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Why Publishers Should Be THE Digital Strategists

You’re a publisher and have audiences all set up to sell in ad sales, but you’re not seeing any ROI. Is it time to update your digital strategy?

When we look at most publisher sales teams, typically it’s represented by a very diverse group of women and men who all have various levels of experience and expertise when dealing with digital sales and specifically sales made with data in tow.

Whether the audiences are coming from a Data Management Platform (DMP) or first party data is being sent directly into the ad server from the site, at the end of the day you’re most likely going to market with a small batch of blended audiences that get included in most, if not all, pitches (see my article ‘How to be Successful with a DMP: A Publisher’s First Steps‘). This audience package might be as simple as audiences made up of various interests (e.g. Sports, Entertainment, Travel) or demographics (e.g. Gender and/or Age). It might be the case that you’re a bit savvier than the rest and are trying to distinguish your go-to-market list with some more intent and persona-based audiences (e.g. ‘In-Market for Auto/Travel/Property’ or ‘High Income Commuters’).

Having a manageable and stable list of audience products that get offered to the general market (existing and new advertisers) is smart. It allows the marketing team to develop engaging sales material that help explain the value of these audiences. It provides the means for a large sales force to get acquainted with audiences, what they mean, and how to sell them. This strategy offers the environment necessary to do very basic, but effective A/B testing to determine what changes to this package provides the most uplift in terms of sales and least amount of churn.

The value of a simplistic strategy such as this is fairly obvious, but it’s also very obviously conservative. Such a strategy and market-rollout will never win any awards; it may provide ROI but nothing catastrophically significant.

Go Bespoke?
Beyond offering a standard package that the sales team breaths in and regurgitates to clients and prospects, a classic modification to this strategy is providing the means to create bespoke audiences based on the specific advertiser’s wishes. If the advertiser wants a ‘Female, 25-34, Sports lover, with Children, who live in Urban areas’ audience you as the publisher may offer to go make one for them (or best fit considering scale issues). Doing this, you may need to leverage a DMP or other such platform to obtain the 3rd party data necessary to flush out such a user persona.

Creating bespoke audiences ad-hoc per advertiser in addition to a general audience package offered to the market is good. But if you want to become embedded with an advertiser as a must-have rather than a nice-to-have, you’ll need to go beyond providing standard solutions or letting the advertiser determine the conclusion to their own problem.

How do you get there?

Which is more meaningful, being addressed as part of the general population or as an individual?
If you believe being addressed 1-on-1 as an individual carries more value, then we are in agreement. We might typically relate this question to the marketing consumer funnel, but whether the relationship here is that of a marketer addressing a potential consumer or a publisher addressing a potential advertising partner, the answer’s the same.

Who should be leading the conversation, the seller or the buyer? You’re the seller here, promoting your inventory and your users to the marketer. You should be leading the charge. It isn’t enough to sell an audience, you have to deliver a solution. If the next most logical choice beyond building a standard audience package is to let the advertiser determine what bespoke audience should be custom-built, you’re forgetting that the seller needs to be smarter than the buyer!

I like electronics. If I go to a TV shop to buy a new TV and I know more about the product than the floor salesman I’m dealing with, it doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence in me as the buyer that I’m making a good deal here. The same applies for a brand or agency looking at purchasing space on your site to hit your users.

Be proactive. Ask questions.

What does the advertiser want to accomplish? Who are their target users for this particular campaign? Can you pixel conversions pre-campaign to determine the actual profile of the users? If not, how about setting up a test this month to determine optimal audience, followed by a bigger investment in the following quarter based on the insights?

This should be seen as a relationship. Work together to determine a strategy suitable to the campaign.

Don’t sell an audience. And don’t build whatever an advertiser asks for just for the sake of building it. You know your users, and you know what campaigns will work on your inventory against specific ad formats and creative messaging. So you should be a strategist in this conversation!

But data is only half the solution.

Going Beyond Data Strategy; Become THE Digital Strategist for your Client
Just like you work with the advertiser on a personal relationship, so too should you be handling the potential consumer. This is marketing 101. A unified customer profile isn’t complete until the individual is being engaged as if it were a 1-to-1 conversation. If you only know ad sales and don’t understand the advertisers’ business of marketing to existing and potential consumers, learn it!

See ad engagement skyrocket when you, the publisher, start personalizing the consumer journey on behalf of the advertiser on your paid and owned media. Bring your expertise of your users and your channels and enhance your relationship with your client by being a digital strategist, not just a data strategist. Target people who have never seen the ad, who have dropped out of the funnel, who are familiar with the brand differently.

Personalize the digital strategy by personalizing the consumer journey
You may currently only be activating audiences in display. Speak to all of your users on all channels – search, social, email, direct mail, and of course display. Each message should be different from the last. Ideally, speak to the same user in a sequential way, regardless of the channel you find them on.
  • Tell the marketer you can export the same audience to their owned media (ad server or CMS) to continue the consumer journey seamlessly from exposure on your inventory to the branded landing page and beyond.
  • When you personalize the digital strategy by personalizing the consumer journey on behalf of the marketer client, they will start giving you their budget to help them achieve the shared vision you’ve collectively discussed and discovered.
  • Remember, this is a process. You don’t develop a relationship overnight, you can’t understand the target audience without analysis, and it takes time to put a full-fledged strategy in place. Start small. Get your feet wet. But ramp up quickly.
  • Introduce the value of your audiences to your client. Get them interested with data via a unique audience. Take into account all digital assets you work on. Build a cross-channel, multi-data-layered strategy to form a complete 360 degree message to the user.

The world of digital is full of many unknowns and assumptions. Regardless of how savvy your marketer is, help smooth this landscape by being The Digital Strategist your client can rely on and work with to solve their problems personally.

By Hunter Terry – Solutions Architect, APAC at Lotame
Original can be found on LinkedIn here