Four Questions to Ask Your Digital Marketing Partner

One of the most prevalent issues business owners face is that of growth. How do we reach the people that need our product? And once we’ve found them, how do we catch their attention and convince them that what we do brings them value? These questions are only made more difficult by the numerous marketing options available to us.

This is a post by SwipeSum CEO Michael Seaman.

Managing a growing company is no walk in the park. Over my entrepreneurial career, and especially over the last two years with SwipeSum, I have spent a lot of time putting out fires and solving unexpected problems.

One of the most prevalent issues business owners face is that of growth. How do we reach the people that need our product? And once we’ve found them, how do we catch their attention and convince them that what we do brings them value? These questions are only made more difficult by the numerous marketing options available to us.

Online advertising, and more specifically programmatic advertising, is one of the most difficult to master. It’s a complex web of platforms, processes, and metrics that can confuse even the most savvy marketer. It’s no surprise that 43% of CMOs report completely outsourcing their online advertising efforts, with another 27% partially outsourcing it.

At SwipeSum, we took the partial outsourcing route. We partnered with a well-known retargeting vendor while running Google Ads campaigns in-house. We found huge value in outsourcing, but when we talked to our partners, they couldn't answer many of the questions we had for them and their reports weren’t nearly as comprehensive as we had hoped.

So, we started looking for a new partner. In talking with and evaluating a large number of potential vendors, I had a lot of time to think about what was really important to me when it comes to digital marketing. The result of that thinking is this article: a veritable checklist of requirements for a strong digital marketing partner.

Here are the four questions that you should discuss with your digital marketing partner before signing on:

1.    How much are your fees?

SwipeSum’s passionate about removing credit card processing fees, so naturally this is the first question I ask any business we partner with. If your digital marketing partner can’t break down ad cost versus overhead costs, you’re asking to overpay.

We found ourselves falling into this trap with our partnerships, so we started looking elsewhere to find a partner that had our same passion for transparency. When Dan Larkman, CEO of Keynes Digital, told us that "the simplest way to drive incremental returns in programmatic advertising is to remove wasteful expenses," we knew we had found our new partner.

Many digital advertising vendors out there take margins over 60% on top of ad cost, which is far too much for most businesses to justify, not to mention the plethora of hidden fees that run rampant in the industry. It’s better to seek out a partner that can break down what you’re spending on fees, data and media.

2.   Can you deliver a positive ROI?

It’s important to remember why we spend money on marketing. Ultimately, our goal is growth. It’s to generate a return on that investment, whether in the short- or long-term. Vendors out there might point to impressions, clicks, and other metrics as the be-all and end-all of your digital marketing efforts, but that’s just not true. Impressions and clicks mean nothing if they don’t translate into a measurable ROI for your business.

One of the best ways to drive that ROI is through constant improvement. We have had partners in the past that created an ad campaign for us, then let the thing run without any sort of optimization or changes. That’s not to say the campaign performed poorly or failed to produce results, but we recognized that if the campaign had been better optimized, we could have seen much better results.

So how do we know if our campaigns are being optimized? Two words: machine learning. A recent MAGNA study showed that campaigns optimized by machine learning performed 2.2 times better than human-run campaigns. When you set out goals for your campaign, make sure that you ask your partner how their technology will achieve them. If there answer is “we’ll do our best,” or “let me get back to you,” you’re probably missing out on the performance that a machine-learning powered partner might offer.

3.   How much data do I have access to?

Data is a key piece for any growing business. Without access to it, you won’t know for sure how far your marketing dollars are going. To truly understand your campaign, you have to be able to see the numbers behind it, not just the metrics your partner wants you to see. Of course, there are vendors who do the exact opposite and give you so much data that it would require a NASA engineer to understand your cost per action (CPA).

Apply the Goldilocks principle here. You need access to data that is detailed yet digestible. Make sure you have regular access to reporting on key performance indicators, but make sure you can also request more detailed reports when you really want to dig deep. Understanding the data behind your campaign will help you to better know what tactics you should employ going forward and where your money is most effectively spent. Vendors that are willing to provide any data points on a regular basis are the companies you want to partner with. 

4.   Do you understand our business?

As I said earlier, online advertising is super complex. It’s far from one-size-fits-all, so why partner with a digital marketing agency that treats you like everyone else? SwipeSum has a pretty unique business model in that our main service is completely free. We have very specific targeting needs that are tough to get right, which became evident in some previous partnerships.

When you have your first call with a potential partner, you should spend a lot of the time explaining what your business does. Your partner needs to know your business model, marketing strategy, target customer, etc. If they don’t ask you about these things, then you can’t expect that their offerings will be very helpful. It’s crucial to choose a vendor who takes the time to understand your industry and your business.

When we first came into contact with Keynes Digital, they did exactly that. We were even provided pricing for our specific industry so we could compare against other vendors. They met every one of the criteria we had when it came to selecting our partner, including digestible data, transparent pricing, outstanding service, and a great campaign optimization system. This isn’t an ad, we just really like them. We’re spending less money and seeing better results than we ever did before.

For any owner or manager of a business large or small, getting online advertising right can have a tremendous effect on growth. If you, like me, are intimidated by the complexity of programmatic advertising, there’s no shame in outsourcing. In fact, doing so can be incredibly valuable. Just be sure to properly evaluate every potential partner by asking them the four questions outlined above.

Michael Seaman

Michael is the co-founder and CEO of Swipesum. A veteran of the payments industry, Michael and his brother Stephen have led Swipesum since its inception in 2016. In his free time, Michael likes to play with his two daughters and skateboard.

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