Self Service Still Requires Service

In the ad tech space, you basically are selling against two service levels:

  • Self Service
  • Managed Service

Over the past five or so years, these have become en-vogue since most companies in ad tech sell platforms of some kind.

As a buyer (or user of the platform), you basically have a decision to make.  Do you want to operate the platform yourself or do you want to rely on the company selling you the platform to handle operations.  The former is self service and the latter is managed service, fairly self explanatory.

Over the past 4-5 years in the DSP space, the majority of the marketplace was managed service.  This is for a host of reasons including lack of talent to operate platforms, simplicity around billing, and expected performance.

I am witnessing the tide shifting.  Buyers of platforms are shifting to self service operations and building on top of and around these platforms.

A bit of advice to companies selling “self service.”    You probably want to sell “self service” because it makes your investors happy as it’s higher margin (less staff to service) and you want a tech platform multiple, not a service multiple.   Companies who have biased towards this have severely lacked in support, even to the self service users.

You need to support your users of your platforms, whether or not they are self service.  Over service them.  Because if you do not, someone else will.  Your technology will be a commodity in future years.  Your service will stand it apart.

* Reading:  If you want to read a good book about service, read Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, the owner of some fabulous restaurants including Gammercy Tavern, Tabla, and plenty of others.  Service transcends industries, so don’t fear that the book is not about ad tech.

  • Jeremy Hlavacek

    Good call Darren. There is definitely a transition going on in the marketplace. I think agencies are asking tech companies to truly be tech companies now instead of hybrid service/tech companies. That said, big tech still has a service layer for enterprise clients – just look at HP, MS, etc. 

    Good observations!

  • John Ramey

    Agreed with the post & Jeremy! 

  • Trevor Mengel

    Agree with many of the points here, Darren. From a sell-side perspective, the service component allow publishers to outsource many of the operational functions and specialize on what they do best: creating great content. I suppose ATD’s allow agencies to do the same.

  • Marc Poirier

    I agree with you completely, we run a SaaS business in the ad:tech world, our platform is self-serve, but we have legions of support people to help our clients spend their money more effectively. Providing marketers with a great experience – along with great results – has been key to growing their business with us, and we noticed this very early on. I just ordered that book for my kindle, will read it on my next flight. Cheers!