There is certainly no such thing as an unlimited budget. However, there is an unlimited supply of media and promotional options to get the word out about your offering. So, how do you determine what media mix makes the most sense for your organization? Pro tip: you CAN NOT depend on (or should you expect) any media representative/s to help you make this decision. To make this point, we will remind you of a lesson you learned as a child: never let the fox guard the henhouse.
It really all boils down to numbers. Whether you work with an outside firm that handles your media buying or if you prefer to buy your organization’s media in-house, make sure you are getting as close as possible to comparing apples to apples as you weigh the allocation of your precious advertising dollars.
One of the ways you can evaluate media head-to-head is to use a metric that has been utilized related to the practice of media buying for decades: CPM (cost per thousand). This metric is primarily used when evaluating impressions (how many times will your ad be seen by the desired target audience). The most basic way to determine the value of an ad is to determine the cost per thousand (CPM) times this ad has the potential to be seen (or to make an impression). As an example, if an ad in a particular magazine costs $2,000 and the magazine has a circulation of 100,000 copies, you would first divide that circulation total of 100,000 by 1,000 to get the "number of thousands" - in this case, 100,000 divided by 1,000 equals 100. Then divide the cost of the ad ($2,000) by the number of thousands. So, if the ad costs $2,000 and the magazine has a circulation of 100,000, the ad would have a CPM of $20. First, 100,000 divided by 1000 = 100. Then: $2,000 divided by 100 = $20.
One wrinkle of the ultra-simple CPM equation in apples-to-apples comparisons is related to the target audience. More specifically, how well does the media you are considering reach the desired target audience/s? This is not as straightforward as determining the CPM but speaks more to the potential of that particular media option to reach the desired prospect/s. In the CPM example above, you are making the assumption that everyone who gets a copy of the magazines that are circulated are going to open theirs and see your ad. AND, that every one of those readers is one of the target audiences that is going to influence your success. If you thought that only about ½ of that magazine's readers are either the right demographic or that there are a large number of these magazines that will never even be viewed by the recipient, then you would divide the ad cost of $2,000 by 50 (½ of 100,000 = 50,000 and 50,000 / 1,000 = 50) for a CPM of $40.
All mediums, including digital media, have nuances that can make determining their cost per thousand (CPM) somewhat complex and very often each will need some level of objectivity, subjectivity and common sense applied to them. However, this does not mean you should throw your hands up and buy from whoever knocked on your door first or whoever calls you the most. You owe it to all of your stakeholders to invest the necessary time into the media planning process to do your best to understand what you are buying and what you are paying relative to other mediums that you might be currently considering buying.