May 7, 2024

Choose the cheeseburger, not the cow: why SMEs need DSP customisation

If you're shopping for a DSP, you could be forgiven for feeling as though you got yourself lost at a farmyard; it’s messy, it's noisy, and the smell of shit is everywhere.

We checked out some of the advice available online for marketers making this tricky decision, and were uninspired to say the least. Trying to break down the “top X things you need to look for in a DSP” is a futile exercise. There are functionalities, which yes, you do need (and which any good DSP will offer), but beyond these, the selection process should be less prescriptive.

If your marketing team has scale and unlimited funds, a full-stack product with all the trimmings might be the perfect fit. But what about small businesses whose needs aren’t constant? What if you’ve never tried programmatic before, or you’re still testing options? What if you experience fluctuations in your budget, or seasonality that affects cash flow, both of which affect your ability to commit to a long-term contract?

Deciding on a DSP can be like asking for a cheeseburger with fries, and getting the whole cow. It looks and sounds impressive – but is it actually what you want and need?

The ‘whole cow’ effect further inhibits those small businesses who are already sweating to keep up with the latest tech. In effect, you pay for features and functionality that sometimes you don’t even understand, and what’s worse, you get trapped by contracts and fees; not conducive to a rewarding or profitable experience.

In the SME world, 40% of businesses cite ‘lack of budget’ as a barrier to increased marketing activity, with a further 25% who just don't have the time. And although SMEs make up over 99% of our private sector, in 2015, a meagre 18% of total UK ad spend came from that market.

And yet the cost-effectiveness that programmatic offers these small businesses is considerable. Think, for example, of the £100 (minimum) required to purchase the single smallest possible ad space in the Yellow Pages. With geo-targeting, programmatic allows SMEs to hyper-locally target the right people at a cost and frequency controlled by them. The link between programmatic’s efficiency and the thrift with which the typical SME operates is a no-brainer.

Sadly, however, we’re looking at a landscape dominated by ad tech vendors whose DSP customisation extends only to the millions their larger enterprise clients can afford. For everyone else sat in the cheap seats, there are no such luxuries. Not only do these small businesses miss out on the promised holy grail of accessibility and economy, but their needs go unheard, resulting in the development of products for an exclusive bubble of clients.

Time to go back to those “top X things you need to look for in a DSP” articles. We’ll assume you’ve come across them, and henceforth decided that, yes, you’d like the best targeting capabilities, machine learning, transparency, reach, data integrations etc etc to achieve those, thank you very much. Now here are the practical questions to ask before running off into the sunset with a new DSP partner:

  • We expect fluctuations in our budget throughout the year, how can your services and costs adapt to that?
  • (If you’re starting out:) How can I test different programmatic techniques to see their ROI before I commit for the long-term?
  • I know I want a managed service now, but we might be in a position to take this in-house in [x amount of time] – how much notice will you need for the switchover, and how will it happen?
  • I want to have in-house control with the expertise of your AdOps team on the side – how about a hybrid approach?
  • Your features look great, but I don’t want all of them right now. Can I pick ‘n’ mix?
  • How frequently and fast does your tech team respond to feature development needs?
  • What’s lined up in your company roadmap? We’d like to know how it could affect us in future.

Have you just had an “aha” moment reading these? Then don’t sell-out for a solution that can’t work around you. You’re agile – your DSP should be too.

£1 of ad spend benefits SMEs eight times more than larger businesses, so surely the opportunity to build solutions that snap flexibly around their marketing needs (and current limitations) is a lucrative opportunity. For those who have held back from programmatic, or already been stung by the cost and time exerted on an inflexible solution, the search for a custom, made-to-measure DSP will hopefully become a priority. And for the sake of diversity and economic growth, the more SMEs who can enter the programmatic market, the better.

Want to get in touch?

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.