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FOCUS: 5 Ways to Build a Winning Partnership Strategy in Ad Tech

Whether you’re a marketer at a small business, a partner at an agency looking to better capitalize on digital markets, or a business development professional like myself at a digital advertising solution provider like ReTargeter, the ad tech space can be daunting.  Ad tech can be an “only the strong survive,” often convoluted, and fast moving environment.  Competition sprouts up like weeds and companies offering the next big thing are a dime-a-dozen, so it’s critical to solidify your relevance through key strategic partnerships. The core question is: which companies can truly add something valuable to your digital marketing offering, your company, and your clients?

If you’re like me and your biz dev in-box filter starts to look like one of Luma Partners’ LumaScapes, that means its time for a quick reminder on a few simple ways to find and build the right partnerships that can take your offering to the next level. Thanks in advance for letting me share my top learnings from some of the best thought leaders and business development folks in the biz, and let’s FOCUS on 5 ways to build a winning partnership strategy in ad tech.

F – orge a suite of solutions. Imagine that you couldn’t do all of your grocery shopping at one store, and instead had to go to 20 different stores to tick off the 20 items from your shopping list. And then imagine the process for shopping at those stores was overly complex and it was hard to tell if you were even buying the right thing. Well, that’s a little bit how ad tech feels to many of us, and our potential customers, these days.  Use the power of a good strategic partnership or two to avoid falling into the trap of simply filling in the gaps between various ad tech players, and instead focus on building a full suite of solutions or a one-stop shop for your customers. Then keep that one-stop shop simple – your shop should include a rockstar customer success layer, access to the online inventory you’ll need to keep advertisers licking their chops, and a killer self-service offering that’s easy enough for our parents to understand (well, baby steps). I’m proud to say we’ve been able to build this suite at ReTargeter through a combination of in-house talent and key partnerships.

O – rchestrate an MVP. Have you ever looked into setting up an integration or reseller agreement with a company, only to find yourself thinking way ahead to how cool the UI will look, the unlimited reporting that could be available, the millions of high lifetime value (LTV) customers that will come flocking, and beyond? Well, I’ll be the first to admit my tendency to gravitate towards the trap of jumping ahead and thinking how awesome a partnership could be, but it’s critical to keep things simple to start. Whether it’s a dashboard or an email report, create a minimum viable product (MVP) with your partner. Put it out in the market and get a few customers who will give you feedback. Get traction and validation. Iterate. When you have more demand than you know what to do with, then it’s time to bring out the big engineering guns and build out your “holy grail” integration. Another simple way to think about growing high-value, low-upfront investment partnerships is this:  Revenue opportunity / LOE (Level of Effort) = Potential Partnership Score (PPS). Run this calculation and focus on the one or two partnerships with the highest PPS. Finally, if you haven’t read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, do yourself a big favor and pick up a copy. There is no place where Eric’s methodology is more applicable than partnerships and business development in ad tech.

C – reate new products and channels. A lot of folks out there are interested in finding the next big thing in digital advertising. Of late, this big thing has been retargeting, and the performance backs it up. Every day, I witness first hand that innovation and these new products don’t always need to come from that one super-smart engineer – they can be created through partnerships. Digital media and ad tech are here to stay, and there’s going to be some pretty cool cross-pollination and bridging of industry gaps coming up in the next year or two that will result in some awesome products. Think AmEx and FourSquare.  So have conversations with both obvious – and not so obvious – potential partners, and you may be surprised at what you come up with. Next, think about setting up a reseller relationship or integration with your partner to create a distribution channel. Then build in consistency of pricing models across your various partnership offerings and delivery channels to build scale, and your company could well turn into that next big thing.

U – nderstand the opportunities in your own back yard (or farther than that).  Does your company need to expand internationally? It may seem like it given the explosive growth in regions like APAC, and given the relative maturity of the US market. Check out this stat though: according to eMarketer, US digital ad spending will grow from $36.8 billion in 2012 to $62.8 billion in 2017. If that growth isn’t explosive I don’t know what is, so keep this in mind and make sure you are focusing your efforts on those partnerships with the highest PPS. You may be able to help out a lot more customers and drive more revenue through a really solid partnership focused on domestic growth, like one that really nails down a specific vertical here in the good ol’ US. And if you do decide to expand internationally, consider a smart partnership to keep your PPS score high.

S – ide with the best. During RampUp 2013, put on by one of our partners LiveRamp, our own Chairman of the Board, Arjun Dev Arora joined a panel discussing the “Interplay Between Agencies and Ad Tech” (see the video). My big takeaway from this session was that it can be great to build something in-house, but it can be even better to partner with the best. For example, if you think that offering SEM to your current customer base could be a great incremental revenue stream for your company, you might look to partner with a solution like Finch Media instead of starting from scratch. Or if you’re looking to offer retargeting to your customers, drop me a line and we can talk. By partnering with industry leaders like ReTargeter to build out a full suite of solutions, you can avoid the cost of building in-house and more importantly, offer the best-of-the-best solutions from the ad tech industry to keep your customers happy.

 If you follow the five simple guidelines above, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. And above all else, make sure you focus on the partnerships that will allow you to offer something that’s truly valuable for your customers, and will build strategic value for your company.

If you’re interested in a partnership with ReTargeter, shoot me an email and let’s talk!

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