What I Learned About Programmatic From Buying Windows

It’s hard to think of many businesses older than companies that sell windows. So when I recently had to replace some of the windows in my home, I was struck with an unexpected insight: Some of our oldest and most fundamental sales principles are as relevant as ever in a programmatic world. Let’s take a closer look at three of those fundamental principles:

1. Intent is everything. Buying windows can be an intense process. The minute you go online and press the “request a quote” button, you’re added to a pool of potential prospects that goes out to a handful of different window providers. What surprised me is how those providers go out of their way to measure my true intent. Before sending a salesperson to my house, they wanted to know my requirements, budget, and timeline. One company even wanted to reschedule our appointment until I was closer to making a decision.

Retargeting has been heading in the same direction of late. Serving an ad to someone only on the basis of a site visit is no longer considered an efficient strategy. As an advertiser, you want to look at multiple intent signals (previous transactional history, search data, category level browsing activity) to determine if the consumer is worth chasing or not.



Intent signals will also dictate how much you should be bidding for a particular user across the ad exchange, the ideal frequency cap, and the creative strategy. For example, a German auto advertiser would no longer have to waste media dollars retargeting someone who loves looking at cars online but would never buy a premium car.

2. You’ve got to build trust. Windows have become so commoditized that window providers have to work hard to distinguish themselves from the pack. One point of differentiation is how much you can trust a given brand. In addition to working hard to develop a friendly rapport with customers, the providers use a variety of certifications and corporate citizenship programs to make you feel as though you’re dealing with the good guy.

Programmatic advertising is similar in many ways. As a brand, you want to be perceived as the good guy, but that trust doesn't happen overnight. Smart advertisers use a variety of top-of-the-funnel tactics to drive interest in their brand before spending all of their dollars on retargeting. They pay attention to where their ads will be placed, how often the ads will be served, and whether they are making full use of the “softer” sources of inventory, such as Twitter or video. Yes, building trust costs extra money, but, if the trust is earned, it's money that you'll earn back very quickly.

3. Price is relative. I am now close to making a decision on my windows. As much as I liked the high-end window provider, it wasn’t the right fit (no pun intended) for my house. This leaves me with three other options. All things equal, price is what will make the difference. The interesting part about price, though, is that it’s relative. I find myself inclined to choose a provider that offers a 20% discount on the original price rather than another provider that was the most cost-effective from day one. It's human nature to want to get a good deal.

Programmatic gives advertisers an opportunity to changes the prices of your products in real time -- and based on your consumers' needs. As noted above, not all consumers are equal. Sometimes it's important to find consumers who are more price-sensitive and to give them an offer they can't refuse.

Okay, so windows aren't quite as exciting as programmatic ads. But some principles really do hold even across vastly different industries. Now I just need to stop thinking about programmatic and get those windows installed.

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