Selecting an Online Advertising Provider

Online advertising can no longer be ignored as a part of any business’s marketing plans. It has proven time and again to offer more reach and accountability for far less investment than other forms of media. That’s why businesses of all sizes are turning to online advertising services and technology for help. Yet many businesses using this medium are challenged to choose an online advertising provider that addresses their needs.

Online advertising is a relatively new marketing vehicle, and there’s a great deal to learn about the effective application of this medium. But there are some key factors businesses need to keep in mind when selecting an online advertising provider.

One of the main factors to consider, particularly for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), is cost. Because online advertising is still a new medium, marketers need to decide where to post their banner ads and how much online advertising is best for their brands. Besides having to tackle these critical questions, an SMB is often constrained by a limited budget. The creation of an online advertising campaign needs to be defined by cost and need, which may create quite a challenge for an SMB.

Testing the various components of an online advertising campaign will cause many SMBs to burn through much of their marketing budgets. One of the best ways to avoid this scenario is to know your marketing objectives right from the start.

The online ad provider you work with should help you achieve those goals in the shortest amount of time and most effective manner. Overall, the online advertising provider you choose needs to be sensitive to these cost issues and address them directly through the kinds of advertising options and services they offer. Asking the following questions should help any SMB keep cost and objectives in check:

Does the provider have the tools to help you optimize your campaign while it is in progress? If you are spending money on a campaign, you should have the ability to make it as effective as possible while it’s in progress. For instance, if your online ad provider’s reports show that ads on certain sites are responding better than others, you should be able to change or remove banners that don’t work and/or reallocate your spending to sites, categories, or banners that do. In this way, you are optimizing your campaign ROI.

Another thing to keep in mind before determining who will be your online advertising provider is whether the provider has auto-optimization capabilities. What this means is that besides allowing you to optimize your campaigns manually over the Internet, you can benefit by applying optimization rules to drive the auto-optimization of your online banner campaigns. Your campaigns will drive the best results based on the performance of the sites and banner ads that are being used.

Can the service you use analyze “post-click” data? So someone has clicked on your ad. That’s a positive first step, but do you know where they went or what they did after they clicked? More specifically, how deep into your site did they go? Did they buy something or leave you with valuable information? These are all things that an online ad provider should be able to report on.

Does your online ad service offer alternatives to CPM advertising, such as cost-per-action (CPA) or cost-per-click (CPC) advertising? What are its recommendations on when to use these various buying alternatives? This is an important point in light of your marketing objectives. Your marketing objectives will determine the best way to purchase online advertising. For example, if your goal is to bring people to your web site, you may want to execute a CPC campaign. In a CPC campaign, you pay for each web user that is taken to your web site.

Although pay-for-performance advertising is being recognized as one of the most cost-effective forms of online advertising, it may not be the best approach to all marketing objectives. So be sure that your online advertising firm can help you make smart decisions about the way you buy media, depending on what you’d like your results to be.

These are only a few of the questions an SMB should be asking BEFORE spending any money on online advertising.

Finally, customer support is another important factor in selecting an online ad provider. An online advertising provider’s commitment to keeping customers happy, understanding their needs, and learning what works over time will ensure the best value for you and your company.

Unfortunately, finding out about a company’s level of customer service isn’t easy. However, there are a few key points a marketer should know about its online ad service’s level of customer service:

  • How clearly did your sales rep explain what the company can and can’t provide?

  • Are there customer service reps readily available should a problem arise?
  • Do you have 24/7 visibility of your online campaign statistics and reports?
  • Will a technician or someone familiar with the service’s technical features be available to train you and your internal staff?
  • Do you have a sales rep who will call you back or follow up with you AFTER a campaign has run?

The above points are not the only things a marketer should consider when retaining an online ad service. But they are among the most important points in maintaining and growing a customer relationship to ensure your success as a marketer.

Bottom line: Choose your online advertising provider wisely. Talk to several online advertising providers before you select one. Remember to ask lots of questions and keep your marketing objectives in mind. You’ll find that by “interviewing” a few agencies, you’ll find the right one for your company’s financial and customer service needs.

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