How challenger brands can win at biddable media

Chris Pittham

Chris is the managing director of Jaywing, a UK-based data science marketing company that officially set up shop in Australia in 2017 off the back of its acquisition of Digital Massive.

Challenger brands, especially in highly competitive markets, generally can’t match established players for media spend.  

But the key thing is they tend to be nimbler than established players and outcome, rather than budget, focused. They’re also more inclined to employ agencies, which are full of people with direct access to the likes of Google and who are bang up to date with the latest techniques and tools. All of which means they can work far smarter. 

And data is the key to being smarter. Without end-to-end tracking, any bidding strategy will be little more than a stab in the dark and a waste of valuable budget.  

Joining the dots

To be fair, most advertisers today have moved beyond simple ad testing, average cost per click (CPC), click through rate (CTR) and traffic volumes, to tracking a click to an onsite action such as completing a form and generating a lead. But understanding what is happening right through to customer acquisition is crucial to setting an advanced search and biddable media strategy that optimises the drop-out rate at each stage and delivers a considerably lower cost per new customer.   

Automation is the holy grail but a bit of creativity about data capture can go a long way to better optimisation.

What to bid on

Established players are most likely bidding on ‘short-tail terms’, such as ‘mortgage’ or ‘credit card’ in banking, for example. While this ensures an ad appears in front of lots of people, it’s also a great way to blast through the budget at an alarming rate. So what should be happening?  

Keyword analysis identifies many thousands of variations about a particular topic, from short-tail queries to long-tail terms, such as ‘low rate P&I mortgage Sydney’.  Long-tail terms are generally considerably lower cost and deliver better qualified traffic which is more likely to convert. However, they are very specific with lower volumes, meaning you need to bid on thousands of them. This does of course result in more campaign management, however, much can be automated and the results are worth the effort.  

Beyond this, it’s essential to understand what’s happening throughout the journey. Tracking leads and ultimately acquired customers by keyword allows for further campaign refinement to improve lead quality and reduce budget wastage.  

And while all of this requires more research, nimble campaign structures and proactive real-time management means the overall cost per acquisition will still be a fraction of that of a short-tail campaign that does not factor in lead quality. Further, a view of all other activity such as display and paid social for online media, SEO and traditional media advertising, and how it works together, ensures the best return on investment. Full-scale attribution modelling is a complex analytical task, but there are many steps between this and the standard ‘last interaction’ model.  

It is important to compare channel performance, too. For example, a particular channel may attract a much lower conversion rate, but it may also be considerably cheaper per click and result in the same net effect as paying for highly competitive short-tail PPC terms.  

A continually tested, blended channel approach not only avoids saturation, it also hedges risk and protects against a major change to the performance of a particular channel that could have a significant and detrimental effect on a business. Having a balanced online marketing mix also helps to delay diminishing returns as budgets increase.

Encouraging conversion

Landing pages tailored to the action, keyword and/or ad that resulted in the click both provide further information and capture data to pre-qualify the lead. Pointing a click at a standard product or service page probably won’t perform as well. Combining this with conversion rate optimisation (CRO) will deliver the best results as this looks at the wider website conversion rate for multiple traffic sources, not just PPC.  

Indeed, user journeys are complex, with users often making multiple visits prior to completing a desired action.  

Having paid a premium for the first click, later conversion can be encouraged relatively inexpensively, through nurturing techniques such as email follow up, display retargeting, customised offers, different messaging and so on.  

It is also possible to exclude a user who has already visited your site and knows your brand from more premium priced cost per click campaigns or where they appear not to have the attributes of a desirable customer or typical converter.  

The key to success in biddable media campaigns comes down to optimisation through testing, examining what the data is telling you at every point in the sales process, targeted follow up of non-converters and being true to your brand. This will ultimately deliver both far better customer experiences and marketing results. It will also make the best use of limited budget and help challengers not only to enter the market but win too.

7 steps to biddable media success:

  1. Use a bigger, smarter keyword strategy, as opposed to going head-to-head.
  2. Think about ways to reach the same customer more efficiently.  
  3. Track and capture data accurately at every stage of the sales process.
  4. Follow the maths and test, test and test again. 
  5. Use landing pages, CRO or both to improve conversion.
  6. Blend channels to hedge risk and delay diminishing returns.
  7. Don’t neglect non-converters, they could be an untapped gold mine.


Tags: digital advertising, attribution modelling, programmatic advertising

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