You know who you are. You're the person who decides to spend the weekend in your crawl space communing with spiders because you refuse to pay that over-priced electrician to set up your home theater system. You're the person who always insists on painting your kid's bedroom yourself because you don't trust the "starving college kid" painting company to paint a straight edge. Whether you are value-minded, or a perfectionist, you think that some of the most important jobs should just get done by you.
When it comes to online marketing, are you a do-it-yourselfer? Do you do search marketing directly through Yahoo or Google, or do you have an SEM provider? There are several new opportunities that exist for marketers in self service display advertising. I'm going to discuss how to take advantage of those opportunities to be a more efficient, do-it-yourself display marketer.
Compared to search marketing, online display advertising has largely been perceived by many marketers as costly and difficult to do well. It used to be that acquiring and utilizing the creative expertise to create a graphically appealing set of display ads that perform well could cost several thousand dollars. Add the time, money and creative resources needed to create multiple different versions for A/B testing, and it's easy to understand why many mid-size companies that can't justify the costs associated with a digital agency are discouraged when trying to optimize display advertising on their own.
The accessibility for display advertising is starting to change, with several publishers and platforms now offering self service portals that enable marketers to create, run and optimize display campaigns, all without speaking with a salesperson. These systems allow anyone, including those who are completely new to interactive media, to target the right users with an engaging display advertisement that can be optimized to improve ROI.
Examples of some of these forward-thinking advertising networks include AdBrite, Add it All, Adify, Reader's Digest and Tribal Fusion, to name a few. There are even rumblings of self service media purchase options becoming available from social networking companies and portals. MySpace, for example, recently announced "SelfServe by MySpace," which is focused on small businesses, musicians and politicians, enabling them to create customized banner advertising.
Never before has the display advertising process been easier and more cost-effective.
With self service media purchasing systems now available, businesses that have relied solely on search will be able to balance their online advertising budgets to capitalize on the reach and engagement of targeted, optimized display campaigns. The question now is how to go about it.
Here are a few simple guidelines for working with a self service vendor to get the best results.
- Don't be afraid to test creative with speed and vigor. Self service media platforms enable you to set up campaigns and make campaign optimization decisions on your own time. You are no longer confined to business hours when you have to reach your sales rep (who often is on the golf course with your competitor anyway). This is one of the bigger benefits, so take advantage of the rapid-testing paradigm that is available through self service providers. Constant iteration on your winning creative is one of the secrets to improving your display marketing ROI. This is one area where many sophisticated marketers, both large and small, have a huge opportunity for performance gains by taking advantage of self service media options.
- Insist that your self service publishing partners are built for speed. How fast can your self service partner implement your campaigns? In minutes, hours or days? How fast can they pause creative? How fast can they approve and traffic new ads? Truly effective self service vendors link your campaign management interface directly to their ad server, so that you can test multiple campaign parameters quickly, and when it is convenient for you.
- Look for bidded inventory options available from self service vendors. The best self service options sell media in a "bidded" environment so that you can optimize your pricing and delivery based on market parameters. With the rise of display media exchanges, all of the best practices and advantages that you have learned from using self service search marketing tools from Google and Yahoo apply to the brave new world of performance display.
- Build a performance-focused creative library and keep track of the results. In general, you will need to bring your own creative, (or creative ideas) to the table, or you can leverage the assets provided by the self service publisher. Some self service solutions, like Ad it All, provide a library of customizable creative assets, where you just have to bring your logo. As you build out display as an acquisition channel, a catalog of creative broken out by performance metrics will help you understand what works for your business. By tracking performance of your creative by publisher, and by campaign, you will start to understand which creative (or even better, which creative attributes) work best in which marketing situation.
- Comb the web for new creative ideas to test. What are your competitors doing? What ads catch your eye? Make sure that you become a student of the medium so that you are constantly trying new creative treatments for your business. Keep in mind that extensive libraries exist, such as AdRelevance, that contain historical performance data that sheds light on proven performance combinations.
All of these ideas should hopefully give you insight into the many new options available for do-it-yourself display. A key thing to remember is that you know your business better than anyone, and taking advantage of do-it-yourself display marketing has never been easier. In fact, it's probably easier than setting up that home theater system that you insist on doing yourself.