How to Test New Ad Networks Without Sacrificing ROI: A 5-Step Guide

It’s no secret that mobile is an incredibly fast-paced industry, and the world of mobile advertising is evolving just as quickly. Facebook and Google may be the best ad networks to leverage while you’re finding your footing, but one cannot survive on the duopoly alone. At some point, you’ll need to explore emerging channels in order to continue fueling growth. But how do you know when that point is, and where do you start? And once you’re committed to testing, how do you measure the results, and ensure some level of ROI throughout the process? These five steps will help you figure it out.

  1. Decide if it’s time to diversify your media mix
  2. Narrow down the list of channels by setting goals
  3. Partner with an MMP
  4. Invest in relationships built on trust
  5. Start with a test

Test Ad Networks 1

 

Step 1: Decide if it’s time to diversify your media mix

In your initial growth phases, it makes sense to stick with tried-and-true networks like Facebook and Google — these two will allow you to scale, even with granular targeting, and will deliver some level of ROI by default. In the beginning, you’re also likely to be limited by budget and bandwidth. It takes time and money to properly test, optimize, and execute campaigns on new advertising channels, and those are luxuries many young growth teams don’t have. Once you’ve moved past those resource constraints and growth through existing channels has started to plateau, it’s time to branch out.

Kellyn Wong — Test Ad Networks

Your competitors are already testing out new channels, and if you fail to do the same, you’ll fall behind. Just don’t fall into the common trap of quitting before you’ve even given your new growth plan a chance.

Think about it like this: Your competitors are already testing out new channels, and if you fail to do the same, you’ll fall behind. Besides, it’s never a good thing to put all your eggs in one basket — even the basket of tech incumbents like Facebook and Google. After all, anyone who’s been around for a few algorithm shifts recognizes these channels aren’t delivering the same impact they once did.

So is it time? Well, ask yourself this: Are you ready to weigh your risk? The reality is that you need a bit of risk tolerance to move into the next growth phase. While you can certainly take steps to make the most out of every test, you may not see big results right away. In my experience, your initial experiments will be a learning experience, after which you can use that data to optimize further. Finding the right avenues for advertising requires some testing and patience, but the benefits make it all worth it. Just don’t fall into the common trap of quitting before you’ve even given your new growth plan a chance.

Test Ad Networks 2

 

Step 2: Narrow down the list of channels by setting goals

Of course, “patience and testing” doesn’t mean throwing your ad budget at every channel and hoping that something sticks. There are a lot of emerging options, from things like podcasting and mobile in-app to fringe channels like blockchain reward offers. Narrowing it down can be overwhelming, so take a step back and think about what’s right for your brand. For example, I find that for app marketers, testing in-app ads is a no brainer. For other consumer brands, the choice might not be so obvious.

To narrow it down, you need to get specific about your goals. Are you looking to drive app installs, boost retention, or facilitate an action or engagement? The answer will change from company to company and even from campaign to campaign. For example, just because a strategy works for one mobile game doesn’t mean the next game can repeat that success with the same plan. So rather than worrying about what your competitors are doing, analyze your own data to figure out what you want to improve.

Once you’ve sorted that out, the next step is searching for ad networks with the right optimization strategies and pricing models to help you reach your goals. For a more detailed run-down of how to pinpoint the right ad network, check out this guide. Beyond initiating the partnership, you’ll also need a way to measure ROI to determine if your test campaigns are effective. Whew, that probably sounds like a lot. Thankfully, you’re not alone out there…

Test Ad Networks 3

 

Step 3: Partner with an MMP

This is technically an optional step depending on your campaigns, but one I personally recommend. For any in-app ad campaign, partnering with an MMP is a hard requirement, unless an advertiser takes on the technical requirements in-house. But even outside the world of in-app, working with a mobile measurement partner (MMP) is becoming the industry standard, and for good reason. Whether you’re already connected with an ad network or not, you’ll find that they’re two sides of the same coin: MMPs can provide unbiased reviews of leading ad networks, or vice versa. They also have a wealth of data about almost every facet of the industry, and in marketing, data is power.

Just as importantly, an MMP will be able to help you look at campaign performance on a granular level. MMP platforms are designed to collect, organize, and standardize data — which, as I mentioned above, is a necessary part of determining advertising goals and measuring success. If you don’t have your own data team in-house, it can be costly and time-consuming to do it on your own.

If you need help picking an MMP, Tapjoy has the resources to help. This guide offers a complete analysis of the company’s top six Mobile Measurement Partners, right down to unique features and pricing. Some even have free or inexpensive tiers for startups! Having a reliable data partner empowers advertisers to make smarter decisions, so this step should definitely be part of the consideration process.

Test Ad Networks 4

 

Step 4: Invest in relationships built on trust

Experts agree that having good account management and support at your ad network could be linked to ROI. Even in an industry where automation is becoming the norm, it’s still valuable to build human relationships.

There are nuances that vary by channel, but one thing is clear: advertisers need to have a reliable contact at their ad networks. This contact should serve as a consultant and advisor, to help you best reach your advertising goals within their network. They can guide you through the testing process, provide recommendations to ensure your campaign is fully optimized and reaching its potential, and even help connect you with the right MMP. It’s also important to have a partner that will tell you if it’s not a good fit.

Once you’ve established that trust, data can flow freely among your internal sources, the ad network, and your Mobile Measurement Partner. Getting everyone on the same page goes a long way towards building a custom plan to meet your goals.

Test Ad Networks 5

 

Step 5: Start with a test

You’ve done it! You picked an MMP, found some new advertising channels, and you’re ready to get started. Before you pump your entire ad budget into a new campaign, though, start small through a test. But not too small — your initial investment in a new channel should be enough to gauge success — just enough to test the waters without going all in. Though the actual dollar amount will vary depending on the type of campaign, earmarking around $5,000 from your regular ad spent is a good place to start.

This is where performance pricing comes in handy. If you’re only paying for proven results, whether that’s per engagement, install, or some other metric, you can offset some of the risks of experimentation. For example, with a CPI campaign, you only pay when users install your app after seeing your ad, so you know you’re not just throwing money into the ether. After the campaign has had some time to run, measure and analyze the data to see if you’re getting the desired results. Again, this is why sticking with an emerging channel after the initial test run is so important! For more information on exactly how to set up that first test, check out this guide.

I know diversifying your media mix can be a little scary, but don’t worry; you’re not alone. I’ve seen many companies go through the process in recent years, and it’s well worth the effort. As long as you’re not jumping in blindly — and with these tips at your disposal, you won’t be! — you’ll find the right partners to put you on the path towards meeting and exceeding those growth goals.

Want to work at Tapjoy?

Find out why Tapjoy is the best place to work.