1. Define your objectives

Start by clearly defining your business objectives and rank them in order of priority. If you are unsure of what your ROI target should be, you should test the campaign volume elasticity at different ROI levels (e.g. how much revenue can the campaign generate at £5, £7or £10 ROAS).

2. Test your vendors

Test two or three vendors for each type of campaign you run (branding, prospecting, and retargeting). Make your vendor pre-selection based on what people you trust have tested and recommended. If that is not possible, then another way to pre-select vendors is to find out how much focus they give to R&D (i.e. share of engineers and developers within the staff). Once you have pre-selected your vendor, run test campaigns for one to two months, preferably through a cookie split (retargeting) and/or via exclusion pixels (prospecting). From that, select the best vendor based on which company best meets your business objectives.

3. Ensure user-centricity

Ensure your campaigns are fully user-centric. Your KPIs and bidding strategy should be based on whether you are targeting an engaged (retargeting) or non-engaged audience (new or lapsed users). Getting new users will always be more costly than converting your existing audience, so adjust budgets and targets based on that to get the right scale and ROI. If you are unsure about how to get to the right split, make sure you can track the rate of new customers or unique visitors and adjust budgets and bids until you find your sweet spot.

4. Understand your customer journey

Aim to have an overview of the average time between first visit and conversion, number of paid for clicks per conversion, bounce rate at each stage of the funnel, frequency of purchases from repeat customers and rate of sales from new customers per channel etc. These will provide essential insights into your customer’s purchasing behaviour.

5. Challenge your attribution model

There is no one size fits all approach and all too often attribution models are not optimised for the business. To overcome this, start by understanding your customer journey and test “second view” models. For example, compare how much assisted / supported revenue (non-de-duplicated) is generated against the last click revenue on every channel so you can determine which channels you are currently favouring or penalising.

6. Ask the right questions

Ask your vendor to share relevant business insights. As you do more and more campaigns you will soon learn the right questions to ask to get the most valuable insights from your data. As a start, ask vendors to show you what kind of data they usually share with their clients.

7. Hire in-house data analysts

This will ensure you’re able to make the most of all the data shared with you by your vendors. Your analysts will challenge the data set enabling you to refine your requests with every campaign.

8. Maximise your presence on premium inventory

Do your vendors have direct publisher relations or are they only plugged into Open RTB platforms? Do you often see your banners being displayed on premium websites? If you and your colleagues are not seeing your ads on premium placements, how will your target audience? Ask your vendor to explain their purchasing process, as well as examples of premium publishers that they have direct relationships with and what they do to maximise their presence on premium placements.

9. Optimise for mobile

Ensure your display campaigns are optimised for mobile. This will allow you to reach your audience on tablets and smartphones. Make sure you always use HTML banners (flash is not mobile compatible) and ask your vendor to breakdown your traffic per device type so that you can cross-reference it with your own site traffic split.

10. Integrate cross-device 

Integrate cross-device targeting with your advertising strategy. Today, nearly a third of UK households use smartphones and tablets as the main internet-browsing device in the home (source: Post Office). What’s more, there are more and more cookies for each real unique user so if you don’t embrace cross-device your display campaigns will be siloed per device, ultimately forcing you to lose out on performance.