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There are, in fact, two clear and proven ways to waste money on business-to-business banner campaigns. And they are:

*Create banners that don’t even spell out the category of product you’re pushing.

*Place banners only on high-traffic, expensive A-list sites rather than B-list or even C-list sites.

First, let’s just skip merrily past the current cant that “banner advertising is dead” and “rich media is the ONLY way to go.” Although, I must disagree on both counts. (Personally, I think that rich media is extra special and all. But it is best seen as the latest full employment act for web designers.)

So now that you just know I’m dead wrong, humor me. Pretend that you might consider doing a business-to-business banner campaign as at least part of an overall effort that would include e-zine sponsorships, an opt-in e-mail campaign, and even a web event or two.

Okay, now, don’t let your own or others’ creative yearnings to be free block the power of the obvious. So, for example, if you’re selling high-ticket enterprise software or low-ticket hubs and routers, do yourself and the world a favor, let the business buyer know. Remember, whether it’s rich or poor media, online or offline, most folks are furiously fleeing your message.

Now, for those business buyers who aren’t fleeing your message — those who are experiencing pains that your products can solve or are in the process of comparing products in your category — a reasonably straightforward message may bring them to your virtual door.

Business buyers don’t have time to go through some web designer’s idea of what’s meta-cool this month. Am I saying don’t be clever or don’t try for some emotive or humorous hook? No. I’m just saying cover the basics first, then leaven them with whatever word-smithing or design gifts are at your disposal.

Another Killer On The Loose

Onto the second campaign killer: Buying only A-list sites over B-list and C-list sites. Don’t ignore the lesser-known sites.

Depending on what you’re selling, there are probably lesser-known business news, executive-focused, and “vertical” sites that could be ideal venues for your message.

Some of these sites aren’t particularly pretty. None of these sites are incorporated in online media planning software packages. In other words, somebody’s going to have to do several hours — if not days — of human filtering, using industry keywords and rooting around in the fifteenth page of search results. But, believe me, it’s worth the work. Actually, it’s kind of fun.

A final note: Should you happen to be associated with a beleaguered business-to-business online campaign that violated one or both of these rules and cost your company (or client) hundreds of thousands of dollars, remember to repeat these words in every meeting with higher-ups: “Well, the whole purpose was branding.”

These words are particularly handy because, just like a balk in baseball, nobody really knows what branding is.

This Web Marketing article was written by Chris Maher on 3/18/2005