For those of us not familiar with inSegment, please tell us a little more about your agency and type of clients you represent.
inSegment is an innovative, results-driven full-service digital marketing agency that specializes in custom web solutions, website and online presence design and implementation, SEO, SEM, advanced analytics, demand generation, email marketing, mobile app development and mobile-focused campaigns, social strategies, conversion optimization and recapture marketing. Headquartered in Boston, inSegment serves global to local companies in software, financial services, biotech and education verticals.
There has been a lot of hype about programmatic buying in the last few years, with many trade publications espousing that it would be the main mode of media buying in the near future. To the extent that you can reveal, what percentage of your media buys are direct to the publisher, through an independent ad network, as compared to through a self-serve ad buying platform?
The vast majority of our display buys are done through inSegment’s demand-side platform (DSP). However, we use whitelists and blacklists extensively to control where our ads are serving. Running a programmatic campaign on a DSP without those lists can be dangerous for brand safety. Occasionally, we will run smaller programs with one ad network – the Google Display Network and those buys are done through Adwords. Adwords has improved its display targeting noticeably in the last year with things like in-market segments and similar audiences.
You mentioned that in 2015 you implemented a strict lead verification process. Can you share more on how that works?
Let’s Verify is a lead validation platform we built. Let’s Verify allows you to quickly identify, validate, and improve your lead quality at point-of-entry. The platform sifts out the invalid leads, and delivers to you only the most qualified results, all while minimizing your cost per sales-qualified lead (CPSQL). We help marketers filter out leads with questionable data so you can pass onto sales only the most accurate records maximizing ROI and building sales to marketing love. We verify all the leads generated by your demand generation programs – you can upload CSV files or we can integrate with Salesforce or Marketo to automatically pull data in.
What would you say is the biggest challenge of being an independent, boutique ad agency?
The biggest challenge of being an independent, boutique ad agency is how quickly the industry is changing and will continue to change. inSegment always aims to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to industry trends and market behavior. That can be difficult when digital ad buying is evolving so rapidly. However, being a boutique agency is an advantage here because we are nimble. The agencies who are part of large conglomerates, and are in many cases our competition, have a harder time adapting. The big players are like a cargo ship; huge and powerful but cannot change course easily. We are more of a speed boat; fast moving and easy to steer!
What are some must-use tools that you cannot live without? (Google Analytics, Quantcast, comScore, SimilarWeb, Thalamus, Doubleclick for Advertisers, SEMRush, Ahrefs / Moz / Majestic, Adbeat / WhatRunsWhere / BoxofAds / MOAT, etc)
Google Analytics and Google AdWords are must-have tools. SEMRush is a great tool for both SEO and paid search; they have made a lot of improvements in recent years building out the capabilities of the platform, as well. Klipfolio is a tool we use for multi-channel dashboards with our clients, which is excellent at visualizing data from multiple sources. Marketing Automation tools are critical in order to get the most out of our lead generation programs; some of our favorites are Marketo, MS Dynamics, Pardot, Hubspot and Eloqua.
What would you say are some of the biggest nuances about buying media for clients in the high-tech, financial, and higher education sectors?
The channels where we spend our digital marketing budget are nuanced both by industry and by program goals. Some of our financial clients, particularly local banks and credit unions, are more interested in branding campaigns than B2Bs. For those campaigns, we rely more heavily on display and paid social. The B2B-tech clients tend to be more focused on lead generation. For those campaigns, we rely more on content syndication and cost-per-lead programs. Paid search and SEO generally bring the highest quality web traffic, but the nuances of search campaigns (both organic and paid) are completely different by industry.
It seems like a Cost-per-Lead would be the ideal success metric for a few of your clients (In the higher Education or B2B space). What types of view-through attribution windows do you typically use when working with ad network partners?
Yes, cost-per-lead pricing is becoming increasingly common, especially for our B2B-tech and higher education programs. The attribution window varies based on the channel and based on the client. When working with third parties in the content syndication space, we tend to use last-click attribution. For paid search and display programs we use a longer window than last-click, but this depends on the client. The best model is a comprehensive attribution model that ascribes value to all touches in the funnel. First click or last click both leave much to be desired.
What are some innovations happening now in the digital advertising market that excite you the most?
AI and Machine Learning are both very exciting. inSegment is leveraging machine learning with regards to our campaign optimization. A new offering of ours is Conversion Rate Optimization, leveraging machine learning. Instead of relying on unsophisticated tests or anecdotal evidence, we can use a series of algorithms analyzing user behavior to make educated decisions about our clients’ websites, ultimately improving their conversion rates and generating more leads.
What role does mobile play in your media planning / buying process? Does the consumer shift to mobile inform the responsiveness of your landing pages, or the amount of information you ask in the lead form?
Regarding mobile and desktop as two different channels is becoming an outdated mindset. As Google continues to blur the lines between desktop/tablet/mobile, we regard the three increasingly as one channel. Adwords’ shift to Enhanced Campaigns back in 2013 was a big deal in this shift. No longer could you segment Desktop, Tablet and Mobile campaigns in paid search. It’s important that all of landing pages are responsive to all device types and that the ad creative we use is compatible with all device types, as well. We try to keep forms short, for the sake of conversion rate, without losing important information.
Lastly, what is your take on the future of media buying for independent agencies in the B2B space?
Display advertising will be changing dramatically soon because of ad-blockers and brand-safety. Ad-blocking technology is evolving based on user behavior; instead of recognizing ads based on the domain it calls, ad blockers will be recognizing ads based on the dimensions of the ad and its placement on the page. Also, programmatic display buying has gotten brands into trouble recently by placing ads alongside dangerous content, essentially funding sites and publishers which brands do not want to support. Bad agencies and the ad networks are both to blame. We think the industry will shift in the direction of more creative ad formats and more targeted media buys.
inSegment is a Boston-based full-service digital marketing and advertising agency specializing in web design and development, SEO, demand generation and acquisition, and social media.