How PM Tools Distribute $78M in Advertising Budgets to Grow Sign Ups

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August 8, 2022
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Key Takeaways

The companies in the product management category increased their advertising spend by +20% from 2020 to 2021. All 7 tools in the competitive set (Capterra, Monday, Wrike, Smartsheet, ClickUp, Airtable, Trello) invested ~91% of their total budget to target American consumers:

Budget Allocation — Paid Search is a Dominant Advertising Channel for All Companies in the Competitive Set. Year over year, all companies (except Wrike in 2021) invested most of their advertising dollars in running paid search campaigns. In total, the combined paid search investment grew by +36% year over year.

Messaging — Feature Comparison Campaigns (i.e. Smartsheet vs. Asana) Tend to be More Effective Than Feature-Based Ones: In October 2021, three companies in the competitive set (Monday, Wrike, and Smartsheets) ran campaigns aiming to favorably position themselves against other competitive solutions. In all three cases, these campaigns turned out to be more effective than feature-based campaigns (i.e. a single list of features). 

Targeting — Productivity Tools Target Males with iOS Devices: When it comes to targeting, both Monday and Airtable predominantly targeted male audiences (68% and 60% respectively) who use iOS devices and live in big metropolitan US cities. 

The following companies were included in the competitive set for this analysis:

The companies in the competitive set increased their digital advertising spend by +20% from 2020 to 2021. Product management tools tend to increase their advertising spending in the latter half of the year — December was the peak month in 2020 ($8.8M worth of ads); in 2021, digital spending peaked in June ($9.3M) and continued to be +16% higher than during the first two quarters of the year.

Capterra is the biggest spender in the competitive set — the company invested $30M in digital advertising between January and October 2021. This is +67% more than Monday, which spent $18M on digital advertising over the same time period.

Monday is the only company in the competitive set that decreased (-23%) its digital ad spend in 2021 (Jan. — Oct.). All other companies significantly grew their digital investments, where Wrike more than doubled (+117%) its digital budget YoY. 

Monday is also the only company that spent less during the second half (June – October) than during the first half of 2021 (January – May).

All other companies increased their budgets by an average of +33%. Airtable spent 56% more in the latter half of 2021 (June – October), increasing its spend from a monthly average of $246K per to $408K

All companies in the competitive set focus on the US market and spend ~91% of their advertising budgets targeting American consumers. 

Monday and Wrike allocated the highest share of their digital budgets to reach Canadian users — 14% ($6M) and 13% ($2M) respectively.

Both companies (Monday and Wrike) increased their budget allocation to target Canadians from 2020 to 2021.

Since January 2020, the competitor set has not made a significant shift in their channel focus, allocating ~75% of their total digital advertising budgets to run search ads

In 2021, the companies in the competitive set invested $7M (+175%) more in YouTube than in 2020. Paid search investment increased by +36%, which translates into $12.3M of additional advertising spend. 

In 2021, Capterra spent 95% of its total digital advertising budget to run search ads, investing $28.4M into this channel (+35% more vs. the previous year). At the same time, the company decreased its investments in Facebook by -75% and Instagram by -16%.

In October 2021, Capterra focused its paid search efforts on driving traffic to their Product Management Software rating page. The company spent $149K to run ads to this page, which resulted in ~10K visits.  

*Share of total paid traffic. | Capterra

Capterra’s Scheduling Software Comparison page was supported with $112.8K worth of search ads (-22% less than the Project Management tools one), however, the investment resulted in +30% more visits (13K). 

*Share of total paid traffic. | Capterra

When it comes to Facebook and Instagram ads, Capterra invested 61% ($668K) of its total FB and IG budget in ads inviting users to review software in exchange for a $10 Amazon gift card. 

Ad examples:

Ad #1 | Ad #2 | Ad #3

Paid search was the main advertising channel for Monday throughout 2021. The company spent $12.3M on running paid search, followed by Facebook ($3.2M) and YouTube ($1.1M). However, the company slightly decreased (-4%) its paid search spend.

In October 2021, Monday spent $345.3K to run ads to the page favorably positioning itself against Asana. Monday leveraged competitor’ keywords (“asana app/pricing”) to capture relevant traffic. The investment resulted in ~23K page visits.

*Share of total paid traffic. | monday.com

At the same time, Monday also ran ads to a general functionality overview page. The company spent $83K to capture traffic searching for “project management software.” 

*Share of total paid traffic. | monday.com

Looking into the top 2021 Facebook ads, Monday focused $1.3M worth of ads (42% of total spend) towards starting a free trial.

Ad #1 | Ad #2 | Ad #3

Monday prefers to run Facebook video ads (59%) and targets them at male (68%) Android users (74%) who live in metropolitan US cities.

*Ad format unavailable

30% of total January — October 2021 YouTube spend was distributed amongst two videos. The video backed by $173K spend promoted Monday as a teamwork facilitating tool. The second video received a $171K investment and was designed to build awareness of Monday’s custom boards. 

Ad #1 | Ad #2

Wrike is the only company with paid search not being a dominant advertising channel. In 2021, Wrike invested 5X more advertising dollars in YouTube ads than the previous year.

Throughout 2021, Wrike aimed to bring awareness to its features, such as in-app calendar and Gantt charts through the YouTube ads.

Ad #1 | Ad #2

In October 2021, Wrike spent $84.8K to drive traffic to its Gantt chart landing page. This search campaign resulted in 3.5K visits.

*Share of total paid traffic. | Wrike

At the same time, the company ran a Wrike vs. Trello campaign and targeted competitor’s branded keywords (“trello”, “trello board“, “trello app”, “trelo”). While Wrike spent -28% less advertising dollars on this campaign, it brought almost 4X more traffic (13K) than the Gantt chart campaign. 

*Share of total paid traffic. | Wrike

In 2021 Smartsheet relied on paid search to drive website visits. The company invested $6.3M in search ads, which is +24% more than the previous year. 

In October 2021, similar to Wrike, Smartsheet targeted those looking for “gantt chart” and “gantt chart maker”. The company invested $111.4K to drive traffic to its Powerful Gantt Chart landing page.  

*Share of total paid traffic. | Smartsheet

Leveraging a popular competitor comparison tactic, Smartsheet used keyword targeting to redirect users looking for Asana to its own website. This traffic was driven to their “Smartsheet over Asana” landing page. The campaign targeting competitors’ keywords was more effective for Smartsheet than the one promoting Gantt charts. 

*Share of total paid traffic. | Smartsheet

While Smartsheet didn’t run any video ads in 2020, in 2021, the company invested $255K in YouTube advertising. Smartsheet ran three videos appealing to various challenges of running projects and communicated the idea that Smartsheets is the platform or dynamic work.  

Ad #1 | Ad #2 | Ad #3

Between January – October 2021, ClickUp significantly increased its investment in paid search (+161%) and YouTube (+38%).

In October 2021, ClickUp targeted competitor’s keywords and aimed to capture search traffic for the “trello” and “free project management software” keywords. ClickUp invested $230K in this campaign, which equated to 46% of its total October paid search budget.

*Share of total paid traffic. | ClickUp

ClickUp also invested $84K to target branded keywords which resulted in 36K visits to their homepage (+29% more than driven by the $230K-backed Project Management campaign).

*Share of total paid traffic. | ClickUp

The top three 2021 YouTube ads ranged from promoting a 15% off lifelong discount, explaining ClickUp features, and showcasing the absurdity of unorganized project management on the example of a medical team.

Ad #1 | Ad #2 | Ad #3

Airtable is the only company that significantly decreased its paid search spend between January and October 2021. At the same time, the company increased its investment in Facebook (+692%) and Twitter (+370%) ads.

In October 2021, Airtable spend 75% to run ads targeting a mix of branded (“airtable”, “airtabe”, “what is airtable”), competitor (“microsoft access”), and industry-wide (“gant chart”) keywords. All ads directed users to the Airtable homepage.

*Share of total paid traffic. | Airtable

Airtable spent more than half of its Facebook budget to capture the attention of marketers with its marketing trends report. The ad mentioned the number of experts interviewed for the report and gained more traction and resulted in a significantly lower CPM than the ad with the same visual but a different caption.

Ad #1 | Ad #2 | Ad #3

Airtable relies on Facebook link ads to reach a primarily male demographic living in San Francisco (17%) and Los Angeles (16%) and predominantly using Apple devices (78%).

*Ad format unavailable

Airtable ran Twitter ads to distribute its Marketing Trends report as well as share an ebook for tips on keeping teams connected.

Ad #1 | Ad #2 | Ad #3

Trello more than doubled its paid search investment between January and October 2021, the company spent $2.3M to run search ads.

Trello spent 88% ($127K) of its October paid search budget to run ads capturing branded traffic (“trello”, “trello board”, “trello”), which resulted in ~38K visits. The company directed the traffic from these ads to its homepage.

*Share of total paid traffic. | Trello

Trello is the only company in the competitive set that invested a significant amount of advertising dollars to distribute video ads through desktop display rather than the YouTube platform. The company promoted three “Feels like magic” campaign videos that explained various features of Trello.

Ad #1 | Ad #2 | Ad #3

Trello distributed its video ads on news and general interest websites, such as weather.com (62% of the total desktop video budget) and msn.com (35% of the total desktop video budget). In total, the top 10 publishing websites accounted for 99% of the total desktop video spend.

By advertising on the following websites, Trello also reaches the audiences of amazon.com, drudgereport.com, and cnn.com.

Spend is a directional approximation and does not include retargeting, or behavioural targeting.
December 2020 and November 2020 excluded from the totals to provide an accurate YoY change.

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