your how-to site for community journalism

Promote It! Sales, Fundraising and E-commerce

Selling Advertising

Advertising is one of the most common ways to raise money. To sell ads, however, you have to identify potential advertisers, establish prices, and establish guidelines for content. Selling ads may also mean you need a sales representative or sales staff.

Who can you get to advertise on your site? How do you find them, and what are the key elements of your pitch?

Endemic Advertisers

Chances are, your site specializes in a certain subject matter that is a natural match for certain categories of advertisers. For example, a site about high school football would likely be attractive to sports nutrition and sports drink manufacturers and to sporting goods stores. A site with recipes could find advertising support with kitchen appliance retailers or grocery stores. These common-sense sources of advertising are called endemic advertisers.

In general, figuring out who your endemic advertisers are should be a fairly straightforward exercise. Ask yourself:

  • What is your site about?
  • What are the products or services involved in the topic?
  • Who makes or sells these items?

Demographic Targets

Sites that change topic frequently, however, can have a hard time identifying and appealing to endemic advertisers. If your site falls into that category, you may want to focus more on advertisers who are looking for the audience that your site attracts. In addition to looking for consumers by topical interest, advertisers target potential consumers by demographics. Key identifiers include where they live (generally specified by ZIP code), age, gender and household income range, which is sometimes hard to get.

So it helps to have a fairly good idea of your audience's demographics. One way to get this information is through user surveys.

You can also discuss with potential advertisers who they're looking to reach. Sometimes you can make an educated guess. Home electronics stores, for example, generally target a younger (18-34) male audience. For local retailers, geography is very important because shoppers usually don't drive more than about 25 miles unless they're looking for a very unique item.

Competitive Scanning

A shortcut method of identifying advertisers is to simply look at who is advertising on websites or in publications similar to yours. This group will be easiest to approach because they are pre-qualified. By advertising elsewhere, they've demonstrated that they understand the value of promotion, have a marketing budget and are open to using it on online media.


Qualifying Your Leads

Your list of leads is a great start to getting money in the door, but it's only the first step. From here, you'll want to qualify the list by focusing on those that have a marketing budget and are open to applying it to your site. Generally, this means calling, e-mailing, and being persistent. It may take several calls or e-mails just to reach the right person in the organization. This type of "cold calling" can be uncomfortable to do. However, the important thing to remember is that you are calling a potential advertiser with an opportunity that may potentially help them reach customers.

One pitfall to avoid is assuming that larger companies are the best targets. While they're likely to have larger budgets than small companies, they're also likely to require more levels of approval to buy an ad, and it's likely that their marketing plans have been set a year in advance. Also, while there has been movement in some large companies to capture "niche" audiences, a large, national company usually wants to reach a large, national audience. Your audience will need to be of a certain scale to capture their attention.

If your site has a public service aspect to it, consider approaching the public relations or community outreach division of a larger company. These departments are separate from product marketing, have their own budgets and might be willing to support a interactive exercise on community issues, or a community survey or town hall meeting. Or perhaps they would fund some interns to work on your site.

Your Pitch

Make some preparations before you make a sales presentation. Prepare:

  • A brief recap of your client's goals.
  • Statistics about your site's traffic, usually measured in terms of page views or unique visitors.
  • A screenshot showing where your client's ad will be placed.
  • Some proposal of how often the ad will be displayed like "fixed placement" or "in rotation."
  • Bullet points on why your site is a great match to fulfill your client's goals.
  • Pricing options.

Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. What information would help convince you that this is a good advertising buy? What would you need to know about the site, its content, its audience and the value of the ad position before you committed funds to advertising on the site?

J-Learning is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. J-LabTM is an incubator for innovative, participatory news experiments and is a center of American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
J-Learning was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

American University School of Communication

Knight Foundation

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Site design, programming and content by Hop Studios.