Today’s marine advertiser is like a kid in a candy shop with only a dollar to spend. Faced with deciding which choice delivers the best bang for the buck — the old reliable or something new and untried — it’s easy to tread water. But doing what you’ve been doing because it’s safe is no recipe for building markets or generating sales growth.
Having so many choices is a relatively new phenomenon for marine marketers seeking to reach a national audience. Once upon a time, marketers were pretty much limited to issuing a press release, advertising in a boating publication, sending out thousands of direct-mail pieces or exhibiting at a large boat show.
Although the dawning of this century added online media to the mix of options, today’s advertiser must now consider all types of social media, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as social commerce sites such as Groupon and Living Social. We’ll deal with the audio-visual alternatives, radio, television and YouTube in a future column.
Choosing where to put your marketing dollars has become even more of a challenge during the Great Recession, as most marketing budgets have been pared to the bone.
So how do you choose among those competing for your advertising dollar, particularly when each alternative claims to be the next best thing, you don’t have a big marketing budget or staff and no one on your team has an active Facebook account or is a tech-savvy 25-year-old?
One very basic way of comparing the efficiency of traditional media is to determine the initial out-of-pocket cost per thousand (CPM) of each alternative.
Consider the press release, the relatively inexpensive old standby. Thanks to e-mail, this alternative is considerably less expensive than it was when you had to print the release on paper and affix a stamp. What used to cost about $500 per thousand is now nearly free after amortizing the cost of building and maintaining a database list. If you don’t have the manpower to do it, the Marine Newswire will distribute your release to its list of 551 marine contacts for about $200.
Want to advertise in a major ABC-audited boating magazine? Using published rates, a four-color, single-page ad run one time in Boating magazine, with a circulation of 162,442, will cost about $40,000, or $247 on a CPM basis. Brokerage and charter ads are much less expensive, costing $5,720 a page and coming in with a CPM of only $35. In comparison, an ad in Sail magazine, with a circulation of 102,706, will run you about $27,820, or $270 on a CPM basis. Again, brokerage ads are a relative bargain at a CPM of $54.
Uncomfortable using a mathematical formula to calculate CPM? A handy CPM calculator that’s simple to use can be found at http://www.srds.com/frontMatter/sup_serv/calculator/cpm/index.html
By comparison, a basic direct-mail marketing campaign to a targeted list of 50,000, including a cover letter, reply envelope and postage, might have a CPM of $300 to $350, according to Cara Cohan, vice president of strategic sales for Advantage Inc. of Anaheim, Calif. That said, a professional direct-mail campaign with all the bells and whistles can cost as much as $1,000 per thousand, says Jack Ellis, managing director of Info-Link. Direct mail’s advantage, Cohan says, is that it is much more targeted than an ad in a magazine, and its return on investment would be much higher.
Social media sites, on the other hand, are an entirely different kettle of fish. Unlike traditional media, where the cost of acquiring eyeballs is mostly upfront, social media costs are generally on a “pay-per-click” basis after the potential customer has seen what you have to offer.
Although there is an utterly bewildering array of ifs, ands and buts to consider when using social marketing tools, all of the experts I’ve talked to say you might be able to calculate a CPM, but only after the fact.
Michael Mothner, founder and CEO of Wpromote, a leading online marketing firm based in California, says that although Google is one of the more expensive social media options, at $1 to $3 per click, it’s also the most targeted. Facebook, he says, may be better at targeting demographics, but is harder to make work.
A recent analysis of 40 advertisers using Google’s AdWords ad network by Hochman Consultants reveals an average cost per click of $1.24, a cost per 1,000 impressions of $8.55 and a cost per conversion of $13.14. If you run an advertising campaign and are willing to pay $1.24 a click, reaching 50,000 potential customers could cost you $62,000.
A Twitter ad campaign might be equally expensive. According to Gaspare Marturano, author of the social media handbook, “Socialize With Me Or Someone Else Will,” hiring a professional to build and maintain a large following on Twitter would cost a minimum monthly budget of $5,000.
How much does a Facebook “fan” cost? According to the Wall Street Journal’s blog, Digits, a white paper by the social marketing and analytics firm Webtrends that studied 11,000 Facebook ad campaigns in the United States found that the cost of advertising on Facebook that encourages a user to “like” the brand’s Facebook page is $1.07, or $53,500 for an army of 50,000 fans.
At the other end of the spectrum, placing a product or service on Groupon or Living Social might appear to be a relative bargain. There are no up-front costs to using this approach to marketing. But net revenues are generally split 50/50 after the promotion has been completed. If you succeed in selling 5,000 $20 widgets, the net cost to you is $10 times 5,000, or $50,000.
For a useful list of the social media advertising alternatives, see http://raven tools.com/blog/ultimate-list-of-social-media-advertising-tools/
Most experts recommend integrating a number of these alternative approaches. If all of this sounds like rocket science, it is. You have a business to run and just so much time left in the day to do marketing — whether it’s using old or new media.
If that’s the case, perhaps the easiest thing to do is to outsource and put yourself in the hands of experts such as Wpromote, which has served 35,000 clients worldwide and claims to deliver 10 billion impressions a month. For $149 a month it has three turnkey services that will get your business on all of the major search engines and drive traffic to your website, manage and optimize a social media campaign or analyze your current search engine status and suggest areas for growth.
Whatever you do, it’s vitally important that you think about what you want your advertising campaign to achieve. Do you want to generate traffic or sales to your website, or do you just want to build a boatload of friends to influence? Once you have clearly defined your goals it becomes that much easier to decide where to put your dollars and measure your success.
Michael Sciulla is president of Credibility & Company Communications, as well as vice president of Marine Marketers of America and a member of the board of directors of both Boating Writers International and Marine Marketers of America. During a 28-year career at BoatUS, he built the association’s brand as membership grew from 30,000 to 650,000.
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue.