What if I told you that there is a better alternative to Google AdWords?
That it has many times the global reach, is much more effective, converts better, and is a lot cheaper?
Would I have your attention?
I felt the same way when I spoke with Adam Berke, the President of AdRoll.com, a display re-marketing company.
His claims sound almost too good to be true, but they aren’t – they’re real, tested, and probably one of the greatest opportunities for your business that you haven’t heard of yet.
And the whole conversation was recorded. Take twenty minutes, listen to it, and then ask your questions in the comments!
Without further ado, here’s the interview, 19 minutes for you to enjoy:
Here’s the full transcript:
Danny: Hi Adam, thanks for being with us on the call today.
Adam: Hi there, you’re welcome.
Danny: For the benefit of our listeners, Adam Berke is the president of AdRoll.com, a re-marketing company that caters to small businesses. Adam, tell us a little about AdRoll, where you guys came from and what you guys do.
Adam: Sure thing. So, yeah, in terms of background, we founded the company in, around 2006, early 2007, with a pretty general business mission of trying to improve upon the options that were available for display advertising. At the time, search was growing at an unprecedented rate for any marketing channel in human history, really, and display was sort of the afterthought, and sort of… not even an afterthought, but was viewed fairly negatively. It was sort of used as a branding channel for a few big brands on mostly premium publishers, and then everything else, there was a major drop-off, and after that it was pretty much just, it was the junky dancing aliens and punch the monkey and a lot of these, you know, remnant scammy, just carpet-bomb ads, there was nothing in between. And we looked at what was driving the growth in search and it really was these small and mid-sized businesses and a lot of e-commerce. And those folks love search for a variety of reasons. You know first off, it delivered a very tangible ROI, like you could put a dollar in and with some tweaks and optimizations and a few tricks, you could see, you know, more than a dollar out in sales. And so, it worked, essentially, from a performance perspective. And it was also that the barrier to entry was also, not that high. You could, you could start a campaign and dabble in it and not have to talk to a salesperson or an expert, at least not to get started. You could have some level of self-service and control and kind of do some things yourself and get going quickly. And it was very transparent. You had a lot of visibility and insight into what was performing well and you could make tweaks. So we wanted to apply those same, some of those same tenants to display advertising, and that’s what we went about building, building a true software with a service platform that let people, let any size advertiser get access to display advertising tools and run campaigns in a variety of ways. And have the transparency in business and insights and not have to work with a consultant or a salesperson at a display advertising company to run a campaign.
Danny: And how are you guys doing? I mean, you guys have, you’ve been around from 2007; you must be doing pretty well.
Adam: Yeah, things have really taken off. You know, if there was, you know, given that our mission was to improve upon display advertising and the fact that we, you know, our assessment of the market was, you know we’ve done a lot of things right and we’ve gotten lucky in a lot of cases, you know, one of the things that we did right was recognize the potential in display advertising, and so we were very early to build this type of platform that made display more like search, we were one of the first companies to do it. And one of the first companies to leverage exchange inventory and try, instead of trying to build an ad network, we realized there was already plenty of inventory you could tap into, the trick was how to, how to target it, and that’s where we took another major lesson from search, in realizing that what really made search work is that it’s powered by intent data. Google has this magic little box on their site that everybody in the world goes to and types in exactly what they want to buy, and exactly where they want to travel, and exactly what kind of content they want and that’s the most powerful – that’s called intent data, and that’s the most powerful data with which to match ads, and so we went about trying to figure out how to bring that to display, and we realized very quickly that the way to do that was adwords retargeting. That every website has a treasure trove of intent data that, at the time, not a lot of folks were doing a good job of capturing. So people give you intent data not by typing it in explicitly into a search box like Google, but by looking at certain products or going to certain areas of your site, or taking certain actions, and you can use that data to segment and target people and adjust your campaigns and if you kind of take that same approach as you would to, in search, you can receive similar ROI to that of search because it’s all powered by intent data.
Danny: That’s really cool! Adam let’s, let’s just back up just a little bit for a second. What is re-marketing, for people who aren’t familiar with the concept?
Adam: Yeah so in its most basic form, it’s the ability to focus ad campaigns and target specific users who have visited your sight and either done or not done a certain action, that’s sort of the basic use case of retargeting, but what it really is, is understanding the behavioural patterns of people on your site, and adjusting campaigns to best leverage that behavioral data. Not everybody who visits your site is ready for the same message or the same ad, and retargeting, in a more advanced application, allows you to match up your messaging and your budgets and your targeting based on what people are doing on your site, to help educate them and bring them through the process or becoming a customer.
Danny: Can you give a couple of examples in terms of what that might look like in practice?
Adam: Yeah, sure. So, at two ends of the spectrum, you know, someone who maybe comes to your sight, and looks at the homepage, reads around a bit and then leaves, is a very different type of person than someone who’s viewed multiple products and maybe put some things in their shopping cart, and then abandoned from there. One is much further down the conversion funnel then the other. So, whereas you might target the person who went to the shopping cart with an offer, or something like free shipping, or something along those lines, someone who has abandoned the homepage still needs to be educated on the value proposition of what it is you do. And the value is very different, that message, that upper-funnel message is probably worth a little bit less to deliver than someone who’s just about to convert if you can kind of sweeten the deal or just stay in front of them a little bit more, so you know those are areas where you probably want to bid different amounts, prioritize your budgets in different amounts, and also deliver different messages.
Danny: So, I’m very interested in how you put together your business model, because, the kind of default, go to, gut reaction of everyone who’s thinking of getting into display advertising in the way that you are is, I need a display network. I need to get a whole bunch of websites to come on board and give me space and then I can sell that space to other people. And you guys went a completely different route. So tell me about that decision.
Adam: Right. Well, yeah, when we were starting the company and we were just getting off the ground, you know, out of necessity we realized we needed to keep one side of the equation constant. And the major disadvantage that any ad network has is that they’re trying to optimize for two sides of the equation. They need to make their publishers money, so the publishers stick around, and they need to run effective campaigns for their advertisers, and that means paying very little for inventory, so that can be a little bit challenging and can result in some conflict, even internally, so one of the things that at AdRoll we realized very early was the power of online advertising exchanges. At that time it was DoubleClick and now it’s, it was acquired by Google and there’s the DoubleClick Exchange that’s sometimes called AdEx. There was Yahoo! RightMedia, there was, Microsoft had an exchange called AdECN and that’s evolved over time also. But the trend has really been for these large inventory aggregators and exchanges to make their inventory available for folks like us. And that makes it, it makes our job a lot easier, because then all we need to do is figure out the best way to run a campaign for an advertiser. We don’t need to worry about making publishers money. All we need to worry about is running really effective campaigns for advertisers, no matter where that campaign might run. So we don’t care if it runs on Google or Microsoft or Yahoo! or AOL, we just care that it delivers the best possible results for the advertiser. That’s really given us an advantage in running profitable campaigns for our, for our customers.
Danny: So, practically speaking, if I were to come and set up a campaign with you guys, where would my ads actually be running?
Adam: Yeah, we’re integrated with over 30+ inventory sources, so we, instead of having to work with hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of individual publishers, we work with large inventory aggregators, be that Google, or Yahoo!, or Microsoft or AOL, or 20+ other more niche ad networks, or what are called “yield optimizers”, folks like Pubmatic and Admeld, and Rubicon Project, folks who work with publishers to help them manage their ad inventory. We can integrate with them and buy in real-time also, and that allows us to cherry pick the best performing inventory pieces from across all of those sources, and that just, from a pure math perspective is going to work better for the advertiser then having to take the good and the bad from any single source, whether that be just Google or just Yahoo!, or any, any one source you might pick out. Being integrated across many results in a more optimized, more efficient campaign, than just buying from one.
Danny: And what’s the process of actually setting up a campaign, I mean, for example, is it a lot like setting up an AdWords campaign to run on the Google Display Network?
Adam: It’s a lot like that. It’s a lot like that. So that was one of the, our goals in the world, and as we were investigating ways to make display more effective and, and one of the different approaches that we took, a lot of the businesses that were focused on display and, and a lot of them that still are, are more service oriented models, where you have to have a fairly large budget because their approach is going to be to work with a salesperson and there’s going to be a lot of manual steps in the process. We decided to take a more, more technology-driven approach and leverage a platform that allows us and allows our advertisers to set up campaigns in a simple, more automated fashion, so any size advertiser can set up an account, actually start with a free trial, and get off the ground and test some things very easily and without the need for a lot of back and forth and negotiations and so forth.
Danny: And what is the cost of doing that past the free trial?
Adam: We have no minimum spends; it’s all about what the ROI is. As the ROI improves advertisers usually increase their budgets, but our cost is just based on the actual cost of the inventory that we buy across all of those sources, so we’re very transparent. The way that display advertising is bought in those exchanges is on a bidded CPM basis, so advertisers who are using our system, what’s happening is that we’re placing bids on those various inventory sources on behalf of that advertiser, and we do it with all this science and AI behind it, where we’re trying to say: “Okay, well, this user, because they went to the shopping cart, is more valuable than this user who just went to the homepage.” And we can do all that kind of analysis behind the scenes, so that when we place a bid, we have it matched up to what the likely outcome is for that advertiser, and then whether we win or lose the auction, there’s a certain price that goes along with that, just like it does in search and we broadcast that back to the advertiser.
Danny: So what happens if you lose the auction, does the advertiser still pay?
Adam: Nope. No, if we lose the auction it would be just like search, or using a tool to mange search campaigns.
Danny: Okay, so there’s no like, regular, recurring, base amount of cost, this is whatever you are paying for your CPMs, just like if you’re advertising on AdWords.
Adam: You got it, yep.
Danny: So, it sounds very appealing for small business because you can be so much more intelligent about your advertising, but it sounds like there would also be a lot more setup overhead. Because, I mean, if you’re going to, instead of having one ad that you’re going to display to everyone, everywhere, which is, granted, very bad marketing, you’ve got to have all of these different scenarios constructed. In terms of possible paths through the site and user intent and all that kind of stuff, and then you’ve got to also do all this back-end tracking right? Like, I’ve got to somehow integrate technology to your ads so we’ll know if people have been here, if they’ve been there. Now I’m not a, like, you know, I’m kind of comfortable with technology, but I’m not a programmer or anything, and I feel like my head is starting to spin.
Adam: Yeah, well there are all sorts of levels of complexity. You can make your campaigns very complex and very sophisticated and you can also make things very simple. And generally we would start with a very simple integration, and getting started is very easy; the only technical aspect is placing our pixel. And that is the same process that one would go through to place the Google Analytics pixel. So it’s something that people are generally very comfortable and familiar with. It’s one pixel that goes across the entire site. And in our interface we make it very easy to create segments based on the URLs that people visit. So for example if we’re talking about an online retailer who sells shirts and pants, we can, in our interface, just say: “I want to create a segment called pants for anyone who goes to a URL with the words pants in it.” And then automatically, from our pixel, our pixel would start creating a segment of people who looked at pants and then you can deliver an ad that recommends something, or shows something about pants. So it’s actually very easy to setup, and getting the initial segmentation going is, we make it very simple. And then, yeah, as people want to get more complex and more sophisticated and want to refine things further, we can do things with dynamic creative for example, that actually crates an ad on the fly based on the products that that individual person looked at, so you know, that would be a more sophisticated integration that might take a little bit more time and might be further down the optimization path. But you now, that’s true with search engine advertising also; you start with a few basic keywords and then you expand them and then you test other wording and so forth and you make your campaign better and more expansive over time.
Danny: And what would you say is the average like… what is realistic, if I’m just starting from scratch, I’m moderately technical, but not super technical, I don’t, you know I’m not, I’m not a super kick-ass Perry Marshall-style AdWords guy, what’s my setup time to get started and kind of have good campaigns running.
Adam: The only variable in the equation is really traffic. Obviously in order to retarget people we need people to retarget, so, we generally use as a rule of thumb that we can launch, that a campaign can be launched once there are a thousand people to target, so that is sort of the limit, the only limiting factor, and everything else can be done within a few minutes, setting up the account, placing the pixel, setting up a few basic segments, and uploading ads. And then we just kind of wait until the people are on the lists and in the segments and then the campaigns can launch.
Danny: Cool. And of course, I’m sure you have like, exclude rules, like people who have already bought, don’t get marketed to again.
Adam: Yeah, great point. There’s all sorts of logic that you can use, either to target two groups simultaneously, or ignore one, or negatively target one, and per your point, some of our client’s best performing campaigns are ones to people who have bought but have not bought within thirty days, so that would be sort of a more advanced tactic. Whether you know it would be thirty days or sixty days, or whatever the appropriate time is, so stop retargeting after the person purchases, but then reengage with them at some point down the line when they might be in market again.
Danny: Very, very cool. So let me ask you a different question now, in terms of who this is for. Is this appropriate only for online businesses? You know I’ve got an e-commerce site and I’m trying to get people to come and check out content from, you know, whatever they’re buying? Or is this appropriate for other kinds of businesses?
Adam: Well, certainly online businesses are going to have the most tangible ROI, it’s very easy to track those conversions from a view or a click, to a visit, to a conversion. But offline businesses see great benefit too, especially with retargeting, since it’s such a strong qualitative benefit from that fact that you’re staying top of mind with such a highly target group of people. So you know, smaller, local businesses can implement a retargeting campaign, and then all of a sudden, people who have been to Jim the Mechanic’s website are going to start seeing ads for Jim the Mechanic on major publications. You know, CNN and the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post – that makes a serious impact and allows Jim to cast a very broad shadow to a very small group of people, so it’s not going to cost him very much, but it’s going to make a big impact.
Danny: Fantastic. Adam, I want to wrap up, but I want to ask you one last question that we ask everyone who we interview. Let’s say this has been a fantastic interview, which it has been, and our listeners have been blown away and they’re like: “Wow, I’ve got to get on board with this remarketing, it’s like, it’s just, you know it’s affordable, it’s cheap, it talks to exactly the right people, it’s awesome, I need to do it. And I’m so sold on this that I’m going to clear my afternoon, I’m clearing three hours this afternoon to get the ball rolling.” What should they do with those three hours?
Adam: Well, it all starts with placing the pixel. There should be no cost to collect what we call your intent data, what people are doing on your site. So get that pixel placed, create a few segments and you know, there’s no rush to even start spending money. If you kind of have those segments developed and you start to see how they populate, then you can start to think about what type of creative you might want to target them and how much you want to spend and so forth, but there should be no cost to placing a pixel and, at least with AdRoll, we certainly have no cost associated with that and placing the pixel and creating the segments is going to take way less than an afternoon, it should only take a few minutes, so I think that would be the highest value thing to do. Just don’t let those people come to your site and leave without gathering, without having that opportunity to follow up with them, that’s a major lost opportunity.
Danny: So everyone, there you have it. You need to clear your afternoon, go to AdRoll.com, create your account, place your pixel on your site and then with the rest of the afternoon you can take it off and, you know, go have a drink or something because it really shouldn’t take very long.
Adam: I would recommend Specialty’s Cookies personally, that’s what I’m going to do.
Danny: Excellent. Adam, thank you very much, this has been fantastic, I really appreciate your taking the time. I’ve enjoyed it and I know it’s going to be very valuable for our audience.
Adam: Absolutely, my pleasure.
And don’t forget that you can also download the transcript of this podcast.