Chasing The CPU Cost

By Roy Huntington, publisher, American Handgunner Magazine

Chasing the cheapest CPU costs? If you win that race — you may come in dead last in sales.

Cost Per Unit (CPU) is the approximate cost an ad buyer pays to get to one potential client. We’re often asked — especially by big, independent PR firms — “What’s your CPU?” as if that’s what’s important. These companies simply look at what the cost to place the ad with us is, and the number of potential customers who will see it might be. They then do a simple bit of division and get a “cost-per-unit” or “the cost to the client to get their ad in front of each reader.” That’s nice to know, but it’s the wrong way to go about it. Just because something’s “always been done that way” doesn’t mean it’s right.

This simplified method makes clients feel good — “Oh, it’s only costing me X dollars, so that’s very affordable.” It may be a complete waste of money though. What’s important is how many sales they get from that particular ad or promotion effort. And nobody knows that until they run it. And getting the right data to know whether it makes sense to run it or not is what’s important. Not the simple CPU. If you send an ad out to 500,000 people who aren’t very interested in what you do, your sales will be in the toilet. Send the same ad to 25,000 people who are very interested in what you do and you will likely have success. The CPU of one is much less than the other, but the more expensive program delivers a much higher response rate. Get it? You’d be amazed at the huge companies who don’t.

“Using context to target your potential audience is smart,
and the quality of context is just as important.”

Google was recently slammed hard (and rightfully so) because they could not assure their brand advertisers wouldn’t find their ads on objectionable websites. So, while their client’s “CPU” is miniscule, the client has virtually no control over who sees their ad (are they even a potential customer?) or if their ad may appear on a site covering topics which may make the client uncomfortable to be associated with. Surveys have shown context — where and how your ad is displayed — is extremely important. What your ad is seen with can directly influence your potential customers. If they read a negative political commentary and then see your ad, the ad can suffer from being “tainted” by the negative feelings the readers experienced.

Don’t think context is important? See a photo of even a good watch in the discount store ad in the Sunday paper insert and you may gloss right by it. Put that same watch on a glossy page in a fancy magazine and you’ll think: “Oh, that must be a nice watch.”

Using context to target your potential audience is smart, and the quality of context is just as important. A “gun” magazine, for example, may be many things. Some have higher quality editorial and readership than others do. PR firms and marketing people are often not well-versed in the magazine’s content — just their circulation numbers. That’s a mistake and I see it made constantly.

I’ll self-promote shamelessly now to illustrate a point. American Handgunner is a high-quality magazine with targeted readers who love handguns, who hunt, shoot, carry, collect, reload and frankly, relish all-things handgunning. They are motivated to read, buy, conduct research and learn — and I know this because of the responses our advertisers get. So, if you’re in the handgun or accessory business, doesn’t it make better sense to target a customer base proven to be motivated to actually buy? This might drive your “CPU” up a bit, but it’s better than tossing your money into a black hole — just because it “costs less” to go there.

Research has proven we’re subjected to more than 5,000 ads weekly. The context (editorial, layout, production quality, etc.) of the ads you place influences the frame of mind of the reader — your customer. Frankly, unless you’re paying attention to that, and hitting high-quality “CPU” customers you’re wasting your money. Print can assure you have control of the context.

It’s a swing and a miss situation, otherwise.

Don’t keep swinging at curveballs thrown your way — no matter how tempting.

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