What is Programmatic Advertising Anyway?

What is programmatic advertising?

Programmatic advertising is the automated process of connecting brands looking to advertise with digital publishers looking to sell advertising space.

Advertisers use software called demand side platforms (DSPs) and publishers use supply side platforms (SSPs) to instantly “meet up” in massive online ad exchanges. From there, targeting data match ads with placements based on parameters set by both the advertiser and publisher. 

Humans set up the creative, budget and targeting and machines broker the deals – using AI to optimize performance based on set goals.

These transactions happen in real time, meaning in less time than it took to write a single word of this sentence an ad placement is auctioned off and another ad has found a happy home in front of a desired audience.

Instead of targeting publishers one at a time, programmatic advertising allows for targeting audiences across multiple publishers in real time.

What problems does programmatic advertising solve?

It used to be very time consuming to connect advertisers with publishers. Back in the pre-programmatic day, advertisers had to approach publishers individually to reach deals.

If you wanted your Stouffer’s lasagna print ad below the Garfield funnies, you called the newspaper. If you wanted to feature your extra-absorbent tissues at the end of a tearjerker you called good people at Lifetime.

Now…for certain programmatic guaranteed deals (PGs) or custom or bespoke media buys, human outreach is still required, but…

Programmatic advertising platforms now instantly and automatically connect advertisers with publisher inventory (ad slots/impressions). In essence, programmatic took much of the manual 1-on-1 process of advertisers and publishers outreach, negotiating and agreeing to deals and automated it.

Target Audiences, Not Publishers

Instead of targeting publishers one at a time, programmatic allows for targeting audiences across multiple publishers in real time.

Win-Win for Publishers and Advertisers

From the publisher’s perspective, programmatic helps them sell media placements (impressions) that might otherwise go empty by automatically connecting their inventory via the ad exchange with advertisers. This creates a win-win scenario in which publishers get additional income and advertisers get what is often more economical access to publisher audiences.

Efficiently Reach New, Qualified Audiences

Beyond this, programmatic advertising allows advertisers to scale as far as their budget allows and efficiently reach new and qualified audiences they couldn’t have before.

Given its relative agility, programmatic advertising also makes it easier to test new creative ground, follow (and even stay ahead of) your audiences and expand your brand reach.

According to a study by Streamable, 89% of U.S. consumers subscribe to streaming services, while data from AudienceProject shows those still watching linear TV on a weekly basis has hovered around 60% from 2018-2021.

If your audience is cutting the cord, or maybe never had a cord to cut, you may want to test running your video ads on a premium CTV publisher like Fubo, Hulu, Sling, YouTube TV, or one of the many others you can reach via programmatic advertising.

Brand Safety and Machine Learning

Demand side platforms, like Google’s Display & Video 360 (DV360), provide layers of brand safety as well – helping ensure ads reach relevant audiences and avoid placements that may be irrelevant or even detrimental to your brand.

Add to this oodles of performance data for optimizing and machine learning to help with the heavy data lifting and you have one very power method of finding, engaging and growing your audience.

Types of programmatic ads

Programmatic display ads can take on many forms. They fill what can seem like an innumerable array of ad placements, including digital audio ads.

Primarily though, when we think of programmatic display advertising, HTML5 banners and video spots placed on desktop and mobile publisher sites are the types of media that come to mind.

More recently, programmatic ad placements have come to include digital out-of-home, streaming audio (including podcasts) and connected TV (CTV).

According to PEW Research, only 56% of Americans watched satellite or cable TV in 2021. So when someone mentions watching “TV” these days they’re increasingly less likely to be referring to traditional, linear TV and more likely talking about catching highlights of last night’s game, or their favorite show, on their smart TV’s YouTube App, especially if they’re under the age of 34.

How programmatic advertising works

When a user visits a publisher’s digital space (usually a website or an app), a split-second negotiation takes place within an ad exchange between the DSP (advertiser) and the SSP (publisher).

Depending on the type of programmatic advertising deal, this negotiation doesn’t always take the form of an auction. This negotiation involves these five main automated parties:

  1. Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs)
  2. Data Management Platform (DMPs)
  3. Ad Exchanges (ADx)
  4. Ad Servers
  5. Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs)

Think of these five parties as the automated liaisons between advertisers and publishers.

1) DSPs: Advertisers & Agency Partners

Advertisers enter an ad exchange via their demand-side platform with their selected brand safety and targeting parameters set.

[DSP Examples: Google Marketing Platform (DV360 & CM360), Trade Desk and Amazon DSP.]

2) DMPs: Audience & Demographic Data

Data Management Platforms provide audience and demographic data that help inform a campaign targeting.

[DMP Examples: Nielsen, Oracle bluekai, Lotame and Snowflake.]

3) SSPs: Publishers/Websites

Publishers enter through software called supply-side platforms, where they’ve set their various parameters as well. These requirements might be such things as no content pertaining to drugs, alcohol, or politics. Kinda like tea at your Nanna’s house.

The good ones will also make it so ads from similar or competing brands don’t show alongside each other.

[SSP Examples: Google Ad Manager, MoPub, Sharethrough, PubMatic, AppNexus and more.]

4) Ad Exchanges

Ad exchanges then do the work of matching advertisers with publishers based on their collective targeting settings and determine, in less than the blink of an eye, which advertiser wins the placement on a publisher’s property.

[Ad Exchange Examples: Google AdX, Magnite, PubMatic and Freewheel…amongst many others.]

5) Ad Servers

Once the negotiation is settled, ad servers then place the ad on the publisher’s site. Ad servers also collect and report back performance data to the DSPs and SSPs for reporting and optimization.

[Ad Servers Examples: Google Ad Manager, Smaato and OpenX.]

Programmatic advertising from an advertiser’s perspective

As advertisers (or brands), we mostly enter and experience this whole programmatic ecosystem through our demand side platform. It’s where we load our ads, sculpt our campaign targeting, apply various layers of brand safety, reach out to various exchanges and networks, review performance data and optimize. The other four programmatic “parties” function largely in the background.

At Edge, we utilize the Google Marketing Platform as our DSP. It provides us and our brand partners access to the world’s largest collection of ad exchanges. Not to mention it integrates some incredibly useful products like DV360 and CM360 and a ton of targeting and reporting options under one roof. But this is not to say the other DSP options out there aren’t excellent also.

Programmatic advertising pros and cons

The Pros

Programmatic advertising is highly effective at building brand awareness, interest and recall. Plus, it saves time by automating the tedious bits and bobs like publisher outreach and overwrought RFPs.

Granular Targeting, Brand Safety & Reporting

Programmatic display allows for granular audience targeting, overlaid with brand safety measures and scrupulous, ever-improving reporting.

Access to Connected TV

Increased ease of access to CTV publishers helps ensure placement quality, further brand safety and provide a sort of future proofing against a post-cookie world.

Affinity & Brand Boost

Beyond the DSP platforms themselves, well-tuned programmatic campaigns provide increasingly efficient lift to a brand’s primary digital channels. These channels are Organic & Paid Search and Direct and typically comprise the lion’s share of online conversion activity.

The brand and affinity boost can make for a sort of rising tide effect, floating all the boats in a brand’s digital harbor.

The Cons

Programmatic advertising remains a relatively new ad technology. Like all emergent technologies, it certainly has its share of wrinkles to iron out.

Dense Adtech

One wrinkle is programmatic’s steep learning curve and potentially high buy in for the advertiser. This can make it hard to access some DSPs without going through an agency. This places a lot of weight on the advertiser/agency relationship. Advertisers would do well to decide on critical KPIs ahead of time with their agency and make sure their agency provide accessible, transparent reporting.

The Middle People

Good agencies will certainly earn their cut and substandard agencies will still take their cut of your media spend dollars. DSPs will take a piece as well. If you use a data management platform (DMPs) you will be charged for access to audience targeting data.

Make sure you talk with your agency and understand how much of your budget is going to getting your ads out there.

Knowing What to Measure

One of the biggest perks of programmatic advertising is the data, so it can be a little weird to hear that measurement is also a perceived drawback. It really isn’t a lack of data so much as it is a lack of analysts.

If you’re investing in programmatic display and video make sure you’re getting more from your agency partner than an invoice and an Excel sheet with an impression total at the end of the campaign.

Ask to meet their data analyst before getting started and even see samples of their reporting. Ask them what their approach is to reporting and campaign optimization.

Impression Monsters of the Open Exchange

The internet consists of a lot of amazing content, but it’s also full of garbage. (There, I said it.) Real-time bidding (RTB) on the open exchange offers tremendous value to both advertisers and publishers for the aforementioned reasons. However, without the proper precautions in place your brand could be susceptible to what I affectionately call impression monsters.

These unloveable creatures can take the form of sites, or bots impersonating sites, whose sole job is to rack up impressions and steal advertiser money.

Those are the more egregious kind, but really an impression monster is any poor-quality site you’d rather not have your brand associated with.

For an advertiser to get the most out of open exchange display or video placements, make sure your agency is deploying brand safety measures and regularly reviewing APP/URL reports for any impression monsters.

Low Viewability Rates

One special type of impression monster are sites that tally up tons of impressions, but very few viewable impressions. I’ve yet to meet a client who’s eager to pay for an ad that no one saw or heard.

For this reason viewability is a key metric when evaluating your ad performance. Ask your agency if they are straining out low visibility sites and taking other strategic measures to increase ad visibility without sacrificing scale.

Partnering with an Agency

Yes, I realize I listed out more cons than pros above, but the benefits of programmatic advertising definitely outweigh the drawbacks. There’s a reason why over 90% of digital display dollars will move through programmatic advertising in 2022.

Fortunately, most cons can be addressed by partnering with a proficient programmatic agency. The best agencies match expertise with a respect for best practices and transparent reporting.

Finding the right programmatic agency partner will help minimize the potential negatives and maximize the benefits for your brand.

If your brand’s boat could use some extra wind in its digital sails, it might just be time to find your Edge.

Edge’s Digital Marketing Services include strategy, creative, set up, management and reporting. From conversion-optimized LPs and ad creation to management and results, we move the needle from active…to actively performing.

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Edge Wraps Up Our 20th Year in Business

A lot can happen in 20 years. At Edge, we’ve experienced countless changes among our team members and with our clients, and we’ve been a part of some of the massive changes to our industry as a whole. 

For example, digital marketing was by many definitions an emerging concept in 2001. Now digital marketing is a service that we provide for many of our partner organizations. 

Another example is working remotely, which was anything but the standard when we implemented it in 2001, but has now become the new normal for many businesses. While we’ve been remote since our founding, 2020 was the first time most of our client-base had ever worked from home, and remote work has created new challenges and opportunities within our partnerships. 

The two above examples are hardly a fraction of the change Edge has seen since our founding. But what is perhaps most important are the things that haven’t changed- For 20 years, we’ve remained committed to providing the absolute best service and solutions for our clients. 

Some projects were new additions in 2021, like our guide book on Data Privacy & Digital Marketing.  On the other hand, our twentieth year also further cemented our connection with longstanding partners, like Unitus Community Credit Union.

And even as we reflect on the last two decades, it’s hard not to look forward to the coming year. 2022 is shaping up to be (another) big year for Edge, as we launch new proprietary products like Formulate, and continue collaborating with organizations we love: You can view some of our highlights here

With twenty years of client-service in the books, we are more affirmed than ever with our core philosophy: Edge is a partner.

Here’s to the next 20 years! 

You’re invited to our upcoming webinar: Digital Marketing in the Data Privacy Age

Upcoming Webinar: Digital Marketing In The Data Privacy Age

We’re so excited to announce that our very own Matt Neznanski will be presenting a webinar with the Marketing Association of Credit Unions (MAC). Matt will be speaking on the importance of data privacy and how credit unions can get involved to protect consumer data.

Credit Unions are uniquely positioned to lead the charge as member advocates for new standards and tools that prioritize privacy as well as personal control while enabling marketing teams even better than before.

Digital Marketing needs data. Today, it’s collected through methods that make us queasy, but is a requirement to meet our goals. With Mozilla, Apple, and now Google moving to block a major portion of those methods, the landscape is going to change yet again.

Being informed and championing privacy is not only important, it’s necessary. That’s where Matt can help Credit Unions understand where their priorities should be.

Join us on September 16th from 11am-12pm PST for our upcoming webinar: Digital Marketing In the Dawn of The Data Privacy Age.

Sign up for our upcoming webinar: Digital Marketing In the Dawn of The Data Privacy Age

Register Now

Edge 20th Anniversary

2021 Marks 20 Years of Business for Edge

We’re celebrating our “Platinum” company anniversary here at Edge and are excited to mark this 20-year milestone of partnering with clients. 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in two decades in this business, it’s that nothing stays the same. We’ve made some calculated pivots along our journey including being early to market with adding website programming, data tracking, and digital marketing to our full-service repertoire.

gavin-and-scott-around-a-computer

Light on our feet — always with an eye on the horizon.

A strong foundation of thought leadership and fearlessness to push boundaries into new, uncharted territory – flexing our troubleshooting muscles – has been key to helping us bring fresh strategy to the forefront, helping our client partners decipher the best way forward.

Looking back over the past 20 years, there were some key decisions that brought us to where we’re at today:

Not Being a “Vendor”

Focusing on building true, transparent partnerships with clients

Widening our Client Portfolio

Diversifying our client portfolio while also including a specialization with credit unions

Working With Non-Profits

Devoting a portion of our bandwidth to work with nonprofits and better our local communities

Developing robust digital offerings

Breaking new ground with advanced digital tracking and bespoke digital marketing strategies

Proudly, we share some highlights of our work in the digital space:


We’ve spent the last couple of years building out a robust list of products and services including a new, proprietary financial calculator called Formulate. Within our bucket of tools, we’ve also ramped up our offerings for Marketing Automation, web development, digital advertising, and other MarTech solutions that allow clients to more seamlessly and meaningfully connect with customers regardless of where they are.

jenn and austi playing connect four
part of edge team at client office

Remote since our inception, Edge works with clients from all over the United States. We’re regularly invited to speak at events, conferences, and webinars to help educate marketing leaders. We love to teach and mentor client teams to help them develop their staff and further their knowledge and expertise.

Our CEO and co-founder, Stephanie Chadwick reflects, saying, “Edge has continued to innovate and adapt to an ever-changing environment. We’ve gotten comfortable with not ever being comfortable and we’ll continue to anticipate what’s next while we super-serve our client-partners, helping them navigate the inevitability of change. I’m so proud of our dedicated team of experts and their consistent work to know their stuff – as well as their fearlessness in being transparent and honest in the face of a good challenge.“ 

stephanie
matt and stephanie at restaurant

Edge is a well-respected, full-service boutique firm with a strong foundation in marketing technology. Our small team of experts operates in an open atmosphere, building trust and healthy environments in which to perform challenging work. As a strategic marketing partner, our values focus on people, performance, and partnership.

We’re all about expanding your capabilities as partners. It’s what we do.
Check out more from our services page.

What We Do

Emergency Communication Strategy: 4 Ways To Help Your Brand Stay Clear and Present In a Crisis

In a time of crisis, it’s hard to know where to start or slow down enough to craft a strategy.

Sometimes, it’s easier to wait and “read the room.”

The tendency to wait, however, can cause organizations to fall behind the communication curve, jeopardizing brand loyalty and potentially causing consumers to perceive a lack of communication as a lack of empathy: “Where’s my credit union when I need them?” 

That’s why having an emergency communication strategy in place is essential. Just like reaching out to a friend in time of need, think of your communication strategy as a way to ask your membership, “How are you doing?” and “How can I help?” 

“The best marketing strategy ever: care.”

Gary Vaynerchuck,  entrepreneur, author, and speaker.

As a strategic partner to many credit unions over the years, we’ve walked alongside our clients in moments of crisis and used our team’s expertise to develop communication plans to help marketing teams tackle each message with confidence.

Gathering around a resource or tool like Edge’s Emergency Communication Strategy is essential to the process.

A communication strategy helps teams put a plan in place, lead discussions and efforts toward hitting all of the appropriate channels and ensures key messages are not missed.

This simple, yet powerful resource will help springboard an idea into a strategy.

We’ve compiled four key approaches to help you tackle crisis communications smoothly:

1) Avoid fear based marketing

Lead with an empathetic, hopeful message. Even if you don’t have all of the information or answers, members and non-members alike will appreciate a warm message that communicates they’re not alone – you’re in this with them.

That could look like a video from your CEO addressing the emergency and sent through your most active channels. Email and social media are great for this first message. 

It’s not a question of whether to help members, it’s determining which products and services can help members most.

2) Get on the same page internally

Whether it’s a local disaster or global pandemic it’s important to move quickly and develop tools that will help members continue and even thrive through the crisis.

Aligning with your operations and retail teams is important during this time. Many credit unions in times of crisis offer emergency loans at low rates.

Some even offer special payment options with specific terms like no payments for 30 days.

Other CU services may become even more useful such as skip a payment, digital branch services, financial education tools, increased customer service times, etc. 

People helping people. That’s the Credit Union spirit and culture and that’s what we love about them. It’s not a question of whether to help members, it’s determining which products and services can help members most.

3) Get the stuff out there – quickly & efficiently

The quickest approach to sharing marketing messages is to start with the website.

Once the essential information such as branch closures or updated hours are on the website, move on to helpful and explanatory content.

Start with a blog message or landing page with details and instructions, then use that content to develop other messaging for different channels. 

We offer copywriting and strategy coupled with tools to help your team succeed in your marketing efforts.

If your team is stuck on how to move forward, let us help. We’ll align your team’s strategy to effectively get your message out to the right people.

4) Stay stable and reliable

Keeping your website in tip-top shape should be top-of-mind prior to any emergency. Your website is the face of your organization – the first impression.

If your website’s design or functionality is hindering the influx of new users from finding the info they need, then this will need to be remedied.

Not only are existing members accessing the website more for basics like online banking, but prospective members are searching for financial help in the form of loans, counseling and services.

A Response or Resources Page may be a great way to lead existing and new users alike to the most important information. While in a crisis, things can change quickly. Therefore, this is a great way to keep information timely, current and relevant.

Increased website traffic, especially from people who aren’t regular visitors, presents an opportunity to better understand people’s experiences with the site.

Use your analytics software to explore users’ behavior flow patterns to see where people are getting stuck or dropping out.

Keep an eye on your organic keywords in Google Search Console, while using Analytics to keep abreast of shifting trends.

Use your data to pivot your creative messaging and surface the resources that are most relevant and helpful to your audience.

Once things get to a stable place, take on those items first through small adjustments and improvements. Keep a running list of bigger projects to tackle later.

Agility and quick response is really the name of the game in communicating during a crisis. But it’s also just as important the response carries a sensitive and hopeful tone. We hope the Emergency Communication Strategy tool will help align your team to provide relevant, timely, and effective messaging where needed.

Edge offers the strategy and tools to help your marketing team succeed. If you’re stuck, we can help align and develop your team to effectively get the right message to the right people.

Tackle Each Message with Confidence

This entry was posted with significant contributions from fellow Edgers: Austi Baudro & Matt Neznanski// Photo credit: iStock

Demand Up, Costs Down: Unprecedented Market Conditions for Credit Unions

Crises have an uncanny ability to curb old habits and mold new ones.

Within the financial industry, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the adoption of and demand for online services. What was seen as an option before is now a necessity. 

While many industries are experiencing negative effects from the impact of COVID-19, financial institutions find themselves in an interesting and unique situation. Members and potential members are more active online than they’ve ever been and the cost to compete in this normally expensive vertical is falling. 

The CU clients Edge serves have seen a combined increase of over 10% in their Organic Channel users from February 23rd to April 12th, 2020. 

Looking at all our FI client’s channels combined during the same period, they are up an average of 10.5%. 

The few clients that did experience cross-channel slowdowns over the previous period did so only because they chose to either temporarily pause or significantly reduce their display budgets.

Social distancing mandates in every state, coupled with branch closures are bringing in the late adopters of mobile and online banking driving up demand for online services, while competition for space in the SERPs and on publisher sites is loosening.

Unique Market Conditions: Consumer and conversion activity is up, while cost per conversion and cost per click are declining.

Demand and Opportunity Align For Finance Industry

Wordstream monitors PPC performance across tens of thousands of advertisers and noted this shift in how COVID-19 has affected Google Ad results within the finance industry in a recent article.

Their research shows finance click-through rates (CTRs) up 23%, while the cost of a click has fallen by 27% on average. The conversion rate shift, up a slight 1%, doesn’t seem like much until you take into account the dramatic uptick in click-through traffic.


Wordstream Chart: Change in Financial Search Ad Performance since COVID-19

Specific to our clients, we’ve witnessed dramatic performance shifts in line with Wordstream’s findings. Most notably, we have seen our conversion rates (CVR) slide up even further.

Across all accounts from FEB 23rd to April 12th, we’ve seen:

  • +20% Increase in Avg Click-Through Rate 
  • +13% Increase in Avg Conversion Rate
  • -19% Decrease in Avg Cost Per Click
  • -25% Decrease in Avg Cost Per Conversion

While the decision to pause or proceed ad spends looms large in the minds of many brands, the data show a rare opportunity for FIs who keep their brands relevant and steady during this crisis – demand is rising and the cost is falling.

Credit Unions are built to serve their communities and this unprecedented situation puts them at the forefront of people helping people – and being able to do it even more effectively than ever before.

Stephen Arthur and Mike Henry, Financial Services Industry Directors at Google put it this way in their April 2020 Think with Google article:

“The question finance brands should ask themselves isn’t whether to show up for consumers, but how to do so in ways that address their most pressing questions and concerns.”

Be Here Now and Increase Loyalty Later 

Increased attention and conversion activity is available now with the same budget, PLUS the longer term benefit of the enhanced intrinsic value proposition of your brand being there for your field of membership now.

“Studies show that companies that protect marketing budgets during recessions tend to do much better in the ensuing recovery period.” 

That’s according to Nancy Smith, founder of Analytics Partners, a firm that looks at data from hundreds of billions of dollars in marketing spend across more than 700 brands in over 45 countries.

Smith goes on to say that pulling the media spends almost guarantees losses during a recession, “On average, brands that removed media investment suffered an 18 percent loss in incremental sales.”

We know your credit union is playing a key role in supporting your community right now and will throughout the eventual recovery ahead. Harness this opportunity to say, “This is who we are and this is what we’re doing to help.”

Being present and relevant now for your audience will pay dividends in member loyalty and brand strength on the other side of this as well.


This entry was posted with significant contributions from fellow Edgers: Stephanie Chadwick, Zack Stack, Austi Baudro & Matt Neznanski. // Photo credit: iStock

Make Work From Home Work For You

*Updated on 02/04/2022

Over the past few years working from home has becoming much more common – In fact, working from home is strongly encouraged or required for many businesses now.

Moving into a work from home environment can be quite the transition. But here at Edge, our virtual office space has been part of our day-to-day landscape for almost 20 years. We understand all too well the challenges of conquering your workday from home. So we’ve gathered some tips directly from our team about how they stay connected and productive while working at home.

Our Top Work-from-Home Tips

1) Create your own space

However you can, set aside someplace where you can get into “work-mode,” even if it’s just a corner of a room someplace.

Gavin Heslop: Ideally, you’ll be able to find a space to help alleviate new distractions you will face when working from home. Working from a high-traffic area makes you susceptible to being distracted by others’ activities.

A designated workspace can also allow you to signal to others that you are at work: a closed door, or the use of headphones, perhaps.

For meetings, you’ll want to ensure that your space is quiet enough to be able to hear your colleagues, but more importantly that you are the only one in your space that they can hear.

Austi Baudro: When I began at Edge, I didn’t have an actual office. I typically would work downstairs on an over-cluttered desk filled with art projects and messy papers.

Having a dedicated workspace was essential to my productivity. My husband and I ended up renovating the room across the hall. Now, it’s MY office where I can close the door and get some serious work done uninterrupted.

Stephanie Chadwick: Working from home is not for everyone. It works best to have a space with a door that you can close.

Over the past almost 20 years that we’ve been in business, our work-from-home situation has varied greatly. At one point, we had newborn twins in the house and a barrage of grandparent and nanny helpers coming and going.

During this time, I would have important conference calls with CEOs, CMOs, COOs (you get the picture). I used our master bedroom closet, the quietest room in the house, to make this work. Clothing is a natural noise insulator – and on the plus side, instead of doodling on a memo pad, I could organize my shoes.

Granted, I wasn’t permanently parked in my closet, though for some, that space could convert really well.

2) Set a schedule

As much as you hated that daily commute, it gave you some time to separate work time from home time. Find a way to signal to yourself (and everyone you share living space with) that you’re done for the day.

Zack Stack: I’ve worked from home for almost two decades now. I love it, but switching from professional Zack to Dad and/or Husband Zack can be a bit jarring.

For me, buffer activities between work and home help me flip that switch in my head that tells me work is done for the day. These buffers often consist of gardening, biking, taking a walk or a run, or just heading to the park to shoot some hoops. All way better than sitting in a car.

When I return to my home I usually find I’ve left my work day behind me and I’m more present for my family.

Jennifer Hall: My family has always been so gracious with my work from home set-up and respecting the time that I am working, but it is equally important to be sure I adhere to a “close of the business day” time.

I can easily work late into the evening if we have no plans but that is not healthy to a good work/life balance. Being aware of when the workday should end, helps my family to know when they can expect me to begin transitioning from working women to mom and wife.

3) Have a Familiar Routine

Monday morning isn’t Saturday morning. As much as possible, make sure a work day feels like it should.

Zack Stack: This might sound like the anti-work-from-home suggestion, but get dressed for work, or at least pretend like it’s always casual Friday.

People always say, “Oh, it’s great working in the semi-permanent, pants-optional home environment.” But I’d hate for my boss to show up at my door one day to find me in sweatpants, Crocs, and my Hillsboro Hops T-shirts from four seasons ago and think I’ve given up on both work and life.

Austi Baudro: Set a lunch time. I’ve found that setting a specific lunchtime helps me to stay productive in those afternoons where sometimes it is hard to focus. Sometimes, I’ll make a lighter early lunch and then take a walk to help clear the brain fog.

Stephanie Chadwick: Have a clear picture of where you’re going to start the next day before “signing off” for the night. I find that 15 minutes of prep before I shut my laptop for the day helps me jump in quicker the next day.

4) Get Outside

Granted, we’re all at home now because we’re trying not to spread disease. But nobody can stare at a screen all day.

Jennifer Hall: To avoid the feeling of being shut-in, it’s important to physically get up from your desk or to walk away from your workspace and to literally come up for air – fresh outdoor air.

Use your breaks to tend to your garden, walk the dog, or take a stroll. Getting outside, whether for 2 or 10 minutes at least twice a day, has proven to boost productivity, sharpen mental focus, relieve stress, and in general promotes a positive attitude.

5) Communicate early and often

Working remotely means you’re not going to be seeing colleagues at the coffee station or parking lot. Make a concerted effort to check in daily (or more).

Zack Stack: One of the biggest challenges we’ve found for employees transitioning to a work-from-home environment from a shared office is social isolation. This has proven especially true for younger employees who may live alone and crave interpersonal connections.

When you spend the day working by yourself it’s even more important to reach out to others during and at the end of your day.

Also, when you’re relying on text messaging programs for a majority of your comms, don’t forget that voice is sometimes the better medium. When it would take a novel to describe something, when you’re planning creative, or as soon as you see your tone being misconstrued. That’s when you know it’s time to “go audio” as we say.

Austi Baudro: Every Monday, I send out a list to our team to set the top priorities of the week. It not only helps our team, but it helps me to list out my own priorities. Sometimes I will even number these in order of importance to make sure they are completed at the appropriate time.

Stephanie Chadwick: Talking via audio instead of wholly relying on Slack helps you feel and stay connected more personally with those on the other end of the line. Adding video to the mix when possible helps increase the humanity factor as well.

Tools of the Trade

Matt Neznanski: At Edge, we use a range of platforms to stay in contact, share ideas, and work together. There are many options, but here’s a breakdown of some of our faves.

1) Collaboration and Communication

Everyone’s got email. We like Gmail and the Google Suite because files can be collaborated on in real-time and everything works well together.

We’ve always got Slack open for team updates, questions, and water cooler chat. If, in the office, you’d just walk over to someone’s desk for something, use Slack instead of email.

We also host internal meetings in Slack, using their in-app calling. We don’t always use video for those, but it’s available.

We couldn’t get by without Asana, a work management platform that keeps our projects outlined, tasks sorted, and task-related communications in one place.

2) Meeting notes, project documents, lists

Collaborative documents in Google Drive (which allow for simultaneous real-time changes) are a huge benefit when you need to work together and have a single source of truth for a document as well.

Be done with multiple versions of docs hanging around! (This is a solid move even when you’re all back in the office.)

3) External meetings

For meetings with people outside the Edge team, we use Zoom. We like how stable the system is and how simple it is to share screens.

4) File sharing and screencasts

We’re big fans of Droplr for sending big files, annotating screenshots, or capturing video of our screens for troubleshooting, training, and more.

We're calling this "controlling what you can when things feel out of control."

Balancing Work and Kids

Even our home-office day-to-day is turned upside down now that our kids are out of school and daycare. Here’s what we’re doing to cope with that.

1) Schedule blocks of time

Austi Baudro: Now that my boys (ages 7 and 2) are home with me, I have to schedule blocks of time to go outside or play with play dough or get out those magnet blocks that put good ‘ol Lincoln Logs to shame.

Now, my day looks more like 30-minute blocks of work time and 30 minutes of play.

Realistically, I have my laptop and phone in hand at all times.

Talk with your co-workers and communicate when you will be unavailable. Try to limit calls during these times or schedule them when you know you have extra help.

2) Schedule their time

Matt Neznanski: The one thing I always forget about my kids (ages 6 and 3) is how structured school and daycare is.

Blocking out free play, academics/art, and quiet time is huge for us to combat boredom.

I blame the schedule, too: “Schedule says it’s quiet time. Who am I to argue?”

Also, I’m amazed at how often they eat. Never mind the toilet paper, we’re stocked up with crackers, dried fruit, and cereal.


For a much more in-depth discussion of balancing a house full of people with full-time work for years, check out this great post about establishing a more flexible work-from-home life with kids from Edge partner Stephanie Chadwick.

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Mobile Is Taking Over The Web, Your Site Needs To Adapt To This New Digital Ecosystem

Mobile Web

The Meteoric Rise Of Mobile

Are you reading this article on a mobile device? There’s a 20% chance you have this post up on your tablet or phone. Did you come to this site directly (not through a link or through search)? Then there is a 30% chance you are on mobile device. Did you click to this article from Social Media? 50% chance.

Mobile traffic for the Edge Multimedia website has been growing steadily for the past few years, and we are not alone. Many of our clients are seeing their mobile traffic numbers skyrocket, with many seeing more traffic from phones and tablets than from desktop computers.

Mobile search is growing too, with many sources claiming at least 1 in 4 organic searches are being conducted on a mobile device and many believe that Mobile will outpace desktop searches this year. That is huge, and it’s a trend that is unlikely to reverse.

Phones and tablets are taking over the internet. Your business website can either adapt to this new trend or become an internet dinosaur dug up only by internet archeologists for a good laugh.

The Mobile Searcher

Who are these mobile searchers who are changing the web and how your websites are designed, forcing your business to change to suit their needs? The majority are young people ages 18-29 who are using their phones mostly to browse the internet. They are known to quickly bounce from, and be loathe to return to, a website that doesn’t play well with their mobile device of choice.

These are your new customers who currently make up a significant portion of your market, and will continue to grow into the majority of your audience on the internet for the foreseeable future. Ask anyone in that demographic and they’ll tell you, they’re going to live forever, so you better have a website that makes them happy.

As our resident web developer Gavin wrote about last month, being mobile friendly is now the main priority when designing a website. If that’s not your priority, you are going to lose a substantial amount of traffic sooner than you realize.

Google’s Stance On Mobile Sites

Recently Google has hopped on the mobile-friendly website train in a big way. Searches now show when a site is mobile friendly. You may have noticed this new results format while using Google.

If you do not have a mobile ready website, prepare to see your rankings slip in Google SERP.

On top of that, Google released a post on their WebMaster Central blog discussing some new changes in store for Mobile Search. Stating two things

More mobile-friendly sites in their search results
More Relevant App Content in Search Results

Basically this all boils down to: “If you do not have a mobile-ready website, prepare to see your rankings slip in Google SERP.”

If you have been investing time and money into your site to help it rank well in the competitive world of Organic Search, you are risking losing a good portion of that investment if you do not have a mobile-ready site. That is an enormous loss.

On April 21st, Google made these changes to their mobile search results. Every since this date that there is no mobile-friendly version of your site is another day that you lose out on a demographic of searchers who are on their way to becoming an overwhelming majority.

Figuring Out If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

This new change might sound scary and the definition of what constitutes mobile friendly and what doesn’t may seem a bit esoteric. Fortunately there are several methods for determining if your site is ready for the new mobile searcher empire.

Notifications from Google

One method is to just let Google tell you what they think. If you have a Webmaster account (which you should, if you don’t, please go set that up right now) you may have received an email from Google titled “Fix mobile usability issues found on [your site here].” This is Google straight up telling you that your site has a problem when it comes to mobile and will help outline ways to fix it. This is pretty awesome and is advice that is well worth taking.

Google Mobile-Friendly Test

In addition to the email notifications sent out by Webmaster, Google has also set up a Mobile-friendly test page.

This site could not be simpler, just plug in a web page URL into the input box and hit analyze and Google will tell you whether the page is mobile-friendly and what you can do to fix it. The instructions are clear and easy and will help ensure your site does not draw Google’s ire for not being mobile-ready.

Google Mobile Friendly Test

Site Performance

Finally, one of the best ways tell if your site is mobile-friendly is to look at your own traffic in google analytics or other web analytics software split by Desktop and Mobile and compare the two devices.

I have three categories in which you can place your site depending on how well it performs for Mobile.

  1. Mobile Friendly

This category should be familiar. The site is well optimized for mobile.

  1. Mobile Acquainted

The site is on okay terms with mobile but the relationship is a bit cold.

  1. Mobile Enemy

The site may not even know what a mobile device is. This is a mouse and keyboard only kind of place.

Your analytics data will determine in which category your site falls. I will go through the three categories and what kind of data will put you into which.

Mobile Enemy

When you compare the traffic for sites like these between desktop and mobile, the differences are profound. Mobile users Bounce at a much higher rate (we have seen anywhere from +10 to +40%) and spend far less time on the site. Those on Mobile will rarely if ever convert and retainment of these users is very low.

Mobile Acquainted

Mobile traffic for sites such as these show more promise than Mobile Enemy, but usually have some deficiencies that a truly mobile-friendly site would not. Bounce Rates are often much lower and are closer to that of Desktop, there are more return Mobile users to the site due to it not being a total pain to use while on a phone. However, deficiencies can be found in the conversion data and you’ll often see lower Goal Conversion Rates when comparing Mobile to Desktop.

Mobile Friendly

In the analytics for a mobile-friendly site there should be very little difference in performance when it comes to comparing Desktop and Mobile. In fact, Mobile will even outperform desktop in some or all categories.

Beyond just making Google happy, or having a site that checks off a list of technical specifications for mobile, you have to ensure that mobile users are provided a user experience that allows them to interact with your brand on any device in a positive manner. In this way, you will enable your growing mobile audience to convert more of the business goals you have established for your site. This means happier mobile users, better metrics, more leads and a stronger business at the end of the day.

We are experts at getting our clients’ websites mobile friendly and going above and beyond Google’s standards. If you would like to talk with us more about mobile design, just get in touch, or sign up for our newsletter below.

Working (Efficiently) From Home With The ASTRO Method

When Yahoo! effectively eliminated the ability of its employees to work remotely back in 2013, some announced that this bellwether, big company move to bring its flock under one roof marked the decline of the telecommunting fad. Yet in many industries today, and especially in the tech industry, virtual employment is seeing a steady uptick.

According to Forbes Magazine in early 2014, as many as 30% of all employees currently telecommute at least one day per week. The New York Times backed this up in an article published in March 2014, adding that from 2005 to 2012 the number of telecommuters rose 79%.

The same article in the New York Times describes an experiment performed by Stanford University and one of the largest travel agencies in China, Ctrip. Their experiment included about 250 employees who volunteered. Half were selected to work from home and the rest remained working from the office. Here’s what they found…

At the end of the experiment, employers found that the home-based employees worked more than office workers — 9.5 percent longer — and were 13 percent more productive. They also were judged to be happier, as quitting rates were cut in half.

With the increasing availability and decreasing cost of tools used to communicate and collaborate, having all employees in the same location is not always necessary or even feasible. With distributed companies becoming more and more mainstream, telecommuting continues its growth as part of the norm, not the exception.

Here at Edge, a virtual office space is already part of our day-to-day landscape. Nationwide, meanwhile, telecommuting and greater flexibility in the work day is fast becoming one of the most attractive perks a business can offer current and prospective employees.

However, demystifying and integrating a contemporary business model, who some still herald as wave of the future can be daunting. I mean, we’re not living in the world of the Jetsons yet, right?

The following tips show the ways in which a virtual model can thrive and some of the common pitfalls that can undermine the process. And, since I’ve got you thinking about the Jetsons now, all you have to remember is their dog: ASTRO.

The ASTRO Method

A: Accept that employees don’t have to be watched to be productive. This is big. It goes against the grain and the traditional office model. In a virtual office, measures of productivity are based on the quality and value of work produced, not on how it is produced. It is important to note that not watching does not equal not communicating. Never assume that telecommuters know what is going on. Daily communication is crucial to making everyone feel connected. A feeling of isolation is an ongoing threat to the success of a telecommuting workforce.

S: Celebrate the SAVINGS! (Okay, I know that is technically a C, but it sounds like an S and is followed by SAVINGS, so we’ll count it). When workers telecommute, the “storefront” office space can be smaller, which can mean big savings for a business. Additionally, there are savings in utilities, janitorial costs, furniture, a water cooler, birthday cakes and more. Maybe that savings could be turned in to additional staff instead, increasing productivity.

T: Technology is key. Use all of the tools in your productivity toolbox. The reliability of the internet makes document exchange and conferencing simple. Desktop to mobile apps such as Skype can keep associates connected from a home office, an in-person meeting with a client, or on the road. Admit it – you already read all of your email from your phone. Accessibility is no longer a top concern in a telecommuting environment.

R: Recruiting the right people is paramount. Not everyone is efficient from a home office, and some people are better communicators face-to-face. Sample some written communication, talk to a potential recruit at length on the phone or over Skype, ask about challenges to productivity in their personal office environment, and be upfront about expectations.

O: Organization is elemental. For the virtual model to succeed there has to be structure at the core level. Make sure employees have a focus, understand the company-wide goals and have access to the policies that will impact them. Have guidelines established, or you risk a short-lived foray into the telecommuting model and problems with employee retention. Keep expectations clear and keep management available.

Dan & Chris Working Remotely from Torque
Edgers Dan & Chris work remotely from one of our favorite coffee haunts north of the Columbia: Torque Coffee in Vancouver, WA.
 

“Put people in the environment they are most productive with the tools they need and they will work wonders”. – David Walsh, Mozilla

Having a distributed workforce, whether located in close proximity or spread across a large region, can offer significant benefits to both employer and employee. Lower operating costs can give the business quicker expansion possibilities.

The offer of telecommuting leads to a more extensive hiring pool, which can result in attracting top talent in the industry. Employees who have the flexibility and comfort of working from a home office are often more satisfied with their job, as we saw in the Stanford/Ctrip experiment, which leads to lower turnover and less expense for training. Fear of a telecommuting model is no longer an excuse to explore its possibilities.

So, next time you have your team meeting at your own Spacely Sprockets, weigh the pros and cons of telecommuting and see what your employees think. Offering a virtual workspace could just be the motivator your workforce has been waiting for.

 

Edge Multimedia is a full service digital marketing agency with virtual offices in Portland, Oregon & Vancouver, Washington. We like to think that we are at least 13% happier. We extend the marketing capabilities of our clients in the Portland Metro Area and throughout the United States. How can we help you?

Graphics & Photo by Zack Stack

Four Marketing Lessons Extracted From One Of My Favorite Places: The Coffee Shop

Everyone Loves Coffee

I don’t know about you, but I can stop in a coffee shop around town at just about any time of the day and see the majority of tables filled with customers from many walks of life. Twenty something’s with cappuccinos in hand, staring at their laptops; soccer moms in gym clothes, catching up on their Facebook and soy lattes; dapper business types conversing over the drink du jour – they’re all in the mix.

Then there is the constant flow of people, in and out, seemingly with only one thing in common: they all love that coffee shop.

Here is where my marketing mind kicks in and I think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if every business could grab, hold on to, and engage with their customers like a coffee shop does?” And, “How can one place capture such a diverse group of people?”

No matter what business you’re in, you’re seeking to court and engage customers. So with curious eyes and caffeine in my veins, here are four observations I brewed up that can help you win and retain customers.

ONE. Don’t Stop At Just One Solution

Good coffee is clearly the primary draw for a coffee shop customer, but the best coffee shops go beyond just handing you some joe. They provide a comfortable space and free WiFi. A place where people can sit down, relax, talk, work, etc.

The patron’s needs often expand over time and the astute proprietor accommodates and innovates by providing tables, chairs, internet, a comfortable climate and a stylish atmosphere. Their solution isn’t just caffeine – it’s facilitating community.

There are many customer needs and if your business can provide more than one relevant solution to your customer you’ll be more likely to increase your opportunity for growth with that customer. Providing multiple solutions in one place and anticipating a variety of different needs encourages your customers to stick around. It also communicates that you understand their range of needs/wants and respect their time.

The business professionals will need a table for multiple people to converse and take notes. The hurried commuter will need fast moving lines and quick, friendly service. The aspiring novelist will need a window to stare out of and a comfy seat. Think about your business and what solutions you provide. Take a minute and list out the solutions your business offers. Is there room to add more relevant solutions for your customers?

BE BOLD. Ask your customers what other pain points you may be able to ease for them.

TWO. Be Relevant

Let’s face it, things are moving quickly. There’s always room for growth and advancement. Don’t lament for the way things use to be, embrace new ideas, and innovation. An advancing business moves with the needs of its customers without giving up relinquishing the principles of the company.

Coffee shops are great when it comes to change and relevancy. There’s always a special “drink of the day”, which gives the customer information about what beverages are available seasonally. It also lets the shop offer something new while they gather data on what new drinks are trending and might be worth adding to the permanent menu. Testing new products/services drives innovation and can both reveal the unexpected and underscore which of your staple offerings keep your customers coming back for more.

At some point lattes went from regular to vanilla to bourbon horchata with sea salt caramel whip. It’s unlikely that these ideas were simply pulled out of a hat and are most certainly a product of research and market testing. Both driven by “healthy” competition.

THREE. Make It Personal

Peoples’ taste in coffee are wide ranging. Some like it extra hot, or with sweetener or disguised as a milkshake with almost zero coffee-like attributes altogether. Coffee shops truly make an effort to cater to personal tastes. It doesn’t even need to involve actually changing their product. For instance, I like it when the person making my drink asks if I would like room for cream. I don’t drink coffee with cream, but I like that they ask.

Customization according to interests in local markets is a way to create brand and customer loyalty and increase your sales. The best baris­tas and cashiers rec­og­nize reg­u­lars and recall and accommodate for their tastes – creating a strong positive connection between the customer and service provider.

Why would I risk going to the café down the street and having to explain my weird preferences when my barista knows exactly how I like my triple-shot Americano with salted goat’s milk foam, gingerbread whip and just a hint of drinking vinegars for balance. No judgement.

When customers are loyal to your brand – you can also flip this around and say when your brand is loyal to its customer – an environment more conducive to upselling is created. Knowing your customer and solidifying a rapport with them uniquely positions your business to identify and provide additional solutions. It also makes them more likely to say yes, because you took the time to build a relationship.

FOUR. Have Fun and Lose The Apathy

My favorite coffee shops are brimming with life and a diverse range of people and conversations. You can feel the vibrant exchange of ideas resonating off the walls. In short, they are fun, energizing places to be. They help me shake off whatever doldrums I may have entered with and what’s more…give apathy the dodge.

Whatever you may be selling, nothing kills the mood like apathy. Create an environment that is attractive and fun and fill it with folks who love what they do. Both apathy and genuine passion are infectious. You can tell almost from the moment you enter a place whether or not your expectations are going to be met or not. Your customers are surmising the same about your business with each interaction.

Get The Right Blend

When examined closely, you’ll find that coffee shops aren’t really doing anything special. They are just offering a customer experience that blends the right amount of solutions, relevance, personal care and fun.

Perhaps your business might not offer something as universally beloved as the blessed bean and a cozy place to sit, but these observations can be applied to your business to make your customer’s experience that much better.

Do you need help developing your brand and extending your marketing capabilities with a well-balanced blend of solutions, insights, accountability and fun? It’s gotta be fun, right? We’d love to help you get there.

 

Sources Cited
http://www.forbes.com/sites/brianwalker/2014/07/28/the-blossoming-relationship-between-marketing-and-engagement-in-the-new-customer-journey/

http://www.scaasymposium.org/tracy-ging-and-nicholas-cho-a-deeper-understanding-of-the-specialty-coffee-consumer/

Feature Image Credit: Zack Stack

Background Image Credit: David Young via Compfight