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As a leader in Channel Marketing solutions for the last 15 years, we are often asked; “What makes a good template?” Quickly followed by “How much customization should we allow?” What seem like straightforward questions, do not lead to straightforward answers. To bring some data to the quest for those answers, we examined our Ad Builder systems to extract data points on the following topics:
- Templates, what are they?
- Creativity, pre-made ads vs customizable templates.
- Efficiency, self-service is key.
- Quality, what MUST be included?
- Usability, creative for all stakeholders.
During the process of reviewing data for this paper, we examined over 1,000 templates that were used to create over 20,000 ads in 2017.
Before we get started on Pre-Made Ads vs Customizable Templates, let's talk about what a template is. Channel Fusion offers an Ad Builder system that allows our clients and their dealers to create customized advertisements that are guaranteed to meet branding guidelines.
We work directly with our clients to help them design, build, implement, and deliver tens of thousands of ads per year. This is easily achievable and cost-effective because all the ads (across any media type) have a base template for the dealer to start with. From there we work with our team to decide which elements of that template should be variable and allow the dealers to update/edit those variables to fit their marketing goals.
Pre-Made ads have a static background and overall messaging that is consistent across all media types supported for a campaign. They do allow some customization, but it is very limited. Customizable templates, on the other hand, offer a wide variety of editability and variable options. The extent of variability is decided during the design and implementation phase of our template onboarding process.
Creation of these ads is always done through an easy-to-use, one-stop portal where the dealer can select, customize, and deliver customized creative. All of this is tied into a marketing center that allows dealers to also access their Co-op Funds, SPIFFs, Rebates, POP Materials or any combination of channel marketing tools we manage.
This may be the most surprising part for some, but for us in the day to day workings of Channel Marketing, it is expected. The most popular templates were the pre-made ads such as Yard Signs, Hang Tags, Service Stickers, and Product Information. Most of these templates do not have an offer, product images, or too much custom copy. They are mostly completed before the dealer gets started and offer little customization. They all include the dealer’s contact information and logo, and take less than a few minutes to create, download, and send off for printing.
Once we got past these pre-made ads, the most popular templates were those that allowed customization, but also offered default images and copy that could be updated by the dealer to something of their choice. The most popular templates in 2017 were templates that had existed for a couple of years. This could mean that dealers become more comfortable with the execution of templates they can use more than once, or it could mean that they don’t like change. We’ll save this question for a separate write up.
From this information, we can confirm our expectation that dealers are diverse and come to our tools with a variety of expectations. The best-performing systems have a mix of pre-made ads and customizable templates to fit dealer advertising goals.
Pre-made ads should be the basis of your self-service AdBuilder model. Not only are they cost-effective, but they are competently utilized. Dealers lean on pre-made ads as a turn-key solution for offers your competitors may be running. These ads are less expensive to implement, and the base of design has an unlimited shelf life.
Customizable templates are important as well and should be leveraged in your most popular media types to start. This will allow your dealers the ability to generate custom creative, at their own pace. Finding the right mix of pre-made ads vs customizable templates is an intricate balancing act that will need to be evaluated as you identify your own corporate marketing needs.
When looking at the analytics of time spent on our platforms, one thing was very clear. Dealers do not spend a large amount of time perusing the site. To better understand the behavior patterns we were seeing, we looked at average session time, and our most popular pages, determined by page views and time spent on each page. It was no shock that the top three pages in our platform were:
- Digital Asset Management Libraries
- Template Search
- Ad Creation
- My Library
The Average time spent in the DAM was only 2 ½ minutes, and about 50% of dealers that go to the DAM exit the system from here.
When we look at the template search, ad creation pages and My Library pages, these went hand in hand. Our dealers rarely spent more than 7 minutes choosing, creating, and delivering their finished ad.
What does this mean for self-service? Dealers that spent more than 7-10 minutes in our tool were, by and large, the outliers. This tells us that our platform must prioritize self-service and dealer experience above all else. With only 7-10 minutes of a dealer’s attention, it is critical to optimize that time, and allow the best output given the constraints.
When dissecting the data, we also took note of creative that required additional approval or templates that required additional handling when being delivered to an agency or placement vendor had a higher drop rate after the ad creation was finished. This means the ad was created, but never utilized. To us, this was a key performance indicator that screamed SELF-SERVICE IS KEY!
Now let’s look at what elements these templates have in common that are drawing the dealer’s attention. Pre-made ads are easy to create, visually appealing, and have a long shelf life. Each of the most used pre-made ads do not have time-sensitive material on them, meaning the dealer can create them, print them, and then store them for use throughout the year. All pre-made ads had 5 or fewer variables. The exception to this was the Hang Tag templates. We believe these have a high use rate due to the nature of a Hang Tag. These tend to be hung or adhered to a product on the showroom floor and are then cycled out as the equipment sells. This creates a continuous need to create new templates for new equipment. Aside from the usage patterns of hang tags, it still fits the same mold as the other Pre-made ads.
For the customizable templates that allow additional levels of dealer input there is also a pattern, the most heavily used were those that had between 6-10 variables, offered default images/copy, and allowed the dealers to make it their own. These variables also included dealer logo and location tagging capabilities (physical location and web address). The most popular customizable templates had at least 2 product images that could be customized and allowed for a custom headline and call to action to be used. We did notice a strong correlation where allowing the dealer to have a custom offer along with a custom disclaimer resulted in higher usage of those templates. This does require a lot of trust between the brand and the dealer to ensure the disclaimer is within the guidelines. Lucky for our clients, our amazing Channel Support Specialists are experts at catching these details and ensuring guideline adherence.
When providing media types that do not have a standard industry size (Newspaper, Billboard etc.) it is crucial for you to include the ability to resize these templates, otherwise your creative will not be utilized.
Below are variable options present we strongly suggest starting with on all creative:
- Dealer Name
- Dealer Logo
- Dealer Location
- Website Address
- Call to Action
This was the most interesting finding for us. We strongly suspected a heavy influence from agency partners who were utilizing the most custom templates we offered to give the dealer a custom piece. That wasn’t the case. Dealers created more customizable templates, while agency partners seemed to favor the pre-made ads or quickly created templates. From our analysis of who is using the templates it clear that dealers are getting in, finding what best suits their goals and creating it themselves.
We did not see a stronger representation from any dealership size, which correlated to high template usage. This is to say, dealers of all shapes and sizes are using our tools and finding templates that fit their vision. This was true in all our verticals. There was a fair representation from small, medium, and large revenue dealers as well as dealers with 1 location up to dealers with 10+ locations.
When evaluating our clients that do have a large number of agency users accessing the system we saw that about 70% of ads were still created by dealers and the remaining 30% were created by Agency users. Larger revenue dealers did have a higher representation of agency partners who were in the system creating ads for them.
The key takeaway here is to ensure you have creative that is both quick to market and able to fill the gaps in your dealer’s marketing plan. This year we will be measuring usage on more customizable or free-from templates to see if this will increase our creative utilization from our agency partners or dealers themselves.
As we continue to investigate the primary users of the AdBuilder system, it is important for you to identify your targeted user group as well. Being able to identify their key strengths and weaknesses will help decide what type of creative is best suited for your system, and how best to serve that creative for the highest possible utilization rate.
Pre-made ads are currently the most utilized templates offered. But the usage rates amongst customizable templates is nothing to scoff at. Ensuring you have the proper balance between the two can be the difference between a high adoption rate and endless creative brief requests. By recognizing the importance of both offerings, you are on the right path.
It is equally as important to ensure access to your creative is seamless and intuitive. Research done by Ruby Newell-Legner shows only 4% of customers voice their dissatisfaction with a service. With that in mind, it is imperative to ensure you and your partners understand the value in the user experience and self-service model dealers tend to gravitate towards. If not, all the effort put into identifying the best creative for your users becomes obsolete.
In the coming weeks we will go into more detail on our Top 5 must-dos for increasing template utilization in 2018, here’s what you can look forward to:
- User Experience vs User Interface – why one doesn’t always compliment the other
- Automation and Self Service – how far is far enough?
- Digital? Print? Digital Direct Mail? What does it all mean?
- Bundled Template Campaigns and what it means for your dealers.
- Customizable Video – enhancing the users digital experience.
By following and these tips and making informed decisions, you will see an increase in template utilization, ensure your branding is consistent and within guidelines, and most of all keep your dealers coming back to utilize the tools and collateral you’ve invested in.
For additional information or to discuss how Channel Fusion can help you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. or (319)-294-7501.
Sr. Technical Project Manager