The ABCs of performance marketing

“Performance marketing” and what it entails has evolved over the years. To me, it is ABC of things which revolves around analytics, being business-oriented, and customisable.

In its early days, performance marketing started as a subset with lots of affiliate work with committed targets. Analytics was not big, and optimisation and planning were in silos – an issue unfortunately still plaguing some agencies today. This is despite the very-measurable platforms like search and digital, that have become core components of what we do.

In those days of purely looking at campaign numbers, working in silos exacerbates flat results. Limits cannot be pushed further and the cost per acquisition remains low, despite feeling like you could’ve done everything possible. The reality is that as the online advertising industry continues to grow, changes and mindset shifts are needed in performance marketing, and this starts from us.

1) Analytics and actionable insights

We have started looping in other specialist teams such as analytics and e-commerce. Performance marketing is meant to be the smartest online advertising investment – as the brains behind execution, we too need to be smarter and strategic with our time and budget.

There are existing articles on the inevitable demise of the old performance marketing agency, which looks like this: purist, channel-based, and silo-shaped – I cannot agree more. Moving away from the pure numbers game, we add to optimisation by working with the analytics team to look at data and information that can be overlaid, and bring the planning component into the mix itself.

The difference? You can immediately start to see where the pockets of opportunity lie and differentiate the work and strategy delivered for clients.

For instance – if search campaign numbers for an airline or travel client are low, the basic assumption is that no one is searching for them. Working with the analytics team, however, we may instead find a more nuanced explanation: the consumers are not actively ready for purchase at that contact-point. This can be through deep-diving into category behaviour and looking at individual consumer routes – with no active demand, there cannot be high search volume. The opportunity is then time-targeting active booking periods, which is a smarter way of spending ad dollars.

Performance marketers do not stop at hypotheses and assumptions – we test them. The above is just one instance of how data can lead to an actionable insight.

2) Business-orientated

Validate first, differentiate later. Just as it is with optimisation, briefs should not be followed blindly. It is always best practice to go back to basics i.e. the client’s business objectives, to produce the best fit. In the case of a finance client, for instance, we can go back further to look at the marketed product to determine if the right audience segment is being targeted in the brief itself. In astutely tightening or widening the targeted segment, results are more likely future-proofed versus us focusing only on immediate acquisition outlined in the existing brief. Business opportunities become clearer for all parties when we look beyond media strategy, product and category.

3) Customisable

“End-to-end solutions” is the buzz now, but it is important not to fall into the cookie cutter. The above A & B orientations, aided with automation and tech partnerships enable us to be smarter with our time and resources, to produce custom, ROI-focused, and measurable results.

Seamless integration ultimately comes down to our talent, and contemporary performance marketing is driving teams with people of diverse skillsets versus regressing to generalists – enabling us more agility. Looking forward to the impending landscape of innovation and focused diversification, changes which are taking place as I write.

The author is Vivian Yeo, general manager, Performics Singapore.

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