Media Buying on a Budget

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted August 26, 2002
By Tessa Wegert

Working at a relatively small interactive ad agency, I often get inquiries from businesses interested in online advertising. They aren't sure if they have the budget it takes to develop a consequential Internet campaign. They want to know what kind of budget a typical campaign requires. What's the minimum needed to garner results? If an advertiser only has a few thousand dollars to spend per month, is prominent placement affordable? If so, what methods achieve results?

Even in general terms, it's impossible to say exactly how much is needed for an advertiser to achieve desired results. It varies, depending on objectives. My reply is always the same. Under most circumstances, the more you spend, the more opportunities will be available. That's not to say a small budget precludes a creative, effective campaign. A number of online ad placements just don't require staggering investments. For businesses just starting out and having minimal marketing dollars to play with, these placements can assist them in promoting products and services within their target markets - without breaking the bank.

The first solution that comes to mind when budget is of primary concern is CPC advertising. Advertisers pay for each click their ads receive, allowing them to calculate how much they will pay for each visit to their Web site. These days, CPC ads on a network can run as low as $0.20-$0.30 or less per click, even when geotargeted or targeted to a specific audience. The network rep will compare your demographic requirements with the demographics of various sites within the network and deliver your impressions accordingly. With a little clever negotiating with the right network, an advertiser can stretch a meager budget to provide thousands of qualified clicks.

Pay-per-search advertising, such as advertising on Overture or Google's AdWords Select, can be equally cost effective. For many, an ideal solution is to take advantage of these sites' automatic bid features, which allow advertisers to set a maximum daily budget and control how much they spend without having to constantly check and manually update their bids.

When an advertiser wants to increase brand awareness with a visual message, sponsorships are a sensible option. Quality traffic can come from even the smallest portals. When a new advertiser first experiments with online marketing, these are often a reliable source for leads. A section sponsorship on a local portal, city-specific site, or subject-specific destination can increase exposure within your target market and cost as little as a few thousand dollars a month.

I sponsored a section of a golf community site on behalf of a Nevada resort almost a year ago, a placement that included the company's logo and a brief description of its business in the resort community directory. Happy to increase the size of the directory, the small but respected site agreed to leave the listing up even after the contract expired. The resort still receives leads from that incredibly inexpensive investment.

As many options as there are for advertisers working within a strict budget, the trend has been toward using ad dollars to lay groundwork for future return on investment (ROI). Advertisers are getting smart. Instead of spending to obtain instant (but fleeting) gratification, the type a simple email marketing campaign might bring, they invest in building house email lists and customer databases and develop email newsletters. You're probably familiar with the type of newsletters I'm talking about. They don't have to be extremely involved. Many consist of little more than a monthly update on new products or services available to consumers. Newsletters can be a pipeline to your target audience. They allow you to build and maintain relationships with new customers and can facilitate upselling within existing markets.

A one-time list rental to send a message encouraging recipients to sign up for your email newsletter can be a low-cost way to grow your house list and eliminate the necessity of repeatedly returning to a list broker. Encourage subscribers to help augment your database by adding a "refer-a-friend" component to emails. Your ROI will be even greater.

Countless traditional, reputable advertisers use online advertising in increasingly sophisticated ways. They saturate the Web with costly floating ads, e-commercials and full-screen interstitials. They spend millions that represent only a sliver of their overall media budgets.

Don't be intimidated by the opulence you see displayed online. There's room for the little guy, too!

Tessa Wegert plans and implements online advertising strategies and promotional campaigns as media manager at BAM Strategy, a Montreal-based interactive marketing agency. With a background in print advertising, consumer marketing, and copy editing, she also freelances as a technology and e-marketing writer, online and off.

Reprinted from ClickZ.com.

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