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#FiveTipsFriday Media Buying

101864933_606ff344c2_mOn the surface, media buying seems simple. Find a media outlet for your message (for B2B advertisers, that is primarily print and online) and purchase the media. But how does one know which media best match your target audience. Ah, there’s the rub. First things first. The more you know about who represents your target market, the better. This is not something to treat lightly. In most cases, there are multiple influences involved when it comes to who has the approval to purchase your products. Yet, not all of these influences wield the same amount of power. Therefore, the first job is to do an overview of your real audience. Who ultimately do you need to impact with your message and in what doses. Let’s say you sell capital equipment into the machine tool industry. Who influences the purchase?
Plant Manager, Manufacturing Engineer, Purchasing, VP of Manufacturing, President and maybe even CEO. Obviously not all of these people have an equal vote. The key is determining the key decision makers and making media buys based on reaching those key decision makers. With smaller ticket items, the list is obviously shorter.

Media Buying, like so many other facets of the marketing world, is one of those tasks that seems, on the surface, to be easy. In fact, it seems so easy, before you really dig into it, that a lot of companies think they can just dig right in and start placing ads for a big year-long advertising campaign.

We’ve been doing media buying for our clients for over fifty years, so we can tell you with a high degree of certainty that media buying is more complex than simply telling a publication that you want them to run your ad. With that in mind, we thought we’d start our Five Tips Friday series with five pointers you need to know about placing ads in business publications.

1. Study the circulation – The most important factor in evaluating a publication is its circulation. If the circulation is not a good match to your target audience, end of discussion.

But how can you determine if the circulation is really valid? There are a couple of different ways that a publication can present their circulation. The best way is to have an outside auditing company validate that they are really reaching who they say they are reaching. Since most business publications have a Controlled circulation versus a Paid circulation, this involves understanding how a Controlled circulation works. Unlike a Paid circulation where it is obvious what the circulation is (count the money), a Controlled circulation publication that is audited must require that recipients answer a series of questions to assure that they represent the audience that the publication is trying to reach. Revenue is generated in this model strictly through advertising.

There are a handful of companies whose purpose is to audit circulation but for B2B publications, the leader is BPA Worldwide (full disclosure: our president Larry Clayman sits on their board). Other auditing firms include AAM (Alliance for Audited Media) –formerly ABC–Certified Audit Circulation (CAC), Verified Audit Circulation (VAC) and Circulation Verification Council (CVA).  When a circulation is audited, the advertiser has full confidence that they are reaching their target audience as long as they have chosen their media wisely.

When a publication chooses not to have its circulation audited, you are left with less desirable choices. The most common is the Sworn Publisher’s Statement. This simply means that the Publisher is asking you to “trust him” that the circulation is valid.

When you place an ad, you do so assuming you are going to reach specific people. Make sure the publication is fulfilling their end of the bargain.

2. Study the editorial – Most publications still publish an editorial calendar, previewing what content they will be focusing on, at what shows the publication will be distributed, and any special product spotlights. If a publication does not offer editorial previews and is not a peer-reviewed clinical publication (in the case of medical or scientific journals), we would be less inclined to consider such a  magazine. Ideally, you want your ads to appear in a context that would help you build your brand in the minds of your customers and prospects.

3. Analyze doninance versus frequency – In order to make the biggest impact at the best cost, it is important to strategize. There is an age-old debate about what the best path is for a successful advertising campaign. Given the same budget dollars, some marketers prefer a dominance approach whereby they run fewer ads but each ad is full page, full color or even includes a cover position. In this instance, they are “going for the kill” to try to get your attention. This would be the equivalent of spending your entire budget for the year on the 30 second Super Bowl ad. The other approach (and the one preferred in most studies) is the Frequency model. In this instance, the thinking is that we should be in as many issues as possible even if our ads have to be smaller and less colorful. What if our best potential prospect misses the one issue where we ran an ad on the back cover? Your decision will be impacted by your objectives and your budget, but you need to have this evaluation complete before you place that first ad of the year.

4. Look for paid editorial – A truly reputable publication will differentiate clearly between sponsored content and content produced by their editorial staff. If a publication blurs these lines, they lose credibility. Additionally, if a publication is perpetually offering you opportunities to write articles, that can be viewed as a sign that the publication is actually struggling to produce enough content. You also want to look for an abundance of advertorials – advertisements tied closely to editorial. This can be an indication that the publication is offering all advertisers a chance at free editorial, which can also be a sign that the publication is struggling.

5. Compare publications in specific industries – Make sure you do your due diligence before placing an ad in what *seems* to be a strong business publication. Compare circulation, number of advertisers, editorial quality, pricing, and even how long each publication has been published. Sales reps for publications can call you and be very persuasive, but that’s their job. Make sure you don’t make any spontaneous ad-buying decisions. Otherwise you’re just throwing your money away.

Much of this same logic applies to the digital world, by the way. Always do your due diligence in analyzing opportunities that come your way.

And of course, if you need any help, feel free to ask us!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tracyhunter/101864933/ via Creative Commons

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