I’ve been watching a lot of Breaking Bad recently – several years behind the trend, I know. For those who aren’t familiar with the TV show, Breaking Bad is about a mild-mannered man named Walter White who goes on to become a market-leading crystal meth ‘cook’ known for his near-perfect product. With his unique skill, he is set to corner the market, but he faces trials and tribulations along the way.

While I sit there watching Walter carefully work on his product, my worlds begin to collide. I think about the performance marketing industry and, being naturally drawn to analogies, I wonder: what is needed to make a campaign, product or company truly stand out? And what is the appropriate path to achieve that differentiation, limiting any mistakes and pitfalls?

I look back at Walter, the complete chemistry expert. He has the knowledge and personality to apply his expertise with immaculate precision, creating a superior product. Looking at agencies, networks and publishers I don’t see many examples which are as clear cut as this, however, with the level of expertise and experience across the industry, we have many Walters. Many of them do interesting work and they do it very well.

So how do clients see the wood for the trees within performance marketing? How can an agency, in particular, stand out? Well, it’s about defining what our product is.

The right elements

Performance marketing as a product, simply put, is the planning and delivery of digital media which has a measurable outcome. Looking at the components in more detail, there is a complex web of marketing channels that go into performance marketing to deliver on this objective. Search, social, programmatic and more should all be applied and integrated to deliver a successful performance marketing campaign.

The complexity of the product begs the question: how do you get it right and stand out? We are all capable of reaching audiences with similar data, tools, technologies and planning and measurement methodologies. I believe it comes down to producing great, innovative work and to make it happen, you need great people and an integrated infrastructure.

This infrastructure, much like Walter’s methodology, comes down to having the right ingredients and processes in place to combine them to produce the best, most effective product. Complexity in any industry means it’s naturally hard to get that infrastructure right, let alone have the best product on the market. However, it’s this complexity that’s imperative to the success of performance marketing.

Consumers don’t see the variety channels, multiple touch points and integration in their path to conversion as we, performance marketers, do, they are just browsing, consuming media and they’ll at some point reach their end goal. The consumer must have seamless experiences across these channels, from start to finish. To deliver it efficiently, the performance marketing ‘chemistry set’ should, in my opinion, comprise three key ingredients: data, integration and people.

Harnessing data

Data sits at the heart of Maxus’ performance team and indeed the entire agency. It provides the information and insights that deliver the actions required for our clients; actions that will, in turn, inform opportunities and the ongoing optimisation of media. Having a complete picture of your consumers through data analysis will yield the most efficient and effective media performance.

It’s an age old adage in marketing but right place, right time, right message and right audience applies to our approach to performance media. The data enabling us to make those moments happen is often – very often – why our ‘product’ is successful. We have the unique ability to apply in-house technology solutions for planning, activation, optimisation and measurement powered by unique first and third-party data, ensuring we use real-time data to make real-time media decisions.

OK, so data is the first ingredient we need, but how do we ensure we effectively use information to successfully integrate the performance media channels that turn moments into actions? I think of integration as the glue to a successful performance marketing product. Without it, the product will at worst fail or at best, you’ll have separate components which just don’t work as efficiently or effectively as they do together.

Investing in talent

Collaboration is key at Maxus. Our performance specialists, while retaining channel focus – be that search, social, affiliate or other channels, very much apply a holistic mindset to performance media, manifested in integrated delivery comprising four core components – a collaborative data-led planning process, bespoke technology solutions, cross-channel optimised messaging and consolidated full view measurement reporting.

But integrated channels, tech and data don’t quite give us the full product and it’s the last ingredient that truly drives our success and people. In the world of media, people are at the helm of marketing campaigns; they can make or break them. Performance marketing is made up of a diverse subset of media touch points so the approach we take is creating a diverse set of experts who can look at media from many different angles and with informed mindsets.

We hire talent but we pride ourselves in developing it with bespoke training and progress solutions, giving people the flexibility to broaden their skills and experience beyond their core specialism. This enables the team to deliver fully-integrated, data-led performance solutions as opposed to teams and channels operating in silos.

So, for me, a data-driven, integrated approach implemented by a great bunch of highly-skilled, diverse people creates an outstanding product. But the pathway to achieving this takes a lot of effort and hard work.  

The perfect product

Going back to Breaking Bad – and I’m not going to give anything away here – Walter White isn’t blessed with an easy ride in his somewhat murky career, and it’s important to have the foresight and vision to avoid those bumps in the road as best we can.

Dodging the pitfalls and adapting to change are also key to achieving outstanding results. We do this by looking at the path ahead as clearly and openly as possible, spotting trends, identifying opportunities and addressing the need to adapt or take a slightly different path.

Performance marketing is complex and so is the path to success. However, just like Walter White, when approached well, you can create a unique, outstanding product. Personally, I’m just glad I hone my craft in the wonderful world of performance marketing as opposed to the drug cartel underworld Walter found himself in.

So, as I continue to watch season four of Breaking Bad, I wonder: could Walter have been a good performance marketer and would he appreciate our near-perfect product ingredients of data, integration and people?

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