Monday, March 19, 2012

What’s Your Ad-Buying Strategy?

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

There’s no preamble or cutesy anecdote to draw you in this time. Just a question:

What’s your online ad-buying strategy?

Maybe the question should be: do you even have an ad-buying strategy? Well, Besides picking a budget and spreading the money around. I’m not sure that counts as a strategy.

You've got SEM and display ads, you've got sites and targeting. You've got email, mobile and push ads. You've got conference targeting. You’ve got re-targeting. And any one of those idea has about a dozen (or a few dozen) channels, and each with a bunch of people willing to sell you on that channel.
Where do you spend the money?

Do you prioritize by saying that you need to hit this conference and that conference? What if only one of those conferences has an official web site? For that conference, you’ll need to spend money on some other site about the conference. Surprisingly, the official conference site is far cheaper to advertise on than the non-conference site.

And you've got to hit the search engines, right? That’s where people (HCPs or DTCs) go looking for solutions to their issues – solutions you solve. This is where you aren't interrupting their web surfing so much as speaking up when they are looking for you. So, you’ve gotta be there.

And what about social media marketing? Facebook has got a great ad system, if you know how to use its targeting system properly.

What about channels? Should you be advertising on EHR sites for your HCP market? But they are still pretty spread out with no one vendor taking up the lion’s share of the market, let alone the majority. So if you’re gonna play there, you’re going to have to spend on two or even three sites.

And what about re-marketing, where, after having visited your site, you continue to hit them with ads, even if they are on someone else’s site? The cost is a fraction of what the big medical portals charge, but has anyone shown that HCPs who see your ads while shopping for khakis are at all inclined to click? Or even become more brand-aware?

And then there’s the big medical portals. Big money for the right audience, and no one has ever gotten fired spending money there, right?

So with all these choices, how do you make spending decisions? Do you print out your media plan on tabloid paper and throw darts at it? Medscape in January, Google in March, EHR#1 in June? Cut the insertion orders into bits, glue them onto turtles and race them down the hall? First turtle gets the biggest buy, so stop when you hit your budget numbers!

And what about benchmarking? If you are spending all this money, what do you expect to get out of it? Are you measuring clicks or conversions? What about micro-conversions? Can you correlate ads with prescription changes? I bet you’d like to, wouldn't you?

Do you ask big broad questions like, ”If I had to spend it all on SEM or display ads, which would be better?” or, ”If I pilot a re-marketing campaign, how many conversions would be a success?”

Do you have all your click/conversion data in one folder and your budgeting/costing data in another? Why don't you combine them and see the cost of each conversion on each channel?

If you can't answer these last questions, can you really say you have a strategy? And given the amount of money you’re spending, shouldn't you have a strategy?

Fight back in the comments or just yell at me on Twitter.
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