How to Do Double Duty

In Internet marketing, as in any business, the name of the game is keeping clients happy. Without their ad budgets, our know-how about developing online marketing strategies and negotiating buys would be as useless as a car without wheels, and the Internet landscape would be barren.

When the client’s needs are successfully met, everyone emerges a winner. The client comes away from his experience satisfied with the service he’s received, while the marketer gets to do what she loves — help contribute to his success by developing and implementing a great online campaign.

But before we can even begin to worry about keeping our clients happy, we first have to recruit them. And as we all know (or have been reluctantly forced to accept), getting advertisers excited about investing in online advertising isn’t always easy.

Normally, this task falls on the shoulders of account managers and executives, whose job it is to present online advertising in an attractive light and quash any signs of trepidation. But downsizing at agencies across North America is forcing many marketers to multitask. These days, it’s not uncommon for account managers and media buyers to be one and the same, left to handle nearly every aspect of a client’s campaign — including acting as cheerleaders for the ad placements that they themselves have researched and negotiated.

In any other industry, the number of positive research reports, market analyses, and case studies that we’ve managed to compile would have attracted an abundance of new business. Not so in the world of online advertising. Instead of reveling in this enviable status, we’re left doing double duty: searching for new ways to convince advertisers of the advantages of this medium while doggedly defending it against critics. We’ve become pretty skilled at this over the years, in spite of the occasional glitch precipitated by a few bouts of negative press.

To a media buyer who is inexperienced at dealing with clients directly, effectively selling the concept of online advertising can be a daunting assignment — particularly when she feels so strongly about her industry that she simply cannot fathom anyone doubting its value. What do you say, for example, to a client who wants a guarantee that his online campaign will run smoothly? How do you mollify someone who has heard nightmarish urban legends about misdirected ad placements and campaign delivery problems? How do you even begin to explain that not all email marketing should be associated with spam?

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for neophytes in this arena to soothe advertisers’ fears. The first step is to get a thorough understanding of where your client is coming from. Identify the source of his reservations — only then can you begin to formulate the appropriate response. Is your client concerned about response rates? If so, highlight results-oriented methods of advertising and cost-per-action pricing models. If his greatest worry is that his ads will somehow end up on an adult site or on a site that features inappropriate content, then draw from your experience in media buying to outline the process for him and show him how you maintain control of a campaign. Assure him that you dutifully address every campaign issue in your contracts with the site publishers (detailing make-good, reimbursement, and out-clause policies) and that this document will protect him should anything go wrong.

And what if your client asks why he should invest in online advertising in the first place, when his ad dollars are producing perfectly acceptable results elsewhere? Show him how an online campaign, compounded with his offline initiatives, could give him unprecedented reach and exposure. Focus on the branding value of online marketing techniques and the many opportunities that could help him boost his company’s Web presence. At the same time, emphasize some of the cost-effective options that are available. Comparing the costs of developing and executing a direct mail campaign versus an email marketing campaign is always a potent example.

For marketers who keep up to date on industry news and trends, amassing the necessary data to support these arguments can be as simple as sifting through our daily email newsletters. Sources such as CyberAtlas, eMarketer, Internet Advertising Report, and ChannelSeven.com, as well as our own ClickZ, regularly feature up-to-date industry reports and statistics that can help convince clients of our industry’s credibility.

When dealing with people who need some persuasion to accept the benefits of advertising online, you’re bound to encounter a few tough questions. But whatever you come up against, a little effort is all it takes to find the right answers and knock down any initial barriers. Then you can get on with the planning and implementation of the campaign. And after all, isn’t that the best part?

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