In April 2017, eMarketer predicted that four out of every five US digital display dollars will transact programmatically, totaling $32.56 billion this year. Programmatic has fast built a reputation for efficiency, and with spend projections at this scale, it’s critical for brand marketers to understand both the potential and the limitations of automated media buying. Before partnering with a programmatic media agency, be prepared with the right questions to ensure the right fit.
What are your campaign goals and how are they being defined?
In order to avoid campaigns that operate inside a black box, marketers need to advocate for transparency from their media partners and agencies. While reporting is a huge component of this, your partner agency should be able to identify clear campaign objectives with you.
Easier said than done. Identifying and establishing campaign goals isn’t always easy. It begins with identifying the primary purpose of the campaign and then setting broader tangential goals. Once the goals have been identified, metrics need to be defined in order to monitor progress (these become your KPIs). Once benchmark data has been established, these insights can be used to evaluate the impact of your campaign’s performance; optimizations can then be implemented and the original goals can be tightened.
Who are you targeting, and how?
Media buying agencies are pulling audience data from vendors and providers, and as a brand marketer, it’s your right to know how. Is the media agency utilizing third-party data providers such as Acxiom or BlueKai or leveraging their own first-party data? You should absolutely make a point of understanding the mix of data sources that an agency might use in order to support their promise to deliver and serve “the right message at the right time.”
Other considerations that pertain to targeting are for ad placements and access to inventory. This should be an area of concern for marketers because ad placements on inappropriate or irrelevant sites can negatively impact brand image or potentially waste budget.
How do you define short and long term success?
Short-term marketing plans are tactical in nature, focusing on the upcoming quarter, half-year or a year’s worth of marketing activities. Contrary, long-term plans holistically look at the scope of a full year, five years or even 10 years down the line. Since the long-term goals are often overarching, quantifiable goals, they are broken down into short-term plans. As a result, each short-term goal should align with the larger long-term goal. The successes and failures of each short-term goal should be charted because they inform optimizations to improve the campaign.
How are you tracking conversions?
A critical part of onboarding a brand marketing team as a client is understanding how conversions are counted and the audit process. Conversion tracking is vital for campaign optimization and overall success; only with conversion tracking will you know, with certainty, which ads, landing pages and keywords are working and which ones are not.
For starters, your media partner should be properly tracking on AdWords (conversion tracking) and Analytics (goal transactions). The process isn’t necessarily linear since the conversion stats won’t match exactly due to differences in counting, attribution time, attribution source and reporting.
In a perfect world, a client’s campaign only has one lead form and thank you page, but it’s not that simple. In reality, most companies have several iterations of ads, landing pages, lead forms, calls to action and corresponding thank-you pages. Because of this, there will be a high volume of conversion paths and the only earnest method of counteracting this is to delve into each conversion path from start to finish.
Lastly, if applicable to your media partner, all stats from Analytics and AdWords should be cross-referenced with their internal tracking system. This seemingly complex process is to preemptively solve for any error that might occur six months down the could jeopardize the validity of the data aggregated.
What is my largest hurdle, and what are we doing to overcome it?
Digital marketing campaigns can offer a wealth of insight into the client’s product or primary offering. For example, if the client comes to the agency asking why they aren’t seeing a return on investment, the agency can give recommendations based on trends in the campaign’s data.
Perhaps the data reveals that users are clicking on the client’s ads, but not converting. This could possibly suggest that users are purchasing a competitor’s product because the shipping is priced too higher, the product is expensive, or the competitor is offering a bundle promotion (just to name a few). Based on this insight, the client can change their promotional and marketing strategy and then test new banners that reflect the updated messaging/promotion.
At the end of the day, you should be asking questions that matter most to your brand’s success. While these suggestions are a general skeleton of the types of questions you should be asking, the most important questions are the ones that affect your brand.