Given marketers’ hyper-focus on capturing ever-increasing volumes of quality leads and acquiring customers that will yield the highest lifetime value, it’s not uncommon to leverage third parties (media partners, publishers, affiliate networks, etc.) in order to scale programs. The biggest challenge in this world of paid demand gen is identifying qualified fulfillment sources. The risk involved often causes organizations to stick with a small handful of tested and true publishers. While this seems like a safe strategy, it drastically hampers the ability to reach large volumes of new prospects.
It is possible though to mitigate the risk. By following a few practical steps, marketing teams can more easily identify skilled media partners to help drive measurable contribution to sales pipeline and customer acquisition goals. Admittedly, this can be time consuming, but valuable partners are worth their weight in gold. The goal here is to develop a rinse-and-repeat process that works for your organization so that – whether it becomes a recurring quarterly practice or one you only leverage when launching a new program – qualified publishers are only some research away.
Here are five steps you can apply to ensure smarter decisions when seeking new fulfillment; after all…quality starts at the source.
Ask Real Questions
Agencies have relied on this tried and true process for decades. Asking the right questions can be eye-opening. Take the time to develop a thoughtful RFP that serves the needs of today's modern marketing organizations and can easily be shared with prospective partners on demand. Questions should capture a sense, not only of a media company’s general capabilities (years in business, verticals of expertise, channels used, etc.) but also of their strategic thinking and growth processes. A few ideas to consider:
- Describe your core audience(s).
- What methods do you use to grow your own audience database?
- Do you always rely solely on your own audience to execute programs? If not, how do you go about tapping into other audiences?
- What compliance processes do you have in place to ensure that the prospects you generate for our campaigns meet our required parameters?
- What types of quality issues have you encountered with clients? How have you handled it?
- What metrics can you share about back-end conversion rates from programs you’ve executed?
Do Your Due Diligence
Let’s face it. Sources may not be entirely forthcoming with information, especially if they feel it could adversely impact the ability to earn your business. So don’t rely on publisher-supplied information alone. There are a host of ways you can conduct back-end searches on third-parties to reveal information that they would otherwise keep hidden. For instance:
- Domain Ownership – Identify who owns the website, when it was registered and additional information as to how it was created.
- Website & Traffic Value – Review website traffic information such as daily views, traffic net worth, backlinks and other valuable details.
- Fraudulent History – Check sites like the Better Business Bureau and Scam Advisor to uncover whether the partner has ever been reported for unethical business practices.
Conduct Reference Checks
Always ask for references. Speaking with past or current customers provides an invaluable view that you won’t get elsewhere. The right questions can reveal surprising details around a partner's strengths and weaknesses. Some areas to address:
- How long does it take on average for them to go live with a new campaign?
- For what verticals have you used their services?
- What is the average demographic or psychographic of the audience they reach?
- What percentage of the leads they generate meet your MQL and SQL standards?
- If they send leads that do not meet your criteria, how difficult or easy is it to return them?
- What percentage of leads do you ultimately return?
Test the Waters
At the end of the day, there’s no greater tool in getting to know the quality of one’s work than actually working with them. One of the best strategies in launching a new program is to start a large number of publishers with small campaign allocations. Even though this can require more effort to set up on the front end (unless you’re using a tool that lets you manage all of your media and fulfillment partners) it’s the safest way to ensure your media dollars are well invested and you identify numerous new partners who can scale marketing programs rapidly and effectively.
The most important step when testing new sources is to attribute outcomes back to the point of origination and…
Let the Data Decide
Integrate has spent five years collecting performance data behind the activity of thousands of media partners. Customers using our platform are able to review each partner’s detailed capabilities profile along with client references and, most importantly, the performance analytics of all programs they’ve executed through the Integrate platform. Marketers use this information to identify partners with proven track records delivering qualitity leads for similar programs.
Even with this level of detailed information and the support of our technology, we still recommend starting small and testing each partner for yourself. It’s been proven time and again that those who let the data decide experience substantially better results.