What To Do When The Recipe For Your Secret Sauce Gets Changed

Last year we tracked one of our client’s digital successes and failures.  We learned— we adjusted— we succeeded.  We were heroes in our own minds.  We thought we had discovered the secret sauce after setting up a system that allowed us to report, analyze, adjust and substitute any time we wanted or needed to.  We were nimble.  We met all of the KPIs and everyone deemed the ad campaigns successful.  Life was good.

Now all we had to do was repeat what we’d done the year before and negotiate good deals with the publishers, right?


With new websites coming on daily, pricing changes and competition becoming smarter, our old formula wasn’t going to work again.  So what do we do?  We have to find the next new thing that may drive leads for our client.

As the digital world continues to evolve, publishers are under constant pressure to deliver more revenue producing products.  Pricing changes when one product is successful and new products that were once priced low to start, are now jacked up to an unreasonable CPM.  Competitors are suddenly nipping at our heels competing in strategy, budget or platform.

It seems as soon as you see success with one site, suddenly your competitors are on there as well.  Don’t think it’s just the competition watching your moves, there’s a site Sales Manager tracking what you’re doing and then instructing their sales team to pitch “like category” competitors after seeing your success.  If it works for one category, it should work the same way for everyone in that vertical and they’ll use your case study to sell them.

Content ads are becoming more and more popular, but some publishers don’t know how to price them just yet and it can become a win/lose very fast.  Because content ads should be original, helpful and insightful, it’s also sometimes difficult for the client to keep an edge.  They do drive a lot of traffic, but they’re mostly good for branding messages and overall awareness.  It’s difficult to measure an action with these types of ads because it’s directing users to an article on your site.  To then get them to go to a landing page and/or convert is not realistic.  It can be part of the media mix, but difficult to track conversions.

Okay, so you have a grasp of what’s needed for the new year’s efforts.  You’ve done your homework and competitive analysis.  Then the client asks that their leads click thru into their Salesforce database so they can see exactly how effective their ads are and build a sales database at the same time.  In theory this sounds awesome, but if you’ve ever worked with Force.com pages you know it’s a closed system with little flexibility.  We thought we had problems before?  The IT department won’t let us put Google Analytics or any third party pixel/measurement system on their Force.com pages.

Without landing pages, registrations will go directly into the Salesforce system.  Great for the Sales team, not so great for the Ad team.  All we could do was see clicks into Salesforce, but not where they came from or any other necessary optimization info.  Traffic tracking doesn’t help optimize ad buys, what to do?

We’d lost our advantage.  We couldn’t track like we’d done in previous campaigns. We could see traffic, but not quality which was a big problem.  Tracking mobile users became even more of a challenge with Google Analytics (GA) and social media apps. We tried to come up with a solution for almost a full year.  It was painful trying to negotiate with the client’s IT department that (rightly so) was mostly concerned with keeping control of their Force.com pages and doing everything they could to prevent hacking and viruses.  After all, they’re not concerned with ad measurement; they don’t even understand the tools.

We invested in a third party measurement system called Kissmetrics to compliment GA. This allows us to really drill down into the response of each campaign with reports above and beyond what GA can provide.  We can see detail that we never had before which will help us develop future strategies.

We also educate ourselves on the latest and greatest offerings of every site.  If we read an industry article on a new trend, we then go to our “tried and true” media and ask if they have it yet.  We don’t rush to use new media just because it’s new, but since we now have our tracking infrastructure built, we know how new media can integrate with our systems and help us to reach our goals.

The new frontier of media is exciting and sometimes amazing.  What’s happening now is what media buyers live for!  The amount of detail, measurement and reach is beyond what anyone could have ever dreamed and it allows buyers to be creative in what was once considered a very boring, numbers oriented process.  Media buyers were the “accountants” of advertising and sequestered to the business side of the agency.  Now they too can be creative and trendsetting!

The client is currently directing traffic back to the landing pages after a suggestion (is hissy fit too strong?) from us.  We’re using a conversion dashboard for every campaign as well as cutting and pasting conversions into Salesforce for their sales team. It’s a little cumbersome, but right now, this is the best solution for the client and it seems to be working for everyone.  We get our tracking and they get their database—everyone is happy.

Our take away from this whole process is that there IS no secret sauce. Just because you have a successful year and meet the client’s goals, doesn’t mean you can sit back and do it again with the same strategy.  Everything changes, like it or not.  The sophisticated marketer will win in the end.  The dinosaur marketer is going to find their very professional survival at risk if they don’t evolve.