising Wastage

Category: Digital Marketing
by Bobby Taylor Published on
GOA 10 in 10

Welcome back to our "10 in 10" series of content, where we do a quick-fire interview of a senior marketing leader to understand their perspectives on the latest trends and developments in the marketing arena. We aim to share an invaluable insight into how the very best in their field are finding success from digital and paid marketing, all in a quick sub-10 minute snackable read.

Second in the series is Sarah Baugh, who is Head of Marketing for Professional Security!

1. Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about what you do in the digital world?

My name is Sarah Baugh and I’m currently the head of Marketing at Professional Security. I started off studying Business Management and Marketing at Leeds Trinity University, and was lucky enough to land a job in Marketing straight out of university! My role was within an IT, cyber and network infrastructure company, based in Leeds. It was during this role I helped build the brand and initial launch of an app designed to automate property management processes. I then moved on to take up my current role at Professional Security.

The company is currently on an exciting growth path - having acquired two businesses in the last couple of years. We aren't siloed in our focus as a business and account a significant proportion of our success to date to the efforts of our marketing strategies. We have a hospitality division where we are the number one supplier of door supervision services to the hospitality industry in the UK, as well as an established guarding division. Our connected and transformative security solutions are driving higher standards across multiple sectors including retail, transport, events and local government.

2. What would you say is the biggest challenge currently faced by digital marketers?

For me, one of the biggest challenges lies within the security industry itself and the stigmas that are still associated with it. There is a lot of work to be done in increasing the number of women in security jobs - which we are currently campaigning to improve through our Women Winning in Security initiative. Currently, only 10% of SIA licence holders are women! So for me, a large focus has been on trying to increase the number of women working in security - as well as helping reframe the narrative on the security sector more broadly.

Most of this work is centralised in our social media activity as a brand - making sure we produce captivating content which profiles some of the amazing, strong, female leadership across different verticals within the sector. We’ve also partnered with some great companies who champion women and we are hot on sponsoring key events and awards championing women in security focused roles. Internally, we are constantly finding ways to shout out our amazing female colleagues and have created a female frontline forum.

3. What makes a good digital ad? How do you craft compelling ad content that drives engagement and conversions?

For me, good ad copy is all about making sure you are actually including real life stories - or rather making copy personable and relatable to your target audience. A lot of times, in previous campaigns I’ve worked on, when we’ve focused purely on stats and data, we don't get cut through with our audience. However, as soon as we throw in some real life content - such as a profile of one of our female door security staff - we see the likes and shares roll in, and see genuine engagement with the post. This engagement is only amplified further if the content we are putting out is a video or has strong supporting imagery. Basically, you have to create content that's going to stop a reader or viewer from scrolling and pause on your content.

4. In your time working in the digital marketing space, what top tips have you picked up along the way, to help you do your job more efficiently?

Consistency is such an important factor when it comes to working in marketing. I've done it personally in the past, especially in my previous job, where you work on a really great campaign, you get some really good engagement, and then you kind of think, well, what next? Usually, at this stage, you’re in danger of a campaign losing momentum so much that you can't really pick it up again because the engagement is gone. With this in mind, I think if you're creating any media or social media campaign, you should make sure that there's a consistent plan for that year that you can keep up to date with. If you plan it in advance, it saves time - such as scheduling a series of pre drafted social posts at least a week in advance. Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail!

Alongside this, making sure you've done your research on what has worked well and what hasn't worked well in previous campaigns is imperative. I’ve had to push back against senior leadership at times because they want to activate a campaign on the basis that it looks good - whereas in reality, when you look historically at similar campaigns, the results have been lacklustre to say the least.

This is where you also have to have a knowledge of what your competitors have done - to make sure your content is not only authentic, but that the subject matter isn't just a regurgitation of existing content published by your competitors.

Finally, make sure you differentiate between engagement and impressions. Personally, I always look at complete engagement as a measurement of success - so looking beyond simply as how many times content has been viewed and instead focusing more on the level of engagement with a post - so how many likes, comments and shares has the copy received as well.

5. What are some common mistakes you've observed in digital paid advertising, and how do you avoid them?

I think the most common mistake that I've seen time and time again online is companies not engaging in some level of ‘back and forth’ with people commenting on their social posts. They spend so much time and energy - and money - creating these amazing digital campaigns or ads and they publish them on their channels and start to get great engagement - and on their side it's just radio silence or they come back with generic responses.

I find this a lot with the social value side of things. With ESG becoming a leading theme online and amongst businesses - posting about charity work and environmental activity they are engaged in to support net zero - you can see through posts that you can just tell are ‘tick box’ exercises. These can't just sit as standalone posts and there needs to be a continuation of the topic throughout your social channels - almost like building a story with your online audience.

This feeds into a wider mistake I see made by businesses, which is only responding to the good engagement online and simply failing to acknowledge anything negative. If someone is saying online that your company has done something wrong or that they are having an issue with your business, you should be replying to posts - even if it's just to refer them to customer services. Just ignoring a post, to me, just makes the company look like they're just ignoring the issues. So, I try my best to always make an effort - where appropriate - to respond to engagement online, even if it's negative.

6. What is your approach to ad spend wastage? What do you look for in terms of campaigns

It was never a strategy I would have considered in the past, but when working previously with a digital marketing agency, they suggested A/B Testing. We tested different ad creatives, headlines and targeting options to determine what was going to resonate best with our audience, and then continued to optimise campaigns based on the test results to improve performance and ultimately, minimise the wastage.

I think budget allocation is also really important – allocating your ad budget strategically across campaigns based on performance. It is not a case of allocating a budget and leaving a campaign to run, it’s about consistently monitoring and prioritising the campaigns that are delivering results and scaling back on those that are underperforming.

7. AI - What are the risks, challenges and opportunities for marketers, particularly in the digital space?

I think AI is incredible and it can really transform the way that we do marketing. However, I think we're currently in a position where its uses are limited, especially when you’re seeking to create engaging and tailored content for your audience. Current technology lacks the ability to capture tone of voice and generate really personable content.

Once this hurdle is overcome, I think AI could be amazing and save professionals a lot of time - but you have to ensure you aren't losing the integrity of your brand and its core values, through funnelling copy through machine learning - which fails to capture the nuances of human interaction.

8. How do you address challenges such as ad fatigue and audience saturation in long-running PPC campaigns?

Every two weeks, I review every single campaign I am are running and if I feel at all that an aspect of the campaign is failing to deliver results, I will change it. We won't ever just say, why don't we let it run for another two weeks and see if it picks up. If it's not picking up, there's a reason for it and we need to implement change or a new approach.

There's never been a time where I've said, right, scrap the ad completely and redo it. But we've always looked at ways we can tweak it, whether that's the message itself, or whether we make something more personal in terms of the imagery we are using. But it's always best to make a slight tweak on one particular aspect of a campaign, because you can then track performance on a more granular level.

It’s also important to check you’re using the right channels to host the right content. Half of the marketing that we do is B2B - which we’ve covered so far - but the other half is very much recruitment. We have to recruit our staff to work for us, and given that the security industry is extremely competitive and there's so many different demographics and driving points behind people interested in working in security, we really need to put out content that makes them want to work for us above a vast list of competitors. For some of our audience, they look to Facebook for work - but for others they want to reach out through Instagram or X. So each channel requires a different approach.

9. How do you integrate Pay Per Click and paid digital campaigns with other digital marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing, and SEO, to create a cohesive marketing strategy?

I would always say that consistent messaging across all of your channels is so important, but that isn’t really the case for our strategy at Professional Security. Our target audience is very different on our different channels – LinkedIn is very current and prospect client focused and Facebook/Instagram are more focused on recruiting new frontline personnel and retaining our current teams through engaging content on culture and relevant business updates. This means although the subject focus remains the same, we always have to change the message to ensure we optimise engagement on all platforms.

I would also say implementing remarketing and retargeting campaigns across multiple channels to re-engage with people who have previously interacted with content is a great way to ensure your strategy is cohesive. An example I have done in the past is retargeting our website visitors with display ads on social media platforms - this worked really well!

10. What metrics do you prioritise when measuring the success of your paid digital marketing campaigns, and how do you analyse the data to optimise performance?

Well, I think all of us in the digital marketing world know that Return on Ad Spend is one of the key indicators of measuring the success of paid campaigns. Measuring the revenue generated for every penny spent on the campaign… also the key indicator that everyone else in the business is interested in!

As mentioned though earlier on in this interview, actual engagement is one of the most important aspects to me. Tracking engagement such as likes, shares and comments to gauge our audience interaction is what I will always analyse to enhance our campaign performance.