A good online ad placement form will help you compete against free sites

By Richard Clark

One standard that holds true for online ad placement systems is that the ads taken by the online system often average 20 percent to 30 percent larger than the ads placed by the live staffs. This seems to be true for all of the online systems that offer up-sells and pricing, rather than just a type-your-adhere-and-we'll-call-you form. There are several reasons for this phenomenon.

First, the advertisers don't feel pressured to buy, and so are more open to the up-sell. Second, the site always, always, always offers all of the up-sells to every customer and never starts helping the customer reduce the size of the ad to save money. It sticks with what it suggests. Third, the site is patient, never rushing the customer to make a decision. The online site will let the customer think and ponder and try the ad several ways with out rushing to get to the next advertiser that is on hold. Fourth, the website usually shows the advertiser a proof, and a picture is worth a thousand words. The advertiser can see for himself how much more eye catching his offer will be with up-sells.

Many publishers take these basic findings and decide that if the online robot consistently outsells the live staff and is much cheaper than live staff, why not push as much classified transient business as possible to an online ad robot.

This is fuzzy logic because it doesn't consider all of the facts. Higher abandonment rate: A lot of the ads that are started on the online form are never completed. This is unusual with live staff.

Part of the reason for this is that the online form has little ability to read the potential advertiser and compromise to save the sale. The ads that are completed online often have all of the assumptive or forced add-ons, but the newspaper gets nothing on the ads that are abandoned mid-placement.

Fortunately, a good many of these advertisers call and place ads with the live staff when the online form fails. Unfortunately, there are plenty of advertisers that simply move over to Craigslist, e-Bay or elsewhere while they are online.

Throwing away a top advantage: Many newspapers force certain kinds of ads to be placed via the online form

Free ads are the most common of these, but more and more papers are also offering better pricing if ads are placed online. This excludes many of the non-Internet-savvy readers from participating in these programs, depriving your classified readers from the deals they would have offered. The ability to call and talk to a live local person is one of the paper's classified department's strongest advantages over the many online competitors. This should be promoted, rather than eliminated.

Slow sites: Just because an online system can do something, doesn't mean you necessarily have to use that feature. For instance, some systems have the ability to display numerous proofs of the submitted ad with various combinations of up-sells. These sites usually work well with the newspaper's ultra high-speed lines, but take forever to display over the advertisers' considerably slower residential-grade hi-speed, or worse Wi-Fi or even dial-up connections.

Ideally, the site would not offer more than three versions for the advertiser to choose from. Also, if the site doesn't work well or display correctly because of something at the advertiser's end, the advertiser doesn't care whose fault it is. They just go elsewhere.

Accounting system versus sales system: Many newspaper classified sites require users to register and give a considerable amount of personal contact information before allowing the ad placement process to continue.

Some even require that a package be chosen before the ad text is entered.

Often these packages show no reason why one should be purchased over any other. If the potential advertiser is experienced and knows just what they want, great. Otherwise, they often abandon the process and go someplace else. A better way would be to get the advertiser started with the ad placement, then have them choose the pack age and price, and then have them give their contact and payment information.

Don't forget the KISS

The old "Keep It Simple Stupid" axiom is often forgotten with online ad placement forms. If the system isn't really easy for some one that has never placed an ad any where to use, they won't use it. They will simply go to a classified site that is easier to use, such as Craigslist. While on the subject, most advertisers don't want to spend half an hour with your site, examining all of their options, they just want to advertise their rental unit, vehicle, service, etc.

The same proven sales principals that apply to your live staff should be evident with your online ad placement form.

There should be a customer-centered attitude. Remember that the advertiser doesn't really want to place an ad; they just want to sell something. The online ad placement form should be an easy way for them to accomplish this.

© Richard Clark 2009

Richard Clark is the owner of Classified Development. It is more important than ever to win every battle in classifieds. Clark can teach your team how to make that happen. With more than 200 successful projects during the last 13 years, his nuts-and-bolts recommendations, training programs, and rate-structuring techniques have never failed to pay off. With his help, your classifieds will thrive again.  Find out more at www.classifieddevelopment.com or call (423) 929-2243.

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