When you’re a nonprofit organization or a locally owned business, you have limited advertising budget. Any dollar you spend needs to be impactful and directly help your bottom line — whether it’s donations, event attendees, inquiries, calls, or sales.
This is why I caution you to think very carefully before investing in pricey ads that have a shiny promise of thousands and thousands of “impressions”. Our first instinct is to think “Wow, I could get thousands of people to my stuff!” But that is not necessarily the case.
First, what exactly is an “Impression”? Ad Impressions are measured by the number of times your ad appears on a site or page that was visited. For example, an online magazine can share stats like the number of subscribers, and how many times an ad was shown, but they can’t say how many people saw the ad. We’re all shown thousands of ads that we never look at on Google, social media, and various websites and blogs.
Note that there is another metric called “Viewed Impressions” which is slightly more informative. It means that your ad was shown on a part of the page that a visitor could view, as apposed to being shown in the footer even when the user never scrolled down.
Impressions don’t do you any good unless people actually get to the part of the page where the ad was displayed, notice your ad, click through to your website, and take action once they get there.
Here are a couple of examples of when even the most impressive number of Impressions are not helping you:
Example 1: You’re selling dog toys at your local store, and paying for advertising on an international cat lover website. It doesn’t matter if you get a million Impressions if it’s the wrong audience and the wrong location. They are unlikely to ever click your ad, buy your stuff, or visit your store no matter how great your sale is.
Example 2: You are organizing your annual fundraiser event featuring local musicians. You sold out your event last year, and 90% of your audience lived within 10 miles of the venue. Investing thousands of dollars to advertise to the entire tri-state area is probably a huge waste. You’ll be more successful investing in a well thought out ad campaign using channels where your local community hangs out than dumping your entire budget in one expensive ad that reaches a bunch of other zip codes.
What should you focus on instead?
To have a successful digital ad campaign, you need the the following pieces in place:
- A budget – What is your budget for this ad? How will you see a return on that investment? If you have 100 tickets to sell and they are $10 each, you have a potential to make $1,000. It goes without saying that you should not buy a $5,000 ad.
- Define your audience – Who is your ideal audience? What demographic is most likely to want to engage with your ad? If you want 20-somethings to buy your product, your printed newspaper ads are a waste of money.
- A measurable goal – How will you know if the marketing dollars you spent were worth it? What are you trying to achieve? More ticket sales? More submissions to your request information form?
- A clear path to action – The media outlet will display your ad, yes. But then what? How is your ad artwork catching people’s eye? Is it clear what you want them to do when they see your ad? I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a professional designer create your ad when you’re investing a large amount of money on an ad campaign.
- A great landing page – If you have a compelling ad design, and a clear call to action, and someone actually clicks on it (hooray!), you will then have another measurement — click through. Your media outlet may report that number for you, but it’s more important that you have your own way to measure. Typically Google Analytics is used for this. So when a potential client clicks on your ad, where are you sending them? Does your really cool compelling ad just land on your home page? Will the person who has never been to your website know what to do next? If your ad piqued their interest in your event, make sure they can buy tickets on your website within a click or two at most.
- Bonus points: make it shareable – If they have clicked your ad, and given you money, wouldn’t it be cool if they can then share that with their friends?
Don’t get fooled into spending more money than you have
Big media outlets like to wave shiny grants and funding matches in front of you to sell their ads and make it seem like a good investment. That’s exactly the same as doubling the price of a pair of shoes so the store can tell you they are half-off.
If this is the right media outlet for your goals and your budget, then go for it.
There are other reasons to advertise, but you still need a goal
Advertising isn’t always about making a direct sale. Often it is about branding and visibility, and getting your name out there. However, you still need goals, and I would argue that even if you aren’t asking people to get out their wallets, it’s beneficial to have them do something that you can measure — subscribe, share, sign up, download, vote, etc.
You may also be advertising in order to support an organization. For example, your local news source (shout out to ChelseaUpdate.com!) or an organization where you’re a member. If it is a digital ad, you still want a professional ad, and a clear call to action. If you do want to see how effective it is, you can set up a landing page that is used specifically for that purpose and use Google Analytics to track it. You may not care if you get 0 clicks or not, but if you get 1000, that is great information to have so you can further optimize the process.
The bottom line
Focus on YOUR goals and YOUR audience, and what you want to get out of your ads before you get too excited about how many times the ad is displayed to people who may or may not care.
Make sure that your own website and social media channels are set up correctly before you invest any money in advertising. Sending people to a dead end is never a good strategy.
Need help? Get in touch.