Monday October 15, 2012

How to Create a Media Plan That’s Built for ROI

Imagine that you’re sitting on a ten million dollar budget to spend as you see fit on advertising this quarter. Sounds nice, right?

Now, you might already be having visions of James Cameron directing your five-minute underwater mega-commercial, but let’s also assume that you’re still on the hook for positive ROI. In other words, if you blow the budget, you’ve got problems. So where do you start?

Whether your ad budget is ten million or ten thousand, the challenge and significance remain the same: you need to figure out how to create a media plan that will put those precious dollars to best use.

Research and Strategy

Before we discuss how to create a media plan that will produce results, let’s look at how NOT to create a media plan:

  1. Start by setting an advertising budget
  2. Choose media based on what you think you can afford
  3. Spend the budget and wait for the phones to ring

This is the wrong way to approach a media plan because these decisions are not driven by strategy. Marketing decisions can be limited by budget, but should never be dictated by budget (for more on this, read our post on marketing budget meetings). For every marketing initiative, there is a minimum investment level that must be made in order for the initiative to produce profitable results. Countless marketing dollars are wasted every year on executions that are forced into insufficient budgets. If you can’t afford to do a channel the “right way,” you’re better off not doing it at all.

Much of a media planner’s work is analyzing target markets in terms of demographics, psychographics, and consumption behavior, then obtaining rates, ratings, impressions, and other information from several potential media vehicles, and finally choosing the best fit based on their work. Once you have determined where and when your ads should be based on this type research, you can solidify what budget would be required for a campaign – and then decide if you can afford it.

Create a Test and Define Success

When we consider how to create a media plan built for ROI, what we’re really talking about is how to set up an effective test with tangible goals for success. I say this because a) even a long term campaign is best treated as an ongoing test, and b) there’s a chance that you may not see a strong ROI from a particular medium, in which case your test will determine that you probably want to test elsewhere.

Success, naturally, is determined by the objective of your media strategy. For example:

  • If your objective is to create brand awareness, success will be primarily measured in reach and frequency among your target audience. Rather than a direct ROI, you’re looking more for targeted impressions
  • If your objective is to sell more lampshades through your online store, success should be measured in conversion rates and, ultimately, whether your ads are generating enough lampshade profit to justify the spend
  • If your objective is to finally star in a used car dealership commercial, success is yours the minute that work of art hits the airwaves. (Consider not approaching any media plan with this objective, if possible)

Don’t Cut Corners on Frequency

Occasionally, when we ask businesses what marketing they’ve used, they’ll say they’ve “tried radio and it didn’t work” or “tried print ads and it was a waste of money.” Then, we find out that by “tried,” they mean they ran an ad once or twice and called it a bust.

You might be testing Facebook PPC ads or national TV spots, but in either case you need enough frequency to properly assess the results of your test. Yes, it will cost more to buy 20 radio spots in a variety of dayparts for a two week test than it will to just run two spots over the weekend, but at the end of the two week test you’ll have enough results to determine whether it’s worth continuing or not – and that’s valuable information.

Creating a strong media plan is a lot of work, but by building on a foundation of strategy, clear objectives for testing, and adequate frequency, you can prevent a situation in which your budget is blown with nothing to show for it.

Have any of your own tips for creating an ROI-focused media plan? Share your wisdom in the comments!

Charlie Nadler
Simple Machines Marketing

Written by Charlie Nadler | Tags: media planning

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