We’ve been all across the country the last few years talking to media teams. It’s been clear from the beginning that the main pain point we all face is capacity.
Most every team we talk to is incredibly good at what they do, but the majority are overworked and understaffed. It’s hard to keep up with day-to-day demands, let alone scale effectively.
We have a very small team by industry norms — 16 on the ad ops/data science team and 10 on accounts. This team of 26 runs hundreds of campaigns at any given time.
We’ve won more than a few accounts because this small team went up against shops more than five times the total size of LumenAd and came out on top (we can’t name names here, but you can ask your delivery team).
We’ve cracked the code of capacity. Here’s how we did it according to two people who played a big part in cracking it — Luke, Director of Ad Operations, and Will, Director of Accounts.
Luke: “Break It and Remake It.”
This is a complex industry that’s always, always changing. For an ad ops team to be effective, you can’t be too precious about processes and strategies.
You need to question everything — and don’t move on until you have a good answer. This requires you to break old things that don’t work and rebuild them in ways that do.
This isn’t easy and may seem to be rather counterintuitive to increasing your team’s capacity, but there is no other way to be nimble enough to keep up with this industry.
An example is one campaign we did this summer that only ran for a few days. Such a short window requires you to be on track for the KPI within the first couple hours. It also needs constant monitoring from everyone all the way up to the top brass.
To maintain that level of service, your team simply cannot be satisfied. Yes, we made sure to think through every part of the campaign before we started, but we weren’t stuck with that plan. We adapted hourly with new ideas and optimizations from every team member. We took things apart, put it back together and made it work. Then we moved on to improve another aspect of the campaign that required us to do it all over again.
The result was one of our most successful campaigns ever. It cemented our ideology that you can’t afford to let any campaign run on autopilot. You need to understand the impact of every dollar spent, even if it means you have to rethink everything multiple times along the way.
I see this ability to adapt as a creative skill. It keeps your team from being mired in the status quo.
It gives you the ability to ask questions no one else is asking and come up with answers no one else thought of.
Both our platform and our managed service grew out of this approach. I mean, all we set out to do is solve problems for our clients. In our efforts to do so, we weren’t afraid to break down and remake the way things have been done over and over again.
Building a team on this foundation is particularly useful for the digital advertising industry, but it can apply to any industry. Ultimately, it results in a team that’s able to do hard things well in ways few others can.
Will: “Separate High Value-Add vs Low Value-Add Tasks.”
So one of the first things the accounts team looks to do is separate between high value-add and low value-add tasks — what tasks provide the most value and what tasks provide the least.
Every campaign we run has its own workflow and process specific to the client’s needs. This allows us to perform at a very high level, but it is a lot of work. It requires a balance of high-touch customized service with the efficiency this industry requires.
Each accounts team member needs the tools to determine a hierarchy of what needs to get done when and how much time to spend on it.
The best way to do this is to front-load most of the work. Think through the whole campaign and identify the big questions before the campaign is set up.
You need to first identify the processes and structure for anything the campaign may need. The goal is to foresee it all and adapt when you come across something you haven’t.
The honest truth is, the finer details don’t matter unless you get these building blocks plotted out first. So, proper campaign setup is usually the highest value add.
After the campaign launches, there are a few others that are just as important, like keeping clients in the loop every step of the way — weekly insights and analyses are standard around here.
A rough order of high value-add tasks include everything that goes into:
- Setting up and thinking through the campaign.
- Maintaining open and honest lines of communication with the client.
- Processing and interpreting data.
- Starting reporting early to keep an eye on the prize.
- Delivery of data and insights in a way that provides the full story of the campaign.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t have an attitude of “this is how you do it.” Every campaign needs a personal touch and one standardized set of steps will not allow us to achieve that.
We maintain a flexible framework and work ethic that allows us to adapt on the fly to the campaign’s needs while maintaining a high level of success. That’s how I define capacity for our team.
Luke: “Build Your Team as an Extension of Others’.”
This is one of the core foundations of LumenAd. Really, anyone that wants to succeed in providing a high-touch service like we do should be a seamless extension of their client’s team.
There isn’t really an easy process for achieving this, to be honest. What may help are the three things I make sure every member of my team does:
- Iterate constantly.
I want my team to always have a pulse on the performance of their campaigns. It’s not a plug’n’play sort of deal.
- Develop a personal learning loop.
This is a fast-moving industry and even though we educate our new hires well, we also allow for some personal agency in their training. Each ad ops team member can develop their areas of expertise while maintaining a strong general knowledge base.
- Never be satisfied.
Every team member needs to want to be relied on. To develop that trust internally and externally requires a uncompromising dedication to quality and the desire to always go a step further.
What this provides clients is what I’d call Unexpected Value — the difference between what they expect from us and what they actually get.
Unexpected Value includes things like letting the client know about an issue with their landing page before they even know something is wrong. Or identifying that the target audience needs tweaking because the original audience is not responsive.
Care about the work you do and how it affects your client’s everyday life. Because ultimately, you’re two teams working as one and you need to treat it that way. Otherwise, things will move slow, you won’t be as efficient as you need to be and performance will suffer.
Will: “Wrap Around Your Client’s Workflow.”
One benefit of our flexible framework is that it allows us to adapt to our client’s processes. Which has been one of the biggest factors in improving our efficiency.
Each client has their own workflow and processes. At the start of the partnership, honestly explore the question of what you can provide versus what they already have.
You need to figure out each other’s strengths. For example, we’re experts in launching and optimizing while the client might know everything there is to know about the target audience.
It’s all founded on robust, open and honest communication. From there, you need to think through the whole campaign with the client as one team. Look to complement their strengths and help them shore up everything else.
It’s not efficient to come in and ask the client to change everything about how they’ve run campaigns in the past.
Adapt to what they’ve been doing while introducing your own attention to detail, work ethic and strategies.
From our experience, by the end of the campaign we’ve reached a middle point. A mix between our workflow and theirs that developed naturally. As you work with this client more and more, both teams become more and more efficient.
Luke: “Be Your Own Stakeholder.”
Our technology grew directly out of our needs. We were our own first client as far as LumenAd the media management platform goes. So it answers the specific problems we found as we made our place in the industry.
This combined with our “break it and remake it” approach allowed us to ask questions no one else was asking and come up with solutions no one else had found. And we didn’t even realize that until we started showing clients our tech here and there.
We didn’t know some of these tools hadn’t been done to this extent before. For instance, the creative trafficking tool specifically allows one ad ops coordinator to do the work of three. And that’s just one tool.
That’s capacity. By actively working to perfect that one tool, we will exponentially increase our efficiency. If we hire three new ad ops coordinators, they can do the work of nine. In a year’s time, if we hire another three, they very well may be able to do the work of 27. It straight up allows us to do our jobs better.
And that’s a very important point — to do our jobs better. LumenAd the platform is not going to automate everything.
Because automation is not the answer. There is no substitute for the expertise of the human mind behind the levers.
The levers can get more robust, but knowing when and, most importantly, why to pull them is something that cannot be replaced.
Allowing your campaigns to run on autopilot will give you less capacity. You’ll be double-checking everything and when something goes wrong, it will really go south fast because no one was around to foresee it. The human behind the levers will see those kind of issues from a mile away.
So try be a stakeholder in your own product and service. You’ll develop tools and processes that will increase your capacity now and grow exponentially as you scale. You’ll also figure out how these tools and processes live alongside the human beings that interact with them day-to-day.
Will: “Let Tech Handle Low Value-Add Tasks.”
To provide a high-touch service with the recommendations and feedback our clients need, we can’t get bogged down with low value-add tasks. Our platform allows us to not only take care of those tasks quicker, but move up the ladder of low to high value-add tasks.
We’re at the point now where we can easily visualize the entire digital ecosystem within the LumenAd platform.
Which is a pretty high value-add task. That used to be a very specialized skill — to understand where the campaign lives within and how it’s affected by the ecosystem.
So, as far as adding capacity, look for tech and/or service that can take on those low value-add tasks with no interruption to your workflow. Or you can try and build that technology yourself like we did.
This is just a peek beneath the hood. You can see our full list of our capabilities on our website. If you have any questions about how we can increase your team’s capacity, feel free to reach out.