When you evaluate online marketing programs, you may have many of the
same concerns as you do with traditional media programs. Alignment with
your goals, audience, reach: these criteria apply across all media
buys. However, other issues are specific to the online world: online
metrics, conversion accountability, reputation of Web sites and more.

With suppliers allocating more of their marketing budgets to online
media, it’s important to know what to look for and ask about when
working with new media partners. Here is a list of questions you should
ask your online media partners. We’re including those questions that
apply to both online and traditional media — it never hurts to be
reminded of the fundamentals.

Is the media opportunity aligned with your marketing objectives?
It might seem obvious, but it’s worth answering. Is your objective to generate leads? Promote your brand in new markets? Position your company in a leadership role? We know, it’s all of the above. But some online media are better suited to gaining and raising brand exposure, others for lead generation. Most offer a combination of each, weighted in one direction or the other.

What audience will you reach?
This is another important Marketing 101 question. Before committing to any online media, ask for a profile of the audience you will reach. For example, with general search engines, the audience is the entire world, because everyone uses them, so funneling out only your specific niche becomes a challenge you must take into account. On the other hand, many effective online media options focus only on your target audience of engineers, industrial and technical professionals.

If you’re advertising on a Web site, ask the owner for a BPA or other third-party audit statement of qualified traffic. Look for growth trends on those sites where you are advertising.

What types of Web sites will your advertisements appear on?
This is question is relevant when you purchase banner ads that could appear across a network of sites. Make sure you understand the types of potential Web sites where your ad might appear. Are they focused on the needs of the audience you are trying to reach?

How, when and for how long will your message be delivered to your audience?
Placing ads in third-party e-newsletters puts your message into your audience’s inbox at a specific day and time. It’s a form of “push” marketing, where you proactively reach out to prospects.

A searchable online catalog or presence in an industrial directory online provides presence 24/7. This is a form of “pull” marketing, where you can connect with customers and prospects when they are actively searching for solutions like yours.

How is lead capture performed?
Some online media partners offer robust marketing solutions that deliver leads to you with full contact information when a potential customer views your online content. On the other hand, if you are using keyword search ads or e-newsletter ads, you’re likely driving prospects to a landing page on your Web site where you will have lead capture mechanisms, such as white paper or Webinar offers.

More important than who’s responsible for lead capture is to make sure you have a way to convert visitors and viewers into leads. Plan for this in any online media campaign. If your media partner offers a lead conversion capability, you won’t have to devote as many resources to landing pages and other lead capture mechanisms.

Which metrics matter?
One of the great advantages of online media (other than the fact that your customers and prospects are online a lot) is its reporting capabilities. Page views, impressions, opens, clicks, click-through rates, conversions … there are many metrics. Which ones matter to you depends on the nature of your campaign:

  • Page views correspond to how many times a Web page is displayed to a visitor on a Web site. It’s useful if you are tracking which pages are most/least popular on your Web site.
  • Impressions refers to the number of times your ad is displayed on a Web page. With online banner ads, you might purchase a number of impressions over a certain period of time. Impressions are not the same as page views unless your ad appears every time the page is displayed; usually ads from different advertisers rotate in the same positions.
  • Conversions is the number of people who sign up for your offer, thus converting from a nameless, faceless viewer of your message into a bona fide lead.

What is the reputation of your media partner?
Is your media partner well-known and respected within the community you are trying to reach? Do they have expertise in your industry? How well do they understand their own audience? Can they tailor an online marketing program to your specific objectives and budget? Can they provide references of satisfied customers? Ask these questions. The answers you get will determine your level of confidence in your online media partners and help you achieve greater success with online marketing.

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