Podcast: Hibu + Amazon Ads

Craig Plummer, Director of Traffic Product Development at Hibu, joins us on the podcast today to discuss how Hibu’s partnership with Amazon Ads can help generate leads for your service-based small business.

Starting in mid-2023, Hibu had the opportunity to test Amazon Ad’s Sponsored Display with a group of Hibu clients. Sponsored Display leverages Amazon Ads’ rich audience insights built from shopping and streaming signals, advanced AI, and machine learning technology to engage audiences across Amazon, Twitch, and thousands of apps and websites.  

Sponsored Display has long been used by businesses that sell on Amazon but recently expanded to include businesses not selling in the Amazon store. Listen as Craig walks us through all the ways the addition of Amazon Ad’s Sponsored Display can increase results for many of the types of local businesses that Hibu specializes in helping, like home services contractors, consumer services, automotive services, and travel and hospitality.



Ian Messinger  00:02
Hi, I'm Ian Messenger with my co host, Lauren Schenck.

Lauren Schenck  00:05
Hey there.

Ian Messinger  00:06
Thanks for joining us for this episode of small business small talk powered by Hibu. Today we're talking with Craig Plummer. I was director of traffic product management. And we want to talk about Hibu. His new partnership with Amazon happens. Thanks for joining us, Craig.

Craig Plummer  00:20
Thanks again for having me.

Ian Messinger  00:22
Yeah. And hey, full disclosure, just to add some, you know, personal flavor – Craig is actually the guy that hired me at Hibu.

Lauren Schenck  00:30
I didn't know that.

Ian Messinger  00:33
Interviewed and hired.

Craig Plummer  00:34
Yeah, yeah,

Ian Messinger  00:35
It was really long. Say how long ago? All right, well, let's, let's dive right in. So Amazon ads working with Hibu or Hibu, working with Amazon ads? How? How did that come about? What is what does that look like?

Craig Plummer  00:48
So it's... just for starting point. You know, we started conversations with Amazon, a little over a year ago. And initially, it was just kind of, you know, kicking the tires type of conversation, right is, you know, is Amazon as a partner does due to the products they have? And in particular, what they approached us with was their  sponsored display product. Is that a fit for us at Hibu? Is it a fit for Hibu clients, right. And so initially, I was just trying to get a sense of that, because you think of Amazon, you think of Ecommerce, and you think of the Amazon store.  So, our initial relaxed reaction was, you know, we're not maybe sure where this fits. But the evolution that's happening with Amazon is they have they've taken their what they call their sponsored display product. And that's now available to small businesses, like the clients that we service, who don't sell on the Amazon store, right. And so as we got through that conversation, we're like, okay, maybe this is a fit. And so that kind of led us into let's do some trialing let's do some testing. Right. So once we kind of saw, you know, the angle that Amazon was, was approaching this from, from, from an SMB perspective. Yeah. And seeing that, yeah, that fits our clients, right, this could be a fit for our clients.  We then said, Okay, let's do a small trial, this is a trial of Lauren, and I didn't work together on you know, of a couple dozen clients, you know, and really, at that point, it's starting to get a sense of Alright, does, you know is the product that Amazon has does it fit can start to get some data, like, let's start to get some, some information about whether this is a fit for Hibu with is going to be a fit for our clients. And so we ran, you know, three dozen-ish campaigns over the course of the summer. And we saw some really good results, right? So we saw lead volumes start to tick up, we saw website engagement rates and, and Website Conversions start to tick up. And so that was on a really small sample size. But we took that, and we started have conversations around how do we expand that? Right?  So we took that small sample size and said, Okay, let's expand that. Let's, you know, work towards about 1,000 accounts that was in, in sort of a, you know, bigger, broader trial. And that a lot of help from our operations team on that. But we took that small sample size and said, Okay, if we can replicate that, then we probably have something here, right, we probably have something we want to bring to market. So as we did that, so we did that over the course of the fall. And then in in sort of parallel of that, we started to have the technical conversations as well, right? Because that's a huge part of our life here at Hibu. And what we do on behalf of our clients is we have lots of technical connections with with all of our various partners. So we started talking about starting to talk with Amazon about how will how will this work?  So we started those conversations in parallel with expanding what we were doing from a trial perspective, again, saw really good results. So then as we got into the winner and sort of finished that trial out, and sort of became okay, from an internal conversation, you know, let's get this to market. How do we do that and adding on kind of finding the right fit for Amazon within our product suite. So it fits great, right within our display product, or Hibu display product? And so we kind of went through that iterative process of, you know, let's, let's start it, let's bake it. Let's, let's add to it. And let's ultimately, because we saw success there, right, so we did that whole vetting process. And we saw it as a good opportunity to, to bring into Hibu as display offering. Got to the point we we launched it on April 1. So very excited about it. It's been great to partner with Amazon so far. And we're, we're looking forward to moving on with it as we go here.

Ian Messinger  04:13
Now. That's great. That's great. Now, you mentioned something early on that that's interesting to me. And I'm certainly since YouTube worked on this the least informed the three of us. I mean, I'm in that same boat that I imagine a lot of small business owners are around like, I mean, I go to Amazon, I've never really noticed ads for anything other than like, 'Hey, here's this new, you know, garden rake.' So if I'm asked me through how Amazon's ad network and ad product works, if I'm a service provider, which I know a lot of our clients are.

Craig Plummer  04:44
Right. Absolutely. And that's a great question. It leads us right it was the first question we asked, right? It's like, how does this work for you know, for a landscaper or for you know, for home services provider or whatever. And actually your rake example is initiative. One I'll come back to that in a second. But yeah, so from a network perspective, one of the things that drew us to Amazon is, one, our clients will get ads on Amazon owned and operated properties, like amazon.com. Right. So we'll have ads that show there will have ads that show on IMDb and Twitch.  And then like a lot other networks out there, Amazon has a huge database of publishing partners, right. So our ads will show off of Amazon properties as well. So it's the combination of those two is where ads will show now how it works from a kind of small business perspective is... you know, Amazon, of course, you know... think about how many, you know, the the volume of people that shop on Amazon, right? The number of people, myself included who are prime members, right? It's like 67% of US households are prime members, right. So Amazon, obviously has a ton of ton of data out there. And so one of the things that attracted us to their offering was the ability to use their audience data. So basically, they use their, you know, the data that they have to create first party audiences. And then we can then leverage those audiences as targeting options for our clients.  So to come back to your example, again, go on to Amazon, you're looking to buy a rake, you know, and based on your data and your history of browsing and buying and signals that Amazon's picking up your that might poke you into certain types of different audience buckets. And that's what we're going to use to target our ads, right. So it'll be a more highly targeted display ad, using Amazon's audiences. So for example, right? We can look at that real example. And think, Alright, if you're buying a rake, or you're buying garden tools, you're probably doing some work outside of house, right? Maybe doing some gardening, and maybe there's, you know, other work outside of the house that you're not going to do, maybe there's a tree service that you need, right? You're you you have trees out there that need to be cut down, right? Or let's say you're buying, you know, boxes and packing tape, you're probably looking to move, right. So if you're looking to move, you might be needing a painter, or you might be needing a plumber or, or, you know, roofing experts. So it's the ability to use these audiences. And based on those signals, to basically create a more highly targeted display campaign. And that's what we're going to be doing for for our clients, with the addition of Amazon into Hibu Display.

Lauren Schenck  07:18
Yeah, I love the Amazon audience and the signals and just talking through with the folks that Amazon how that all works. I think it puts us at such a great competitive edge for our clients. Correct me if I'm wrong, Craig, but we're the first one that they have partnered with for their sponsor display.

Right. So they've got a couple partners in terms of the timing of who was your first and second, I think it's a little bit unclear to me, but we are one of the first partners that are what they call their sponsor display for all. So the sponsor display product is a product that exists on Amazon for businesses that sell on Amazon, you know, in terms of our partnership, and we became an Amazon verified partner, I think in October or early November, somewhere in that timeframe. So we've been a partner there. As we've gone through this whole journey in conversation to get this product to market. We're one of the first if not the first, who for the SMB community, and for, for businesses that don't sell on Amazon, that is an app that is an Amazon partner.

And I think that really speaks to, you know, the benefits that Hibu can bring to their clients. Because while that makes us competitive in the marketplace, it makes our clients more competitive, because they now have access to this Amazon audience in the signals to serve up their ads to potential customers, whereas some of their competitors who are not working with Hibu don't have access to that just yet, or may not have access to it.

Yeah, may not have access to it. And you know, and again, it's a lot of work is, you know, Ian's first question, you know, took us into, it's a lot of work to get through the integration processes. And, you know, it's, it's, there's a lot to do there. But yeah, I mean, for us, you know, as you're right, I mean, the market for us going out and selling to SMBs. Right, it's critical to have those partnerships. And we obviously have some great partnerships out there, Amazon included, right, but it's just as important, Lauren, to your point around for the SMBs themselves having the ability to have a diversified marketing program. So it's not just relying on one network, right, it's, it's, you know, and this is one of the great things for us, right is is even internally, you know, with having diversity and variety within our marketing offering, you know, we can take all of that data ourselves and now we can optimize on behalf of our clients and figure out what is the best result we can drive for them, right? If you put and do all of that across one network, well then you're left with those results right there's, there's less you can do but you know, it'll give us an ability to to figure out on behalf of our clients, where we can optimize their budget most effectively, where we can spend their money most effectively and hopefully where we can drive as many leads for them as possible.

Ian Messinger  09:51
And that Amazon network, you know, reach that will now have I mean that that fits in so nicely with our existing partnerships or in our partnerships with meta or partnerships. With, with Google, so it really gives you kind of a more diverse portfolio of places that you know, you know, your, your customers, your patients, your clients, whatever business you're in, you know, they're on these properties. And when you ask, well, what's the best way to reach them? You know, we've business, just another, another item we can check off, like, where do you want to reach? You know, social media, you know, where you're shopping, when they're searching, you name it.

Right. And that's, and that's part of, you know, the, the equation here for the small business community, right is to your point, and you have to meet them where consumers are spending their time, right. And that's all of those places, right? In some cases, it is Google, some places it is meta, you know, Facebook, or Instagram. And that in a lot of cases is going to be out though. And a lot of times consumers are going to be on all three properties right? Multiple times a day, right. So being able to layer your messaging in to the to the consumer base that is local to you, whether you know, whether it's you know, consumers who know you and are coming back as repeat customers, whether it's or whether it's discovery, right? It's getting to new consumers who are out there to your website for the first time, and starting that consumer journey, which is going to, again, hopefully lead to more leads for you as a small business owner, right? Maybe that Facebook, Facebook ad, or, or the Amazon ad that we produce gets them to click through your website first time and that consumer journey begins. Right. So and maybe it leads to looking up more information about you on Facebook or you know, doing a Google search for you. Right, and now all of a sudden, we're getting that, you know, that consumer down the marketing funnel to the point of conversion. And yeah, I mean, having that diversity of being able to meet the consumer where they are, is, is key and Amazon ads, you know, a critical component. You know, for us on that front.

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We're back with our guests. Today, Craig Plummer, talking about Hibu and Amazon ads. I've heard you've mentioned a couple times some examples of you know how the audiences work and what kind of industry or businesses would work for them? And you've also mentioned, yeah, we can't use it for people who sell things on Amazon. But talk a little bit about the prime, you know, categories, business types that are good for Amazon as on display.

Yeah, that's a great question. Lauren. There's a handful of them. And a lot of them are kind of in the wheelhouse for us at Hibu, and who we tend to service - and I'll start with home services. Right, the home services, business sort of community, and I'd throw in that, throw in that in that grouping, you know, roofers, plumbers, electricians, any outdoor contractor, you know, tree services, you know, those types of things. Yeah, masonry contractors, basically, anyone who's coming to your home and providing a service, right? That is a great fit for Amazon, right? And leveraging those Amazon audiences, and say this yet, there's like, 30,000 audiences out there, right? That Amazon has that as well. We have access to target on behalf of our clients, right. Which is, which is amazing. And it's also challenging, right? Because how do you figure that out? Right. And so that's one of the things we've partnered on with Amazon is figuring out... alright, for a roofer or for a plumber in what is the right starting point from an audience perspective? And then how do you optimize that over time. So Home Services is a great example. Auto is another great example, in particular, like auto repair, right, or auto dealers. So that's, that's another one. That is that is a great fit, travel and hospitality is a great fit as well for Amazon. So those are all verticals that make a lot of sense. I mentioned sort of tree services, use of landscaping, lawn care, lawn maintenance, all of those types of things are great examples as well. So those are kind of, you know, some of the key ones and who are kind of the key demographic for us as well, who are going to be a great fit for Amazon moving forward.

Ian Messinger  14:13
You know, it's one of the things that kind of stands out to me is I think a lot when we talk about AI moves, value profits, it's that, you know, we do it for you. And the analogy we, we tend to lean on a lot is well you don't you know, there's a lot of moving pieces, there's a lot of, you know, complicated things when it comes to building your website, because I feel like that's something that there's so many people out there where you can, you know, build your own website. But this is this is a whole other level. Right? This is not just like, yeah, you could go on and, you know, buy some ad space on Amazon. I mean, I think a lot of what you've spoken to is just how much infrastructure and really calibrating things the right way goes into their boards, like there's no way you'd want to try this yourself. This would be, you know, you'd be exhausted before you even pressed GO.

Yeah, it's challenging right there. There's a lot to unpack in terms of everything from audiences that we've talked about, you know, and how do you how do you know you've selected the right audiences? Right? How do you optimize that over time? Do you add to it? Do you subtract from it? Do you target one audience? Or do you target 20 audiences? Right, and these are the, you know, the kind of the industry, pieces of expertise that that we're getting from Amazon as we continue this partnership, right. So, what's one of the advantages of working with Hibu? Is getting that industry knowledge, right, that we get to learn from Amazon product managers directly, we get to take that knowledge and turn that back to our sales team, you know, through, you know, through Lauren's group, right, or turn that back to operations team and in terms of trainings, and then it's, you know, so it starts there, but includes things like bidding, too, right? How do you set the right bids? And how do you? How are you what, to where to start? And what to do when to change them? When do you come back and update your ads? It's all of you out there. Use the word infrastructure. And there's a there's a lot there. And that's just in Amazon, right?

So we talked strategy, just... yes, now we expand and talk about Hibu Display, where it's Amazon plus, potentially Meta inventory plus our Hibu Network, right? And now we're talking about, yeah, and the Microsoft Audience Network as well. So now we have this sort of, you know, a couple of different pieces that that we bring together, and it's really mentioned a little bit before, which is now we can optimize off of those pieces and optimize that budget to the best of its ability. Right. So and that's just within one product. So you take that at the Hibu level. And yes, there's a lot with you know, from your website, to your listings, you know, to your display advertising, your search advertising, there's a lot of of under the hood – pieces that that need to come together and need to work well in order for you to maximize your marketing dollars. The great part is working with us is we can do a lot of that and you can leverage our interest industry expertise there.

Ian Messinger  16:49
And our time to because it's not just teeing all that up, right, it's then hitting go and watching it and adjusting. I mean, a lot of the lot of the kind of verticals that we spoke to the the business types, you know, there's seasonality involved there, you know, especially if you're in different parts of the country where you know, there's there's radical changes in web. So it's, you know, it's not just getting it teed up, it's then watching it and taking the time to watch it and adjust and, and coordinate all of that.

So Craig, you mentioned some of the lift and lead volume that you saw during the initial trials. Is there any other data that you want to touch upon that we're looking at for this Amazon launch?

Yeah, absolutely. So we're obviously, you know, continuously looking at data as we launch and evolve campaigns here, Lauren, one of the things we did with the launch of Amazon ads, as part of our Hibu display product is we produced a couple case studies firm those trials. Now those are out on hibu.com, if folks want to go take a look, and it speaks to what you just mentioned, right, as we launched Amazon, and looking at the results, and we did a couple different things to kind of analyze results, right, we took clients where we were running an active program with them already. And we compared that once we launched Amazon ads on their behalf, we compared their results in kind of the next two months to two months prior to launching Amazon. So we kind of had, as best we could an apples to apples comparison of what we did post Amazon and what we did pre Amazon, we also looked at a control group, right, which is, you know, obviously, there's a lot of variables that go into digital marketing, some of which we've talked about here.

Craig Plummer  18:19
But you know, we looked at a control group where budgets were the same verticals were the same and looked at their results in comparison to the accounts where we launched Amazon. And the tendency we saw was was a lift in in lead vibe. So a couple those case studies are out there, we hope over you know, as you know, scale, we get scale, you're with Amazon. And as more and more campaigns get launched, we're obviously going to be continuing to uncover as much as that data as we can. And of course, you know, we're expecting success, they're expecting to continue to lift and lead volume for our clients. And hopefully, we'll have a lot more data share in the months ahead. And I'm sure we'll have more case studies to come to but there's two out there right now, go check them out and see what Amazon has, how Amazon has helped some of our clients so far.

That's awesome. And you know, I just have loved how much this conversation has pulled back the curtain on the Hibu process. Even with a partner like Amazon, we are testing we are analyzing, you know, this is how we do things from soup to nuts. We don't just say, 'Oh, sure, we'll launch this. Alright.' Well, yeah. We do a lot of testing behind the scenes and optimizing. And you know, Craig, you and I work together on a lot of these tests. We're in the midst of one right now. And I just love talking about this process that we go through because we are there to ensure that our clients get the best possible product optimized for their needs. You know, we're not just going to throw anything out there at them.

Craig Plummer  19:41
Yeah, I mean, that's you're exactly right, Lauren, and that's the place that we start from. I mean, that's the first question we asked when we started talking to Amazon is how does this fit for our clients? It's the questions we asked about, you know, and we scale it does it fit for a roofer and a plumber and an auto repair contractor, or an auto repair place and Alliance doesn't fit all of the different clients that, you know that that we service. And, you know, once we start ticking those boxes, as you said, we go through that process, it's a, you know, it's not easy to get through the door at Hibu. Right. And even for Amazon, that's a lot of hoops to jump through. But you know, because to your point, yeah, we want to care for our clients, first and foremost, of course, and the IRS a great place where though we saw opportunity, and we saw a chance to, to bring more value to our clients. So hopefully we can be in keep that rolling.

Ian Messinger  20:29
Yeah. And it's a big deal. I mean, you know, obviously, we wouldn't be talking about it, if it wasn't, but you know, given all of the partnerships we have, this isn't just another like, you know, oh, and also Amazon. I mean, I think you alluded to Craig with what, you know, 67%, or somewhere around that neighborhood, American households are our Prime members. I mean, that's a huge, huge market that we can now say, hey, we know when they're looking for, you know, packing tape, and your moving company, we can, we can put you in front of them.

It's a great... I think Lauren said it early, it's great competitive advantage, right, to have access to that inventory. And you mentioned the partnerships in right. I mean, so we've got, obviously Amazon partnership is the newest. We've been partners with Google for years and years, we've been partners with Microsoft and Meta for years and years. Right. So those are four, I believe, the four biggest advertising companies out there.

Craig Plummer  21:21
People don't necessarily think of Amazon as an advertising company. It is if you look at the data. Amazon is a huge advertising company. It's just newer to kind of our space in relation to that. But yeah, I mean, partnerships across, you know, four of the biggest companies in the world, four of the biggest ad platforms in the world is, you know, is a pretty cool thing. And, you know, beyond it being cool, it's a great way to help our clients.

Ian Messinger  21:45
Craig, thanks again for joining us today and bring us up to date about Hibu and Amazon. And to all of you listening, please be sure to visit hibu.com for more information about how Amazon Ads Sponsored Display works with the rest of your Hibu digital marketing solution. If you like what you've heard in this episode, be sure to subscribe. And please, if you can leave us a comment – It really helps – and reviews are even better. And it's going to put us in front of more small business owners across the country. Until next time, this is Small Business Small Talk... outs!

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