Question from a seller of digital advertising: I always ask my current agency partners how my site is performing because I'm worried I'm going to get canceled from the plan. But they never
seem to be able to share anything I can act on. How can I ever know if I'm in danger of being canceled?
Jason says: Ahh, the age-old question. It has been asked of members of the clergy by their parishioners, by insecure spouses and every cast member of "Joanie Loves Chachi." We in the digital world refer to it as "flight management." As a responsible digital salesperson, it makes sense to ask the question. After all, the best type of sale is a renewal. In order to get it, you don't want to go dark on all communication between you and the buyer after the sale occurs. But the answer, my friend, lies in the question. In other words, what are you really asking for?
When a digital media campaign launches, you might send a note to your client and say something like, "Hey, we're live. Excellent. Let me know if you need anything else." And that is good -- though possibly pointless -- but nevertheless reassuring for all parties.
Then, around a third of the way through the flight, you want to know that everything is going smoothly, so you reach out again. But why? In 90% of situations, all you can check on is that the buyer is still happy. But, again, happy about what? Don't tell me you are asking, "Are you happy with the amount of clicks you are receiving?" Don't even get me started on that. Because after all, if this is a branding campaign or a promotion for the sale of an offline product, do you think the client has the factors of success at hand so soon?
You need to be able to ask about something measurable -- a yardstick better nailed down beforehand. Maybe there is a branding research study being utilized, or some other tangible effect. Otherwise, it is like searching for a viable vein in a meth house -- hard to specifically and efficiently discern.
I know a digital salesperson who visited a traditional client in tandem with his print media sales counterpart. During the meeting, the digital salesperson asked the client, "So, how will you be judging the success of this campaign?" -- a fairly standard question for most digital sellers.
However, on the street afterward (not in the elevator, of course, because they really are all wired for sound by nervous clients), the print salesperson quickly upbraided the digital seller. "Why would you ask such a ridiculous question?" Puzzled, the digital salesperson tried to explain that this was important to be able to help make this campaign a success. The print representative answered confidently, "If the advertiser's ad makes it into the front of magazine, the campaign is a success!"
Sadly, in our world we know that so many buyers are just looking at a "click report," and that at a certain point of the campaign, they are simply going to drop half of the sites from the buy and reallocate to the top half of performers. Silly.
Amy, what kinds of communication do buyers want from the sales side?
Amy says: First of all, let me pick myself up off of the floor from laughing that success is just getting the ad in the front of the magazine. Although in the digital space, sometimes just getting the ad tags trafficked before the campaign is supposed to launch is a huge success. But now I digress...
What do buyers want from the sales side during the campaign? That's a good question. As the industry has matured and the agency-side functions of planning, buying, operations, and analytics have matured into their own separate disciplines, the planners/buyers will still need you, but the analytics team may also want to hear from you as well.
For smaller agencies where the planner/buyers manage everything about their campaigns, they need to know you still care. They need to know that they weren't just some passing fancy that brought you to goal and got you the money to buy your new boat.
I don't think that buyers expect sellers to know that much about campaigns since vendor ad server access can be limited. However, the salesperson should continue to be a resource with information and service that a buyer needs. Sharing the latest information about the client category or competition is good. Uncovering variations in your site's audience behavior that could affect delivery or performance would be helpful. Just letting the buyer know you're available and checking in would also make a good impression.
When there is an analytics team involved, I think there is an opportunity for vendors to provide added value. Analytics folks are super-smart about numbers, but they lack the hands-on and intimate experience with the actual strategy of the campaign. Sometimes this makes them rely too much on the numbers so they would benefit from a new friend from a partner Web site who can share some details about a particular site and their audience. The analytics contact could then use that information to help translate the reporting data into more meaningful insights.
And please, if you do go this route, take the analytics guy/gal out for a nice steak lunch or mani/pedi date. They will really appreciate it, since they never get that kind of treatment but hear the media teams brag about it all the time.
In terms of knowing the performance of your site in the campaign, I think it is important to ask when you get the chance. However, agency folks may not be comfortable sharing that information because they feel it should be confidential. Even though they may be overreacting, respect their boundaries. Usually a good question to ask that is not too specific, but should give you an idea of how things are going is: "How is my site performing against the others in terms of your key performance indicators (and/or success factors)? Are we above or below campaign average?"
If you are above, see if you are in the top three or five. If you are below, you'd better tell your first mate not to lift anchor yet!