10 Bargaining Chips for Negotiating a Direct Media Buy

Direct media buying is an excellent strategy to purchase ad impressions for your targeted audience. You have the luxury of buying impressions in bulk with the satisfaction of saving money, given that the impressions offered at a discounted rate. Surprisingly, more often than not, the listed rates are not always “discounted” per se. Ad impressions are priced at what the publisher wants for their inventory, not necessarily how much the inventory is worth to you. So, how do you get the publisher to give you exactly what you want, without letting on that you want to pay a lot less than their listed prices?

Here are 10 bargaining chips for negotiating direct media buys:

  1. State the “facts”: When reaching out to a publisher, it is likely that they will respond to you if you’re interested in offering them money for their ad inventory, but to guarantee a response, state your budget is $10,000 more than it actually is.
  2. Evaluate the metrics: What is the publisher’s CTR? How many impressions will they guarantee with a monthly rate? What is the page view ratio? These metrics should be considered before trying to negotiate a lower rate. If you notice something as a red flag in their metrics like an unusually low CTR or an extremely high amount of page views per visitor, you can use this data as when stating that the listed price is too high.
  3. Have a number in mind: Before you lay out all your concerns or start asking for discounts, have a plan of what you’re willing to pay for this ad inventory. If you’ve advertised on this site before through an ad network, you know what an ideal CPM is for you. If you haven’t, you can figure out how much you’d want to pay per acquisition based on their CTR and your conversion rate. When negotiating the price down, tell the publisher the price you’re willing to pay and why this is your target goal. Make sure to bring up the metrics you evaluated to prove your reasoning.
  4. Conduct a test: You’ll probably receive some resistance from the publisher with the above bargaining chip, so now is a good time to request a test with a small amount of remnant inventory or instead of a month commitment, just a week of impressions. A trial like this will help you better evaluate the performance of the publisher, and provide the publisher a chance to prove its value to you. Since the publisher thinks you have a huge budget, they’ll try to work with you on this.
  5. Measure the test and re-evaluate: How did the test perform for you? Are you impressed with the results? If not, move on to another publisher. However, if there was potential with the outcome, re-evaluate the amount you’re willing to pay for the impressions and see if you can get any discounts with the following strategies.
  6. Ask for a discount for a long term commitment: Many publishers have monthly rates. If you offer to commit to 3 months, 6 months or even 1 year up front, see if you can get a 5-20% discount. This helps the publisher out because they won’t have to worry about selling the inventory.
  7. Ask for a discount for paying in advance: Rather than getting invoiced monthly for your long-term commitment, see if you can get a discount for paying in advance. If you have the money now, and are seeing profitable returns from the media buy, why not save a little cash by paying for the impressions now? This helps you out, because you’ll get a bigger discount, and this helps the publisher out, because they don’t have to worry about invoicing you every month and collecting the funds. 
  8. Ask for specific ad units: Although this won’t result in monetary savings, it really does matter what ad units you’re purchasing with your media buy. Don’t you want your ad above the fold for every impression? Make sure you’re paying for only the best ad impressions available and ask for specific ad units.
  9. Get some add-ons: If you haven’t received the monetary savings you were hoping for yet, try asking for some other value. Ask if they could feature your ad in an email newsletter as a test. Be sure to let them know you’d be willing to pay for more promotions if it performs well.
  10. Measure everything and re-negotiate: After you’ve negotiated your ideal media buy, measure the performance with an ad server. You’ll want all of this data so you can use these metrics when re-negotiating your next media buy or negotiating another media buy with a similar publisher.  When negotiating, don’t give up all of your data at once. Turn your poker face on and stand strong in what you believe is fair.

This is a starter list of just some of the tactics you can use when negotiating a media buy.  Have you used any of these strategies in the past? How did they work out for you? As always, share with us in the comments section below what strategies you’ve tried when negotiating media buys.

Look for MixRank at Performance Marketing Summit

Performance Marketing Summit is a one-day conference, put on by Affiliate Summit, taking place at the Baruch College Vertical Campus in New York City. The Summit brings together 200 of the top executives and influencers with a vested interest in advertising strategies and technology made for affiliate marketing.

Through a series of sessions and interactive conversations, attendees will explore new implications and innovations that are currently trending in affiliate marketing. MixRank’s CEO, Ilya Lichtenstein, will be speaking on the topic of Rapid Media Buying at Massive Scale where he’ll show real examples of how affiliates can apply the same big data and real-time bidding (RTB) strategies used by big brands to quickly scale up media buy campaigns.

Want to join Ilya’s session? Here are the details:

  • Session: Rapid Media Buying at Massive Scale
  • When: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 2:50pm
  • Where: Baruch College Vertical Campus in NYC, Room 14-220
  • How to Register: Register to attend here

Can’t make the event? Don’t worry, there will be many more opportunities to see Ilya speak on your favorite topics. Follow us on Twitter and Google+ to stay up to date with all of our latest news and sightings.

Live Webinar: Scaling Campaigns Fast



We recently partnered with SIteScout, one of the most popular self-service ad servers, for a free webinar next week.  As online advertising is becoming fiercely competitive, now’s the perfect time to get a head start on your display campaigns.


We’ll be walking through the elaborate process of how to run a profitable display campaign.  Starting with the research for the most successful ad creative to the campaign creation process with several optimization strategies, this webinar will show you the best practices that’ll jumpstart your display campaigns towards profitability.


Join this live webinar, as MixRank’s Ilya Lichtenstein and SiteScout’s Steve Monti teach you the strategies that can more than double your return on investment with display advertising. 


The live event takes place next Wednesday, December 5, at 12pm PST / 3pm EST.


In this webinar, you’ll learn:


  • How to save weeks of research time and instantly find the top performing placements for your target audience
  • Your competitor’s most profitable ad creative secrets that you can replicate to boost conversions
  • How to double your return on investment with strategic ad segmentation
  • Tricks to continuously optimize campaigns for a signficant boost in conversions


After the presentation, there will be a live Q&A session where our presenters will answer the attendees’ questions.


Space is limited, so make sure to register now!


Traffic Triage

Chasing down profitable traffic sources can be a black hole consuming all of your time and money. The problem is that almost all paid traffic campaigns start off losing money; to build a campaign, you need to spend money collecting data on what works, and then optimize towards profitability from there.But not all campaigns end up profitable either, no matter how much you optimize them. So, one of the marketer’s biggest challenges is figuring out which traffic sources are actually worth pursuing, and which ones will never become profitable and will only consume your time and money. You have a limited budget, and you need to make sure you’re making it count and not spending it on a wild goose chase. Here’s how.

How to Allocate Marketing Spend

The trick to allocating your marketing effectively is implementing some kind of traffic source triage system. When encountering a new traffic source, you want to be able to quickly and consistently categorize it into a low, medium, or high priority group, before spending any time or money testing it. You don’t have to be 100% correct for this process. After all, you never know how something is going to work until you test it. You just have to be good enough to set priorities and build up a bankroll from stable, profitable traffic sources that you can use to offset your losses from testing riskier, lower priority ones.A lot of the skills needed to accurately identify traffic sources will only come with experience. But you can get 80% of the way there and avoid the more egregious mistakes by following a few simple rules.

Three Questions You Need to Ask Yourself About Any Traffic Source

When evaluating a potential traffic source, I always ask three questions that let me easily determine how much time and money I want to apply towards mastering it.

  1. Is there enough volume?
  2. Is the traffic cheap enough?
  3. Does the traffic convert well enough?

It’s important to remember that the answers to these questions are not binary. They fall on a continuum. They’re intentionally vague. There are no hard and fast rules until you test, just guesses. Let’s look at each one of them in more detail.

Is there enough volume?

This question is fairly straightforward to answer. Your rep at the ad network should be able to tell you how much daily traffic you can expect from the average campaign. But you should always do your own research too.Look at the Alexa/Quantcast/Compete rank of both their homepage and their tracking URLs to get a sense how much traffic passes through the network. Do the same for any domains you see advertised on the network. Are there mostly new, low traffic advertisers(bad) or established, successful advertisers(good) on this network?If you’re evaluating an ad network, take a look at some of the publishers running with this ad network. Are this ad network’s banners the only ads on the page(good), or are you competing for attention with a cluttered field of many different ads(bad)? What’s the traffic volume of some of the publishers that seem most relevant to your product?Remember, you’re only looking to estimate volume for traffic that has at least some chance of converting for you. So if you only sell to the US, inquire about US traffic volume only.

Is the traffic cheap enough?

This question is a bit more fluid, but in general some traffic sources, keywords, and verticals are much less expensive than others.Take a look at who’s buying traffic on this network currently. What are they selling? Low margin products like commodity physical goods, or high margin financial products? How much do you think they can afford to pay for traffic? Put their domains into the Google Keyword Tool and take a look at the bids they would need to pay on search to get this kind of traffic.How competitive is this traffic source? That may mean this traffic is higher converting and more desirable, but also more expensive.

Does the traffic convert well enough?

This is the big one. If the traffic converts well enough, it really doesn’t matter how expensive it is(as long as you’re paying less per click than your CLV). Even the volume doesn’t matter as much, because you can use a very relevant, highly profitable but low volume traffic source as a laboratory to test new ideas for creatives and landing pages without fear of losing money. You can then replicate the successes to higher volume but lower margin traffic sources.You may think that it’s impossible to answer this question without actually spending money testing, but it’s actually easier than you think. You can’t answer it precisely without significant data, but you can make some pretty good guesses based on experience and past performance. Think of this a comprehensive due diligence process. To answer this question, you need to start from a broad overview and move to specific details about the competitive landscape.Have you advertised on this traffic source before? What is this ad network’s reputation on blogs and forums? Has anyone written a case study about this traffic source? Does the majority of their traffic come from wealthy countries(good) or third world countries(bad)? How do they get their traffic? Are their users incentivized to view ads(bad) or click on them(VERY bad) or do they have other quality content(good)?Then you can move to studying specifics. Who is advertising here currently, big brands(bad) or direct response advertisers(good)? Is the same advertiser buying traffic on here consistently(good) or are new advertisers constantly showing up and disappearing(bad)? Do you see the same creatives used consistently(good), or are advertisers constantly trying new creatives because they aren’t getting clicks(bad)?Check the demographics of the ad network and advertisers’ domains. Do they match the demographics of your customers? Are there any advertisers with the same business model as you(e.g. sale of physical goods, freemium, etc) running on this network? Any advertisers in the same industry? Any direct competitors?

Decide Fast

This may seem like an unnecessarily lengthy process when the key to traffic triage is making snap decisions. But spending a couple hours studying a traffic source is well worth it compared to the months of pain chasing low quality traffic will cause you. Besides, with experience, you will come to internalize this process, and it will become second nature. That’s when you can start raking in the big bucks as a marketing consultant 🙂By the way, we’re working on software to automate answering many of the questions above. Leave your email below and you’ll be the first to get an invite to our private beta.

Startup Marketing Lessons Learned Part 2: AdWords is Only the Beginning

I recently had the pleasure of assisting over 150 Hacker News members with marketing their startups. I was surprised to learn that I was giving the same advice over and over again. I’m collecting the most specific, actionable and useful marketing advice for startups in a 3 part series. This is part 2.Last time, we discussed marketing fundamentals you needed to get right before beginning to drive traffic to your project. I hope you’ve implemented some of those suggestions into your product marketing.I don’t want this blog to consist solely of vague textbook marketing advice. This week, we’re going deeper and diving right into specific methods you can use right now to generate a stream of interested customers for your startup. Let’s get started.

Test and Track Everything

…advertising is traced down to the fraction of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of sale show up with utter exactness. One ad is compared with another, one method with another. Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are compared. To reduce the cost of results even one percent means much in some mail order advertising. So no guesswork is permitted. One must know what is best.

Can you guess which AdWords guru wrote the words above?That quote is from the seminal work Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, written in the 1920s. You would think that, 80 years later, people would realize the importance of tracking, especially with how easy modern analytics software makes it.And yet, startup after startup is creating ads that link to their homepage, without any tracking variables appended. They can only guess if their ads are effective, and they’re collecting exactly zero data.Any ad campaign, even if it’s set up by an expert, will probably start out losing money. When you launch an ad campaign, you’re not just paying for customers, you’re paying for data about what works and what doesn’t, tested in the marketplace.As you collect data and optimize, the campaign will eventually pull into the black. But if you’re not collecting click and conversion data, you’ll never know what you need to optimize, and you’ll continue bleeding money forever.Don’t just track based on which campaign gets the highest CTR. You need to drill down to the individual ad and keyword level, and track both CTR and conversion rate for each ad. This is done by appending a unique id to the URL of each ad variation. If you can’t tell me exactly which headline is bringing you the most loyal customers, you’re doing it wrong. If you track everything down to the ad level, you’ll be able to know exactly where your most profitable customers are coming from. This is especially critical for recurring billing/subscription services, which many startups are. Again, optimize for CLV.Setting up tracking is super easy. Google Analytics has a simple URL Builder you can use to append tracking variables to any link. You’ll want to focus on the utm_term and utm_campaign variables.If you want even better, more customizable, real-time data, my friends at MixPanel are happy to help.If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this:Track Everything Now. Every second you’re not tracking, you’re losing money.

Search Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg

Here’s an example of what the typical startup founder told me about their marketing campaign:

Out startup sells time tracking software for dog walkers. We’re already advertising online. We’re bidding on “dog walker time tracking” on Google Search and getting 3 clicks and 0 conversions a day. How do we get more traffic?

It’s not surprising that you’re not getting lots of traffic, because you’re stuck in a search-only mindset. You can thank Google’s excellent branding for that, because they would love to have you believe that the only way to get customers online is through buying search keywords.Here’s the truth about advertising online: most of your traffic and customers will not come from search. They will come from social networks(more on that soon) and other sites- and I don’t mean just the Google Content Network. Want to know a cheap, high volume traffic source your competitors aren’t using? Two words: media buys. Yes, I’m talking about banner ads and yes, they still work.You don’t have to have a big budget to start buying banner ad space. Start approaching smaller blogs in your niche, and offer to pay them a fixed amount to paste your ad code into their site for a month. Again, track everything.When you do a simple media buy, you don’t have to worry about maintaining a high CTR or relevance between ads and landing pages, you just need to get enough clicks and conversions to stay profitable.I’ll have a post exclusively about media buying coming soon, but for now, start looking around and negotiating. You’ll be amazed at the great deals and cheap traffic you can find.

Competitor Bidding Works, Take it To The Next Level

Bidding on the names of competitors on search is an effective tactic. You’re reaching customers who are at a later stage of the buying cycle. They already know they need your product or service, and now they’re just comparing the alternatives and reading reviews before committing to a purchase. Let your competitors spend money educating the market and finding qualified prospects, then snatch the customer from their grasp when he’s about to buy.[pullshow]Competitor bidding is a good start, but it’s only a start. Here’s how you can easily and inexpensively outfox your competitors on most traffic sources:[pullthis]Don’t stop at search. Follow competitors’ ads around the web.[/pullthis] Search for competitor names, features, products, etc, or get their keywords from a keyword research tool. Look at the search results for their name and main keywords. Are there any sites there that have AdSense? Any blogs that have written reviews of a competitor’s product? Those are all prime advertising opportunities.Approach them directly and offer to buy banner space, either on the whole blog or just on that specific post. Prospective customers searching for information about competitors will instead come across ads for your product, and some will inevitably convert. If you see a competitor’s ads on an AdSense block on a page, you’ve found a fantastic traffic source. Approach the webmaster and offer to buy a banner ad to replace the AdSense. You’ll be able to pay the webmaster more for the space because Google isn’t taking their 30% cut, so it should be a no brainer for them to accept your offer. Now not only have you cut off a competitor from a lucrative traffic source, but you’ve also uncovered a proven source of converting traffic. Repeat this enough, and you’ll be able to completely dominate your competitors outside of search while spending less than them.

Start Retargeting Right Away

Retargeting is the practice of showing ads to people who have already visited your site(but probably didn’t convert). Retargeting is very cost effective, and delivers incredibly high-converting traffic, because you’re only paying for impressions shown to people who have expressed an interest in your product. When building a retargeting campaign, create banners that prominently feature your name, logo, and color scheme. People who have seen that design before will notice and click. There are two easy ways you can use retargeting right away:AdWords has a retargeting option you can turn on for a campaign. Or, for greater reach, AdRoll has an easy self-serve retargeting system that ties into major ad networks. You just add their pixel to your site, they leave a cookie, and show banner ads that follow your visitors around the web, g
ently yet firmly reminding them to sign up for your site.There is so much involved in getting traffic online. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. If nothing else, I hope this post has inspired you to explore other traffic sources with tracked, tested, creative campaigns. Next week: I show you how to easily increase your current traffic tenfold, discuss advanced optimization tactics to squeeze more out of your current campaigns, and finish with a little-known traffic tip I’ve never told anyone before.