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Syndicated research has been the standard media planning tool for consumer media planners for many years, but high-tech media planners have been slow to use it-in part because they don't know how to use it properly.

Here are some recommendations for effective use of IntelliQuest's Computer Industry Media Study 3.0 for high-tech market and media plans.

Keep this in mind: You don't have to subscribe to the study to do any of this. All the big publishing houses-and some of the smaller ones-have subscribed to the study, and they own the software required to analyze it. They will happily do the runs for you.

Define and target your market

CIMS is the only study that covers all people in the U.S. who claim to be involved in the buying decision for computer products and services-both for business and in the home.

This means that CIMS allows you to create a realistic estimate of the total number of prospects for your product or service.

You can also profile those prospects. This is important information-not just for media planning, but for all aspects of marketing.

Skip titles-go for buying power

Titles and functions mean very little in the computer market. They never have-and the CIMS data confirms it.

The best way to define a group of prospects is to cross-tab all those people who claim to be involved in buying the product or service you are selling (a large number of categories are available) with those who claim to be spending some minimum amount of money on that category of product or service (15 are available in CIMS).

For example if you were marketing a database software package, a good target market might be something like this: Every high-tech business influencer who plans to be involved in buying distributed database management software in the next 12 months, and who plans to be involved in spending more than $25,000 on applications software during that period.

OK, now do titles

After you have defined your market by products purchased and level of spending involved, then there are good reasons to look at title, function and other characteristics.

For example, we can assume that senior management and information technology professionals play a different role in the multistage buying process (IT professionals are more likely to be specifiers and recommenders, while corporate managers are more likely to be approvers and initiators), and it is not unreasonable to assume that the buying process is different in larger organizations than smaller ones.

Whether or not you do different campaigns for different subgroups, it is always useful to know what percentage of your prospects fall into each group.

Crank the media

Once you have defined your target market or markets, you want to find out the best way to reach them. And the best way to do that is to use the analytical software programs like Telmar or IMS to do what is often called a "crank." Publishers have these programs and they will do this for you if you tell them precisely what you want.

A crank will show you several things. For every publication you select (and you should start with a broad list), it will show you coverage, composition and CPM (based either on rate card rates or on rates you specify).

Coverage is the percent of the entire target market you have selected that is reached by the average issue of each publication.

Composition is the percent of each publication's audience that falls into your target market. For example, a particular publication might cover 22% of your target audience with an average issue, while 54% of its average issue readers fall into the category. The 22% figure is its coverage and the 54% figure is its composition.

CPM based on readership by the target audience, not circulation, is the best measure of efficiency.

One of the big advantages of the CIMS study is that it looks at all buying influences, so when it measures readership, it includes all of a publication's readers-both subscribers and pass-along readers-who are involved in buying computer products and services in the U.S.

The crank will show CPM, and rank publications as well. With coverage, composition and CPM measures in hand, you can pick those that are most likely to help you create an efficient media plan.

There is no one rule for selection. Those with the highest coverage may be too expensive because their composition is too low. This is often true of the consumer publications, including general business publications, for example. Those with the highest composition may be efficient, but their level of coverage may be too low to be significant. You have to balance reach (coverage) and efficiency (a balance of composition and cost) when selecting publications.

Next, reach and frequency runs

Using the same software that does the crank, reach and frequency runs take hypothetical media schedules that you create and quickly compare them on the basis of reach (coverage) and frequency of exposure.

To do these effectively you should decide on a minimum number of exposures required to get your message across, keeping in mind that these figures are for exposure to the issue of the publication, not to your ad. A rule of thumb is that only one-half of people exposed to the issue will be exposed to any page ad in that issue.

You also need a budget level, though you may wish to work with two or three budget levels. Then you take the publications you picked from the crank and do media plans that fit into your budgets. Do as many as you like. Try spreading the money around to all publications, or concentrating it in one or two.

Once they are done, have them run through the reach and frequency analysis and you will get a detailed report on each plan: Number of prospects reached at least once, twice, three, four, five times, etc.; average frequency; gross rating points, which is reach times frequency; cost per gross rating point; and so on. Then you can pick the plan that's best-or try others.

When you are all done you can confidently tell management that: "With $500,000 in spending, we have found a plan that will reach 47% of our prospects at least three times and will hit 68% at least once. With another $250,000 we can increase those numbers to 60% and 80%."

That's the type of justification of media spending that most top managers at high-tech advertisers have always wanted but have seldom seen.

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