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Help Me Make Marketing Matter For Little Guys

I got an Ask A Marketer request last week that really struck a chord with me.  Rick Couture of Go-Mango Fitness sent in this question:

OK, I’m still fairly new to the world of online marketing, and I rely on the many wonderful marketing e-newsletters I get to help with my education.  What I have not seen is info on how to get started with online advertising. I keep getting calls from my newspaper sales reps to try advertising on their websites.  Problem is I have nothing to compare their rates to elsewhere online. 
Can you provide any resources to see CPM ad rates for banner ads?  I can’t help but wonder if $30 per thousand for an "in story" ad that is only mildly targeted (Health section editorial, our business is fitness equipment) is asking too much.
Has anyone done a real comparison of newspaper online ads vs other websites rates and effectiveness? Are there places I can compare prices for similar levels of targeting? Is that what DoubleClick does?

I see this kind of confusion and concern in small business owners ALL the time.  They can find lots of pundits punditing (guilty) but where do they turn for the basics?  How do they know they’re not being ripped off?  How do they determine value?
I’d love to see some feedback from you folks on what you tell small businesses and those new to the business in terms of this kind of stuff.


  1. Simon Rodrigue
    Simon Rodrigue April 23, 2007

    What surprises me here is Google’s lack of activity / promotion in this marketplace. On more than one occasion I have walked a small business owner through how to set-up geo-targeted / site-targeted campaigns.
    In fact I would also go as far as that a small business owner in Canada should start with Google period. They have the market share needed to provide the required coverage and the ability to provide a full offering of services (search, local, banner ads, etc.) that is fully accessible and available for any budget.
    I am always shocked when I see a small business, or anyone for that manner, paying a $30 CPM, which is the rate at sales people don’t get invited back to our office. It doesn’t do anything for the overall industry to see rates at more than 10 times what they should be (yes I’m an advertiser) – but I’m sure that is for another topic….

  2. Mladen Raickovic
    Mladen Raickovic April 23, 2007

    Hi Ken,
    I can understand how difficult it must be for small advertisers in this regard. I think the important thing to understand is whether the advertiser is interested in branding or some form of direct response.
    If we are talking about the a direct response style campaign then the advertiser needs to know what their acquisition costs are. The acquisition/action could be anything from an actual sale to a download to a newsletter sign up. If they know the acquisition costs, then they can back calculate (using approximations of click through rates and conversion rates) what their effective CPM should be.
    If the advertiser is looking for branding then the process is more difficult. Depending on the creative (and i’m assuming most small business are not using heavy rich media) the businesses shouldn’t pay more than $5-10 CPM. The only time a CPM of $30 should come into play is when the website is a best-in-class site. Another factor that could drive up the price slightly is how integrated the campaign can get and how relevant the site is. The more relevant and niche the site is, the more they could expect to pay, but it may be worth it. However these rates should still be lower than $30 CPM.

  3. Loretta Levinson
    Loretta Levinson April 23, 2007

    Hi Ken.
    What a pertinent question to pass on! With all this talk of online advertising all over the news, I can see how a small business owner can easily become overwhelmed and feel that he/she is missing the boat if they don’t advertise online.
    But there are other questions to be asked and answered first, such as:
    1. What do I expect advertising to do for my business?
    2. Who am I trying to reach (demographically and psychographically-speaking)?
    3. What is the end benefit that I can promise my consumer and how is that better/more important than what my competition is saying?
    4. Is my product one that is extensively researched online (autos, cameras, etc.)
    5. How much money do I have to spend?
    6. How will I measure the success of my initiative(s)?
    Cost is an important factor to consider no doubt, and all that goes along with thinking through specific targeting, frequency of seeing the ad, how long it will run etc. Only then should one start a comparison of different media vehicles available. Should one advertise online, in the newspaper, on radio, on TV, billboards? So many choices that there’s even a website ( that actually lets businesses play with different advertising options to see how various advertising budgets work best.
    Don’t forget that the actual creative production (cost and time) of the ad also has to be factored in, and other qualitative questions like ‘how will my ad look in newspaper vs online?’ and ‘how often will I have to update my ad?’ must also be considered.
    With most major cities having more than 500 media choices, it’s never an easy choice as to where to spend those valuable and substantial advertising dollars. Whether an advertiser’s budget is $1,000 or $10,000,000, it never seems enough. Taking the time to think through where and how to spend it is time well spent.
    Online advertising is a new, fresh and interesting alternative.

  4. Rick Couture
    Rick Couture April 23, 2007

    Thanks all for the thoughtful responses….If anyone can direct me to an ad network that has good inventory that can target locally I would really appreciate a link….so far the only suggestion is Google (not a bad suggestion, but gosh, is that all there is?)
    Searching for an ad network is starting to sound scarier than trying to find a good web developer (long story)..not a lot of info out there. Is there any sites that list or even review online ad networks?Simon, thanks for your insight. You indicate that $30 cpm is high, that was my feeling too, considering the “page views” they are counting are for people wanting to read category content, not even keyword targeted, and not necessarily motivated to shop or buy. It would seem to make more sense to target people who are shopping, not reading the newspaper (at least online, we still spend about 80% of budget on traditional).
    Mladen, thanks for giving me a ballpark idea ($5-$10 CPM) For a newspaper site, the content is very loosely targeted by category (health & fitness content) – so I don’t consider it high quality traffic. Our goal in traditional media is Branding in the sense of creating awarenesss that we even exist (the struggle for specialty retailers) AND the hope of some direct response on our very best offers…So what you are saying is that a portal forum site that is popular with Local athletes & coaches might be worth a premium like $30, but not something so general as an online version of a newspaper, right?
    Loretta, you raise some good questions, it is extremely difficult to measure response for Brick and Mortar retailers, since I have no sure-fire way to measure how many people come into our stores as a result of our marketing efforts….I intend to pay close attention to our web analyitics to see if our efforts at least generate clicks to our website, but measuring ROI based on actual in store sales generated is nearly impossible. My budget is limited like anybody’s so I am cautiously exploring online options…

  5. digitalhomecanada
    digitalhomecanada April 23, 2007

    Rick, there are so many things to recommend but my first is to talk to your customers!
    Tell the cashiers in your store to ask every customer what Fitness sites they visit online.
    I notice you sell some pretty expensive fitness equipment. I’ll bet your potential customers are researching fitness equipment online. Your job is to find out where and I’ll bet its NOT a newspaper site.
    Take all of your products and google them. Find out what sites are writing, reviewing and talking about those products.
    Get the list down to five and then contact them and ask if they geo-target Albertans. I’ll bet you pay a LOT less than $30 CPM AND reach your target audience!
    Oh yeah, I got a great site for Canadian men 😉
    Hugh Thompson

  6. Stefan Eyram
    Stefan Eyram April 26, 2007

    I really agree with Hugh Thompson:
    “Take all of your products and Google them. Find out what sites are writing, reviewing and talking about those products.”
    Don’t assume you know what people are doing BEFORE they buy within your product category(ies). Ask them! What sites do they frequent? What email newsletters do they read?
    Also, find out what your competitors are doing: Where are they advertising?
    Now, once you attract their attention the first time, what do you do with these prospects? Are these people expected to click through and buy online right away? Should they pick up a phone and call you? Do you want them to drop everything and go to a store?
    In most cases yuo will still need to “nurture” new prospects and leads before they buy. When they hit your site give them a compelling reason to opt in to a communications stream. This can be email, direct mail and even by phone. Get “marketing permission”. And when you are doing this also ask them for 2 or 3 key data points that will help you segment and target them effectively. Provide continued value n your communications. Educate these prospects. This will differentiate you from the competition that is likely asking them to buy at every touchpoint.
    Stefan Eyram

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