5 Tips for Smart Programmatic Ad Buying

So, you’re looking to make the transition over to programmatic ad buying? Seems about right to us. In 2020, it’s basically impossible for a direct response marketing campaign to go without at least some level of programmatic investment. But however you found yourself headed towards programmatic ad buying, you need a plan.

While programmatic marketing and advertising can help make your life a lot easier, it doesn’t mean you’ll eliminate your chance of screwing things up. In fact, automating your ad buying process can lull you into a false sense of security. The more automated the process gets, the less thoughtful some marketers tend to act when planning their campaigns.

And there might be a good chance you haven’t taken much time to research best practices and tips! Another pesky byproduct of ad buying platforms and marketing tools that help make your job easier.

So, let’s just get process that out of the way now. We’re going to offer up 5 tips for making your programmatic ad buying a heck of a lot smarter. Your numbers will thank you, your budget will thank you, your ROI will thank you—and you’ll thank you.

5 Tips for Smarter Programmatic Ad Buying

It’s about time you upgraded your approach to programmatic marketing. Keep these five tips in mind and see the results.

1. Don’t neglect to set KPIs.

Oh, the KPI. Haven’t forgotten about that, have you? Of course not. Key performance indicators provide guidance and help you define your performance goals. Surprisingly, though, when you automate portions of the marketing and advertising process, it can become quite easy to neglect one of the most sacred tenets of reporting.

When you set your KPIs for an advertising campaign through traditional media—say an affiliate—you have an idea of your budget. You determine the amount of revenue you need to earn through that affiliate in order to consider your campaign a success.

For some reason, a lot of marketers seem to assume that having a dashboard which shows your CPC, your engagement, and clicks to your site replaces the need for KPIs. And we hate to break it to you, but they don’t. Your key performance indicators should be your first consideration when working on the budget and measurement of a campaign—not an afterthought. Once you have that great programmatic data, compare it against your KPIs.

2. With better targeting capabilities comes a need to tailor your creative.

Among the biggest advantages of programmatic ad placement on digital platforms like Google and Facebook, you can get incredibly granular with your demographic targeting. When negotiating prices on broadcast or magazine ads, you have somewhat of a limitation. Tailoring your message becomes a game of broad strokes shaped primarily by the media itself.

For example, you’d likely advertise a product differently in Men’s Fitness than you would in AARP. But between Men’s Fitness and GQ, the differences between the ads may become less noticeable despite the minor difference in readership demographics.

Conversely, Facebook and Google bring pretty sophisticated targeting tools. When placing an ad on Facebook, you can narrow your results by demographic, age, job type, gender, even what interests the person may have. Serious targeting potential! However, when you get more specific, you run the risk of having unspecific messaging. Facebook might allow you to target and run ads for three different age groups of men. And that might mean one more age group you weren’t effectively reaching before. When you enhance your targeting, tailor your messaging accordingly.

3. Look to your own metrics to see what resonates.

For some reason, when a lot of direct response marketers plan their campaigns, they seem to conclude that they’re targeting an entirely different group of customers than the ones they already have.

Now, this could be the case if you’re looking to expand into a new demographic or have a new service. But otherwise, your “ideal customer” probably looks a lot like some of the customers you already have. And that gives you an advantage. Not only can you see what resonates in your programmatic ads, but also you can see what resonates on your own website with the kind of people you’re targeting. Look at your most effective links, landing pages, and blog posts. They may help you hone your messaging.

4. Always test your campaign before a full rollout.

Okay, we all know about A/B testing. But in the context of programmatic ad buying and marketing, you might not think about it as thoroughly as you should. Typically, with A/B testing you might go, literally, with an A and a B. You choose two different versions of your ad and you see which performs better on a smaller scale than your full campaign. Whichever performs better, you’ll work with as your primary message.

However, the exact budget you should spend on your programmatic A/B rollout can remain a little elusive. You might be working with three hundred dollars or five hundred thousand dollars. But the truth is, the total doesn’t really matter. Whatever the scale might be, you want to remain as effective as possible.

A good rule of thumb would be to spend no more than 10% of your budget on testing your ads. Depending on your total budget, aim for 10,000+ or 500,000+ impressions to give yourself a clear sense of the efficacy of your ads. If you’re working with a smaller budget, adjust accordingly. Just ensure you have a clear direction on your messaging before you pull the final lever.

5. Keep track of your changes as you go.

When you harness the power of programmatic, you open yourself up to more dynamic marketing. You can make on-the-fly changes to your copy, budget, targeting—you name it.

But it can become quite easy to go overboard and lose track of what changes you’ve made and why. To better keep track of your programmatic campaign, try marking down any fine-tuning you do in a spreadsheet. Share it with whoever might be working on the campaign with you, and keep it up to date. Whether your campaign is a runaway success or not, you’ll want to know what worked and what didn’t.

Reprogramming Yourself for Programmatic Ad Buying

Programmatic ad buying really opens up the world of direct response marketing, which is why it’s increasingly the go-to way to buy ads, especially in the digital space. But with that power should come a rededication to learning.

And keeping these five tips in mind is a good start. Now go out there and build the campaign of your dreams!

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