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The Plain English Guide to Demand-Side Platforms (DSP)

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The Plain English Guide to Demand-Side Platforms (DSP)

As a marketer, you might be focused on creating organic content most of the time. But you should keep in mind that paid advertising is just as important.

When you manage the paid ads for your business, you can go through individual ad managers such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads. However, that’s not the only option. You can also use demand-side platforms (DSP), which are automated, as a way to purchase and manage your online ads.

According to a 2021 study published by Statista, the US was the largest programmatic advertising market worldwide, spending an estimated $70 billion in 2020. Marketers are increasingly using DSPs as a way of purchasing, managing, and tracking online advertising. Below, let’s review all the basics about DSP advertising.

With a DSP, you can purchase mobile ads on apps, banner ads on search engines, and video ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google, and even more platforms. Instead of using both Google Ads and Facebook Ads, for instance, you can purchase those ads in one place on a DSP.

The purpose of this is to make ad buying faster, cheaper, and more efficient. Now, let’s dive into how DSP platforms work and why you should use one.

How do DSPs work?

DSPs work by using programmatic advertising, which is the buying and selling of ads in real-time through an automated system. With real-time bidding, ad placements are auctioned off in milliseconds.

When you get started with DSP advertising, you’ll need to begin strategizing how much you want to spend. Think about what an effective cost per click and cost per action might be. This will help you set up your online ads so the platform knows how much to spend in any given auction.

The best DSP platforms will allow you to include multiple rich media ads, including video, images, and animation.

Why use a DSP?

The main reason for using a DSP is that it makes your digital ad experience easier and more cost-effective. You can control, track, and maximize all your digital ads in one place. This means you can manage an entire ad campaign across sites on one dashboard. For example, you can show someone an ad on Google, then show them ads on Facebook, and then across other sites they visit — all in one campaign. Before DSPs, those would be separate campaigns on Google and Facebook Ads.

This means you can advertise on many networks, including all the major publishers, in addition to more. With the number of networks, you’ll have a more global reach.

Additionally, DSPs often partner with third-party data providers, giving you better tracking and reporting capabilities than a single network usually provides. And in the planning process, the targeting options are more personalized, meaning you can get better conversion rates.

When you’re choosing a platform to work with, you’ll want to look at how many ad exchanges the DSP has access to because that affects how many people you can reach. Plus, you’ll want to consider cost, training (full service or self-service), support, and ease of use.

Now that you know more about DSP advertising and how it works, let’s discuss the platforms that can help you do it.

1. Basis Technologies

DSP example Basis Technologies

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Best for: Large or enterprise level companies

Basis Technologies is an omnichannel DSP built to generate better outcomes for your ad campaigns. One of the best features is that it uses AI machine learning to automatically analyze data from numerous campaign parameters to optimize your ads.

With this DSP, you’ll be able to target hyper-local audiences across devices and multiple touchpoints. You’ll also get access to the industry’s leading exchanges, along with 25,000+ audience segments across over 30 different data providers.

Why we like it: Basis Technologies harnesses the power of machine learning to analyze data and automate processes.

2. Google Marketing Platform

DSP example Google Marketing Platform

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Best for: Small to large businesses or agencies

Google Marketing Platform is Google’s unified advertising and analytics platform for smarter marketing and better results. This DSP has several products for both small businesses and enterprise companies, including Campaign Manager 360 and Display & Video 360 (formerly DoubleClick).

With this product, you can save time with cross-channel ad management to maximize insights and optimize media and creative performance across all your digital campaigns. The flexibility is the standout feature of this DSP. You can use third-party features and integrations so you can choose the capabilities that best help you manage and measure your campaigns.

Why we like it: Google’s products are designed to work together, but also give the flexibility to use third-party features and server to server integrations.

3. Knorex

DSP examples Knorex

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Best for: Mid-sized to large advertising agencies

Knorex is a universal advertising platform that automates personalized marketing across channels, devices, and ad formats. You can market on Google Search, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn all in one place.

This DSP also uses AI to learn from past data to predict and adjust ad budgets dynamically in real-time to drive higher efficiency.

Why we like it: Knorex values security, offering a variety of brand privacy and security tools out of the box.

4. Jampp

DSP example Jampp

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Best for: Gaming apps and companies looking for a mobile DSP solution

Jampp is a DSP that leverages unique contextual and behavioral signals to deliver customers and in-app purchases through programmatic advertising.

The key features of this platform are user acquisition, app retargeting, geolocated ads, dynamic ads, and predictive bidding. This is mainly a mobile user acquisition and app retargeting DSP where you can focus on mobile-first ads.

Why we like it: Jampp’s app retargeting helps re-engage existing customers and uses their previous behavior to predict whether or not they will convert.

5. Smadex

DSP example Smadex

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Best for: Companies needing a mobile-first DSP solution

Smadex is a mobile DSP engineered for growth. The platform uses a combination of its own programmatic advertising technology, machine learning, and first-party data.

With this platform, you can reach global audiences at scale and re-engage audiences with its retargeting capabilities.

Why we like it: Smadex values security just as much as helping your brand scale. It ranked #1 for fraudless DSP installations by Kochava Traffic Index and holds an IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) Gold Standard certification.

6. MediaMath

DSP examples MediaMath

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Best for: Mid-sized to large agencies that want a custom solution

MediaMath is a customizable DSP that provides brands with a myriad of options for managing their campaigns. Opt to use their built-in creative tools to run ads on their server or choose one of your own. You can even use APIs to run on top of your core foundation.

Why we like it: MediaMath’s product is not a one-size-fits-all DSP. Brands can tailor their components to build an advertising solution that suits their needs.

7. Amazon DSP

Amazon DSP

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Best for: Ecommerce brands that want to advertise on Amazon (and Amazon-owned sites)

Amazon is one of the world’s largest online retailers, so it’s no surprise that brands would want to tap into their advertising audience. Both advertisers who sell products on Amazon and those who don’t can use Amazon DSP. They offer two options: self-service and managed service. With self-service, brands are in full control of their ad campaigns. Those who are new to programmatic advertising or need guidance are advised to use the managed option, however that comes with a $35,000 minimum spend.

Why we like it: Amazon DSP can greatly increase brand awareness for sellers on and off Amazon.

DSPs Still Require Research

When you choose a DSP, make sure you understand how many inventory sources it accesses, which third-party data integrations it offers, and what targeting criteria are available. To successfully run programmatic ads on a DSP, you’ll need to reach global audiences with personalized ads. While using a DSP simplifies paid ad management, it won’t replace customer research and having a clear idea of who your target audience is.

This article was originally published March 5, 2021, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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