Tips on finding prospects in the thicket of online niche sites

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Nancy Harmel is media director at b-to-b agency Slack Barshinger. BtoB recently asked Harmel about media fragmentation and trends in b-to-b media buying. BtoB: What changes are you seeing in b-to-b media planning? Harmel: More and more companies are looking to go beyond the standard trade vehicles and are looking to add niche online properties. These smaller media are often super-targeted and can be super-effective, but you have to cobble them together carefully. BtoB: What are effective ways to find and assess the performance of these obscure sites? Harmel: Some businesses use ad networks, which place ads on numerous, often random sites. But networks typically don't specify where ads run, so you're more or less in the dark about which niche sites are most effective. I'm never afraid to ask our clients about the niche sites they visit themselves. I might even ask to speak to their own customers about their online usage habits. As for measuring effectiveness, a useful tool is Quantcast, a free service that provides site statistics [such as] average traffic levels and user demographics, as well as information on similar sites people are visiting. BtoB: Why is knowing about similar sites valuable? Harmel: Knowing the interconnectedness of all the sites that your specific target audiences are viewing can help identify additional advertising vehicles, including ones that you might never have found otherwise. BtoB: Given such a fragmented media landscape, do you have any media buying pointers? Harmel: Just because a niche site is well-targeted doesn't mean it will meet your objectives, so always identify your success metrics upfront and measure performance against them. Also, be sure to tailor the type of ad to the property; for example, it's not a smart idea to simply post a banner ad on a blog site because it might be viewed as intrusive. Finally, even using niche sites, don't worry too much about b-to-b versus b-to-c media buys. They can be planned the same way. At the end of the day, we are all consumers.
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