Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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It's not easy being a visionary. In fact, a lot of people find visionaries downright annoying. I think the reason they find them so annoying isn't so much that good visionaries are right, but that bad visionaries can be right, too, and let you know it with an "I told you so" attitude. I bring this up because I had a real Visionary Moment this week. I was tapping out a response to someone about low traffic sites, and the best chances at making money with them. Of course, the list discussion snowballed into an off-line free-for-all, the upshot of which was my promise to devote this week's column to several myths regarding advertising and low traffic sites.

First off, if you know me at all, you know I don't subscribe to a lot of the fashionable myths about high-traffic web sites. If you missed my first rant on the myth of high-volume sites (Web Traffic and Genital Size), might I suggest you dig through the Archives here at Clickz or at our site to bring you up to speed. Trust me, it's title is as revealing as the subject matter.

Now, let's get to the visionary stuff.

The way I see it, banners are dead and sponsorships are happening. I know, it doesn't sound as poetic as most visionaries would have it, but there you go. I'm going to spend the rest of this column trying to convince you why 99% of you should dump banner advertising in favor of sponsorship, especially if you're planning to crank bucks from your website through advertising.

I've been in the advertising business longer than Chelsea Clinton's had braces and if there's one thing I know, it's that all advertisers buy their advertising one of two ways:

1. Volume (high traffic)

2. Quality (targeted people who are ready to buy)

In the internet business, Volume with a capital V is hundreds of thousands of page requests per day. Say it with me, slowly: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PAGE REQUESTS PER DAY. Notice I said "page requests". Not hits. Not accesses. Page requests. Which means loading GIF's and JPG's doesn't count. Only people looking at pages count. And you need hundreds of thousands of those every single day.

Show of hands, please: how many out there are generating those kinds of numbers? Uh-huh. Well, if you're doing less than that, I can pretty much assure you that you won't have a real great shot at selling Option #1 to a prospective advertiser. Not enough eyeballs. So I recommend Option #2: selling prospective advertisers on a site that has fewer visitors, but whose visitors are targeted and ready to buy. In short, selling sponsorships.

The closer you look at it, the more sense sponsorships make for about 99% of the websites that are out there, for a number of really good reasons:

1. SPONSORSHIPS GIVE YOUR ADVERTISERS GREATER PRESENCE. Integrating the entire page around one sponsor instead of (or in addition to) whatever banners you place makes you look good, because it makes you advertiser look big. After all, which impresses you more on TV, a thirty second spot for some motor oil, or sitting through an hour of TEXACO'S STAR THEATER. It works the same way in a website.

2. SPONSORSHIPS GIVE YOUR ADVERTISERS MORE CREDIBILITY. A savvy marketer knows that the web consumer is a different breed of cat. A savvy advertiser will play to that by positioning himself as someone "committed to the web". Sponsorship goes a LONG way in communicating that to consumers, which in turn, cultivates loyalty.

3. SPONSORSHIPS ARE LONG TERM REVENUE FOR YOU. For sponsorships to work, you have to abandon the old how-many-clicks-did-we-get-this-hour mentality for a more reasonable, long-term market-development strategy. This means the sponsor has to commit to a longer term plan, which means you're generating revenue on a more stable basis. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.

4. SPONSORSHIPS ARE A CLASS LOOK. Positioning-wise, you can't beat sponsorships for class. Giving a whole, nicely-designed page over to a sponsor blesses him with the grace that a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am blinking banner just can't pull off. When a sponsor takes over a whole page, his message is less rushed. When his message is less rushed, it's often better read, which means people give it more time and attention.

5. TARGETED SPONSORSHIPS PRODUCE BETTER LEADS FOR LESS MONEY. If you can build the content to attract the kind of people your sponsor needs, you'll be able to show cost per lead to be lower and quality per lead to be higher. Advertisers will have no trouble paying for that.

6. SPONSORS WILL ACTUALLY HELP YOU DO THE WORK. As opposed to random hit sites, a sponsor who knows you're targeting just for him will actually help you with content development. You can get articles, data, graphics -- you name it, they'll supply you with it because it's completely in their interest to do so. I mean, why wouldn't they? Sheesh -- how much easier does it get?

7. THE SALE GOES ON LONG AFTER THE BANNER HAS GONE. Sponsorships are multi-dimensional deals. Because you're devoting more time and space, you can get involved in more programs -- and a deeper relationship -- with your advertisers. You can create added value programs for your sponsors, too. Stuff that involves mentions of your site for an extra value, which proves the effectiveness of your site.

8. ELIMINATION OF BANNER BOUNCE: The one thing that really puts off advertisers is not knowing where their ads are running at any given moment. And "rotating banners", which internet folks just love to tout, run totally counter to this notion. For just this reason, whenever we schedule a client to run outdoor boards, we always make it a point to post one billboard right outside the client's office, just so he can see it out his window. Advertisers like to know they can click on a site and see their stuff. It makes them feel warm, and in a sense, they're right. Because if they feel warm about knowing where to go to see their stuff, it makes it easier for them to believe their prospects will, too.

9. YOU CAN'T GENERATE THE NUMBERS ANYWAY. So what choices are you really left with?

The fact is that advertisers are out there. And they are looking for opportunities. But banners ain't gonna do it for you. The Amazing Frankelini predicts the next few years will see an increase in the number of sponsored sites. You mark my words.

Gee. I wonder how I'd look in a turban?

Rob Frankel

 
 
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