Selecting a media vendor is a big decision for any brand or company; one that has the potential to help acquire thousands of new customers, or waste a substantial amount of money. The outcome of this decision is largely dependent on which partner you choose, but fortunately there are a few standard factors that—when considered—will help you reliably make a profitable decision.
Here’s a list of the top nine points to consider next time you’re purchasing digital media from a new vendor.
Make sure any vendor you work with has a solid reputation that you can trust. Also make sure your prospective vendor’s team has a history of performance, with case studies to back up their claims. Ideally, they would have experience working with other advertisers that are similar to you, so they’ll have a deep understanding of your goals right away, which will help you create successful campaigns immediately.
2. Ad Technology
While ad formats might seem relatively uniform across the industry, there’s a wide variety of underlying technologies that can be used to get the best performance for your campaigns.
Here’s a quick list of criteria to review with your vendor to make sure their platform is best suited for your needs:
- Targeting: Make sure the vendor’s platform can reach your target market consistently and reliably.
- Data Validation: Ensure they have in-house or third-party data validation—ideally both—to ensure you only get high-quality, usable data.
- Easy Integration With Your CRM or ESP: Check if the vendor has experience plugging their data feeds into all major Email Service Providers (ESPs) and can work with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or preferred lead delivery method.
Once all the above bases are covered, here are a few more features that can help improve your campaign’s performance, or even be deal breakers, depending on your goals.
- Source-Level Performance Tracking: You as the advertiser should be able to see and evaluate your campaign on a placement by placement basis. This is usually done through the use of subscription IDs or source codes.
- Customized Consumer Data: Some acquisition platforms will offer you the ability to ask the consumer custom questions during the opt-in process to help you gather additional information about your prospects, such as shopping preferences, household-level information, or qualifying questions. This helps you build a robust customer profile and send more personalized messages with more detailed targeting.
- Pre-Ping: Pre-ping is a more advanced tool that enables vendors to check if a customer exists in your database, prior to showing them an ad. This helps you deliver a different promotion to existing or lapsed customers, or avoid serving them an ad at all.
3. Lead Quality
Even if a media vendor’s technology checks all the proper boxes, it’s still possible that they’ll serve you low-quality leads.
Here are two quality checks you can perform to make sure you’re acquiring only the best data:
- 100% Consumer Opted-In & Consent-Based Leads: Only acquire consumer data from vendors who've generated their records from consumers who have specifically opted-in to hear from you. Using forced opt-ins or opt-out leads will cause decreased performance and possible spam complaints. Also, make sure your prospects aren’t incentivized in any way to opt-in, unless you have explicitly approved the offer, as people who have no interest in your brand may still sign up for the incentive.
- Exclusive Leads: Most advertisers want leads that are completely exclusive. There are a few edge cases where this isn’t required for phone campaigns, but if you require exclusive leads, make sure your vendor does not resell your opt-in data to anyone else, at any time.
4. Budget Minimums
Many vendors have minimum budget requirements to ensure they attract the right types of clients. These can be as high as $100,000 per month in ad spend, so make sure they line up with what you can afford.
5. Pricing Model
Some vendors offer their ad inventory on a Cost Per Thousand) (CPM) pricing model only, while others offer more flexible arrangements, including:
- CPC (Cost Per Click)
- CPL (Cost Per Lead)
- CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)
- CPO (Cost Per Open)
- CPDOI (Cost Per Double Opt-In)
Each has advantages and disadvantages, so make sure your vendor’s offering lines up with your goals.
Starting a relationship with a new vendor can take a significant amount of time and effort, so make sure it’s worth the investment. One factor that can determine if it’s a good, long-term fit is scale. Determine if the vendor can increase volume to reach your marketing goals now, and in the future. Ask about the total reach for their platform and how many leads, views, or acquisitions they can provide to you every month.
7. Campaign Optimization Capabilities
Many ad vendors can provide great initial results, but don’t have the power to dial in campaigns and improve over time. Be sure to ask what optimization capabilities are available, and request some examples of how the vendor has improved performance for other clients.
8. Customer Service
Almost every company touts “great customer service” as a benefit, but there’s a difference between talking the talk, and walking the walk. See how reps act during the sales process, as this can be a reliable indicator of how the company will operate once the contract is signed and work begins.
Pay attention to responsiveness, accuracy of responses, anticipation of your questions and needs, and the pride the vendor takes in their work. If you feel the customer service is subpar, cut the relationship off right away and move on. You need to know the vendor is organized, cares, is responsive, and has your back if you want to find a long-term partner.
If all is well through the sales process and you’re ready to start working with a vendor, the last indicator you should examine before launching a campaign is the onboarding process. Before and during, check for the following:
- Is the onboarding process organized? Did the vendor set up a kick-off call? These are extra indicators of what you can expect from the campaigns.
- Do they have documentation outlining their ad specifications and requirements?
These are the final indicators you’ll be able to evaluate before investing significant time and money into a partnership, so pay attention. If any red flags pop up, address them with the vendor, and be prepared to walk away if necessary.
If you consider each of these factors, you’re well on your way to finding a winning media vendor and making the most of your marketing spend. If you’re looking for a new partner for your next customer acquisition campaign, contact us. We’d be happy to go through each of these steps and discuss how to create a high-performance, highly scalable campaign for your next acquisition initiative.