Buying Media

Buying Media

The complexity of advertising has tripled in the past twenty years. Long gone are the days where consumers had the option to watch one of three television channels, choose from a handful of radio stations and the daily newspaper was a must read.

Now, when investing ad budgets, marketers must decide between countless options: Television (broadcast, cable, satellite, OTT), radio (terrestrial, streaming), digital (online video, display, search engine marketing, etc.), social (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), and print (newspapers, magazines, direct mail).

Since paid media being is often the largest line item in an advertising budget, it is important that every dollar invested work as hard as it can to deliver ROI. Today, your media strategy must be fine-tuned to align with the business goals.

To begin fine tuning, the first factors that should be considered include your budget, target audience, geography and seasonality.

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Media Buying and Your Budget

“You have to spend money to make money.” A cliché? Maybe. However, there is a lot of truth in that statement. In the home repair business, you must “buy” leads to continue to grow. It’s typical in the industry to re-invest 10%-15% of revenue for marketing. When you invest this money wisely, the more dollars you devote to marketing, the more leads you’ll generate.

Lead generation has changed significantly in the past five years. In today’s world of fragmented media, your advertising dollars need to work harder to make the phone ring or capture a form fill. The potential customers who used to just call a business after seeing an advertisement are now researching online and consulting social media for referrals.

Your marketing strategy and advertising budget have to reflect the changes in consumer habits. It’s important to budget for touch points along the entire customer journey from traditional advertising (TV, radio) to pay-per-click search marketing and social. A consistent message and frequent impressions will allow the consumer to seamlessly move through the marketing funnel from awareness to purchase.

No matter what your budget, the media experts at RCG can help you determine the best media mix and targeting criteria for your situation and business goals.

The messaging you deploy across the various media channels should present a balance between branding and direct response. While home service businesses have traditionally focused on direct response, adding some brand differentiation messaging can help keep your company top of mind and build preference for your solutions over the competition. Traditional advertising media like television and radio are particularly useful in their ability to blend brand and direct response appeals.

More purely direct response vehicles include digital tools like pay-per-click advertising, retargeting and social platforms. Direct response advertising allows you to calculate a very specific ROI and optimize the effectiveness of your advertising over time. With digital efforts like pay-per-click, you can A/B test ads against each other to see which creative performs best and optimize to the better performing content.

No matter how much you spend for advertising, you can make it work harder by setting your budget parameters as you begin the next fiscal year. Media agency professionals like the experts at RCG can leverage your annual budget to negotiate better rates, value-adds and other performance-boosting perks. Always be sure to let your agency partner know about any current contract commitments, so they can create an accurate month by month plan for the whole year. And, if your needs change, the plan can change. Most media can be shifted or canceled with just a little notice, so you can always enjoy the benefits of annual planning without the worry of being “locked in.”

Media Buying and Your Target Audience

It is important to determine who your target audience is before allocating your media budget. Your target audience can be defined by both their demographics and their behaviors. It’s important to understand as much as you can about the consumers who are most likely to buy your product or service or prefer you over the competition.

One way to get this information is to run an analysis of your customer list and look for the ways in which your customers “look” and behave alike. A simple analysis of this information may cost just a few hundred dollars and provide great information to help you invest your media budget. Ongoing database analysis and deeper segmentation of your audience can be done, too. But keep in mind, the costs can add up quickly. It’s important to realize that data analysis can hit a point of diminishing returns where the insights you gain can cost more than their value in generating leads.

Demographics are the most widely-used targeting method. Most media platforms allow experts to measure their audiences by factors like gender, age, income and other general categories. When defining the audience you want to target, it pays to be as specific as possible. Ask yourself:

  • Who is the decision maker, a male or female?
  • In what age range do they typically fall?
  • Is there an income level or home value that typically garners the best leads or generates the best profit?
  • What is the ideal home age, market value, and the length of time the homeowner has lived at the residence?

Using those demographic insights can help you invest your ad dollars in media and content that primarily reaches consumers who fall into your most profitable categories.
Today, especially in digital media, demographics have been joined by the ability to target by behaviors and interests. Depending on your budget and your product or service, this can be a powerful tool. For example, a fence company might target dog lovers or a sprinkler company might target those who have gardening as a hobby.

Today, advertisers are even employing artificial intelligence coupled with programmatic ad buying to deliver content to consumers as their online behavior falls into certain patterns. This hyper-targeting can be expensive but can deliver significant benefits when broader, less costly options have been exhausted.

Like any business investment, the key is to put your budget into those channels that deliver the very best ROI until you hit a level of diminishing returns, then shift the next dollars to the next best channel and so on. No matter what your budget, the media experts at RCG can help you determine the best media mix and targeting criteria for your situation and business goals.

Media Buying and Geography

Another important factor to consider when selecting advertising mediums is geography. The goal is to reach the largest percentage of your target audience with the least amount of waste. Keep in mind the territory that your company services when planning (zip code, county, DMA, State or region). Geography will also determine what media options are available within your budget goals.

Some digital platforms can offer micro-targeting down to neighborhood or even block level. Imagine a roofer being able to target digital ads just to a neighborhood that experienced a hail storm, or a restoration company being able to serve ads to a street that had flooding. This kind of hyper-targeting typically shouldn’t replace a broader strategy but can be an effective supplement when budget is available.

Media Buying and Seasonality

Many home service companies have a “peak season” when their products and services are top of mind for homeowners.

Effective media strategy can help your company make the most of this natural cycle. RCG typically recommends beginning advertising prior to the peak season in order to build and maintain brand recognition. Once peak season hits, advertising spend can be increased or decreased depending on lead volume and workload/backlog.

Media Buying and Making Smart Choices

There are many variables to consider when selecting the right media. A first step in helping you to decide how to deploy your advertising budget is do an analysis of where your competitors are advertising. Once you have a good understanding on where your competitors are, you can make informed decisions on your own strategy. Will you choose to go head-to-head in the same medium or choose other options to reach the audience? Both could be valid strategies. Also, you will want to gather information about the market, research industry trends, and get a better understanding of where your target audience spends their time.

One note of caution: Be careful not to make the common mistake of spreading your budget too thin. As we mentioned above, typically the best strategy is to realize the full potential of each medium before adding others. Many novice marketers will chase the “shiny objects” of multiple platforms, without investing enough in any one to create a productive presence for its audience.

Typically, the two mediums that give advertisers the “biggest bang for the buck” and instant credibility are television and radio. Both can reach large audiences at a low cost per thousand.

Television provides the most reach of all advertising. Despite the growth of digital, and even in today’s fragmented media world, viewership studies show that television is still where the largest audiences can be found.

And this brings up an important consideration. When buying television, it is important to focus on the total audience a program reaches, not the number of spots you buy. For example, a media buy of 100 spots might sound great but, if each spot is only seen by a dozen people, you’d be better off having just ten spots in programming seen by thousands.

A strategy used by media salespeople is often to offer a large number of spots for one low price on the one or two channels that they represent. Unfortunately, in these “package deals” many of the spots will typically run at times and in programming that doesn’t deliver much audience.

Taking a “program specific” approach to placing your ads allows you to target AND to understand how large an audience you’re actually reaching. Media experts typically subscribe to ratings services to evaluate the value of buys with up-to-date audience sizes for all programming.

The two most common ratings services are Nielsen and ComScore. When comparing television ratings and the effectiveness of media buys, it’s important to compare apples to apples (Nielsen to Nielsen and ComScore to ComScore) as both services utilize different averaging and projection methodologies that impact their final audience measurements.

Regardless of how you measure your audience, for lead generation, it’s important to reach homeowners when they are most attentive. To accomplish this, the media experts at RCG will often invest ad dollars in programming that viewers tend to watch live, like local news. Viewers have a high level of trust in local television news, so this strategy has the added benefit of aligning your business with respected programming.

Keep in mind, however, that broadcast television stations reach a large geography. If your trade area is a small, broadcast TV may not always be a good fit for your business.

Local radio is also a great way to reach a mass audience. Radio stations target specific demographics through their format (rock, country, contemporary hit radio, etc.) Since most people are loyal to a radio station or two, it is also a great way to make sure your target audience hears your message multiple times.

And, unlike television, radio production can be relatively simple, so changing messaging isn’t difficult and you can react quickly to changing market conditions.

Finally, the one investment that should be considered mandatory in today’s advertising arena is pay-per-click (PPC) search engine marketing (SEM). Google Ads is the leading platform and others can be added if your budget allows.

The reason to prioritize SEM is simple, if a potential customer is actively searching for your product or service, PPC ads can get you near the top of the list of results. And, once a homeowner clicks on your PPC ad, you can employ a retargeting campaign to continue to “follow” the customer across the web with banner advertising. This constant reinforcement helps keep you top-of-mind as they consider their options.

Media Buying and Choosing an Agency Partner

Like many aspects of business, there is a wide difference between buying media and buying media well. It takes time and resources to make sure you get real value for your investment, that your ads are being delivered as they’re supposed to and that you’re not paying too much for them. At a certain point, partnering with an agency that has access to ratings info, market pricing data, analysis software and auditing tools more than pays for itself.

As mentioned above, media can often be the largest part of your marketing investment, so doing it well can have tremendous impact. Of course, that means that beyond simply finding a partner who understands media, it’s also important to find one who invests your money with the same care they would take with their own.

Ideally, your media partner should:

  • Be vigilant: A media buy shouldn’t be “set it and forget it.” Your partner should monitor your buy and hold media outlets accountable to deliver what was promised or make it right.
  • Be impartial: Find the target audience no matter how they access their content (TV, radio, streaming, etc.) without any bias to one particular medium or vendor partner.
  • Place strategically: Continuously balance reach and frequency through the right media allocation for your message and business goals.
  • Provide transparency: If your partner is doing things right, there’s no reason they shouldn’t provide detailed reporting. Your media partner should give you as much information as you want and help you use it to make more informed decisions.
    Add value: Stretch your investment by negotiating value add opportunities from media outlets like TV and radio stations.

RCG Contractor Marketing is a company dedicated to partnering with home service professionals to grow their businesses through cost-effective advertising. See our related articles for more in-depth information on the topics covered in “The Ultimate Guide to Media Buying for Home Repair Pros.” Or, contact us for information on how we can create custom solutions to help you build your sales and your business.

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