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Why we care about marketing agencies

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Nobody can do it all. No matter how good your marketing team is, there is going to be expertise and experience they don’t have. Fortunately, there is a marketing agency somewhere that does. They are an essential part of the martech ecosystem, filling gaps and providing insight faster and (hopefully) less expensively than you could do yourself.

If your company engages in advertising campaigns, chances are you have already considered using the services of an agency. Whether businesses should bring in external expertise or rely on internal talent is an age-old conundrum and a tough decision to make. It requires careful consideration of industry trends and a detailed understanding of your marketing objectives and capabilities. 

With user preferences changing rapidly, you need to constantly rethink your advertising strategy to stay relevant in the advertising scene. In light of this, it may be wise to bring in an external agency with expertise in the changing advertising landscape and the best practices within it.

This article will discuss:

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Important factors when considering external help 

The decision to bring in external help is context-specific. You can choose to outsource a specific campaign or your entire marketing vertical, depending on the requirements of your business. 

Consider the following factors while making this decision:

The complexity of your campaign

If you plan to use a single-channel approach with a relatively straightforward campaign, you can use in-house talent. However, the nature of advertising has changed; most campaigns now use multiple platforms. In fact, using a multi-channel approach enables you to reach the most potential customers. 

Selecting multiple platforms and coordinating their use requires considerable time and energy. Additionally, it also requires cross-channel expertise. Agencies can guide which channels are the most effective and in what combinations. They also centrally manage your campaign, making it easier to track the impact of various platforms. 

The skills of your internal talent

The advertising landscape is subject to constant changes. Constantly upskilling and retraining your employees to match industry requirements can be a fairly expensive affair. In addition, hiring full-time employees each time a specific marketing need arises can blow up your marketing budget. 

You should also consider what technical tools your team can access and use effectively. Is your internal marketing team able to successfully track customer data and campaign performance? Certain third-party agencies specialize in leveraging data to generate high-impact campaigns. 

Cost-benefit analysis

While hiring external agencies can be more expensive than producing an in-house campaign, you should also consider the marginal benefit agencies provide. Advertising agencies aim to keep their teams updated with current market trends. Hence, the quality of the content they produce can be remarkably better than the output of your internal team. 

Is the additional cost imposed by external agencies offset by the additional benefit they provide? That is the primary question to consider from both a quantitative and qualitative lens. You can also consider your past experiences while making this cost-benefit analysis.


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How to find the right agency

Finding the right agency can be a time-consuming process, especially if you’re taking external help for the first time. All advertising agencies are not the same; different firms specialize in different aspects of advertising. You should consider your marketing objectives, requirements, and budget to identify the right agency for your business. 

The following process can help you shortlist the right agency:

Do diligent research

The fundamental purpose of conducting detailed research is to ensure that an agency’s expertise aligns with your advertising objectives. First, determine your budget. This will help you eliminate agencies that fall out of that budget and focus on a smaller pool. Additionally, you can also tap into your network or analyze your competition to determine which agencies are the most popular in your industry. 

Next, outline your requirements in detail. Do you need help with the creative or technical aspects of advertising? Or do you prefer getting support for both? Certain agencies specialize in leveraging data and using sophisticated artificial intelligence tools to optimize the reach of your campaign. Others specialize in producing creative and engaging content. It is crucial to understand which agency is likely to help you meet your objectives.

Listen to pitches

Invite shortlisted candidates to present their pitches. Typically, this process involves agencies understanding your budget and requirements in detail and proposing their plan of action for your campaign and business. As part of this process, agencies might take a close look at your past and current campaigns on platforms such as Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. 

The pitch will give you a concrete idea of what to expect from the agency and will allow you to judge whether their expertise can support the marketing needs of your business. You can finally hire the right agency depending on which pitch aligns best with your objectives. 

Finding the right agency has numerous benefits for your business:

  • Save time and energy. By relying on external experts to produce high-impact campaigns, you can focus on the core functions of your business. Streamlining your core functions can considerably improve your sales revenue and reduce costs. Further, the cost of hiring and training new employees can be higher than working with an agency. 
  • Leverage the latest technologies. Advertising agencies stay up-to-date on shifting market trends. From tracking data to employing AI tools, agencies can supplement the work of your in-house team to produce high-impact campaigns. This can give you a competitive edge and help engage your audience effectively.  
  • Get an external perspective. An outside opinion can be valuable, especially from an expert. Being closely attached to your product, brand, and customers might narrow your perspective and be an impediment to producing an impartial and effective campaign. Expert advice and multiple perspectives from professionals can improve the creativity of your marketing efforts. 

Read next: How are digital agencies helping marketers transform in 2022?

The advertising industry is witnessing considerable startup activity aiming to compete with traditional agencies. These startups are leveraging cutting-edge technology, such as AI, to help circumvent the problems arising from privacy law restrictions and increased competition. 

There exists an agency to cater to every niche of advertising and marketing. If you have clear objectives and a fair assessment of the limits of your in-house talents’ capabilities, you can consider using an external agency to supplement your marketing efforts. Agencies can help you produce state-of-the-art, effective, and technology-backed campaigns that can provide the highest return on your investment. While identifying the best agency for your needs is a time-consuming process, the right agency partner can supercharge your marketing efforts.

Resources for learning more about agency services


About The Author

Akshat Biyani is a Contributing Editor to MarTech, a former analyst who has a strong interest in writing about technology and its effect on marketing.

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

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Ascend | DigitalMarketer

At this stage, your goal is to generate repeat buys and real profits. While your entry-point offer was designed for conversions, your ascension offers should be geared for profits—because if you’re serving your customers well, they’ll want to buy again and again.

Ascension offers may be simple upsells made after that initial purchase… bigger, better solutions… or “done for you” add-ons.

So now we must ask ourselves, what is our core flagship offer and how do we continue to deliver value after the first sale is made? What is the thing that we are selling? 

How we continue to deliver value after the first sale is really important, because having upsells and cross sales gives you the ability to sell to customers you already have. It will give you higher Average Customer values, which is going to give you higher margins. Which means you can spend more to acquire new customers. 

Why does this matter? It matters because of this universal law of marketing and customer acquisition, he or she who is able and willing to spend the most to acquire a customer wins.

Very often the business with the best product messaging very often is the business that can throw the most into customer acquisition. Now there are two ways to do that.

The first way is to just raise a lot of money. The problem is if you have a lot of money, that doesn’t last forever. At some point you need economics. 

The second way, and the most timeless and predictable approach, is to simply have the highest value customers of anyone in your market. If your customers are worth more to you than they are to your competitors, you can spend more to acquire them at the same margin. 

If a customer is worth twice as much to you than it is to your competitor, you can spend twice as much trying to acquire them to make the same margin. You can invest in your customer acquisition, because your customers are investing in your business. You can invest in your customer experiences, and when we invest more into the customer we build brands that have greater value. Meaning, people are more likely to choose you over someone else, which can actually lower acquisition costs. 

Happy customers refer others to us, which is called zero dollar customer acquisition, and generally just ensures you’re making a bigger impact. You can invest more in the customer experience and customer acquisition process if you don’t have high margins. 

If you deliver a preview experience, you can utilize revenue maximizers like up sells, cross sales, and bundles. These are things that would follow up the initial sale or are combined with the initial sale to increase the Average Customer Value.

The best example of an immediate upsell is the classic McDonalds, “would you like fries with that?” You got just a burger, do you also want fries with that? 

What distinguishes an upsell from other types of follow up offers is the upsell promise, the same end result for a bigger and better end result. 

What’s your desired result when you go to McDonalds? It’s not to eat healthy food, and it’s not even to eat a small amount of food. When you go to McDonalds your job is to have a tasty, greasy, predictable inexpensive meal. No one is going there because it’s healthy, you’re going there because you want to eat good. 

It’s predictable. It’s not going to break the bank for a hamburger, neither will adding fries or a Coke. It’s the same experience, but it’s BIGGER and BETTER. 

Amazon does this all of the time with their “Customers Who Bought This Also Bought …” But this one is algorithmic. The point of a cross sell is that it is relevant to the consumer, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be aligned with the original purchase. What you don’t want to do is start someone down one path and confuse them.

You can make this process easy with Bundles and Kits. With a bundle or a kit you’re essentially saying to someone, “you can buy just one piece, or you can get this bundle that does all of these other things for a little bit more. And it’s a higher value.”

The idea behind bundles and kits is that we are adding to the primary offer, not offering them something different. We’re simply promising to get them this desired result in higher definition. 

The Elements of High-Converting Revenue Maximizers (like our bundles and kits) are:

  1. Speed

If you’re an e-Commerce business, selling a physical product, this can look like: offering free shipping for orders $X or more. We’re looking to get your customers the same desired result, but with less work for them.

  1. Automation

If you’re a furniture business, and you want to add a Revenue Maximizer, this can look like: Right now for an extra $X our highly trained employees will come and put this together for you. 

  1. Access 

People will pay for speed, they’ll pay for less work, but they will also pay for a look behind the curtain. Think about the people who pay for Backstage Passes. Your customers will pay for a VIP experience just so they can kind of see how everything works. 

Remember, the ascension stage doesn’t have to stop. Once you have a customer, you should do your best to make them a customer for life. You should continue serving them. Continue asking them, “what needs are we still not meeting” and seek to meet those needs. 

It is your job as a marketer to seek out to discover these needs, to bring these back to the product team, because that’s what’s going to enable you to fully maximize the average customer value. Which is going to enable you to have a whole lot more to spend to acquire those customers and make your job a whole lot easier. 

Now that you understand the importance of the ascend stage, let’s apply it to our examples.

Hazel & Hem could have free priority shipping over $150, a “Boutique Points” reward program with exclusive “double point” days to encourage spending, and an exclusive “Stylist Package” that includes a full outfit custom selected for the customer. 

Cyrus & Clark can retain current clients by offering an annual strategic plan, “Done for You” Marketing services that execute on the strategic plan, and the top tier would allow customers to be the exclusive company that Cyrus & Clark services in specific geographical territories.



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