The Top Real Estate Marketing Tools

As part of my series on real estate marketing best practices for real estate agents, I’ve put together a list of my favorite real estate marketing tools and solutions.  These tools and solutions will save you time and money, and most importantly you don’t need to be a technical wizard to use them!

Website

I’m a huge believer that every real estate agent needs their own domain name and a website.  As a real estate agent, you’re an independent contractor. In effect, you’re building your own business – and your website (and the information – like your client contact information) is an asset of that business.

Fortunately, thanks to “modern technology”, getting and launching a website is VERY easy.  Remember, if you’re just starting out as a real estate agent, you don’t need a fancy website.  You only need a website that is professional, represents your brand, and is flexible enough to grow as your real estate business grows.  

First, you’ll need a domain name (for example: www.BeautifulMalibu.com).  A domain name is what a person types in a web browser to get to your website.  Technically, you don’t own a domain name, but rather you rent it on an annual basis from a registrar like GoDaddy (www.GoDaddy.com).  They usually cost less than $20 a year – and you can get a custom email address attached to the domain name (for example: scott@beautifulmalibu.com) if you like (I HIGHLY recommend this!).

Once you have your website domain name, you’ll need a website and find a place to host it.  You can hire someone to do this for you, but if you’re just starting out I recommend that you choose a do it yourself service which allows you to easily make and host your website.  Inevitably you’ll make a lot of changes in the first few years of being an agent, and if you hire a professional website builder you’re likely to spend a lot of time and money making countless changes.  

I think that Wix (www.wix.com) offers a good “all-in-one” service for website building and hosting.  They have countless templates (some free, some at a nominal cost) which offer enough variety so that your website doesn’t look like every other agent’s website.  

Wix is easy enough for someone with a working knowledge of Microsoft Word to use, and their support is excellent.  So unless you have money to burn, or you cannot use Microsoft Word, I’d choose Wix over hiring a professional for your first site.

Email Marketing

Within your website you’re going to want to build a sales funnel where you capture the contact information of potential clients … with their permission of course.  Typically you’ll entice someone to provide their contact information by providing valuable information (like a local market report) or simply offering to follow up.  

And at some point, you’ll want to follow up with those contacts via email.  Perhaps you’ll want to send them an invitation to an open house. Or wish them “Happy Holidays”.   You could send them each emails individually. Or you could use a email marketing system. (Hint: I recommend that latter!).

MailChimp (www.mailchimp.com) and Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) are email marketing systems which offer easy to use interfaces which allow you to build forms to collect the information from the client, and then send them beautiful custom emails.  They are very easy to use, and have features that allow you to set up your process once then forget it. For example, you can send a personalized email to each person the first time they sign up – automatically.   Or pre-create emails that will be scheduled to be sent months in advance.

Marketing

Unfortunately, just having a website and email marketing doesn’t cut it anymore.  We’re a multi-channel society now, and you’ll need to reach clients across numerous channels like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Direct Mail, etc.   If you’re starting to think that this could be a full time job, well, it could be. (Read my article entitled “The Content Engine for Real Estate Agents” for tips on how to make this whole process manageable).  But fortunately, it doesn’t have to be.  There are numerous tools and solutions that can make the process of creating content and communicating with your clients easier.  

  • Customized Hand Written Notes
    In a word of digital overload, small touches like hand written cards stand out.  But hand writing cards is extremely time consuming. With Postable (www.postable.com) you can automate the process of sending personalized follow up direct mail letters and cards.  The best part is that Postable will grow as your marketing efforts become more sophisticated.

  • Programmatic Direct Mail
    The magic of programmatic direct mail allows you to send personalized direct mail pieces based upon the what the visitor views on your website – even if you don’t have their address!  Pebble Post (www.pebblepost.com) identifies anonymous visitors to your website based upon the visitor having previously registered at another website, watches where they go on your website, and automatically sends them a preconfigured postcard based upon the pages of the website they visit.  So if they visit your web page showing condo listings, they’ll get a follow up postcard about condos. Quick note: Pebble Post works best for agents with significant traffic coming to their website.

  • Lead Capture
    Almost everyone wants to know how much their home is worth.  If you’re trying to attract home sellers, Corefact Home Estimate (www.corefact.com) is a clever tool.   The homeowner receives a direct mail piece which leads them to a website where they can get an instant listing price estimate.   And you capture their contact information, which can be fed into a marketing drip campaign!

  • CRM System
    Keeping track of your current and prospective clients can be challenging.  Contractually (www.contractually) is a full CRM (customer relationship management) solution suite which streamlines how you communicate with current and prospective clients.

    Note: Even though Contractually was recently acquired by Compass, all of your data is kept private and separate from Compass.  If you’re concerned about this, you might consider MoxiWorks (www.moxiworks.com).  

  • Stock Imagery
    Content is key in real estate marketing, especially imagery.  Let’s face it, it’s tough to sell the dream when your images are beautiful.  Social Curator (www.socialcurator.com) helps makes this process easy.  You’ll get access to high quality gender neutral content, and insightful keyword research to help increase the reach of your marketing efforts.

  • Content Capture
    As your content gets more sophisticated, you’ll likely want to include how-to videos.   Loom (www.useloom.com) is a free web browser plug-in which allows you to capture screenshots and video (with voice overlays).  
  • Social Media Management
    Buffer (www.buffer.com) and Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) are easy to use social media management tool, which streamlines your marketing efforts.  Create a post once then distribute it to numerous channels (Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.).  You can even schedule them for future delivery.

    RIPL (www.ripl.com) allows you to edit video, including adding effects.  

    Hootsuite offers a free version with limited capabilities.

Content Creation

And as for creating professional video content, I have two “must have” recommendations.  

  • Smooth 4
    There’s nothing worse than “bumpy” video as you’re doing a walk through of a home.  Creating professional looking walk-through videos from your cell phone is easy with Smooth.

  • Professional Grade Lavalier Lapel Microphone
    Make sure that the audio in your walk-through videos is perfect.  This simple lavalier (a fancy name for a small microphone you clip to your shirt) captures clear audio and can attach directly to your phone.

I hope that you find these tips helpful!  If you haven’t done it already, make sure that you sign up for my email newsletter – where I’ll be offering more information and special offers.  Just a sneak peek, I’ll be offering a no-cost marketing consultation to a few lucky readers soon. Keep an eye on the emails!

Starting A Successful Real Estate Career

As many of you know, I’m passionate about sales and marketing. And I love real estate. So I decided to combine my interests into a short series on effective marketing for Real Estate Agents. This is the first article in the series. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran real estate agent, or just starting out, you’ll find this information valuable.

Being a real estate agent is an amazing career which offers the ability to have a flexible schedule while making a lot of money.  But the “dirty little secret” they don’t tell you is that not everyone is successful.

In 2014 the National Association of Realtors noted that 87% of all real estate agents fail in the first five years.  That’s quite a daunting statistic for anyone aspiring to be a real estate agent.

Let’s face it – anyone reading that only 13% of real estate agents are successful might rethink becoming a real estate agent.   

But thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help insure that you’ll like being a real estate agent and, more importantly, that you’ll be successful … before you take even your first real estate course or exam.

Identify Your Focus

This is a critical decision that you must make early in your real estate career.  You must decide on the type of real estate you want to focus on and where. There are many categories and subcategories from which to choose: Single family residential, high-rise, multi-family, commercial, luxury, etc.   You may decide to combine them into one: for example: Luxury High-Rise. You’ll just need to choose one.

This decision can be harder than it seems.  But don’t worry, you can pivot and choose a different focus later in your career.  It’s just important to make a single decision and focus on it for the first year or more.   By initially focusing on a single specialty, you’ll make it easier to build a network, as well as systems and processes that will save you time and money.

How do you make this decision?  I’d suggest that you start with location.  Where would you like to work? Where is convenient for you?  Where is the greatest opportunity? Then identify the types of real estate that are growing in that area (hint:  it’s usually what developers are building). Eliminate anything that doesn’t interests you. If you’re not passionate about it, then don’t do it.  Then validate your assumptions by asking current agents in that field. If they’re all too busy servicing clients to take your call, it may be a sign that business is booming!

Remember , your revenue is a function of commissions and volume !  If you don’t choose an area and a specialty that has client demand, you’ll be setting yourself up for a difficult road ahead.

Research Your Future Competition

There are a lot of real estate agents out there.  Do your research and find out who the most successful agents are in your area.  You can do this by simply asking some agents and brokers in the area. Or use Google to look for recent press releases promoting agency successes.  

When you’ve figured out who the top agents are, you’ll need to find out how they are marketing themselves and their businesses.  Do you see them at industry events? Do they advertise in locally? Are they active on social media (Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.)?  If so, follow them. Dig deep – their tactics will be a future playbook for your marketing efforts.

Once you’ve done all of your research (and NOT BEFORE!), you may even consider calling them.  Tell them that you’re thinking of becoming an agent (and why), let them know that you’ve studied their career, and ask them a few questions like : “what makes the difference between agents who succeed and those who fail?” or “why did you decide to focus on [insert their speciality here]?”.  

Now here’s the most important part.  If you really believe in the agent, and their market focus, offer to work for them for free.  Yes, you read that right. Before you spend time and money working to just pass the real estate exam, you’d be wise to make sure that you like the job.  You don’t have to donate 40 hours a week. But you should spend at least one day a week over the course of few months living the life of a real estate agent.  You’ll likely learn more during this time than you will in your first year of being an agent. Worried about giving up your weekends? Newsflash – if you become an agent, you’ll most likely be working weekends anyway.  

Build Systems and Processes

Once you get your license, you’re going to want to hit the ground running.  So now is the time to set up the foundation for your new business. And as you identify the actions that you’ll need to take to be successful, think about how you can automate them.  

You may need to do some soul searching.  Think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses.  I like to evaluate each task and ask myself “is this easy or hard for me?”.  Notice that I don’t ask if I can do the task. I’m a driven person capable of most anything that I put my mind to.  I ask if it comes easily to me. If it doesn’t, I find a way to streamline it, then either automate it or outsource it.  

This is a skill that does come easily.  For inspiration, you may want to read the books (or listen to them, if that is easier for you!)  Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. These two are experts at building a mindset which focuses on systems and processes.

Start Networking

A big part of real estate is networking.  It’s central to building your client list, and the list of vendors who will help you quickly get your clients through escrow.  

Identify the key networking events in your focus area and start attending them.  They can be both events for real estate professionals and for non-professionals (like community events, charities, church gatherings, professional networking events like YPO, etc.).  

Use your networking to start building a permission based target list.  Friendly reminder: It is so important to get the person’s permission for marketing to them directly before sending them a marketing email.  Not only is it polite, but in some places it is the law.

Don’t Stop

Most importantly, don’t stop.  You’re about to embark on a challenging career.  I know firsthand from my own research that the top agents put in the work.  Top agents never quit. They do the work, and sweat the details. And they reap the rewards from that hard work.

Once you have these steps completed, and assuming you still want (hopefully more than ever) to be a real estate agent, you’ll want to establish your marketing.  This is a topic we’ll cover in a future article.

Ideation: Self Authenticating Smart Sprinklers

I recently made the ultimate jump into the 22nd century, and purchased a Rachio home sprinkler controller. This technology not only allows me to control my sprinklers from my phone (because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t have the frequent need to water their lawn remotely) but it also monitors the weather and turns off my sprinklers when it’s raining. Living in a desert, this is an important feature.

As a part of its water conservation plan, the Southern Nevada Water Authority offered a 50% rebate against my purchase of the smart home sprinkler controller. The only problem – they had to come to my house to inspect it, and have me answer a short survey.

After three attempts over four months, they finally made it to my house to inspect the unit, ensuring that it was installed and operational and ask me a handful of questions related to the survey. It was at that time I shared with them my idea: do the validation remotely.

With my permission they can easily pull data from Rachio showing that my unit was installed and operational. The unit is connected to my home internet, which pulls an IP address which can be traced back to my location. Additionally, the IP address of the home unit can be associated to the IP address pulled from the mobile app, and the mobile app can allow (for a limited time) lat/long location data to be pulled – ensuring that the Rachio is installed at my home.

And the Rachio pulls activity data, showing that it is active and working.

The survey can be completed online, and the entire process automated – negating any need for an in person visit.

The magic of technology!

Adjusting Sales Quotas Mid-Year

This afternoon I received a call from a friend looking for some advice on building out a sales compensation plan. Her challenge was especially difficult because a lame-duck manager (who had secretly been planning his exit) had reduced his teams’ 2019 sales quotas by 30% – absorbing the difference under his own quota. Naturally, since he left at the end of 2018, the company was left with a gap of 30%. Her question: how would I fix this situation.

As we spoke, I realized how much I missed the problem solving aspects of sales management. While it’s only been two years since I left sales management to round out my resume with product and strategy roles, I realized today how much I’ve missed the challenge of creating win-win resolutions that ultimately drive revenue and power organizations.

Getting back to my friend’s dilemma, let me see if I can describe her problem in detail while maintaining her anonymity.

  1. The sales manager had deflated 2019 sales quotas (both new business and existing business numbers) by 30% +.
  2. He left behind a sales team consisting primarily of account managers. He hadn’t built a hunter sales group. Across numerous divisions which he managed, not one had exceeded their quota for new business.
  3. He failed to properly manage up or out his sales talent.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a similar situation. Recently, I encountered a sales manager who miscalculated his teams quotas; when you added up the quotas of his entire team they didn’t equal his quota for the team as a whole. Best practices are that the sum of your teams quota should be 20-30% higher than the team’s cumulative number. So if you have a 1 million dollar budget to spread amongst 10 salespeople, you give them each $120K to $130K. The logic behind this is very simple – it’s likely not everyone on your team will hit 100% of their number!

To solve his revenue gap, the sales manager wanted to raise the entire teams individual goals, mid-year. I pointed out that his sales team would (accurately) perceive this as him penalizing them, and suggested that rather than raising goals he should create an incentive program to encourage team members to over-achieve their existing numbers.

Back to my friend’s issue – during our conversation, I laid out a multi-step approach to resolve the sales issue at hand:

  1. Adjust the sales numbers. While the sales team has been given their numbers for 2019, they hadn’t had their review for 2018. This would be a great time to increase their quotas for existing accounts. I suggested doing this for existing accounts, versus new business accounts, simply because while each salesperson carries both a new and existing quota, this group tends to gravitate towards existing business sales. They are not hunters.
  2. The Carrot. Create extra incentives, with accelerators, for sales people to exceed their numbers. The most fair system I’ve seen breaks the yearly number into months or quarters, and only pays a salesperson when they’ve reached 80% of their goal for that period. So up to 79% of goal they get no commission. From 80-99% of commission they get 80% of commission. At 100% of goal they retroactively get their entire commission, and anything beyond that has multipliers to incentivize the salesperson to really knock the ball out of the park.
  3. And The Stick. They need to manage out the poor performing talent. During the weekly sales meetings (which were non existent under the previous management) they need to hold all salespeople accountable for their numbers – and in particular their historical sales commitments. It’s not uncommon for sales to talk about the shiny object each week, and forget to mention the incredible account from two weeks ago that is no longer viable today.

While the numbers of building sales compensation plans is all science, the structure is all art. You need to build a model that incentivizes that right behavior, and in particular with situations like the one I’ve described above, quells any “sinking ship” fears that a salesperson may have.

Blockchain in the Adtech Ecosystem

Advertisers have (seemingly) always been trying to analyze the effectiveness of their advertising dollars.  The old adage “I know that 50% of my advertising is working – I just don’t know which 50%” has never been more true.  While technology has provided advertisers with tremendous insights into their ad campaigns and audiences, the more advertisers learn, the more questions they have – especially as we move to a multi-channel ad environment where countless ad impressions across several channels (display, mobile, TV, email, etc.) impact a single consumer decision.

Blockchain is being seen as the latest tool to solve this problem.  Advertisers hope that by utilizing Blockchain’s unique open ledger structure, they can share ad transaction data anonymously (even amongst competitors) which will help them better understand path to purchase, media spend accuracy, and ultimately the true impact of the campaign.

There are a few challenges with utilizing Blockchain in digital advertising:

  1. Speed.  Blockchain can only process a limited number of transactions per second.  While the number has improved from 2016, when it was 6 transactions per second, it hasn’t caught up with programmatic advertising which is millions of transactions per second.

    The solution may lie in hybrid Blockchain solutions, which eliminate the time intensive elements of Blockchain but keep the key anonymous accounting functions.  For example, minimizing the historical look-back window to cut down on the transaction time to generate a new block.

  2. Quality.  Blockchain is truly a “garbage in, garbage out” solution.  Providers have to be vetted and trusted to transparently supply accurate data, which if they were truly doing in the first place there wouldn’t be a need for a Blockchain solution .  Blockchain is a “trust but verify” solution as it pertains to the data providers.  And Blockchain still can’t (currently) connect the offline component, where a consumer sees a digital ad but makes a purchase offline.
  3. Reach.  In order for Blockchain to be an effective tool for advertising, it will need to process substantial advertising transaction data points across the entire ecosystem from publisher to advertiser.  The more data inputs, the more valuable the network is … and conversely the fewer inputs the less valuable it is.  Publishers, DSPs, advertisers, etc. all have to adopt the same Blockchain solution to enable accurate tracking.

Fortunately these hurdles are not insurmountable.  Blockchain technology will most certainly improve transparency in advertising ecosystem; it just won’t happen overnight.  It’ll take influential advertisers leading large publishers and other adtech companies to create a more transparent (and consequently efficent) advertising environment.

Social Media and Elections – A Reflection

It’s been a little more than 6 months since news broke that (allegedly) Russian backed online hacktivists targeted US voters across several social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s YouTube.  [You can read the comprehensive timeline here, which traces these types of activities back to a Ukrainian election in 2014.]  By current accounts, the total budget spent on these ads equaled less than $500K over the course of approximately a year and a half.

Now that everyone else has weighed in on this topic, I thought that I’d share some of my thoughts on the matter.

  1. This Isn’t A Surprise.  Fake accounts, “fake news”, and online social engineering are not new activities – they’ve been going on long before the 2014 Ukrainian election referenced in the previously linked Mashable article above.  Foreign powers trying to influence elections isn’t new either.  And if we look closely (especially at “arms length” 501 c 3s), we’d likely find these same practices being conducted domestically, even between same party candidates in primary elections.  Sadly, these practices also span beyond elections; deceptive practices in marketing have been going on for decades if not centuries.
  2. The Influence in the Election of 2016 is Questionable.   Even with hyper targeting, a $500K media budget spent over more than a year isn’t that big.  Having run large campaigns before, I question the ultimate reach and the potential influence these campaigns had … especially during an election season when ad rates are inflated based upon increased demand.Political campaigns are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on online advertising.  If an election could be won with less than $500K in spend, publishers have bigger issues to worry about.

    This doesn’t make election tampering right, by any means.  Interference at any level is abhorrent, whether it is had the desired outcome or not.

  3. This Could Have Been Easily Prevented.  Dunn & Bradstreet, Experian, TransUnion (among others) have business databases which could have been used to verify the legitimacy of these ad accounts.  This first line of defense could have further been strengthened through a more stringent ad review policy.  With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, this is an issue that can easily be managed through industry wide self policing.

    In addition to validating the advertiser, publishers need be transparent about the source of the ad, and the details of the advertisement.

  4. This Won’t Be The Last Time.  Some bad actors, foreign and domestic, will use every tool at their disposal to impact elections.  So unfortunately, while the tactics may change, the target will likely not.  And ultimately (as with all political marketing material) it is up to the voter to actively question all information so that they can cast an informed vote.

Everyone deserves a fair and transparent election process, free of interference both domestically and internationally.  And hopefully the outcome of this controversy is a more fair and transparent election process.

 

Net Neutrality – Why Should You Care?

What is Net Neutrality? 

In short, it’s the FCCs rules which require companies, in particular Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Cox, etc. , to treat all content equally.  These rules (note that they are rules, not laws) prohibit ISPs from blocking or discriminating against lawful Internet content.

In a world where ISPs are playing multiple roles (content creator and content distributor, to name a few), the Net Neutrality rules are designed to protect the consumer.  For example, Verizon (who now owns AOL and Yahoo) cannot slow down content from Facebook and Google.  Cox Communciations cannot slow down content from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu (or even worse, block Netflix altogether), in an effort to curb the trend of cord cutting.  ISPs cannot “throttle down” startups developing competing online services.  Nor can these ISPs charge more for content from one company versus another.

In short, Net Neutrality recognizes that unique position that ISPs have in delivering what is arguably a public service built initially with public funding, and imposes rules to ensure that they maintain a level playing field for all Internet providers.

Why Is Everyone Talking About Net Neutrality?

Consumer protections under Net Neutrality changed yesterday.  Claiming that Net Neutrality rules are not necessary in the protection of consumer choice and freedom of speak, the FCC voted 3-2 to eliminate the key consumer protections afforded in Net Neutrality.  This means that ISPs are no longer limited in how they prioritize content delivery via the Internet.

What’s Being Done Now To Protect Net Neutrality?

Several state Attorney Generals have moved challenge the FCC ruling.  Others are using existing state subsidies as a carrot to force ISPs to maintain Net Neutrality rules.  In either case, we’ve moved from a unified nationwide system to a state by state system … which hardly seems efficient.

What Can You Do?

At this point, the best thing you can do is contact your legislators.  Congress can enact a law that would offer the same protections as the FCC rules.  This is a topic that impacts Internet companies and consumers alike.

 

Minimum Viable Audiences

In product development we use the term Minimum Viable Product (or MVP) quite often.  Techopedia defines Minimum Viable Product as “a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters.”  In other words, the Minimum Viable Product is quite literally the minimum product features that can be implemented while still allowing the product to be viable.  The goal is to launch a product which does a few things extremely well, and is applicable to a broad base of customers, rather than developing and launching a product which has countless half-baked features of interest to only one or two customers.

After years of leading Go-To-Market turnaround strategies for several startups, I can tell you that most product launch failures can be traced back to a deviation from the MVP mindset.  Scope / feature creep driven by large marquee clients is the kiss of death for a product launch. A laser focused product launch which utilizes feedback from a finite trusted audience to prioritize current and future feature development is the core of a Minimum Viable Product launch – and most importantly, it works!  Which brings us to the topic of Minimum Viable Audience (or MVA).

A Minimum Viable Audience is similar to a Minimum Viable Product, but the focus is on the person (or the audience) instead of the product.  Where with a MVP your goal is build a lean and focused product, with the MVA your goal is to build a lean and focused audience.

Following the adage “you can’t be everything to everyone”, the MVA approach starts with achieving relevance with one (or more) small focused groups of current or potential customers.  Before you begin to build the product, you build the audience.  And then, working closely with the audience, you build the product using a Minimum Viable Product approach.  The audience provides guidance on product demand, features, and in some cases even pre-launch funding.  While they are not the perfect example of an MVA, crowd funding sites like KickStarter and Indigogo as examples of pre-launches funded by audiences.

The most important thing to recognize about MVAs is that you need to start building your audience well before you start product development.  The audience(s) can be made up of brand loyalists, customers, or even sourced from other influencers.  Once you’ve built the audience, then your focus is facilitating a dynamic conversion which allows you to glean data from the audience.  Email, Online Surveys, Video Conference, and Webinars are all good avenues to engage with your audience.

Remember, its never too early to start building your Minimum Viable Audience.

 

 

 

 

Why Click Fraud Should Concern You (Even If You’re Not Paying “Per Click”!)

Click Fraud, the process whereby “bad actors” claim traffic that is being sent to a website, has been an industry problem for years.  It can impact you, even if you’re not doing Pay Per Click advertising.

Many advertising teams measure digital advertising performance using a “Last Click” method. The Last Click method gives credit of the conversion to the publisher which served the last ad that drove the consumer to the website. This means that when performing campaign analysis, media budgets will be weighted artificially towards the wrong publishers (and the ad networks that support them).

Operationally, Click Fraud is accomplished by utilizing automated software programs (bots) and malicious code which make it appear that website traffic is coming from another source.

Business Insider, via a legal declaration from Elyse Burns of Vista Print, recently exposed how Click Fraud can occur:

Burns navigated to the VistaPrint site via search and left the browser on overnight. The declaration states she discovered that, without taking any action, the browser had reloaded the webpage on its own. As a result, the visit no longer had tracking code reflecting that she had reached the site by search, but instead reflected the visit occurred as the result of [another advertising network’s] ad, according to the declaration.”

There are several ways to minimize the impact of Click Fraud (if not eliminate it all together):

  1. Don’t count click traffic coming from self-proclaimed bots. Admittedly, true bad actors will mask their bots as human traffic … but discounting bot traffic from your attribution is such an easy process that there is no reason not to do it.
  2. Watch click behavior. While all humans don’t “click alike”, they all have certain similar limitations and behaviors. For example, they likely don’t click on 30 ads an hour. Similar to the first suggestion, this is not a silver bullet. Savvy bad actors can program their bots to mimic human behavior. But it is an important characteristic to watch for.
  3. Stop doing Last Click attribution. It is, quite candidly, a lazy way to measure campaign performance. A proper measurement and attribution program will take into consideration the multiple cross channel touch points a consumer has – both internally and externally – on the path to their ultimate conversion. And ideally that conversion isn’t a click, but something more tangible like an email newsletter sign up or a purchase.

Much like all technological fraud, Click Fraud is made up of a race between good marketers looking to accurately measure campaign performance, and bad actors actively looking to take advantages of technology loopholes.

The best that you can do is pay close attention to the website traffic which is driving your conversions, and watch for irregularities which could indicate fraud. Your website log traffic can provide vital clues as to the source and timing of each web visitor; a valuable tool for all of your campaigns (even email!).

The Future Of Big Data

What Is Big Data?

Big Data defined:  Extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.

Quite simply, Big Data is the collection of all of the little things we do as humans.  For marketers, this means the small actions consumers take and the influences they encounter as they move through the traditional marketing funnel.  That marketing funnel in its most basic form is the journey a consumer takes – moving from awareness to interest to consideration to intent, evaluation, and purchase.

Big Data was once only available to select organizations with the resources to collect and analyze it.  Big Data is now accessible to everyone, thanks in large part to technological advancements.  These technological advancements have made collecting data from disparate online and offline sources, pinning that data to persistent universal IDs, and analyzing that data to better understand consumer behavior, easier than ever.

Why is Big Data Important?

Marketers are ever consumed with efficiently finding the right consumer, at the right time, and delivering the right message.  The old adage in advertising used to be “I know that 50% of my advertising is working … I just don’t know which 50%”.  Now, knowing which 50% isn’t good enough.  Marketers need to know individual level data, such as “Who is the right consumer?”, “When is the right time to reach them?”, and “Which message will best influence them to convert?”.

Up until recently, collecting and analyzing the data necessary to answer those questions has been difficult and expensive.  Now, thanks in large part to the ubiquity of Software As A Service providers specializing in data management and execution, it is easy to not only accurately collect greater amounts of consumer data from disparate sources (eg: social, mobile, display, email, direct mail, etc.), but also put that data to use.

These solutions have become so ubiquitous that even mid-sized companies can afford to collect and store vast amounts of consumer data, analyze that data to create more predictive consumer models, index those models against individual cross channel consumer identities to create audiences, execute those models in the form of targeted cross channel audiences, and then measure the results – both within and outside the click stream.

Does that sound complicated?  It is!  But now thanks to technology advances in advertising, almost any company can do it.  Where companies had to rely on third parties and data collectives to generate data, they’re now able to collect and digest consumer data economically, at scale.  The critical component has moved from data collection and storage to data analysis.

This isn’t a fully automated process.  It still requires teams of “smart people” to implement.  (Data Scientists have reached near celebrity status, commanding larger salaries and greater influence in the corporate structure.)  Though those teams are smaller than there were before, and they have greater resources to make more informed decisions.

What Does The Future Hold?

As the accessibility of Big Data (and the solutions that support them) continues to grow, we’ll see several things:

  1. Brands will collect greater amounts of data, as devices become more inter-connected and data storage costs continue to drop.
  2. Brands will demand more access to their data.   We’re seeing this now, as Consumer Product Goods (CPG) companies are demanding access to the supermarket shopping data of consumers who purchase their products using loyalty cards, and also access to person level measurement / attribution data from walled garden publishers like Facebook and Google.
  3. As more first party data becomes available, certain third party data attributes will become more commoditized. Brands will realize the value of their consumer data in the open marketplace, and take steps to monetize it.  We’re already seeing several adtech companies launch platforms to easily enable Brands to monetize their data.
  4. A continued focus on accurate Identity.  Pinning consumers to universal persistent IDs (at the individual and household level) across online and offline channels.  This goes hand-in-hand with an increased effort towards identifying and tracking consumers at all stage of the marketing funnel (aka purchase lifecycle).
  5. Leveraging Big Data to reduce the cost of customer acquisition. This is the ultimate goal of marketers … sell more for less.  And as Big Data enables us to learn more about consumer behavior, we can expect the traditional marketing funnel to adapt as well.