No matter how well the parts add up to a great product, there is a little magic that goes into branding: the magic that creates customer loyalty, excitement and desire. In order to create all the building blocks of a good brand, you have to go beyond what these blocks are, to the core of why they exist, and what they stand for.
We have thought a lot about our goals and features, what the company is all about, what kind of culture we are creating internally and how all of this should align in order to be accurately perceived.
Despite not being part of a group of charitable outlaws like Robin Hood and his gang, we at advertio have always had a mission to level the field. Looking back at both my previous startups, I think that this spirit was always present — whether back in 2008, helping small businesses build web pages at a very affordable cost, or in 2012, serving small businesses in their efforts to navigate the ever more complex world of digital presence and communication.
This spirit lived on at advertio, as clearly signalled in our motto, power to the small business. So just how do we empower small businesses?
Life is too short to tackle insignificant problems. We are deeply rooted in the startup ecosystem, and throughout our conversations with fellow entrepreneurs, investors, advisors and the business community in general, there is one omnipresent issue: customer acquisition. No matter if you have an amazing product, the best service, the lowest or the highest price in town, there is one metric that will make or break it for every for-profit business: the ratio between how much it costs to acquire customers and the return that one can expect from each of those customers.
As every business is different there is no one solution to increasing the return (customer lifetime value) but we can certainly act upon the costs (customer acquisition cost) and so help solve a problem that everyone struggles with.
From prehistoric wall carvings to the most advanced digital platforms, mankind has always felt the need to communicate. Language was a crucial milestone in human development, print led to the replication of timeless knowledge, and the reason why the internet is such a game changer is precisely its ability to improve communication amongst human beings.
When applied to the commercial world, we call this communication advertising. Egyptians used papyrus to send sales messages, and in ancient China bamboo flutes were played to sell candy. Newspapers, radio, TV, dear old Yellow Pages, billboards, banners, SEA — we have been extremely creative at coming up with means to put our message out there. But are they efficient?
That the advertising industry is going through a period of unprecedented transformations — this is a given. Traditional agencies are facing challenges as never before. Thanks to the likes of Google, transparency has become mandatory and clients have access to more information than ever, and are starting to demand data analytics — transforming the advertising industry from a predominately creative industry to an amazing intersection of arts and science. While large advertisers have the means to hire an agency — or a team — with the necessary creative and analytical skills, small advertisers nowadays do not stand a chance.
We started hunting for a solution to this problem one day, faced with a simple challenge. A customer wanted to spend €1,000 on digital media and wanted us to help him. This clearly very low budget is typical of a small business. If the return was positive, the customer would reinvest the returns in digital advertising many times over. Breaking down the budget, we needed to create the campaign (creative man-hours), manage the campaign (analytical man-hours) and still have funds left over for media spending. No matter how we tried to crunch the numbers it would be impossible to launch such a campaign.
To cut a long story short, we decided to risk it and launch the campaign, doing all the work for free and helping to track the returns. One year later the customer had spent around €35,000.
If you have ever listened to speakers at a startup event, or in general to any SaaS analysis, you will certainly have heard talk of scalability. How can you take a solution that solves a problem and replicate it over and over again, without proportionally replicating the costs?
So we decided to tackle the challenge: We are launching a platform that not only creates your message but places it before your potential customers — at the cheapest possible cost.
Writing is one of the most underappreciated arts. Obviously there are literary greats who are lionised, but copywriting — even writing an email — is a lot harder than it seems. In such a fast-paced digital world you have just two lines to stand out from all the noise and get your message across. Those two lines must have the right length, harmonious phrasing, catchy slogans and an immediate call to action. Countless examples of the impact of minor changes to ad copy prove that with the same budget, good copy makes or breaks a campaign.
We do not expect our customers to know how to create those messages, and we certainly cannot afford a back office full of talented copywriters. So instead we went for the technological approach. On our platform you tell us who you are (your website, your Facebook page, TripAdvisor profile, your email…) and we find you. The beautiful and scary thing about the web is that you can find everything with just a tiny bit of information. We collect your information, look for reviews and what your customers say about you, and even process what your customers say about your competitor. Then in less than a second, using NLP tools, we create for you what we believe are the ads that will bring you the most customers.
Easy, isn’t it?
Data, data and more data. Big data, small data, all the data. The moment we analyse your business, we are also finding out who your potential customers are. Does your product appeal to a younger audience? Should we place your message everywhere, or is your market local? Does it appeal to a specific gender? Specific professions? Is it for B2B use? B2C? B2B2C2….?
We know that the key to managing a smaller budget is to be spot on when it comes to placement. Using Google, Facebook, Bing, Linkedin and even the websites of local newspapers we place your message before your market.
Too much has been written about machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence, to the extent that most of these words have lost all their meaning, becoming empty buzzwords.
Yes, we developed algorithms, yes, these make sure to find optimal solutions given the variables at play, and yes, they learn from the results to (re)optimise themselves. But the underlying rationale is incredibly simple.
CPC, CPM, CTR, CPL,… It doesn’t matter, all that matters is that everyone has an advertising goal. You own a restaurant? You want to increase the number of meals you sell. You have developed an amazing app? You want users. You are a freelance professional? You want customers.
Well that is what we made sure our platform does. Achieve your goal at the lowest possible cost. And that’s it!
So this is the story we want our brand to tell. Time will tell us if we have succeeded; time will tell us if we have successfully portrayed the intangible sum of the product’s attributes. It was certainly no easy challenge, but we are very proud of the result.
It would not have been possible without the support of an amazing team, a very talented hands-on branding consultant, a group of loyal investors and two advisors who were always available: Edward Ungar, former Director EMEA Channel Partnerships at Google, and Ricardo Monteiro, former Global President at Havas.