All too often, media planners and their clients are more impatient than they should be when rolling out direct marketing campaigns. They launch with heavy buys across various media types and vehicles from day one. Perhaps this is a habit that formed over years of planning and buying for product launches and campaigns designed to boost brand awareness: The goal then was to create a critical mass of messaging in the marketplace to build immediate momentum for the brand. Running a media schedule at full throttle from day one clearly aims to achieve the greatest impact as soon as possible.
These days, however, the more likely scenario driving direct marketers to push full speed ahead from the start is simply that clients are under pressure from sales teams that are chomping at the bit for leads, and they need to “fill the pipeline” as soon as possible. As a result, budget often ends up committed to a media schedule without allocating enough time for the necessary testing and refining of media and creative—which can greatly undermine a campaign’s success.
In planning and buying to maximize direct response (and return on investment), it can now pay handsomely to apply a more disciplined, multi-phased planning and buying approach that enables media professionals to spend their impressions and disseminate creative more wisely, based on accumulated learning. This is especially true on the Internet, where an even greater number of tactical media opportunities exist.
Granted, if a media buy is priced on the basis of a specific consumer response (CPA) regardless of the number of impressions that are required to achieve that response, and if, for some strange reason, the media publisher does not mind running an inefficient marketing program that ultimately results in their earning a lower effective CPM, then there is no consequence for running media with reckless abandon. (Actually, the lower the response and conversion rates, the more media will be required to drive the response. Media professionals might actually enjoy having more impressions served for their clients for free.) However, time has shown that web-based marketing initiatives should seek to maximize their response and conversion rates, thereby making the offer competitive to publishers.
The reward for doing so will be a greater number of media affiliates who run the program and make it a high priority in their queue.
Efficient and worthwhile user experiences that support higher response rates also ultimately increase your program’s value to all parties involved: clients, publishers and consumers.
It is best to begin by dividing the media schedule into different categories based on the strategies and tactics that will be employed. For example: general consumer web sites, online networks, women’s sites, email publishers, co-registration providers, search marketing opportunities, etc. Within each category, the various vehicles will be ranked based on their performance relative to key metrics that have been established—usually Cost Per Acquisition or Sale. Future budget allocations will be made accordingly. For the initial test phase, however, keep the overall expenditure low, perhaps 10% of the total budget. This will minimize the risk of poor or inconsistent performance while individual media vehicles and creative concepts/executions are being tested.