A marketer’s job is always changing, whether it’s keeping up with new trends and technology, or simply altering a strategy to grow with your company. Native advertising is the current “it” tactic, and as publishers are deciding the best ways monetize in an increasingly digital world, marketers like myself are figuring out how to take advantage of this great new opportunity.
I’ve been experimenting with native advertising programs for some time and want to share what I’ve learned along the way. Below are six things that I've found to be essential in creating successful lead generation campaigns using native advertising.
1) Get the Right Eyeballs
Your investment in native ads is only as valuable as the people who can see them. Review the publisher’s reader stats and make sure they line up with your target audience. Also, they will often include some sort of social promotion as part of the package, so find out what that is and figure out how you can amplify it with your own social media efforts. The publisher's social promotion could make all the difference in how much your content is viewed.
Questions to ask your vendors/publishers:
What is the demographic breakdown of the audience? (i.e. company size, title, industry, etc.)
Will the post be included in a newsletter?
Will it be promoted in their social channels?
What other method of distribution is included in the native ad package?
2) Create Content That Sells
Something you should always check for is if the publisher allows a piece of high value content to link back to your site. This is very important because otherwise native advertising can’t be used as a lead generation tool.
Once you’ve confirmed that the piece could link back to your website, check to see if your topic can help support your sales team's needs -- those are the best post topics to choose.
Last, you need to decide who will write the content. Here are your two options and the benefits of each:
In my experience, giving up a little bit of editorial control and having the publisher’s editorial team write the content on our behalf has worked well. Providing your publishers with the topic of your choice allows you to get the desired message out, but it'll be from the voice of someone the readers are already familiar with. Plus, it lightens up the workload on your end so you can focus on things like building a distribution campaign around the native ad.
At the end of the day, nobody knows the publication’s readers better than they do.
3) Build a Good Relationship With Your Publishers
All this comes down to building a close relationship with the editor and publisher of your native ad. Having open communication with the editor ensures the content is on par with your goals and messaging. It also provides the flexibility you’ll need should you run into challenges or your campaign does not perform as expected. Establishing that relationship will allow you to work with them directly to help pinpoint what isn’t working and create a solution to turn things around.
4) Get the Most Out of Your Money
Once you have your content and audience lined up, it’s time to think about the most important part of this equation -- revenue. The goal here is to be able to set your metrics at the start for both you and for your vendors.
One of the most important metrics to watch is the CPL (Cost Per Lead), as it can provide you with a base number to evaluate each offer, set expectations for future posts, and compare results between different pieces of content. When you know your average CPL, you can use that to determine whether or not the publisher’s offering is going to be worthwhile for your business.
What can you hold your publishers accountable for? Below is a quick breakdown of what metrics you can expect to watch based on who is hosting the landing page.
If you are hosting your own landing page, you can’t hold your publishers accountable for metrics they have no control over. If this is the case, you have to make sure that everything at the top of the funnel is optimized to drive the biggest number of leads (see the next section for more on that).
If your publisher is hosting the landing page on your behalf, then you can be a little bit more strict in terms of what is delivered to you. While they can’t have control over your sales team's follow-up process, they can very much control the quality of traffic driven to the article based on attributes you’ve pre-defined.
5) Optimize, Optimize, Optimize
As with any marketing channel, the key to perfecting your native ad is optimization in both the top and the middle of the funnel.
Knowing what your average conversion rates are for all your campaigns and breaking them down by campaign type is essential for evaluating campaign performance and optimizing it. Using the following formulas, you can pinpoint what needs to be changed if your campaign is not performing as well as you expected and work with the publisher to test out new iterations.
Number of unique views / total impressions = strength of headline. Since the publisher controls the headline, work with them to change it until this number is where you want it.
Number of clicks / unique views = strength of article. Same story here -- if your traffic is not where it should to be, talk to the publisher about what changes you can make to strengthen your content.
Number of leads / clicks = strength of landing page. Once they get to your landing page -- if they’re not converting to a lead, it’s on you! Try tweaking elements of the landing page to see if you can increase conversions. If you need some ideas on where to start, check out this post.
Remember to only compare your metrics against your own company data -- industry averages are influenced by many variables.
While these metrics can provide insight to optimize a campaign, the real goal of the campaign is lead generation. So the best metric to show success is the sales opportunities that are created from those leads.
Sales opportunities rely on quality leads. Since publishers have the visibility to see quality of traffic driven to the article, they can very well be held accountable for the quality of leads delivered.
Tip: In your native ad contract, you can stipulate that your publishers need to deliver leads under a certain CPL and a certain percent of marketing qualified leads.
Once the campaign has wrapped up, you can then use those numbers to compare and evaluate whether you should continue to invest in that publication or test out another. We once ran a campaign with a publisher whose CPL was double our usual number. We tried everything to make it work: cute dog photos, clever headlines, etc. But sometimes, it’s just not the right fit, and we needed to move along to greener pastures.
6) Evaluate, Compare, and Ask Questions
As native advertising becomes more mainstream and demand increases, publishers have more power and are becoming stricter with their offerings. It’s easy to be fooled by pricing, but not all the highest-priced options deliver the best results. Make sure you reach out to multiple publications, look at their media kits and ask a lot of questions -- you should fully understand what they’re offering before you sign on the dotted line.
At the beginning, testing out new publications and offers can be like dating. The first few times you work together, it may be difficult -- you’re just getting to know them. Then as you grow and get more comfortable, you begin to trust them and know what to expect. Try different publications and different offers -- each one will provide something a little different that will hopefully help you reach your ultimate goals.
Originally published Jun 9, 2014 12:00:00 PM, updated June 11 2021