Creating Media Plans That Click

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Danny runs into his boss's office and proclaims that he brought his cost per acquisition to a new low. Shouts of joy are heard through the cubicles as executives and underlings revel in his newfound fame and accomplishments.


Sounds great, right?


Wrong.


Hiding behind the CPA metric is that Danny used only search engine marketing on Google and Overture to achieve his goal, and has no plan to increase his budget efficiently and effectively to reach the real goal: 50 times the raw number of customers per day. Where did Danny go wrong? He used limited resources and oversimplified analytical skills to run his campaign.


Once granted an online marketing budget, guidelines for a successful campaign include five critical elements:


· Identify your success metrics.


· Use diversified online marketing mediums.


· Place intelligent media buys that fit your budget and provide diversity.


· Design and consistently update effective landing pages.


· Continually evaluate and analyze results.


Online marketing presents various opportunities. Conversion-oriented campaigns across multiple media outlets are the best way to realize a low CPA and gain valuable experience for your next campaign.


Success metrics. Advertisers can rely on site reporting and individual landing pages by site, or use a third-party ad-serving system to implement a uniform reporting system for the impressions, clicks and conversions. Systems like these help centralize the data and can be purchased on a CPM or CPC basis. Your metrics must be flexible to track differently by online marketing opportunity, creative used and landing page.


Metrics that help you understand your campaign's effectiveness include click rate, cost per click, cost per acquisition, click to conversion ratios, fall-off rates on landing pages and fall-off rates on subsequent pages after the landing pages. Understanding your metrics and CPA ranges in terms of these components helps evaluate your campaign best.


Diversified marketing mediums. Danny didn't use the full arsenal at his disposal. Search, using measurable publishers like Google and Overture, can help achieve your goals of acquisitions, branding and retention. But search isn't the only measurable way to advertise online.


Expanding your campaign to other pay-per-click engines can lower overall conversion costs while increasing the raw number of conversions. Engines such as Ah-Ha, Kanoodle and Brainfox can be cost-effective alternatives to the higher CPCs found on the bigger players. The world of search doesn't stop there. Full-service shops offer services that enhance advertisers' search marketing through consultative and proprietary technologies for natural search and paid inclusion. Smart marketers incorporate all the elements of search to maximize budgetary potential.


According to JupiterResearch, though paid search will grow 30 percent compounded annually over the next two years, it is no longer the sole driver of online ad spending. Much of the growth in online advertising can be credited to the increasing sophistication of advertisers. Benefiting from experience and more powerful tools, advertisers are better able to target, measure and convert their audiences online. This gives advertisers the confidence to allocate more of their ad dollars to the Internet and a willingness to pay more for premium online inventory as it becomes scarce.


E-mail is another effective tool for direct marketers who recognize the power of the Web's No. 1 activity. The CAN-SPAM Act is weeding out the undesirable lists and letting true DM-focused advertisers affordably buy e-mail media to support an interactive campaign.


JupiterResearch also forecasts that U.S. e-mail marketing spending will rise from $2.1 billion in 2003 to $6.1 billion in 2008. The report finds three factors driving the market: the dramatic cost reductions of e-mail marketing; the growth of sponsored and acquisition e-mail campaigns; and the ever-increasing challenges presented by spam.


In terms of banner- or image-based advertising, the rise of behavioral targeting is a fantastic addition to any buy, letting you push your message to a user with a "recent" interest in a product or service similar to the one you are marketing. Studies have shown that behavioral targeting can lift response rates up to 20 times the average rates seen through traditional banner ads. With interests and context in mind, these ads also drive higher click-to-conversion ratios than traditional banners.


Landing pages. Designing high-converting landing pages is critical to any campaign. Landing pages are probably least worked on by advertisers yet are the most important. Without revisions, the campaign will suffer and never improve. To optimize performance on a site-by-site and day-to-day basis, advertisers must code their pages.


For instance, does a yellow starburst on the right-hand corner of the page work better than a white bubble with the same message? Expect different conversion numbers from different types of opportunities. Customize landing pages based on the service partner and the creative/copy used. In online marketing, one size does not fit all.


Evaluate and analyze. Micromanaging your effort is one of the most cost-effective ways to maximize results. Watch it like a hawk. Danny didn't understand that the ultimate goal is raw customers within a CPA range. By lowering his CPA, he lowered his volume, and thus over-optimized himself down to a great CPA, but few customers.


Volume of acquisitions comes with an effective plan with CPA ranges by opportunity, understanding your target and constant optimization and analysis. Danny missed the boat on creating something that his executives could see as a success. He lowered his CPA metrics without understanding what it did to his volume of customers and without any understanding of how to increase that volume.


Don't fall into that trap. Plan ahead. Use all the media opportunities available to you and understand your metrics.


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