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Media Planning 101: From Strategic Goals And Budgets To Ad Content And Placement


Gone are the days when you could take a splatter-gun approach to advertising by running a bunch of cheap ads and hoping they hit your targets. Online ads that once cost pennies per click now cost dollars, so it’s vital that you compare their performance to other channels, like broadcast commercials, print ads and native content on your website.  

Marketers today need to focus on the right audience, reaching them at the optimal times with the right message in order to leverage every advertising dollar. 

This is why understanding the media planning process and best practices has never been more crucial. Media planning is a process organizations use to determine where and when ads will be placed, and how long they will run, to get maximum results. Those results, of course, are measured by the number of engagements the ads receive and their ROI. 

1. Establish Your Strategic Goals

The first step in developing a media plan is to review your company’s strategic goals. This will dictate what your messaging strategies will be and what goals you will set for each marketing campaign. If you’re still preparing your first product launch, for example, or if you plan to introduce new services to the market, then a portion of your budget is likely going to be directed to developing brand recognition. 

In most cases, your primary goal is likely going to be to increase sales. For an e-commerce business, this means increasing traffic to your website, increasing conversions, turning prospects into buying customers and increasing the number or purchases from each customer. 

2. Establish Messaging Strategies

With your strategic goals in place, you can now determine what your overall campaign or primary messaging strategies will be. These aren’t specific messages, but the general directions your advertising messages will use to hit their targets. Examples of messaging strategies could be:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Promoting a specific product
  • Increasing newsletter subscriptions
  • Increasing website traffic 
  • Increasing conversion rates
  • Increasing repeat customers

In most cases, your messaging strategies can work together to help you meet your overall strategic goals. Anyone who goes to your product page or signs up for your newsletter, for example, increases your website traffic and works toward higher brand awareness. Similarly, targeting newsletter subscribers with product offerings can increase conversion rates and your percentage of repeat customers.

3. Establish a Spend Plan 

Once you understand your campaign goals and messaging strategy, it is time to outline a spend plan. A Spend Plan is a subset of your annual marketing budget, and represents the amount of money you spend on all of your marketing activities. It includes:

  • Paid advertising
  • Content marketing
  • SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Email marketing 
  • Trade shows
  • Sponsorships

How much you allocate to each of these channels is your marketing spend plan. In most cases, paid advertising is further divided into different platforms, such as radio or TV ads, as well as each of the online platforms you use, like Google Ads, Facebook, and so on. Optimizing where you allocate your budget will ensure that you get the highest returns for the lowest cost.

Spend Planning Best Practices

The number of messaging strategies you decide on depends just as much on your budget as on your strategic goals, simply because a company with a $1,000/week budget has more options open than a company with a $100/week budget. 

Regardless of what your budget is, you should keep ROI in mind when determining allocation. Suppose, for example, that you have three primary messaging strategies. A typical allocation might look like this:

Brand awareness may be important, but it’s not going to give you the same short-term ROI that product sales will. So to ensure that you have a healthy marketing budget to work with next month, a higher proportion of the budget should be directed to product ads. Retargeting ads may give you the best conversion rates, but their ROI will be lower, because you’re doubling the number of ads needed to reach those customers (the initial product ad followed by the retargeting ad). And if you’re offering a 20 percent discount to go back to an abandoned shopping cart, that’s a substantial profit cut for your company. 

4. Select Channels and Timelines

With your budget set, you can now start determining where your money will be spent and when you should be placing your ads. Specific platforms for your ads will depend on who your target market is and how they have performed for you in the past. If you’ve never advertised online before, you will need to research which platforms (Facebook, Google, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc.) are most likely to get the most traction with your target market. 

In most cases you will need to establish minimum budgets for each of your channels. Even though Google Ads, for example, are inexpensive on a per-click basis, you will need to establish a minimum budget to get the most value for your advertising dollars. 

5. Design and Plan Ad Placements

Ad design is the last part of the media planning process. It’s where the strategies come down to specific words, images and videos to get your message to your audience. The layout of your ads and the types of content you run will depend on all of your previous decisions, including your choice of platforms. 

At this point, you also need to determine which types of ads work best with your target market on the channels you’ve chosen. This is based on one of two factors: your past experience or a lot of research. For example, if you decide Facebook video ads are the best choice, you should also know how long a video should be for optimal performance.  

It’s at this point that you should also plan what types of ad testing you will do, how much money and time you can allocate to testing and when you should be prepared to launch your main ad campaigns.

Media Planning in Action

To paraphrase a famous military concept: no media plan survives contact with the prospect. 

Media planning should be an active process, adapting as needed to changing trends with your prospects. For example, you may have allocated a large proportion of your budget to Google Ads, only to find a few weeks later that the cost per click has escalated, in which case you may need to look at other platforms, a change to your ads or a change in the budget. 

As another example, you may find that your new product launch isn’t giving you the results you expected, with an increase in abandoned shopping carts. In this case, you may have to reallocate some of your budget to retargeting ads to get those shoppers to return. Alternatively, your product ad might skyrocket in popularity, and you may need to quickly increase spending to capitalize on the trend. 

Learn more about the role testing plays in media planning here. 

Media Consultants: The Advantage of Experience

The more experience you have in advertising, the easier it becomes to determine where the best opportunities are, which channels have the best ROI for different markets and which ad formats work best on different platforms. 

Hiring an experienced marketing consultancy firm like Hawke Media is likely to increase conversions and ROI, allowing you to spend your budget where it will get the best results. Finding out how this could benefit your company in your specific market is free if you just ask for a free consultation

David Weedmark is a published author and e-commerce consultant. He is an experienced JavaScript developer and a former network security consultant.


Marketing Evolution: https://www.marketingevolution.com/marketing-essentials/media-planning

Hubspot: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/media-planning

Skyword: https://www.skyword.com/marketing-dictionary/marketing-spend/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/business/ads/video-ad-format

Google: https://ads.google.com/intl/en_us/getstarted/pricing/

Hawke Media: https://hawkemedia.com/free-consultation/

Special thanks to our friends at HawkeMedia for their insights on this topic.
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