How to Position Your Agency as a Native Advertising Expert and Win Clients

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Knock-knock.

Hear that? It’s opportunity knocking. Companies from nearly every industry are at the door waiting for your agency to open-up and show them the way with native advertising.

I sense these doors are opened far too infrequently. I find it bewildering.

I went a-Googling and entered “PPC advertising agency.” SERP results came pouring forth—both paid and organic—featuring agencies hoping to help me generated leads with PPC. I did the same thing with “social media advertising agency.” Same type of result—that service is a cinch to find.

Not so with native advertising. Not even close.

In fact, when I do the search “native advertising agency,” I find none. But I do find all kinds of news about native advertising’s growing momentum and posts about the top native ad platforms and relevant software solutions.

Where are the agencies? Are they shying away from native? Can someone please explain?

Interestingly, my search uncovered a brief article from Native Advertising Institute that took a crack at these questions.

The struggle.

The article’s author, Alex Jones, writes:

“Since marketing agencies work in a fast-paced industry, you’d expect them to adapt to this trend quickly, but for some reason, native advertising appears to be an overwhelming concept.”

Jones puts forth several hypotheses about why agencies are slow to adapt native advertising:

  • Agencies simply don’t know what native advertising is. Adweek reports the biggest hurdle to native advertising is simply 55% of marketers just don’t know enough what it is and how do it effectively.
  • Getting it to fit alongside other forms of advertising confounds them.
  • It doesn’t fit neatly into industry pricing methodologies.
  • Agencies lack the time and resources to create content and track how effective it is.

Jones concludes with this advice: Just do it.

I concur. Perhaps not every agency is equipped to address and overcome these challenges, but should you decide to, doors could swing open.

The demand for native advertising.

Social ads (for the most part) are considered native advertising. Pay-per-click ads on search engines are native too. Both fit the definition:

Native advertising is a form of advertising where the ad matches the format and context of the surrounding content.

It is important to note that both of these advertising forms exist in “walled gardens.” They’re closed ecosystems in which all the operations are controlled by the operator. But not everyone is an avid social media user. Some buyers never click on search ads.

Enter native advertising for the open web, the advertiser’s route to millions of digital publications that offer content people devour. Native digital display (as it’s sometimes called) has become one of the fastest growing advertising strategies as it opens up new channels of content distribution.

“Growth of native digital display is being driven by publishers’ pursuit of higher-value and more mobile-friendly inventory, as well as by advertisers’ demands for more engaging, less intrusive ads.”

Lauren Fisher, analyst, eMarketer

A recent MediaRadar report attests to the effectiveness of native claiming it’s more trustworthy and engaging than traditional forms of advertising and produces higher click-through rates (CTR) and sales. In fact, native display ads produce CTR 8.8x higher than typical display ads.

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The 2018 report also forecasts that the percentage of publisher revenues from native advertising will grow to 36% in 2021. Ask publishers and you’ll find native advertising is important or very important to 95% of them.

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Native advertising types.

I’m not sure there’s a definitive guide to the types of native advertising that exist, but let’s not make it complicated. An ad is considered native when it matches the format and context of its surrounding content, so the types of advertising considered to be native evolve along with the evolution of media.

Still, if you want to separate your agency from the pack by managing native advertising on behalf of your clients, you’re bound to find the following list of popular types helpful.

In-feed units.

In-feed units, as seen on social media, appear in the same feed as the other content but are distinguished by an advertising label. Versions of in-feed units include:

  • Ads that send clickers to a brand’s editorial content or landing page.
  • Ads that are a part of a publisher’s normal content stream that send clickers to a page within the site. Often, the content is created by or in conjunction with the publisher.
  • Another type of in-feed as displayed within the publisher’s content stream but can be read or played without leaving the page.

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Recommendation widgets.

Recommendation widgets suggest sponsored content underneath or alongside content. The ads appear in-stream but don’t have the exact same appearance as an editorial content feed. Upon clicking. users are sent to a page on the site of the brand who created the ad.

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Paid search

Search engine marketing is an established form of native advertising. Users are presented with the ads when they conduct a search. Native search ads resemble organic search results but are labeled as ads.

Paid social

In-feed social media ads are simply sponsored posts though variations exist across the popular social sites.

Promoted listings

Promoted listings appear on sites that don’t offer editorial content but match the other products or services there.

Custom

Some native ads don’t fit neatly in any of the above categories because they are more customized. With custom content, the advertiser and publisher collaborate to make websites or pages with content that users might find relevant. Many publishers have dedicated editorial teams that create this type of content for advertisers.

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Here’s an example of a co-branded article from The Atlantic and Nest about the rise of connected homes and their effects on families.

It’s time to offer native advertising services.

Last year, Chad Pollitt, a founding partner of the Native Advertising Institute, claimed he knew of only seven agencies specializing in native advertising. In his post, Making the Case for the Native Advertising Agency in 2018, he writes:

“The demand for native agency services is real and it’s mostly being served in the most gracile way by the paid Facebook gal sitting in the corner of a PPC or marketing agency.”

Pollitt claims agencies don’t tackle native out of fear.

It’s time to get off the dime. The demand is real.

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Native advertising now accounts for more than half of all digital display spending by US marketers.

Your agency can seize a rare opportunity to offer a competitive advantage, deliver an important service and bring in lucrative new business.

It’s time to win clients with native advertising services.

Create a thought leadership position

First-time native advertisers are bound to take a DIY approach. They may struggle. Or they may get no further than conducting research.

Be there for them. Become an advocate and advisor on the topic of native advertising. Establish yourself as a native advertising thought leader by:

  • Writing and curating content about the industry on your blog.
  • Finding opportunities to contribute guest posts about the topic.
  • Joining social media conversations about the topic.
  • Offering webinars or mini-courses.
  • Telling success stories about native advertisers.
  • Presenting relevant content at industry conferences.
  • Having your in-house expert(s) appear on podcasts and/or create videos.

Help your clients help you

Agency leaders are apt to claim the lion’s share of their new business comes from client referrals. Obviously, referral business comes without intentional investments in new business development and the built-in trust factor makes leads more likely to come aboard.

The best way to help clients help you land clients for your native advertising offerings is to educate them.

  • Create helpful content on the topic and make sure it’s seen by the right people.  
  • Bring aboard a beta client for no or low fees willing to participate in a customer success story.
  • Offer incentives to clients to refer your agency.

Build an employee advocacy army

Every employee, from the top down, should perform the role of ambassador for the agency. Develop internal programs and processes such that employees gain a solid understanding of your new service and put the word out about it every chance they get.

  • Train employees to use social media and get them excited about doing so.
  • Provide an incentive to land leads.
  • Encourage them to attend industry events and network on behalf of the agency.

Take your case to the right prospects.

In the early going, focus on existing clients that are the right fit for native advertising. Such clients may:

  • Be avid content marketers struggling to generate new traffic and leads with social and other organic means.
  • Have established budgets for search and social advertising and be willing to experiment with native.
  • Be seeing results for traditional advertising and marketing tactics steadily diminishing.
  • Be Competing in markets in which native has proven to deliver results.

Talk up performance marketing

Your clients want transparency through and through and you can deliver it. Performance marketing pros rely heavily on paid marketing channels and get paid to, well, perform.

Like most search and social advertising programs, fees for the native advertising from Taboola, the leading content discovery platform, are based on cost-per-click. You’ll have instant access to the data you need to gauge results and deliver unabashed honesty at every point in the process.

Run native ads

Practice what you preach. Create native advertising programs to promote your services on relevant sites, in the right social streams, and to real prospects. Imagine the great conversation you can have with a prospect that comes to you by way of sponsored content they found on an online publication about advertising and marketing.

I don’t want to tell you what to say, but some form of “it works” might be wise.

Profile native advertising campaigns

In a post on the Native Advertising Institute blog, Johanne Eliasson interviews Evie Kevish of Shaw Media Marketing, who found that the best way to sell native advertising is by showing clients examples of successful campaigns.

It makes perfect sense. Many brands still don’t have a good grasp of what native is, what it looks like, and how it works.

One, two, three… and your business expands

A quick review here:

  1. The demand for native advertising is high. The number of agencies that offer specific native advertising services is low.
  2. Native advertising continues evolving, both in “walled garden” media and the open web. Advertisers need help taking advantage of native.
  3. There are many ways to position your agency as an expert in native advertising.

Ready?