The ultimate Performance Marketing playbook: Everything you need to know to succeed

The whole point of marketing is to generate a high Return On Investment (ROI).

You’d typically pay a flat fee and then get some results from that money spent – and what you receive back is much higher than what you spent.

However, you also have to account for costs. We guarantee you’ll end up spending a bit more than you expected!

It’s, unfortunately, one of the absolute truths of most marketing strategies: price points are just estimates.

That is until you start prioritising performance, however.

What is performance marketing?

Performance marketing is a type of marketing that aims to minimise costs while maximising returns

Marketers and agencies that employ performance-centric strategies usually charge proportionally based on their performance, a conduct that benefits both sides of the equation.

Practical example:

Let’s use PPC. So, for example, if you were to put £1,000 into a Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign, let’s say you expect £1,500 to come back to you.

However, there is a cost behind every action in a paid campaign.

Therefore, you are not getting a £500 profit, because you also have to account for operational costs on top of the money you are directly spending on the campaign.

There is a cost per click, a cost per impression, and even a cost per every lead. 

A performance-driven agency such as topflight aims to optimise each step of the way so that the costs are minimised for you and you get the best possible results out of your marketing strategy.

This works by allocating the budget to a variety of channels and then optimising the channels that work best.

What is the role of performance marketing?

At its core, performance marketing is all about predictability.

Those who value constant, regular growth will value performance marketing much more than “explosive growth strategies” such as viral content marketing.

Since there’s such a focus on budget allocation and optimising costs to achieve the maximum amounts of leads with a limited budget, performance marketing is also a more wallet-friendly choice compared to more traditional digital marketing strategies.

A data-driven approach

Efficiency is key, and to make performance-centric choices, marketers rely on data capture to gather more intel on their audience.

This translates to a whole lot of benefits, including more precise audience targeting, and measurable results and, even more importantly, it allows creative marketers to increase their reach.

For example, whereas digital marketing companies may use Instagram ads, a performance marketing agency will instead use influencers to target smaller but much more dedicated audiences, ultimately giving your product a better chance to be discovered by the right people.

Improved data collection strategies

A very clear plan to increase performance is the key to hacking growth for your business.

Performance marketing will improve your data collection techniques by improving your website first.

For example, at topflight, we will focus on your sales funnel, your User Experience (UX) and even technical tweaks to make sure that more people subscribe to your newsletter, fill out your forms and accept relevant cookies. 

Data collection also comes with the gathering of information. Questionnaires, surveys, focus groups and even researching documentation may also be useful techniques we may use to discover more about your audience.

We also prioritise qualitative data collection, which means we like to delve into the small details.

Instead of gathering as much as possible from a broad audience, performance-driven agencies prefer to focus on a very specific niche for better targeting. This leads to a smaller amount of people to choose from but significantly better targeting, which in turn allows you a higher yield on ad spent.

Advantages and disadvantages of Performance Marketing

Advantages of Performance Marketing:

  1. Measurable Results: Performance marketing offers the advantage of being highly measurable. Advertisers can easily track clicks, conversions, and other key metrics to determine the effectiveness of their campaigns and make data-driven decisions.

  2. Targeted Approach: With performance marketing, advertisers can specifically target their ideal audience, reaching people who are most likely to convert. This targeted approach can help to reduce ad spend wastage and improve the overall return on investment.

  3. Cost-Effective: Performance marketing can be a cost-effective way to promote a product or service. Advertisers only pay for successful conversions, such as a sale or lead, which means they don’t waste money on clicks or impressions that don’t lead to actual results.

Disadvantages of Performance Marketing:

  1. Complexity: Performance marketing can be complex and requires a lot of expertise to set up and manage effectively. Advertisers need to have a good understanding of the market, audience, and competition to achieve good results.

  2. Time-Consuming: Setting up a performance marketing campaign can be time-consuming, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. Advertisers need to conduct thorough research, create compelling ad copy, and optimize campaigns continuously to achieve the desired results.

  3. Risk of Fraud: Performance marketing can be vulnerable to fraud, such as click fraud or lead fraud, which can significantly impact the results of a campaign. Advertisers need to be vigilant and take steps to protect their campaigns from fraudulent activity.

What channels are included in this digital marketing discipline?

Performance-driven agencies only focus on clear services that perform well to drive traffic.

The goal is to only pay when the desired action occurs (on-click, on-impression or on-conversion).

Therefore, services that rely on numbers such as cold calling or SMS marketing are often ignored in favour of channels that allow you to target specific segments of your audience since number-backed services tend to be unpredictable and require meaningful upfront costs. 

Normally, a performance marketing strategy can use any or a combination of the following:


Pay Per Click (PPC) is perhaps the jewel of all performance marketing. It can be used in synergy with Search Engine Optimisation to regularly provide you with a stream of interested users.

Optimising PPC is a very technical trade that requires the efforts of multiple specialists over an extended period of time.

You also have several types of PPC campaigns to choose from, from Search to Google Shopping, that will give you different results depending on your goals.

Errors are very common, and to perform better, marketers try to minimise the margin for error and mostly stick to low-competition keywords and segment the audiences to targer smaller audience groups.

What it means for you is that you will get optimal users from a variety of keywords landing on a variety of pages, and with regular testing and experimenting, the marketer discovers the best possible results for you.

Recommended read: PPC Hacks to run a successful Google Ads campaign

Paid Social (Social Media Advertising)

Social Media Advertising can be optimised too, and let us say, it’s a brilliant way to reach users organically and drive them to your website!

Performance marketers will focus on a mix of paid ads and content to create as much conversion as possible. On top of that, choosing the right platform is also vital to reaching customers efficiently. For instance, TikTok may work perfectly for an online retailer selling visual products but not that well for a legal firm.

KPIs are prioritised to ensure your business can grow organically even after the marketer’s job is done. By giving the social media page clear guidelines and a set plan, it can quickly become both a short and long-term strategy for your marketing endeavours.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a digital marketing channel that is growing exponentially in recent years – however, it works a little differently, compared to other digital marketing techniques like SEO or PPC.

Influencer marketing is a brilliant way to win the heart and minds of smaller niches.

Performing well with influencers includes selecting specific individuals and negotiating lucrative deals so that we can target the right people instead of as many people as possible.

Influencers with less than 10 thousand followers – also called micro-influencers – normally perform best in the vast majority of niches. They can be a diamond in the rough!

Recommended read: Micro vs Macro influencers: which one is the best for my business?


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is not as common as you’d think it is across performance marketers. But that is only because they clearly aren’t doing things right!

SEO allows you to target handpicked individuals at different stages of the sales process.

Long-tail keywords are a gift to performance marketers.

For example, by targeting users who are searching for “protein powder for sale”, you can get yourself users that are ready to buy your gym supplements since their search reveals they want to make a purchase – this cuts back a lot of time and minimises cost per acquisition (CPA). 

Performance marketers will also focus heavily on search intent and avoid heavy competition as much as possible at the early stages of the SEO campaign, to deliver a cost-efficient ROI despite SEO being a long-term marketing strategy.

This ensures that you can grow as much as possible before you have to start competing for similar keywords.

Difference between performance marketing and digital marketing

Digital marketing is an umbrella term that encompasses performance marketing as well as several other strategies.

The difference between performance marketing and digital marketing is the approach and execution of digital strategies.

Services offered by a performance marketing agency may not differ at all from traditional marketing agencies. However, it’s the style of execution that makes a marketing agency a “performance-driven” one.

Predictable versus unpredictable

Performance marketing usually means that the buyer only pays in the event of a specific action.

The largest difference between performance marketing versus digital marketing lies in how results are measured and presented.

Performance marketing aims to fulfil an action as quickly and efficiently as possible, and therefore, a performance marketing agency will only focus on achieving specific goals.

Whereas a digital marketing strategy will aim to simply “increase sales”, performance marketing will instead focus on optimising predictable outcomes such as increasing clicks, increasing subscriptions or sharing your content. 

If that action is fulfilled, the performance marketing campaign is immediately successful, which makes keeping track of your digital ROI and your growth much easier, compared to traditional digital marketing.

Performance marketing also allows you to keep track of your money and ad spend much more straightforwardly. Smaller businesses love performance marketing because of this!

When to choose performance marketing?

Unfortunately, performance marketing isn’t as readily accessible as other types of marketing. The high level of talent required to create a refined campaign and optimise it for performance means that you are likely going to encounter sizable expenses for a small business.

It is smart to be fully operational with a website before you embark on your digital journey. Having a great website or eCommerce that is already optimised for SEO and Customer Experience will significantly reduce all costs and speed up operations massively

After you are confident in your website, you are now in a very good state to outperform your competition.

However, you should also consider whether or not you are ready for growth.

If you are struggling with employee retention or struggle from recurring problems that make the business unstable, growth from a performance marketing strategy will only magnify these problems and make things worse in the long run.

Most of these are issues that can be easily solved. And once that is done, you are likely ready to get started.

As a performance marketing agency, we’ve been helping clients expand their revenue since 2019 and achieved a few big wins since then.

From local businesses now capable of boosting a 147% increase in organic traffic to multinationals proudly presenting three times as many sales, we live and breathe performance for ourselves and our customers.

Join us and experience the future of digital marketing for small and medium businesses.

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