Job guides

How to get an entry-level Performance Marketing job?

Role Basics: What is Performance Marketing?

Performance marketing is quantitative and analytical, typically using paid ads to acquire customers or users. 

Flavors of Performance Marketing roles: 

Most often, “performance marketing” means paid acquisition — focused on google ads, Facebook, or dozens of other ad channels that lead directly to conversion (the “performance”). But in some teams, the difference between performance marketing and growth marketing can blur — so long as the results can easily be measured and systematically improved, work could be given to a performance marketer.

Example projects in Performance Marketing:

  • Develop an ad campaign in Google, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, or others to acquire customers for less than your target customer acquisition cost (CAC). 
  • Create a simple retargeting campaign with Facebook ads advertising to people who’ve visited your site before. 
  • Recruit and manage a digital advertising agency aimed at acquiring customers for below a target CAC.
  • Work with Product Marketing to plan and execute a paid acquisition campaign, to implement alongside an upcoming feature launch. 
  • Develop a paid search campaign using Google Ads targeting people who search for your competitors, getting them to try your product instead. 

Common activities in Performance Marketing:

  • Data analysis. Use google analytics or your data dashboard to identify which users are most likely to sign up and buy your product: What sites refer them? How many times do they visit before purchasing? What actions do they take on your site before buying or signing up for a trial? Based on this information, what are ways you could reach them through advertising? 
  • Keyword research. Use google search console to see what search terms people use to reach your site, google analytics to see which terms lead to the most conversions, and then use google keyword planner and other tools to explore similar terms people might use when searching with high intent. Create a list of potential terms that have high search volume but low to moderate competition, to try as the basis for search ads. 
  • Prototyping ads and landing pages. Sometimes you’ll be given a landing page and asked to acquire leads or users, but other times (typically in smaller teams or exploratory projects) you’ll be responsible for designing the landing page along with the ad campaign. This involves focusing on a particular persona, what they want or need, and creating ad and landing page copy and creative designed to motivate or entice them to sign up. To implement a campaign, you need to figure out how you’re going to target this persona, what the ads will consist of, what the landing page(s) will be, and what variations or experiments you will run within the campaign.
  • Managing contractors. In larger companies with bigger budgets, you’ll be responsible for working with agencies. This can involve drafting requests for proposals, interviewing potential agencies, evaluating proposals, and then setting and managing expectations. You’ll also provide them with guidance on whom to target, what results matter, and review data to understand how they’re working and whether they’re accomplishing what you need.
  • Campaign review and revision. Once campaigns are running, you’ll constantly monitor their results — which ads, targeting approaches, and other experimental variants are working the best? Which are failing? You can decrease some budgets, increase others, and test out new approaches to targeting and ad creative. 

Performance Marketing metrics:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). This is the most important metric — what’s the cost of acquiring a customer. Typically you’ll aim to acquire customers below a specific threshold.
  • Cost per result (CPR). Often your campaigns will aim at an outcome other than acquiring a user — getting a lead, getting a new follower for your account, or simply getting an impression or a site visitor. CPR is a generic cost metric that can apply to any of these results. 
  • Secondary metrics. Often, you’ll also look at other performance indicators in a campaign. These usually don’t matter as outcomes (your CPC or CTR doesn’t matter if you’re hitting your CPR goal — see acronyms can be fun! dizzy face). 
    • Cost Per Click (CPC). 
    • Clickthrough rate (CTR). Percent of ad viewers who click through. 

Performance Marketing compensation: 

Entry jobs pay $60-100K. Though only very competitive marketing teams tend only to have these roles, and you’ll often be competing against people with a few years of relevant experience.

Performance Marketing career path: 

This can be a great career path — it is very quantitative but also involves (or involves managing) writing ad copy and landing pages, so you can either double down on quantitative roles like growth or biz ops, or you can go into product marketing and marketing leadership. 

How accessible are Performance Marketing jobs?

  • Time to learn. 0-3 months. Some companies or agencies may hire directly out of college, while others will want to see some previous experience — 
  • Selectivity. Moderately to very selective. This job requires people be quantitative and experimentally-minded. In smaller teams where the same people are responsible for creating the ads as running advertising, it also requires good writing and communication, though in larger organizations the “creative” and “quantitative” work is typically done separately. 
  • Ease of working remote. Remote-friendly. This depends on the work culture, but since most of your time is looking at data, ad reports, and different online platforms, it’s relatively easy to do from anywhere with good internet. 

Job Requirements: What you need to be competitive for performance marketing roles?

Key skills for Performance Marketing:

  • Familiarity with:
  • Familiarity with Google Analytics
  • Advanced Excel required
  • Data analysis with SQL, R, or Python desirable
  • Airtable and PowerPoint experience desirable 
  • Understanding of strengths and weaknesses of potential advertising platforms

Professional background for Performance Marketing:

  • For entry-level roles: Evidence of quantitative and experimental orientation, experience running ads before. 
  • For non-entry level: Sometimes companies will hire “entry level” employees but look for experience as a consultant, investment banker, or marketer. These jobs will be very tough to get, as they indicate employers are looking for high-status and credentials. 

Prior accomplishments to be competitive for Performance Marketing:

  • Projects that demonstrates quantitative approach — could be ad project, science undergrad, or data analysis 
  • Successful ad campaigns 
  • Successful work post-college in finance or consulting

Personal characteristics for success in Performance Marketing:

  • Quantitative and experimental — you like analyzing data, developing hypotheses.
  • Able to spend a lot of time exploring data, solving problems — occasionally, you’ll need to be persistent in order to figure out how to fix technical issues dealing with attribution or to understand why ads aren’t performing as you expected.

How to prepare for and get a job in Performance Marketing? 

Projects to learn and prove yourself:

  • Manage ads for a small business — this could be a restaurant, retailer, online vendor, physical service provider, or digital service provider. Find someone that sells a product, has happy customers, and is willing to spend some on a marketing budget. 
  • Use ads for your own business — if you’re a student, you could create your own business (beginning with something as simple as babysitting or lawn care, to something more complicated like an app or online service business).
  • Brainstorm and prioritize a growth pipeline.
  • Get experience creating landing pages.
  • Run simple A/B tests.
  • Implement ad campaigns, acquiring users below target cost on multiple ad platforms. (Facebook and Google are essential. Also consider Twitter, Quora, and Reddit.) 
  • Plan out a mock campaign.

Key Performance Marketing concepts and resources:

By Taylor Thompson

Taylor is a co-founder at Purpose Built Ventures, where he helps launch mission-driven companies. Before Purpose Built, Taylor led growth at Almanac, strategy for Curious Learning, and product at PharmaSecure. His work helps 100,000s of people collaborate at work, 4 million children learn to read, and protects billions of medicines from counterfeiting. He has hired dozens of people, helped raise more than $50 million, and contributed to as a researcher with Clay Christensen. Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow, and he has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

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