Over the better half of the past decade, we’ve seen a lot of talent come and go in the native advertising space. Between having an agency, running internal teams, and building performance marketing-based technology, we’ve seen it all. Here’s what we wished we knew before we started and why we’ve seen so many media buyers fail.
1. You’re Not Doing the Research
To be a successful native advertiser, it has to be something you approach seriously. Native advertising comes with a learning curve, and advertisers who don’t prioritize learning the ins and outs are setting themselves up for failure. Our advice is to learn industry trends, understand the different platforms and networks available, and take advantage of existing resources. Though native advertising may have only recently taken off, there are tons of amazing resources available to help advertisers get started. Between eBooks, webinars, and tutorial videos, there’s no shortage of resources to guide you along the way. By taking the time to learn the ins and outs of native buying, you can develop an entirely new revenue stream. Just because you don’t need it to survive doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile avenue to pursue.
Pro Tip: Facebook is a great resource for connecting with media buyers and veterans of the industry, we suggest joining as many as you can find and leaning into the conversations. Some of our favorites include:
2. You Don’t Have the Right Technology
The landscape of native advertising has changed over the past five years and emerging technologies can give buyers huge, strategic advantages over their competition. Many of the best software and tools have been developed by media buyers out of necessity. Leveraging these tools helps individuals and smaller teams compete with the best of the best.
3. You’re Taking Too Wide of an Approach
It’s common for new native advertisers to simultaneously tackle multiple ad networks, but we’ve learned it’s best to start by mastering one. Start small and test different offers and creatives to find what works. After you’ve built your first million-dollar campaign, then take that campaign to other networks and “learn” a new network with an already-successful and proven native campaign.
4. Your Creatives Aren’t Strong Enough
Whether it’s a convincing article or captivating video, all native advertising starts with strong content. When you’re competing at the highest level in native advertising across premium news inventory that every brand wants, your creatives have to stand out. If you’re coming to market without strong content, your chances of succeeding are much lower. Our advice is to learn how to write content that entertains, informs, and encourages conversions. As you learn how to create stronger campaigns, you’ll figure out what words make a headline more compelling and develop a discerning eye for engaging images. Tip: Skip the stock images and shoot your own images to stand out amongst the pack.
5. Your Budget is Too Small
One of the things you hear often in any business is, “You have to spend money to make money.” Native advertising is no exception and investing in your ads gives you the freedom to grow your campaigns. You may see some sales on a small budget, but if your product sells well on weekends you may also be limiting yourself. A higher spend doesn’t mean you’ll blow through your budget every day, but it does mean you’ll have extra padding for days with more sales.
When you’re testing a native network for the first time, start with a small “whitelist” of websites. Go for the highest-quality, highest-volume websites and test one or a small handful. Once you get a campaign profitable there, you can then focus on expanding your whitelist to dozens of other sites which will help prolong your campaign’s longevity. Once you’ve crossed the boundary into 50+ sites it will be much harder for the competition to display your campaign.
6. You Don’t See Conversions on Day One
This could mean a couple of things. The first is that your product isn’t suited to native. The second is that your creatives aren’t compelling. Many media buyers make the mistake of coming to market on their first native buy with a product that’s too niche and has too narrow of an audience. To succeed and scale in native advertising, you need a product or brand that appeals to the masses. This will help a novice buyer break even faster, scale easier, and run a longer and more sustainable campaign. If your buyers are falling out of your funnel, try testing the different parts of your creative. Is your image performing well? Is your headline catchy enough to grab your audience’s attention? Test creatives and cut out components that don’t work.
7. You’re Not Properly Navigating Your Relationships
Working closely with your rep or contacts at a native network is key to understanding the platform and getting critical information that you can use to scale your account with the network. Take a short trip to your rep’s office and offer to take them to lunch or meet on neutral ground at an upcoming trade show. The face time with your reps is priceless and can help catapult your business to new levels.
While your relationship with your rep is important for account maintainability and growth, it’s also important to take some of the advice your rep might give you with a grain of salt. While building a relationship with your sales rep is invaluable, not all of their advice will pertain to you. Your rep will provide you with general advice about how to use the network and its various features, but it’s important to remember this advice speaks more to how the product is designed, not how it’s used. A network’s users are diverse, and what works for some likely won’t work for all. In this case, it’s best to experiment and find out what works for your particular offers, maybe by testing different combinations of audiences, headlines, and creatives.
Before you tackle the complex word of native advertising, it’s important to understand and practice the fundamentals. Remember that no one will ever run your campaigns and care about the success of your media buys more than you (or whoever is most incentivized to see your campaign perform). Take the time to learn the basics and hone your craft before building a team or outsourcing your customer acquisition to another agency. It’s important to fully understand your metrics and what goals are realistic for your campaigns so you can hold yourself, your team, or an outside agency accountable.
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Joshua is an accomplished entrepreneur with more than 16 years of experience in digital performance marketing. Joshua is the founder of Union Square Media Group, a leading full-service digital media agency. In 2017, he founded Maximus, an innovative native advertising software company. With an expertise in providing strategic direction, he has been able to scale his companies at an extremely rapid rate, with a projected revenue for 2019 of over $75,000,000 dollars. Maximus is an end-to-end autonomous media buying platform for marketers, brands and agencies centered around performance based marketing.
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Ryan Scibelli is the founder of Wizzi, the leading platform for building rich dynamic landing pages capable of scaling to millions of users per month. With Wizzi, brands are able to reach the market faster than ever with conversion rich features and landing pages optimized for every device. All without the need of a developer.
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