Goodway Group Leveraging Local Advertising And The Ad Network Model Says COO Friedman

Goodway GroupJay Friedman is COO of Goodway Group, a marketing services and ad network company. Please discuss the transition to digital advertising for Goodway Group.  What have been the challenges?

JF: In 2006 we added digital media to Goodway’s core services but we didn’t really begin to transition away from the direct response business until 2008.  Because Goodway was a 77 year-old company in 2006, there was so much heritage – client relationships of over 30 years – it wouldn’t have made sense to simply abandon a successful ship just because a new, untested (within our company anyway) and shiny boat arrived at the dock.  What we found, was that every single one of our existing clients, and many more that we had been calling on but hadn’t done business with yet, were eager to discuss digital and how we could help them.  I give a lot of credit to our 3rd-generation owner, and then-25-year President Dave Wolk for recognizing the potential for digital and making such a sweeping change to his family business.  As far as challenges, unquestionably the biggest challenge in a transition like this, and I would guess with any digital media company today, is finding great people.  Many team members from our existing team are still with us today and have made a brilliant transition.  Since we’ve grown, we’ve also brought on some of the highest quality talent in the industry in Dan Mauch, Susan Emmens, Arwa Saifee, David Kertesz, Lindy Jones, Mark Meade, Chris Idell, and Charlie Gill.

How do you position the company today?  On a percentage basis of revenue, how much of the company is devoted to non-digital?

Goodway has evolved from a network to become a DSP Operator which blends the use of inventory and data exchanges with its own publisher and data relationships to offer unmatched reach, accuracy, verification, and performance.  Goodway is now 95-98% digital media revenue which is derived from working with 18 automotive brands, dozens of political candidates and advocacy groups, and numerous clients in other verticals.

What’s the target market for Goodway Group?

Goodway has been about geo-targeted marketing in the retail/performance sector for 35 years and that continues.  We have experience running multiple campaigns in every one of the 210 DMAs (yes, even Glendive, MT, where we once ran a CPC campaign of 39 clicks and delivered in full).  This many years in geo-targeted marketing has trained us to think ZIP by ZIP, county by county, and so on.  As a result we’re very well positioned for local and regional automotive, political, hospitals, banks, and anyone else who has wanted to drive local store or business traffic.

Looking at your political ad network, SWAY, what’s peculiar or unique to this “politics” vertical from a buying standpoint?

The need to make changes at 11 at night or on a Sunday for one! Political work is thrilling but its late arrival to digital combined with its high stakes make it more frantic than any other business.  Many industries consider their work fast-paced, but one thing politicians will quickly point out is that corporations that miss their goal in a quarter by $1 usually don’t fire anyone.  Anyone in political who loses by one vote is out of a job immediately.  From a buying standpoint, this means no wasted impressions, and the need for every site to be 100% politics-safe.  A good example would be a high quality healthcare site.  Most brands would love to see their ad running there, but an ad for a politician on a page within that site related to an unattractive disease – or worse, one with political implications – and their campaign could be done.  The site pool is significantly smaller and the attention to details is ratcheted up 10-fold.

How do you scale the company? Is it about feet on the street? Do you use your own technology, license and/or outsource, etc.?

First let me say we run our company as though we’re not allowed to sell it for 100 years.  That forces us to make the best business decisions for our own team members and our clients without being distracted by any short-term potential.  Because of this strategy, every decision is a balance between internal resources and external best-practices. As we add people in sales, we know we’ll need to staff up internally in three months.  As new technology becomes available in the marketplace we need to identify whether someone else will build it more quickly, cheaply, and close enough to our desired specs, or if we need to build it ourselves.  So, we have built some technology on our own.  Our RealZIP(r) technology more closely aligns clicking users with their real zip code, not simply what their IP address says.  Our DDL(r) technology (Direct to Dealer Link) routes those clickers to the closest dealership.  Our data warehouse, internal campaign management system, and reporting system, are a blend in that they’re all purchased products but then highly customized for our own use.

Is audience buying happening on the local level? Or is it about buying sites?

Audience buying is very much happening on the local level.  In fact, as I provide this answer we’ll buy a couple hundred thousand impressions, all locally, and all user-based.  In fact, the biggest challenge to buying audiences locally tends to be client perceptions more than technical functionality.  For instance, most politicians would much rather run on a local news site in their market or state than on a national news site using geo-targeting.  Partly they believe that a user seeing their ad on that site will imply an endorsement from that site.  Most, though, is simply that they have been trained for 50 years that local users can only be found in local content.  The first politicians to abandon this will gain a huge advantage over their competitors and have the chance to buy much less expensively.

In general, can you see the ad network and agency models overlapping?

Whether I do or not, The large holding companies certainly do!  It’s certainly a case of “he who has the gold makes the rules” in that agencies are now building or buying in-house networks but strongly discourage a network acting like an agency.  One thing that has helped Goodway be as successful as it has is to “act like a network but think like an agency.”  Many folks on our sales team come from an agency background. They know whether or not a certain response would fly with a client, so they are careful to ensure all their campaigns are sold with fair expectations and a good understanding of the likely outcome.

How useful to Goodway Group is auto-intender data currently available through data exchanges today?   What are your auto ad buyer clients looking for?

Goodway most often layers BT with its BehaviorMatch(tm) product which is derived through our predictive modeling partner, Compete, Inc.  Our BehaviorMatch(tm) product outperforms straight BT about 70% of the time and we believe this is due to the fact that automotive shoppers often narrow their consideration list significantly before they even begin shopping online for a vehicle.  That said, agencies and clients love BT and we certainly offer it.  As far as what ad buyer clients are looking for, that very depends on the type of client.  A dealer is looking for leads, a regional director is looking for straight sales, and a corporate client is looking, in general, for qualified actions.  Our view is that at the end of the day it’s sales and the rest are just leading indicators.  We always prefer to see sales data from our clients when possible to look at markets in which we ran and markets in which we didn’t to see whether or not there is a correlation.  Clearly, one month’s worth of data or a slight lift isn’t good enough, but when we see multiple markets who partner with us outperform multiple markets who didn’t partner with us month in and month out, the client at least smiles at the correlation.

How big is your company today in terms of employees? Please discuss why your virtual office works.

We are up to just over 50 from the 35 we had a few years ago.  And, yes, 2/3 of the team is virtual.  We have a main office in Philadelphia with “people hubs” in San Francisco, LA, Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, and NYC/Jersey.  Virtual management where you truly let your employees do their best is the highest risk form of management, but also the one with the highest reward.  Someone could completely disappear for a couple hours without anyone knowing, but it will become clear very quickly if someone isn’t doing their work.  We very much trust everyone on our team.  We provide them with the training we need and an open door (well, phone line, IM, and email at least) to their manager as well as our owner, me, and our SVP of sales.  The SVP of Sales and I try to check in with all the virtual folks as often as possible, at least a couple of times per month.  Building this personal relationship allows them to know we care about them, the job they’re doing, and their development.

What milestones would you like Goodway Group to have accomplished a year from now?

The vision statement at Goodway is to “Make Clients Heroes.”  This drives everything we do.  Sales, profit, and technological growth are all great but only if they’re done within within the vision.  To this end, we do have very specific goals around client retention, sales growth, process improvement, speed to market, and employee satisfaction.  So, I can’t say there is one specific milestone we’d have liked to achieve.  It’s vital that every one of these growth areas takes one step up their respective ladders at the same time and if we achieve that, Goodway will continue to earn as much business as it desires and deserves.

Follow Jay Friedman (@jaymfriedman) and (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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