Online advertising does not limit itself to display (i.e. banner) ads. It includes different formats such as sponsorships, paid search, classifieds, rich media and the list goes on. Display advertising, the rectangular or square boxes you view on most websites, are merely a segment. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll focus on display advertising.
What is your online display advertising end game? Why do you want to purchase banner advertisements? Do you need to increase brand awareness — because no one knows who you are? Do you want to improve purchase intent? Do you need to support other direct response (DR) goals in mail, DRTV or telephone campaigns? Or do you need to drive website traffic? Gain clarity on why display advertising is an important component of your advertising strategy.
Savvy marketers think beyond clicks; realizing they are merely a small part of the online engagement story. Studies show that, often, conversions (i.e. purchase, trial, registration, other marketing objectives) happen after an online user views an ad, but did not click on it. Ultimately, you’ll need to assign the right metrics to support broader goals.
It’s not likely that you’ll outspend larger competitors with online display ads. Yet, when you place a miniscule ad buy, on a very large website, which only reaches 5% of their audience and maxes out your budget, you complain that “online advertising doesn’t work.” Wrong conclusion, delivered by a flawed approach. Instead, remain focused on targeted niche websites to cut through the clutter of larger websites and deliver a higher share of voice (SOV). Simply put, target your efforts and maximize the potential of your ad actually being seen.
Your team won’t tell you because they want to keep their jobs. But onlookers will confirm this: your ad creative is horrendous. It includes 100 messages, poor image quality and a hidden call to action (CTA). Simply put, online users aren’t going to click on ugly ads that make their heads hurt. While you may not have the benefit of an ad agency to show you the light, you can still develop ads that make customers say “Wow! I love that product!” Simplicity is everything. It could be that online advertising works, but your ads don’t.
Display advertising may not work for you because you’re advertising to the wrong people in the wrong place. If you take a look at historical sales and customer data, you can draw conclusions about your buyer. The places you advertise should reflect online places where your buyer would hangout. If you need to reach small business owners, you’ll need to target online websites that speak directly to them. Most importantly, all websites are not created equal. Simply because you pay $10 to reach potential customers on one site does not mean you can expect to pay the same for another website. If you gain access to a highly qualified audience you will pay a premium.
You’ll need to balance online display advertising goals with reach (R), frequency (F) and time (T) objectives. To increase one, you’ll have to sacrifice the other. So, consider what is most important to you. For instance, you can’t advertise for one week and proclaim “it didn’t work”. Advertising is all about exposure to your message and that takes time. An awareness campaign will require high reach (i.e. opportunities to see) at an optimal number of exposures per person. In contrast, if you need to generate leads, your tactics will change and you’ll need to consider what a lead is worth to you?
If you place on online ad buy and never measure its progress, who’s to blame? Track the progress of your online campaigns so your ad spend can work harder for you. If a specific creative is not working, swap in a new one. When you’re ad is not visible, increase your impression levels to ensure an adequate share of voice (SOV) or weight among other advertisers.
Set aside a specific online advertising budget for testing purposes. Then put your test budget to work. One quick and dirty calculation is cost per conversion. Consider the total cost of an online ad buy in comparison to the total number of conversion events (i.e. click, registration, sale, etc.). If you spend $100 on online advertising that produces 100 visitors (at $1 each), and received 15 sales, your cost per conversion is $100 / 15 = $6.67. In theory, if you scale your spending you can project conversions with an uptick in ad spend. This doesn’t account for other important variables such as the lifetime value of a customer or those who take an action at a later date, but it can be used as a very granular starting point.
These nine tips barely scratch the surface, but they can set your business up for online advertising success. Never assume online advertising doesn’t work. Much like the gym, it will work — if you work it.
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