The Beginner’s Guide to Media Planning

The metrics that digital marketers have to deal with are bad.

There, we said it.

Open rates. CTR. Impressions. While offering bits and pieces of the story, none of these metrics actually tell you if a real person saw your message, engaged with it, and bought your product. Sure, old-school metrics serve a purpose — it’s nice to know when one email outperforms another, so you can take note of its subject line, for instance — but in the grand scheme of things, these metrics are less important than the KPIs that matter (like sales, for instance).

In general, marketers don’t always feel well-informed about their campaigns. According to Digiday, a “sizable” 38% of marketers don’t feel aligned with their brands and agency partners when it comes to getting consistent and accurate metrics.

You might feel this frustration yourself. Perhaps you feel like these metrics are smoke screens, that they’re given artificial import, that they obfuscate the big picture.

Further muddying things is the fact that your ads might not be hitting real people at all (hello, bots).

Marketers need to know they’re hitting REAL people with their messages.

And they need straightforward reporting that tells them if these living, breathing humans are engaging with their message and buying their product.

Let’s break this down.

There are 250 million adults in the United States. A people-based marketing platform knows information about these people individually and deterministically. They know everything from their mobile IDs to their demographics to what apps they have on their phones. They can target individual people. They can deliver media to those people, and, along with it, straightforward metrics that tell the whole story.

A very important note: “people-based marketing” is a term that gets thrown around too much in this industry. If your potential marketing partner says they’re people-based, press them for specifics. They need to be able to connect a person’s digital self (mobile IDs, desktop cookies, Connected TV info, etc.) with their real self (ethically-sourced PII data). If they sound fuzzy on these specifics, it’s time to be skeptical.

The right partner knows that Rick is a person you want to talk to. Not Rick’s spouse, not his brother, not his friends. They don’t target on an IP level in his house, because they don’t want to deliver ads to the people he lives with. When he’s working on his laptop at Starbucks, they don’t want to target everyone else in that Starbucks. They want Rick.

Because they know he’s a 20-something with these characteristics, they traffic things like visits and locations until they’re sure he’s the exact person they want to target (i.e., that he’s actually Rick).

When you’re dealing with REAL people, with diverse interests and personalities and devices, they need to be treated as such.

Rick needs media delivered to him across the different devices he uses, and needs to be marketed to the right way if he’s interested in your message and likely to engage. You can’t find out who Rick is by only looking at desktop cookies, and you can’t find out if he’s interested in your product by only looking at CTRs and open rates.

Traditional metrics serve a purpose. But in the end, it only matters that Rick gets the message you want to deliver, that he engages with it, and acts on it. It doesn’t matter how. On email? Great. Facebook? Great. Connected TV? Amazing. If Rick, the REAL person you wanted to target, gets the message, engages with it, and acts on it, that’s the only KPI that matters.

Media Planning 101

Media planning is the process of strategizing and purchasing ad placements by determining the best combination of media to achieve marketing campaign goals.

Media planners are not only responsible for the initial media purchase, but also for the continued optimization of performance throughout the entire campaign lifecycle. They must consider the service and/or product being advertised, the ideal target audience, and the marketing campaign goals.

Many times media planning will be outsourced to a media agency that is experienced in delivering ads across the best media platforms to the right people.

Although the details vary by campaign, we’ve provided the general step by step process of media planning:

First Things First: What Are Your Goals?

The major driving force of a multi-channel campaign is your marketing goals and objectives.

Do you want to increase overall brand awareness? Do you want to drive conversion rates for form sign-ups on your website? Whatever your goal may be, make sure you are clear about how you will go about achieving it.

Your goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. For example, your campaign objective can be to increase credit card sign-ups at your local bank location by 30% within one month.

Setting clear goals helps the development of your media strategy in terms of drawing in new prospects, acquiring more customers, or retargeting leads that slipped away the first time.

Who’s Your Best Audience?

There are endless reachable users available, but the key is knowing which ones are the best for your specific campaign. Understanding who to reach with your media plan starts with defining your target audience.

Before you can decide on the details of your media strategy, you must understand who your ideal consumers are and how you can best reach them.

Here are some things to consider when building the target audience for your campaign:

  • Type of campaign – Business to Business (B2B) or Business to Consumer (B2C)
  • Demographics – age, gender, income, occupation, etc.
  • Interests – intent to purchase, in-market
  • Media Habits – preferred media platforms to engage (desktop, mobile, native, etc.)

Once you have determined your ideal consumer, then you can build an accurate audience with the people who are in-market for the product or service you sell and are most likely to respond to your ads.

Typically, the Counts team will pull an audience segment based on consumers with the aligned intent to purchase, demographic, interests, etc. Certain criteria can be set across media channels to either open the campaign for a broad reach or narrow the selection more specifically to fit campaign requirements – such as residence within a radius from a retail location, age group or annual income.

A select number of people who fit the criteria are compiled to serve as an ideal target audience for your media campaign.

Campaign Details

Other campaign details that must be considered are:

  • The flight (or timeline) of the campaign
  • Budget allotted to the campaign, and
  • Media channels by which you will reach your target audience.

Based on your campaign goals (i.e. brand awareness or conversions) and your budget, a media planner will help coordinate the flight and channels of the campaign accordingly.

Whether it is through desktop, mobile, tablets, social media, etc., meet your target audience where they are engaging most by analyzing their media preferences.

Build Your Media Plan

Once all of the necessary target audience is created and counts are compiled, it’s time to build your media plan.

A media plan will include details such as specific media channels best for message delivery, the number of impressions, the cost per million clicks and creative development specifications.

Creative development specifications entail the actual images and message of the banner ads that will be delivered across different platforms and ensuring that they are engaging – to boost clicks and responses.

Media planning compiles all of the marketers’ desired goals, data compiled from targeting technologies, creative development specifications for the actual ads and accessibility to certain ad exchanges to determine the best way to deliver the message to target audiences.

Your campaign will span through a specific amount of time and can be delivered across desktop, native, mobile and email.

Measure Your Success

Once the campaign is deployed, the most important part of media planning actually begins.

Your media planner will analyze and achieve measurable goals by tracking engagement, such as click-through rates in delivered emails and form sign-ups on the website. This way, marketers can understand what works best and what drove the most engagement and revenue to optimize the existing campaign and maximize the success of future campaigns.

Valuable media delivery and the analysis of real-time engagement data ensures that your marketing dollars are being invested into real results, as opposed to wasted impressions sent to ad bots and unengaged strangers.

Media planning is essential to the success of your campaign, delivering the most relevant ads to the right people on their favorite devices.

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