The banner is just the beginning
Getting the most of your forum sponsorship
By Travis E. Staut
As an interactive marketing professional and also a forum webmaster, I have come to the conclusion that many smaller online marketers - the type that sponsor many forums - are prone to making a few key mistakes that wind up costing them sales. Quite often, this leads to a lost sponsor for the forum or other small web site as well.
If you're currently running a banner on a web site, or are considering the prospect, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Update your banner often.
If you've purchased a text ad, update that often as well. I can look at my site's banner click-through stats and tell you exactly which banners are brand new and which have been running for more than a couple of months. In the marketing world, we call it "wear-out" or "poster effect." Either way, it's caused by the simple fact that after your audience has seen your banner enough times, it blends into the scenery of the page and they no longer even notice it.
The good news is, it's easily corrected. Change your image. Change your color palette. Change the text. Change the animation. Any combination of the above are almost guaranteed to breathe new life - and click-throughs - to your sponsorship.
As part of the sponsorship package, my forum offers the right to post specials, updates, coupon codes, sales, and group buys in the appropriate sponsor forums. I'm amazed at how few of our sponsors actually take advantage of them. A banner is great for getting your name out there, and for the "window-shopping" click-through. But it's the good deal that will send buyers your way, wallet in hand. If you simply email the banner and paypal the money every month and forget about it, chances are the forum's users are forgetting about you too.
Clicks aren't everything.
Here's another common and frustrating pitfall. In this pay-per-click world, it's all too easy to get caught up in the click-through stats when it may not be your best statistic to look at. You need to look at the impressions of your banner. Because, if done right, a banner does an excellent job at getting your name out there. It hammers it home to the people who see it hundreds, maybe even thousands, of times. Then, when they're ready to shop, you're top-of-mind and there's a good chance they're gonna type in your URL.
Notice what I just said: They'll TYPE IN your URL. That's right, people who are actively shopping don't click banners, they visit the sites they can think of. Imagine you wanted to buy a book from Amazon, that you saw featured on a web site. Would you go back to that site and refresh the page until that banner came up, then click on it? Nope, you'd type www.amazon.com and be done with it. The click won't register for the site you're sponsoring, but the register still rings. So remember, clicks aren't everything.
Become a part of the Community
Of all our sponsors, the ones who are there day-in and day-out to give advice and answer technical questions are the most successful. People still want to buy from someone they like, even in this crazy Internet world where they've never actually met anyone.
In conclusion, if you want quality results, be a quality sponsor. The time you invest will pay off, and the banner you run WILL do its job.
Travis is Associate Creative Director at a worldwide interactive marketing agency. He's currently responsible for creative development of interactive marketing initiatives and sites for two fortune 500 companies and a branch of the U.S. armed forces. He is webmaster of Reef Sanctuary, a community of over 2,000 reef aquarium enthusiasts.