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Microsoft Advertising Celebrated Partner spotlight

October 06, 2021
Microsoft Advertising Partner Celebration, recognizing our Partner Tier.

Celebrating our partners is just one of the ways the Partner Program likes to highlight and reward the hard work our partners have accomplished throughout the year. We have interviewed our Celebrated Partners from April 2021 to get an inside look at who these companies are, their history, objectives, and ongoing partnership with Microsoft Advertising.

You could be a Celebrated Partner too - nominations for the Partner Celebration are now open until October 20, 2021!

Microsoft Advertising Celebrated Partner, U.S. — ZATO Marketing

Kirk Williams, Owner of ZATO Marketing

Tell us about your company — it’s history, current size, audience, and business objectives.

I like to call ZATO a "micro-agency," as our size is purposeful. We currently have five team members and work primarily with small-to-mid sized e-commerce businesses who have enough budget to hire an agency, yet still need direction in identifying and serving their targeted market through PPC Marketing. Client fit is very important to us, as we limit the number of accounts each of our PPC Program Account Managers oversees to ensure we can give each client the focus they need to thrive in PPC. ZATO began in 2011 as a side-gig for me while I was attending seminary in Louisville, KY and I never planned to grow it into a small agency with employees but here we are!

What is your company’s vision/mission/specialization?

ZATO exists to provide excellent PPC Marketing services to businesses in a positive and transparent manner. We strive to be as transparent as possible and this starts in our sales process (overseen by me personally) and moves all the way through every client contact. We have had sales prospects get frustrated with us before, because we told them the truth about what we thought they could expect for results! We care so deeply about client fit at ZATO, because we value a world beyond work. Employee well-being is just as important to us as client satisfaction, and this feeds into every facet of our business life. We select clients who will work well with our company personality and culture, [as well as ensuring] each employee has plenty of time off and almost never works nights or weekends. We don't see ZATO as a "family," we see us as the place of work that allows you to go home to your family (furry or otherwise) at night!

What product features offered by Microsoft Advertising do you rely on the most to achieve your vision?

We are absolutely in love with how simple it is to have a full PPC account up and running on Microsoft due to the excellent import features. This allows us to take entire strategies and import seamlessly into Microsoft so we can then manage independently without having to reinvent the wheel. I can't say enough about how much we value this! It allows us to talk many clients into it [trying Microsoft Advertising] since it's such an easy test of Microsoft, even for the most hesitant client.

How has Microsoft advertising been able to help you reach new customers and grow your business?

Since the Bing Search Network is roughly 15%-25% of the search market, it is an easy decision to test on Microsoft Ads because it is an immediate influx of traffic and new sales. While we always hope for more volume, we've often found the Bing traffic to be high-converting since it can tend to be a more mature, and oftentimes professional, audience for the right client.

How have you adapted to recent changes in consumer trends brought about by COVID-19?

We have a brand-new Small Budgets Program that allows us to put our PPC knowledge into smaller clients than we could have afforded to take on in the past. This seems to have fit nicely with the pandemic era where, many businesses still need good PPC help but have less budget. The program itself is a bit more like a product than an actual service, which is how we're able to keep our prices low enough to be able to offer the Program.

Has your digital marketing strategy changed since the pandemic? How so?

ZATO has been completely overhauling our normal account management, setup process, and tactics. We are leaning more into automation than we ever have. We have hired multiple people who have helped us transition from a primarily manual driven focus to one relying on the machine learning and automated bidding. We are still closely guiding the setup and optimization process in our accounts, but we have shifted the way we build our accounts to guide the machine, rather than combat it. While I was concerned about this, we knew this was the way the industry was headed... and as we have made the shift, we have seen virtually every one of our clients grow during this transition. This has helped confirm it was the right path, and we are excited to continue learning and growing how to manage the machine wisely.

Is there anything else you want included in the blog spotlight or use from your response in the Partner Celebration nomination?

Two things differentiate myself and ZATO from others that I see in PPC currently. First, while I have been doing search for a decade now, I am transitioning my thought process to embrace a world of automation and adapt our agency strategies and process accordingly. I think this is giving us an important edge.

Second, I am obsessed with keeping the excellent people I've hired mentally healthy within our agency. That isn't a throwaway term — we have even committed to it in our sales process.

I did not come from the agency world, so I think this allows me to see the inherent dangers I see in much of that world. That is, in grabbing employees, squeezing everything possible out of them, and then spitting them out to the next thing (which is why many great people ultimately land in-house). At ZATO, we emphasize employee mental health, because we know our work isn't our life, it's only part of it. This carries into the very clients we take on, as we move slowly and decisively to ensure we are taking on great partners who will value us as we value them. This mentally healthy employee thing, by the way, is essential for great client management. Our employees aren't stressed all the time and burnt out, so they can focus directly on their clients and give them their full attention (what client doesn't want that?), especially since our Full-Service Client Managers have only 7-10 clients at any given time. These two things are what has shaped the last year of my Paid Search life and are, I believe, what sets us apart from others. I can't wait to see what the next year has in store for us!

A huge thank you to Kirk Williams for sharing how ZATO uses Microsoft Advertising to set itself apart from other agencies and ensures employee work-life balance for the greater good of clients. Don’t miss out on our other spotlighted partners as well as upcoming events for partners on every tier.

If you haven’t enrolled in the Microsoft Advertising Partner Program yet, make sure that you apply at so you’re eligible for the next round.

If you’re an enrolled partner, stay connected with us and up to speed on all things partner-related by joining the Microsoft Advertising Partner Community on LinkedIn.


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