Accepting the BIAKelsey GOLOCAL Award

go-local-logo-agendaThis past week, at The BIAKelsey Leading in Local conference in Atlanta, Kelsey distributed its new GOLOCAL awards in three categories – Sales/ Revenue, Innovation and Strategic use of digital marketing.  Nearly forty entrants were considered for these three categories and three finalists in each category were brought to Atlanta for the announcement of the winners.

Placeable was a finalist in the Strategic use of digital marketing for the successful partnership with AAA CarolinasHeather Mcbrien of AAA Carolinas and I represented the team and I presented an overview of what we had accomplished together to the audience, which included empowering AAA Carolinas to emerge as a fierce competitor in their local markets across all three of their primary business units (car care, travel and insurance).  These results included:

  • Indexing some 1200 authoritative local landing pages for 230 locations
  • Generating 800% increase in organic traffic
  • Producing 35K new visitors per month
  • 25% conversion rate on all unique visits to phone calls, registrations and appointments

Included in Heather’s description of some of the softer benefits that have been generated by our campaigns together was that of the decrease in the number of tire kickers that have been generated.  Specifically, Heather described that the quality of leads generated are now far more qualified and in active transaction mode as opposed to window-shopping. Continue reading

Local Retailers Win When They Optimize for Local Search

modifiedA related article entitled “Local Search Marketing, Accuracy Trumps Distribution” may be viewed on CMO.com

Retail success has long been largely dependent on physical location. Selecting commercial space requires consideration of many factors including demographics, socio-economics, competitive proximity, traffic patterns and more.  Multi-location retailers apply a great deal of strategy when opening a store.  Mall retailers will swap locations when premium space becomes available so that they are more visible to consumers passing by.

Today, however, location means more than capturing the passer-by.  Location also means being found by the digital searcher.  70% of consumers research local products and services on a desktop and then use their mobile device to get where they want to go.  A consumer that has decided to visit your store is in buy-mode.  Will they find you?  Did you take steps to ensure that a consumer would know that you changed locations in the mall?  Will your store be located where the “X” marked the spot?  Is the premium location really premium if a consumer shows up at the doorstep of another business instead of yours?  How much revenue will you miss out on?

Continue reading

Marketing Groups: Closing the Great Divide

Ted Shergalis is chief product officer and founder of [x+1], and he contributed Marketing Groups: Closing the Great Divide to iMediaConnection this morning.


Ted’s experience in working with marketers should be significant and therefore I would guess has relevance to the topic.  What concerns me, however, is the generalization with which he describes the silo organizational structure between his clients’ external marketing (media buying and advertising) and customer marketing (web site management, etc.).  Not only does Ted confirm that the teams working on these two functions are usually physically separated but so too are the technologies they use.


External online efforts – media planning, buying, ad serving, email marketing, mobile, search and analytics – are all operating independently from site-side efforts –  like landing page optimization, content management, eCRM, site analytics. 


First, let’s gain a little perspective here.  Ted is from [X+1].  Their whole gig is about optimizing conversions and customer penetration within a site.  Furthermore, they also tout their skills at connecting these two silos together.  Their Media+1 and Site+1 products connect Ad Serving and Site-Side optimization together like an adhesive to offer marketers a cohesive view from the external efforts through to the internal efforts.


I am not going to dive into those two products here much.  Media+1 is basically the former Poindexter ad server, a tier-two player with a couple of marquee clients that has been folded into their primary core competency which is what the Site+1 product is all about.  The rebranding of the company from Poindexter to [x+1] has enabled them to carve this great niche in the industry and now they partner with tier-1 ad servers like DoubleClick when strong ad serving is required or when major clients are on the table.


Anyway, I know I bitch and moan when people get on iMediaConnection and self-promote, so I can’t criticize ted here for not mentioning [x+1], but I like it when people also give us some direction.  In other words my narrow rules say its okay to mention your company so long as you do it in context with other companies as well.  Serve as a resource and not a self-promotional artist.  In this case, however, maybe Ted didn’t feel he could come up with anyone else that could do it like [x+1] J


One thing that comes to mind, however, when I read his characterization of the outward and inward marketing silos is how the head of marketing in those organizations must be failing.  Online is a component of marketing.  If the org is big enough to have a head of interactive – s/he is failing.  If it is not that big and it has a head of marketing alone, then s/he must be failing.  I say this because in this day and age there are too many different ways to pull these two efforts together and if they are not talking to each other the problems are obvious, the tension will be thick as butter and the questions that can’t be answered about the performance of the organization will be more significant than the performance that can be measured.  Intelligence will recognize that there is a major problem.  So I wonder either, (a) if Ted has really screwed-up clients or (b) he is using his worst clients as examples in his articles or, (c) the type of opportunities that I am encountering represent more of what is out there than what is not.


Is it really that screwed up on the back end of the curve?


External online marketing needs to tag web sites and calculate data.  So internal marketing has to get curious about what is going on.  Internal marketing is using analytics to track internal behavioral and CMS to maximize conversions.  A Director-level person who oversees these two units has to be gathering data from both groups and must begin to get curious about the relationships between the two – this would represent common sense intelligence.  If not, then stupid people are running a lot of marketing organizations.  Maybe that is a truth.  But I am meeting a lot of intelligent people.  I work on the front of the curve too … so maybe I work with smarter people … but I think our industry as a whole is comprised of people on the top and front-end of the curve.  I think that a lot of people struggle with these problems, but I also think that the technologies are in place or are being put in place to take maximize.  As always, time is the limited resource.


Anyway, placing these two efforts together is just common sense.  This is why behavioral targeting has become so popular.  This is why lead generation advertising is becoming so popular.  This is why landing-page A/B testing with companies like CoreMetrics is gaining so much attention.  None of these initiatives can happen without internal marketing being at least engaged.


First party ad serving requires the marriage of internal and external marketing.  Maybe that is part of what is so unique about where my projects have taken me.  I sit in meetings with people who know each other, and look at each other and we work together to figure out ownership.  eCRM or site-side analytics will set first party cookies for external marketing to target with the ad server.  Media Planning and buying will set strategy based on the customer profiles that internal marketing establishes.  Creative is built accordingly.  Ad serving targets new and existing customers in real-time.  Leads and prospects and existing customers are all driven back to the site(s).  Internal web site management receives users and pushes them into different directions based on cookie variables and eCRM records transactional patterns while site analytics records behavioral patterns and sets new cookies for future targeting.  New customer profiles are created and new segments are built for future re-targeting and the cycle continues.  With first party ad serving and the marriage of first party ad serving and site side analytics, you have the integration of internal and external marketing within an advertiser.  Everyone works together with a product like DirectServe™ and WebSideStory.


But there are other ways to do this too.  If internal and external are coordinated by a single leadership role, they should be made aware of the benefits of each other’s efforts.  And in my experience they usually are.  Ted could have shed some light on how different technologies can be used to do this in his article, because I think he did a good job at challenging us to question whether our organizations are functioning properly or not.  If you are falling prey to the problems ted describes, what do you do about it?  I guess you can call Ted.  But first you should have some idea as to how you should diagnose your problems.  Then you should have some directive as to who you should call, in addition to Ted, for some insight.  You can’t get all of that from one article I know.  But I’ve given you some thoughts.


Evaluate your chain of command.  If you are the head of the organization, challenge your people to construct an information flow chart to see what they each can capture and then line the two groups up and see where they connect.  Ultimately this is about the acquisition of new leads, conversions and the growth of customers. 


Your external marketing team needs to be empowered to attack the market with tools that will enable them to generate new leads and re-target existing customers simultaneously, since both will exist within any pool (website) upon which they advertise. 


Internal marketing needs to have the capacity to capture both audiences when they come in, continue the messaging strategy, leverage CMS to position the appropriate content and leverage the knowledge gained by the ad serving process (what worked and what did not work) to maximize the conversion rates on prospects and the recurring revenue opportunities on existing customers. 


Finally internal marketing needs to convert the knowledge it gains through its conversion processes into media decision-making recommendations for external marketing so that the cycle can continue specifically with regard to re-targeting existing customers.


Reactionary with insight

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Predict Your Audience’s Preferences, Digging into [x+1]

[x+1]‘s VP of product development, Howard Fiderer explains in iMediaConnection how to make consumer data actionable so that you can tailor users’ experiences to their tastes on their very first visit in Predict Your Audience’s Preferences.


 


For those of you who are unfamiliar with the company, [x+1] is the former Poindexter.  Originally a primary ad serving company, Poindexter raised an eight-figure round of private financing in March of 2005 and used the funds to re-define the company from product, to target market, to brand.  Starting with adapting the mathematical formula x+1, Poindexter reset itself in the marketplace.  “We’re using this as an opportunity to mark a stake in the ground for a category we’re trying to define, marketing optimization,” the company’s CEO Toby Gabriner told ClickZ News in April 2005.  [x+1] proposed to focus on advertiser-marketing within the advertiser’s site while maintaining their advertising business, or ad serving business.  Ideally, they saw the opportunity to integrate the two products into a prospect-drawing and customer-targeting model as the ideal go-to-market.


 


First problem to overcome, Poindexter’s ad server was not viewed as a tier-one ad server in the market.  Although it had respectable market share, their reporting capabilities were commonly considered to be sub-par.  Major advertisers like American Express, who had termed contracts with Poindexter, complained about the lack of report diversity and the limitations of data availability.  Other agency users also had issues with their reporting, when their advertiser clients forced Poindexter on them.  That was the model for Poindexter, they sold to the advertiser so the agency would have to use them. 


 


Actually, it was more of a resultant model.  Poindexter sold to advertisers because they were looking to sell their ad serving and their developing predictive customer targeting back-end solution.  They promised improved reporting but it was not coming fruition on the ad serving side for customers. 


 


A Perfect example with regard to reporting shortfalls is the concept of ‘view-through.’  A view-through is when a user sees an advertisement served by an ad server but does not click on it.  Later that user visits the desired landing page which is tagged by the ad server and can be measured back by the ad server as having seen that particular ad on the associated site (placement) where it has been displayed.  This is known throughout the industry as a ‘view-through’ and [x+1] can not measure it, or at least does not report on it to its advertising customers.


 


But what [x+1] was particularly good at was/is the site-side customer analytics and applying those anaytics for targeting.  Like Howard’s article describes.  This is what secured their relationships with large advertisers who were using their ad serving as well.  The conversion from Poindexter to [x+1] was incredibly intelligent because it was a migration toward their core competency.  Following the April announcement, rumors spread that [x+1] would be abandoning their ad serving business altogether.  However they have maintained their media+1 product line, which is their ad server.  With that, however, they are hardly ever encountered as a competitive bidder in the ad serving sales arena.


 


One likeable aspect of Howard’s article was that it was not self-promoting.  Howard opens the door to site-side predictive modeling and website customer conversion and retention but he kept it very high level.  In fact, it would have been nice if he had gotten more granular for us so that we could have a better understanding as to how to apply his concepts.  I never have a problem when people mention providers – even their own companies – so long as they mention competitors and highlight the best solutions without bias. 


 


[x+1] offers up two primary products: media+1 and site+1.  Howard’s article is focused on a capability delivered by the latter, a tool that matches messages and offers with audience segments to simplify and optimize visitor acquisition, enable a site to up-sell conversions and promote customer retention.  This of course is according to the [x+1] web site.


 


My experience, and the feedback that I have received from clients is that site+1 is [x+1] true wheelhouse offering.  As I have described, this is where their ability to enable an advertiser to confidently target excels.  Ad serving is a secondary competency.  In fact, [x+1] has partnered with ad servers like DoubleClick to allow an advertiser to take advantage of site+1 while working with another ad server.  If not already, I would expect integration with more ad servers to come.  Clearly the company respects to obvious stats.  The first is that people are not going to change ad servers to utilize site+1 – they are not going to adapt media+1, known to be inferior, just to have the ability to utilize site+1.  Secondly, if someone is already using an ad server – and DoubleClick represents like 50% of the market (good first partner to choose), then better to enable integration to open up a new customer base than to compete.


 


Reactionary with Insight

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Get More with No-Cost Ad Serving, Maybe for Publishers

Well you knew I would be coming at this one.  Bennett Zucker’s February 16th, 2007 Get More with No-Cost Ad Serving article in iMediaConnection throws out the notion that the value of ad servers is fading out of existence.  While Bennett fails to be explicit about whether he is specifically looking at publisher ad servers or advertiser ad servers, let’s examine both from the perspective he presents.


 


Bennett says: “no-fee ad serving can bring about technological innovation, and better, cheaper, faster ways of getting things done online.”  True, ad serving has become an increasingly commoditized service.  Zedo and Mediaplex are the two biggest drives of this trend.  Zedo’s approach to giving away three-months of free ad serving and then converting customers to paying clients results in very cheap ad serving.  And Mediaplex is ‘buying’ business aggressively in an attempt to capture market share from DoubleClick and Atlas.  It is not uncommon to see $0.05 or $0.04 CPM rates from either provider for tiered impression volumes in excess of 100M/mos.  I’ve seen Mediaplex go as low at $0.035.  Hard to compete with.


 


Zedo is easier to compete with.  They are not certified to serve on as many sites, their customer service is not rated that high and their tool is buggy.  Mediaplex has its issues too.  I’ve gone into the competitive features of different ad servers in the past in my “How to pick an ad server series:”


 


1.      The Ad Server’s Point of View – Selling to the Advertiser and Cost


2.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part II Interface Evaluation


3.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part III Rich Media, Targeting & Optimization


4.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part IV Price


5.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part V Training


6.      How to Pick an Ad Server – Part VI Customer Support & Implementation


 


“Today we assume, for example, that it costs nothing in bandwidth or storage or processing power to add new subscribers and web pages. But this notion hasn’t been widely applied yet in the realm of ad serving.”  Actually Bennett, this is false.  With ever-increasing files sizes, rich media and video this is the one thing that is keeping CPMs from falling lower and, in fact, this is what is starting to drive CPMs back up.  Bandwidth is a fixed cost for an ad server.  Granted the more bandwidth you require the better your rate, but a pipe is a pipe and you pay for the bandwidth in chunks no matter what you push through it.  The operating model of an ad server is based on what sells and most ad servers have a minimum CPM that they need to cover to break-even.  This number increases as the files sizes creep up.  Video, especially, introduces a whole new level of bandwidth requirements like rich media.  I know people paying $4 CPMs with Eyeblaster if you can believe that!  Granted, they’re getting hosed.


 


Publisher ad servers have an interesting situation to consider, and the Google proposition is one that is knocking at their door.  If Google is going to offer free ad serving in exchange for joining the AdSense network, then you do have a problem for the ad servers.  This may be a very enticing offer to a publisher.  Eliminate the $0.08 DFP charge and that could be worth $100K/mos or more to the publisher’s operation.  It could be worth a lot more if they’re a large web site.


 


So how do advertiser ad servers stay in the game?  For one thing, what are ad servers really all about?  Is it posting ads, rotating, optimization and selection logic?  Really?  Come-on.  There is a reason why there are out-of-the-box ad servers like Ad Juggler and freeware php-Ads-new.  Okay, I think of them on the same level, you may not.  Because it’s not hard to upload ads to a server and select creative and post them.  Adteractive runs over 1 billion ads a month on a home-grown system.  All you need is scalability.  Servers.  Co-location helps so that you have the security of not worrying about going down regionally and you have the load-balancing geographically and potentially internationally.  Those are only subtle differences between the major ad servers and the tier-three players. 


 


Self-managed out-of-the-box ad servers can’t get certified on the Yahoo!, AOL and MSN’s of the world because of reasons like that.  So if you are using those solutions, you’re out of luck there.  But that is not necessarily an issue for all advertisers.


 


Ad servers for advertisers are in the game for log processing and reporting.  That is the meat of the game.  The ability to process 70-100 million logs per ad served and return impressions, clicks, post-click events per site, site-section and placement is the heart of what ad servers do.  Taken further, the better ad servers offer robust reporting and analytics that enable advertisers to cross-dissect the data to make empowering decisions.  This is where some of the real differentiation comes into play.


 


A second place is integration.  Ad servers are starting to step up and recognize that 2007 is about consolidated reporting.  Drawing together disparate data sources into the dashboard.  Blackfoot has been touting this for 2 years.  David Smith has been challenging the industry for over a year to bring this to light.  Ad servers are slowly coming to recognize that this is where they need to be. 


 


TruEffect began a project with mOne a year ago to build a consolidated report that brought together the search, email, rich media and ad serving data under one roof, within Microsoft Excel.  Nothing entirely different from what some of the other ad servers are capable of doing accept for the fact that it is active, live data that is manipulatable within a Microsoft Excel environment, instead of within a Web-based application and downloadable as .csv files.


 


Now I know first-hand that publishers are dissatisfied with their publisher ad serving solutions.  See my post: Banner Ads on Google.  And I know that there really is not a comprehensive solution out there that combines inventory management, sales management, forecasting (the wholly grail) and campaign management.  So maybe Bennett can shed some light on that in a follow-up article or perhaps Brad Beren’s can find someone to write a non-self-promoting article on the state of affairs of the publisher ad serving space.  But for now, the largest pubs out there are using a combination of home grown systems or a combination of DPF plus site-side analytics plus proprietary tools plus a room full of analysts; and all of them are blind more than just a couple of weeks out in terms of available inventory.  Crack that code and you get an award.  And a job … probably from Google.


 


Differentiation is key in every space, no doubt Bennett.  And the key is to make those differentiations known in the industry.  DoubleClick is asleep at the wheel.  Atlas is focused on their purchase of Accipiter and has let their client services slip so badly that their clients are just crying for someone to come and take them away (oh Calgon!).  Mediaplex is aggressive out there, no doubt.  But all they have to offer is a shelf full of the features that you should already expect from an ad server and a price that is intended to undercut DC and Atlas.


 


And now, the plug J … TruEffect has all the features, and yes, we’re competing on the price points too.  But we built the ad server within Microsoft Excel, TruAdvertiser.xls.  See Maximize your Ad Traffickers’ Value, Re-Evaluate Their Time for a deep-dive into the product with screen shots and all that good stuff.  I know, I named the post poorly, but there is a lot of meat in that one.


 


Anyway, TruAdvertiser.xls was built around the workflow of an agency or advertiser.  It integrates with other aspects of the business operation, leveraging all of Microsoft Office.  All aspects of the media planning, ad serving and reporting is conducted in Microsoft Excel and other disparate sources of data can easily be pulled in to create dashboard-like reports.  Data can be pushed out to accounting systems or other tools like internal business intelligence reporting tools.  There is not a whole lot that can’t be done with some specialize work.  And we do it everyday with our clients.  Okay, enough … that wasn’t bad (166 words).


 


So Bennett Zucker wrote us another good article.  And from the publisher ad serving perspective I think he is spot-on.  Commoditized pricing is an indication that there is little differentiation in the space.  If it is just about price, the players are driving head-first into the ground.  If someone does not crack the forecasting code it will remain a one-way ticket.  Google’s attempt to throw their hat into the game with their free publisher ad server for AdSense doesn’t even bother to take a swing at it.  My conversations with them last year yielded that they too didn’t have that problem solved.  So if you want to win, and maybe I can help you here, launch a publisher ad server with forecasting that can look out past 2-3 weeks with a degree of accuracy that can be leveraged for selling.  That is the golden egg.  In terms of advertiser ad servers, it’s not about features, everyone has them and that is why the prices have fallen.  Rich media, video and larger file sizes will drive the CPMs back up.  Integration and consolidated reporting will keep the leaders alive if they don’t stay asleep at the wheel.


 


Reactionary with Insight

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