OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

This series takes concepts learned in an MBA program and adapts them for easy comprehension by scientists without a management background. This is currently the 11th part of the series and the fourth in an introduction to marketing.

In our introduction to marketing several weeks ago, we discussed "Promotion Strategy" as one of the four major facets of marketing. We defined promotion strategy as figuring out how you were going to advertise and sell your product. In our last installment, we examined the concept of mass-market promotion and when it is appropriate to use it. This week, we will be discussing the different mass-marketing channels and making the most of your mass-marketing buck.

Finding the Appropriate Mass-Market Channel

Once you've decided to use a mass-market approach to reaching your consumer, and you've figured out what message you want to send to that consumer (two issues we discussed in our last installment), the next big decision involves finding the appropriate mass-market channel to use. A mass-market channel can be any method you use to get the message to your consumer, but some of the more common ones include television, magazines, trade journals, billboards, and direct mail campaigns. As you might expect, each of these channels involve different costs, have different levels of effectiveness, and cater to a different population of consumer. Choosing the appropriate channel can be quite confusing to a person doing it for the first time, but the channel (or combination of channels) you choose should depend on the size of your market and who your customer is.

For example, if you're a small medical products company that has designed a brand-new knee brace, your target population might include every athlete in the country. Based on the size of your market, and the universality of the target population, you might want to advertise on television or in high-circulation magazines specific to athletes. If, on the other hand, your medical products company has designed a brand-new artificial knee, your customer is really only the doctor who installs that knee: The mass-market channel you'd use would be more in keeping with that and would probably include advertisements in specialized medical trade journals.

Thus, the key to finding the appropriate mass-market channel is to know your customer. The more you understand your customer, the better you can target the market channel you use. The better targeted your market channel is, the cheaper and more effective it is as a marketing technique. The reason for this is that, generally, advertisements are paid for by the size of the audience they reach. If you're paying to advertise to every reader (or watcher), the higher the proportion of readers who are interested in your specific product, the more effective the advertising. For example, if you were to advertise your artificial knee on the Jerry Springer show, it would cost you a lot (because thousands of people watch the show), but it wouldn't be effective bang for your marketing buck, as only a small percentage of those viewers would be interested in your product.

Eyeballs: The Ultimate Mass-Media Assessor

One of the most commonly used assessors of a mass-media channel's worth is its "eyeball count." That is, how many eyeballs will see your advertisement if you use that channel? Eyeball count is used to assess the value of a commercial or ad to the company doing the advertising and thereby determine how much that ad will cost.

Although eyeball count is a good first measure, it is often overused and has led to exorbitant prices on ads for heavily watched events such as the Superbowl. An entrepreneur who is advertising for the first time should take a close look at some of the other assessors of the effectiveness of an ad--by doing this, they may be able to get a more effective mass-marketing campaign going much more cheaply.

There are three assessors, other than eyeball count, that should be looked at: the effectiveness of the ad, the "stickiness" of the ad, and the specificity of the eyeball. All three of these assessors are most easily explained by using the Internet as an example of the channel an entrepreneur might choose for their advertising.

So let's say you've decided to spend money on an Internet ad campaign. You're going to have banner ads, interactive ads, and you're going to sponsor a few Web pages. Well, the first thing you'll likely be surprised about is the cost of the ads. When you look at the eyeball counts the ads get, you'll be astonished by how cheap they are, especially if you compare them to more traditional ads, say in magazines or on television. The main reason for this is that Internet ads are, to a large degree, significantly less effective than TV ads. When was the last time you reminisced about a memorable banner ad with a friend? Even if the same number of eyeballs see the banner ad, it is still less effective.

The stickiness of the eyeball refers to how many different people see your ad. So if it's the same three people who are downloading the Web page hundreds of times a day to get sports scores, the ad would be considered sticky, and the total eyeball count would be less significant.

The specificity of the eyeball will depend on the type of Web page you're advertising on. If you're advertising a new, easier-to-use protein sequencer, the eyeballs that see your ad will be more specific on the European Molecular Biology Laboratory protein database site than they would be if you were advertising on Yahoo.

Summary

Choosing the right mass-market channel depends on many things. But when it comes right down to it, it's all common sense and knowing your audience. If you can figure out who your audience is, and where they are likely to see an ad, that's the channel you should use. It's as simple as that.