Ask questions, conduct research, and critically analyze the answers you're given.
Have you ever found yourself traveling in a new city, right after it has gotten dark, without a map, no money, hungry, thirsty, and no place to sleep for the night? Well, if you have had such an experience, it's not very fun, and you probably developed a pretty skewed view of the city and your related experiences. This is because you visited the city without a proper plan and limited information and as a result you most likely had a stressful and negative experience. You could have been visiting a great city, full of wonderful potential, but without properly planning ahead of time you had a very difficult time experiencing the full potential of your environment.
This is similar to trying to write a digital media plan and execute a digital media buy without an accurate customer profile or useful customer data. You shouldn't expect to be able to guess and estimate your way through this process and have a successful digital media buy as a result. Yes, you might be lucky a couple times, but in the long run your client will become dissatisfied and your competition will sway your client in their direction.
Just because you (the media planner and media buyer) personally enjoy traveling doesn't mean you know the ideal way to advertise online on behalf of a large travel destination company without first creating, analyzing, and utilizing accurate customer data throughout the entire media planning and buying process.
Likewise for a client, you can't expect to be able to blindly throw money advertising online and have guaranteed success. Just because you're the client and you personally like to visit XYZ websites doesn't mean that those are the ideal websites to advertise on in order to reach your customer base and generate the most success. Actually, the next time a client sends a snotty email demanding that their media buying partner advertise for them on 15 completely random websites simply because they personally like to visit them they should be fined or forced to watch back-to-back episodes of "The Voice" (sorry, not a fan).
Customer data, media planning, and media buying shouldn't look like three feuding brothers fighting over the same prom date. They should be looked at and utilized as three important parts of the same team that are infinitely more useful and successful when working together versus apart. This is kind of like a boat in the water, sun at the beach, or having money at a casino - all of these things are a lot better when paired together versus being apart.
For instance, if you had a client that offers online grocery shopping and delivery services you should do more than blindly assume that 100 percent of their customers are young moms visiting food-related websites, reading online recipes, and learning about the latest calorie-counting techniques. Maybe you're of this opinion because that's how you live or grew up or maybe that's what happens in your cousin's household; heck, maybe you are even partially accurate. Either way, under any scenario, if you're using guesses and assumptions as the backbone to your media plan it will dramatically introduce errors and inaccuracies into the media buy, which will ultimately lead to wasted advertising budget and limiting the overall success of the campaign.
In short, ask questions, conduct research, critically analyze the answers you're given, then repeat the process until all participating members are satisfied. Properly creating and utilizing customer data will give your media plan the best chance to successfully court the media buy and result in a happy online advertising marriage.
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Tim Nichols is a founding partner at ExactDrive, a leading Self-Serve Online Advertising Platform with white label, reseller and managed service options available. ExactDrive plans, manages, and optimizes online advertising campaigns with the objective of delivering measurable value and empowering clients to find precisely targeted audiences. ExactDrive has offices in Washington, DC, Austin, TX, Phoenix, AZ, Santa Monca, CA and is headquartered in St Paul, MN.
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