Critical guidelines to help you determine your optimal online advertising partner

online advertising

By Eric Wittlake, {grow} Contributing Columnist

If you’re responsible for a marketing budget, you probably get so many calls from sales reps pitching media or online advertising programs that you’ve stopped answering calls from numbers you don’t know. Finding ways to spend money on advertising is easy, but spending it well is far more challenging.

Determining the optimal ad partners isn’t easy, particularly as the media landscape becomes increasingly complex. Unfortunately, the right partners often aren’t the ones who are always calling you!

So how do you find the right media partners? These two questions will help you figure out if you are on the right path when you talk to a potential partner.

  • Will they cost effectively reach your audience?
  • How will the context your ad is in impact how it is received and perceived?

These questions will lead you to three broad categories of potential media partners worth investigating. If you are just getting started, take the time to identify and talk to potential partners in each category:

1. Media companies that serve your audience

These are the outlets you probably know best. It doesn’t matter if your audience is hunters, dancers, local business owners, HR leaders or the person responsible for cloud computing at a company, there are online, print and often even TV opportunities with a focus as narrow as yours. They deliver a targeted audience in a contextually relevant environment.

The biggest challenge these partners have isn’t audience or context, it is cost efficiency and scale.

2. Online advertising that use data to target your audience

In today’s age of advertising technology and Big Data, there are numerous companies that can use data to target your audience, particularly online. The obvious, and largest, example is Facebook, where we have volunteered buckets of information about ourselves and our interests.

What makes this group of partners interesting is that they reach a much broader audience, but they are able to carve out and target the people you care the most about. This can dramatically limit waste, although being out of context can also lower the relevance of your message.

Examples range from companies that use your own data for targeting (that’s how your abandoned shopping cart follows you around the web) to companies with proprietary data like LinkedIn to companies that lean heavily on data they purchase from others.

Compared to media companies that invest in serving your specific audience, these partners are generally more cost efficient and offer significantly more scalability. The biggest concerns are running in contexts that can limit the point in time relevance of your message and the quality of the data they have for targeting your audience.

If you aren’t sure where to start, look up Demandbase (disclosure: client of my employer) or LinkedIn if you focus on B2B marketing or networks like Conversant or RadiumOne if you are primarily in B2C marketing.

3. Media opportunities that reach a broader audience

Some of the most interesting opportunities as your budget increases are with media partners who deliver your audience as part of a broader one. Examples are publications like Wired for enterprise technology marketers, Popular Science for engineering and technical audiences or golf sponsorships for executive audiences. Since these companies aren’t focused on serving your audience directly, these often can align to another idea that is important to your company, such as a program focused on innovation in enterprise technology running with Wired or Harvard Business Review.

These opportunities will generally be more expensive, but can deliver scale and higher impact. They also give you more opportunity to align with other ideas that are important to your brand and message. This is particularly valuable for B2B marketers that want to reach a broader team who may influence the buying decision and considered consumer categories where alignment with luxury, innovation, independence or other qualities are key to create.

Identifying these opportunities requires understanding your audience’s interests beyond your product and category. Research that shows what potential partners index high for your target audience is very helpful here. Most larger publishers will be able to provide ranking reports from syndicated research sources that will help you understand how they index against your target audience.

The index shows how targeted a media company’s audience is relative to your target audience. If your target is only 5% of all US adults, but 15% of a media company’s audience matches your target, they will have an index of 300. If only 4% of their audience matches, the index will be 80.

Do you have questions about your media planning? Post them in the comments below or ping me on Twitter (@wittlake) and I’ll do my best to answer!

Eric Wittlake

Eric Wittlake spends his days working with B2B marketers and (occasionally) shares his marketing views on his personal blog, B2B Digital Marketing. You can find him on Twitter (@wittlake) when he isn’t working with B2B marketers.

Photo Credit: Javier Gutierrez Acedo via Compfight cc

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