5 Questions to Ask Potential Vendors About Direct Response Creative

Brands can drop thousands — millions even — on digital marketing vendors who promise the sun, moon and stars. But when the ROI turns out to be anything but positive, companies find themselves back on square (negative) one. Avoid the same fate (or rebound from a similar one) by asking these five questions of your digital marketing vendor contenders. 

How is the performance of our creative going to be measured and improved? 

Why ask: It is difficult to separate the performance of creative from other factors that may influence a campaign’s overall numbers, such as an ad’s relevance to its audience, audience fatigue and market conditions. That said, your paid media vendor should have a concrete plan for monitoring, learning from and improving the creative’s effectiveness. Without one, your creative may be ineffective, and any updates to it will be a shot in the dark, thereby hindering your marketing. 

Can you show proven creative industry insights and best practices?

Why ask: You want to see that your digital marketing vendor is using data-backed strategies rather than commonly-held — but incorrect — marketing best practices, For example, Persado research has proven several popular tactics are actually often ineffective, such as using Urgency language (“Last chance to buy!”). A good digital marketing vendor will not only be able to point to at least a few common themes that have been proven to work for ads similar to yours, but also can provide ways to test these best practices to ensure they apply to your campaigns.

How do you recommend using our marketing calendar?

Why ask: Too often, companies focus on a marketing calendar that pre-schedules ways to highlight discounts, product launches and items they want to move. In most cases, this does little to help with direct response efforts, and a digital marketing vendor that utilizes this as a best practice isn’t going to help you move the needle. Think about it: Why would you highlight a 20% discount on a $9.99 mug when you have awesome exclusive Bluetooth headphones that can bring 10 times the revenue per order and are much more desirable? I am not saying you should completely ignore promotions, but you and your vendor must build a disciplined approach to selecting the appropriate ones to highlight. A good vendor should be able to help you find the right areas of focus.

Where are the ads being placed and which format are you going to use? 

Why ask: If a direct response creative is displayed in a forest and no one sees it, does it have an impact? No, it doesn’t. To put it bluntly, ad types and placements are important. But when listening to the vendor’s answer, keep in mind that not all ad placements and formats are created equal on Facebook. For some, the copy space may be shorter, causing messages to be abbreviated. In other cases, elements may be missing completely. It is critical to take advantage of ad types and placements that have flexibility while designing creative around the limitations of those that do not. At the very least, your creative should focus on making the most out of the placement that is responsible for the majority of conversions. Your vendor should be able to tell you exactly which ad types and placements are best for a particular campaign and have a way to test those assumptions.   

Define your KPIs. 

Why ask: Without knowing exactly what goes into your metrics, there is a high risk of making apples to oranges comparisons, which can cause you or the vendor to make an incorrect decision about your creative. Your vendor should be able to dig into any metric, provide a concrete definition for it and explain the thought process behind calculating the metric in the chosen way. Look to address the following points: 
The length of look-back windows 
Whether the vendor considers both click and view-through events and if they weigh them equally
Whether each end-user is counted once (which would mean the vendor is only counting unique actions)  

Bottom Line: Creative can be worth 1,000 conversions (or more). It’s just as important as language in your marketing. Don’t simply settle for a vendor with the lowest rate. Instead, do a deep dive into their process and learn how they look at data.