Bid optimization and automation continue to play a critical role in search. However, focusing only on the bidding aspects of a solution, rather than the overall management technology, may be reducing your company's search growth.
I wouldn't consider myself a pure technologist (an evangelist, maybe). But over the last few years, I've focused on finding the "best in breed" search management technology. What I see (and what you probably know):
- There are a handful of solid solutions in the marketplace (e.g., Kenshoo, Marin, and Search Ignite).
- Bidding agents are somewhat of a commodity. To continue addressing advertiser needs, these partners have developed some insanely cool technology attributes to help advertisers market more efficiently.
- No solution fits all.
- Involve your managers in the evaluation process. Make sure the tool fits their management style as well as the advertiser goals.
- Have each site analytics solution provide their philosophy of management and client success around channel growth, but also management efficiencies. Do their success stories include similar business models to your own?
- As a stakeholder, it's important to know that product feedback will help evolve the product map.
- Set expectations early with your development and marketing teams. This process could take 24 hours or three weeks depending on site structure and development priorities.
Successful performance marketers must approach each advertiser with a resilient agnosticism (sounds good, right?), particularly when proofing a search management technology.
When evaluating a solution, it's good to start by working through a predefined matrix, which could include up to 30-plus points of interest. Let's look at the top four focuses.
1. Resource Agility
Platform management is a lot of work. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. This may be counterintuitive considering the pitch usually involves Solution A talking about their ability to basically create enough efficiency that the solution acts as a full-time employee. We saw how easy it was to manage a robot in "Batteries Not Included." Oh, wait.
Set the expectations internally and/or with the advertiser that this partnership will be a heavy-lifting process. Does the team have bandwidth to learn, manage, change process, change habit, and communicate to another partner (that being the technology solution)? These tools are fairly intuitive, but without the right manager in tow, the solution may be passed up for the engine UI.
2. Advertiser Characteristic(s)
Don't pick a solution based on vertical. Many marketers got into that problem when picking site analytics solutions a few years back and now are stuck with legacy contracts and stagnant reporting attributes. Pick a solution based on the specific advertiser needs.
If you're a retailer, what type of product are you selling? Do you have a higher SKU count than your competition? Have you considered inventory management? If so, how does Solution A extract data from your product feed and then apply to the predictive modeling algorithms?
3. Strategic Intent
People get bored easily, especially marketers. Face it, we're all a little wired. Consumers are the same way.
To stay in front of the curve, partner with a solution that you feel is providing something legit. These incremental changes need to provide end-user scale (i.e., live ad management for Google), as much as they do the legit-factor within the UI. Many times, I request a product map to see where the strategic leadership wants to take the solution.
This tends to be a sticky subject at times. Yes, one more integration document for your overworked development team. The top solutions have full on-boarding teams, hence the setup fee, which make this process fairly seamless.
Most importantly, you need to maintain agility through testing and research. Spend time reviewing these particular partnerships before the decision is made.
On paper, a partner may be 3 percent of channel cost and 3 percent of your incremental demand value, but with the right solution, that 3 percent could turn into 30 percent or more. Don't just believe the hype. Know that your needs are truly unique and find the right partner who believes the same.
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