Sam Tomlinson was nominated for a PPC profile raising by Collin Slattery in July of 2021.
How long have you been working in PPC?
I’ve been working in PPC for about ~8 years now; for the first few years it was a curiosity/side project; then about 6 years ago, I started working at an agency and PPC went from “curiosity” to “I live and breathe this every day.”
How did you get started in PPC?
My start in PPC was back in my finance/real estate days, when I was curious about how marketing worked (and where that budget was going). I would spend nights reading up on Google’s documentation, watching their videos and figuring out how the systems worked.
Then I moved to Warschawski, which was my first job where I was responsible for PPC. They gave me the freedom to figure it out and build service offerings around PPC/digital advertising/analytics, which has kept me quite busy ever since.
If you went to college, what did you study? If not college, do you have any other degrees or certifications?
I did my undergraduate at F&M – started out in biochemistry + mathematics, ended up with a philosophy and business degree after realizing I didn’t want to work in academia, I didn’t want to practice law and I really, really didn’t want to wait until I was 30 to do real work. So instead of going the traditional, full-time grad school route, I ended up getting my MBA in Finance from Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.
What was your first job that involved PPC?
Warschawski is my first job that directly involved PPC, though it was a bit….odd (theme of my life). When I arrived, the agency was just beginning to build out those services, so I ended up with the opportunity to create them from the ground up. There were plenty of lessons learned along the way, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to teach while learning for anything.
What is your current position and how long have you been in it?
My current position is Executive Vice President at Warschawski. In that role, I’m responsible for managing our digital, web and analytics teams, as well as setting overall client strategy, team member development, new business development and overall agency management with our COO and CEO.
What kinds of things do you currently handle or manage in PPC?
I manage every aspect of PPC for the agency – from helping to create processes + workflows to audits, strategy, implementation, optimization + reporting. I don’t believe in asking anyone to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself, which is why I’m still hands-on and in accounts every day.
The most common platforms I work on include:
- Google Search
- Microsoft Ads
- LinkedIn Ads
- Programmatic Display (Trade Desk, Basis, GDN)
- YouTube Ads
- TikTok Ads
- Snap Ads
- Quora Ads (h/t JD Prater for getting me into those a few years ago)
From a bigger picture, my philosophy is that you can’t be great at strategy unless you know both how the levers work and how the ecosystem operates, and in the digital space, both of those things are in a perpetual state of flux. Those changes can (and do) have a material impact on client performance + outcomes, so if I’m not actively learning and staying top of those changes, then I’m not doing the best job I can for my teams or our clients.
Has your career path had any hiccups or nontraditional aspects that you’d like to share?
One of my favorite things about working in this industry is that there aren’t many “traditional” career paths. I will say that my background in finance colors how I approach marketing in general and PPC specifically (for better or worse).
I’m a vocal proponent of investing the time to understand our clients’ businesses and operations – at the end of the day, everything we do as a marketing agency is intended to advance our client’s business, help them grow + increase their profitability. It’s rather difficult to do that if we don’t have a holistic view into the client’s business + operations.
What are you most proud of in your PPC career?
I’m most proud of the friends + relationships I’ve made along the way — working in PPC all these years has allowed me to get to know an entire community of fantastic people, speak at conferences all over the world and help hundreds of clients build fantastic businesses. Along the way, I’ve gotten to immerse myself in dozens in industries and work through a never-ending series of challenges.
While it always feels great to hear from a client that they smashed their growth goals or are now hiring ahead of schedule or are expanding their operations, I think the thing I’m most proud of is the journey.
What, if anything, do you wish you could “do over” in your PPC career?
Honestly, the biggest thing would be investing time in teaching earlier in my career.
If you could give advice to someone either considering or just starting out in PPC, what would that be?
Learn as much as you can. Be curious. Think critically. Way too many marketers that I speak with are a mile deep but a foot wide – which can be great for maxing out in niche roles, but it makes it incredibly difficult to see and master the big picture. Brilliant marketing is very much like a Swiss watch: there are a thousand tiny gears working in harmony to produce the outsized outcomes that you see. Invest in learning how the other gears operate so you can use that knowledge to help clients maximize their chances of getting the outcome they want.
That means learning more than marketing (in fact, 90% of what I read isn’t marketing-related) – it’s economics, business, finance, psychology, behavioral economics, sociology, science and literature. Become a deep generalist and you’ll be just fine.
Are you interested in speaking opportunities? If so, what topics are your jam?
Always – I’ve spoken at conferences around the globe, including SMX, HeroConf, PRSA ICON, DigiMarCon, Search Marketing Summit Australia, some SEMRush events on a variety of topics. My personal favorites are:
- Moneyball Marketing – all about how to apply the lessons of advanced statistics and value investing to marketing metrics
- Integrated Search – I’m that weird person who doesn’t like the divide between SEO + SEM, so this presentation is focused on how to build an integrated search organization centered on the needs of your users.
- Post-Conversion Marketing – I’m obsessed with what happens after the conversion – how do we nurture prospects + foster loyalty? What can (and should) marketers be doing or thinking about in order to help clients achieve their goals?
- Behavioral Economics + Marketing – how can marketers use psychology + behavioral economics to enhance campaign performance?
Those are my favorite topics, but there are plenty more on my site: https://samtomlinson.me/speaking/
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you to the entire PPC industry who are constantly helping, sharing + pushing our industry forward. I’m always available if you’d like to chat
Where can people find you to connect (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)?