A Conversation with Irina Kovalenko, CMO of SmartyAds
In today's MarTech leader conversation, we chat with Irina Kovalenko, CMO of SmartyAds, a full-stack programmatic advertising company. We discuss interdepartmental collaboration, managing a successful team, and how to incorporate content marketing into a SaaS strategy.
SmartyAds is a leading full-stack programmatic company. For more than 10 years, we’ve developed ad tech infrastructure that includes solutions like DSP, SSP, ad exchange, and enterprise-level platforms (white label DSP and SSP). During this time, the company has teamed up with renowned demand and supply industry partners and implemented some of the greatest ad tech advancements into proprietary platforms.
Our main competitors are DSPs, SSPs, and ad exchange solution providers—we like to keep them close. We collaborate with many companies that are our partners and competitors at the same time. For people in other industries, this may seem unusual, but in ad tech, this kind of model is a win-win. Because of ad tech market saturation, many advertisers and publishers are using several solutions at the same time. With us, they can connect to one platform where they can get everything they need without too much hassle. These kinds of collaborations extend advertising opportunities for customers, increase partners’ traffic capacities, and push companies to constantly develop so that they stay ahead of the curve.
SmartyAds has been recognized by numerous international tech communities around the world—that’s a big part of our success story. This year, our DSP won the title of Best Performer, according to feedback from G2.com. Earlier In 2018, SmartyAds won the Red Herring Top 100 North America international award in the Marketing/Advertising/SOE sector. In 2018, we also won bronze in the category of Most Innovative Company of the Year at the Stevie Awards. The list goes on!
I’ve been assisting and consulting SmartyAds as a chief marketing officer for over four years now.
My role in the company spans several important components of marketing analysis and management. For instance, I spend time analyzing hypotheses, trends, and product position on the market. And this is only the start of the journey to achieving the company’s goals. I manage the marketing team, as it is also an important component of having an effective workflow. Also, I interact with other departments in order to understand customer pain points and then develop a comprehensive customer portrait based on them. All of this creates a good foundation for developing a working marketing plan and for controlling how it is implemented.
In terms of success, I always say, if 80% of your strategic and tactical goals are achieved, you've nailed it. In our mission, people are the main asset—if you choose the right people and the right course to work towards, success is just a matter of time and effort. The other component of success in ad tech is staying flexible. It's important to experiment, take certain risks, and learn from mistakes instead of fearing them.
In terms of our day-to-day activities, we use a variety of remote work tools: instant work chats, task-organizing systems, software for online calls. All of this streamlines our communication and helps us to stay organized and connected during these turbulent times. Also, our company uses a CRM system to work with customers. It helps us generate more leads and achieve a greater retention rate. Plus, we use our CRM to align sales and marketing to ensure that our teams stay on the same page.
In 2020, our business expanded to new markets in Israel, Asia, Latin America, the USA, and Eastern Europe, and we expanded our white-label solution. For the following period, we plan to explore at least three new English-spoken regions and related markets. In terms of other measurable goals, we plan to boost conversion by 15% and NPS by 20% and increase the number of new paid customers by 20%. As a result, we plan to increase the profitability of our platforms by 100%.
We do have some challenges. Ad tech is a rapidly developing industry. Ten years ago, almost no one knew the meaning of programmatic, but today it accounts for 70% of the world’s media purchasing. The biggest challenge in these circumstances is to remain synced with these changes and act upon them faster than others.
The most important thing is to keep your radar up and always learn from past experiences. We regularly spend resources on small experiments so that we can understand what really works best for our product, team, and customers.
Currently, content marketing generates most of our traffic. We have content on the website and the blog, and we also write articles that are posted on external media. All of this gives us great results.
Paid socials are also working well. They decrease customer acquisition costs and positively affect a set of other metrics. They are also effective when it comes to assisted conversions, although it’s not always easy to track them. The return on investment from a paid lead conversion can also take time, so we try to strategize these campaigns carefully and precisely.
Very soon, the marketing landscape will be 100% data-based. This means that every brand-customer interaction will be personalized. Generalized CTA approaches like "Visit our site and find what you need there" will no longer work. The majority of advertisers already personalize ad delivery and invest in those channels where people spend their time most: CTV, audio, mobile, and in-app ecosystems.
In addition to this, the ads are becoming less intrusive—we're seeing more native ads. They're also becoming more useful for people, which you can see in rewarded videos. Plus, they're becoming more engaging and interactive; you now have playable ads and other in-game ads. It’s important to stay synced to these trends and implement them early. And you have to have good hunches regarding which trends are short-lived and which are here to stay.
These days, the importance of content marketing can’t be underestimated. It amplifies the brand’s voice and keeps the company connected to its customers. Even if your product is the best of the best, you can’t do “sell and forget” business, especially when your product is as complex as SaaS software. In order to nourish real customer loyalty and engagement, you have to regularly reach out with blog posts, articles, and newsletters. You have to educate people and explain to them how to use your product so that they can achieve the best results and feel that they made the right choice with your company.
People have a very low attention span these days, so it becomes hard to engage them, especially with generic content or content that has little relation to their pain points and needs. For this reason, when we plan content, we always keep the target audience in mind. Then, we try to understand how our content can help them. On top of that, we frequently employ our professionals in content creation so that we can craft expert opinion articles with unique insights. When it comes to our blog, we try to update the articles that show great performance every 10 to 12 months. That way, articles always rank well, and our customers have access to the freshest information. With so many complexities in the ad tech sphere, we’ve also noticed that simplicity and clarity is the best policy.
We try to distribute our content through the right channels—the channels that are most preferred by our existing and potential customers. Usually, this means blog posts, emails, outreach blog posts, and social media posts. We generate enough organic traffic, which indicates that these efforts are paying off.
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