How's your circulation? No--I don't mean your vascular health...I mean, your advertising circulation.

Wait--before you answer that question...how do you even go about evaluating it? Here's the approach people often take (hint: I call it the "circulation trap," which gives you a good idea as to whether or not I think it is an accurate way to go about answering the question): the more circulation per advertising dollar you invest, the better the results you'll get from the advertising...right?

Wrong.

What if you could buy a four-inch newspaper ad with a circulation of 10,000 for your networking program, for only $100? Would that be a good deal?

How about this deal: what if you could buy a four-inch newspaper ad with a 1,000,000 circulation for your networking program, for only $100? Would that be a good deal?

If you answered either question--without any further information than what I've already given you--then sit up straight and read on. If you are buying advertising based solely on circulation, you are probably smoking some funny herbs.

Why? Because, the correct question or advertising strategy should be:

"Circulation to whom?"

Let's reconsider that four-inch newspaper ad.

In the first offer, you could buy a four-inch ad for your networking program that would only go to 10,000 people. But, who are these people?

Any one of these scenarios would provide you with excellent prospects.

Now, let's look at the second offer where you could buy a four-inch newspaper ad for your networking program that would go to 1,000,000 readers for the same price. That's a million sets of eyeballs--instead of only a paltry ten thousand--for the same low price of a hundred bucks... doesn't that sound good?

Oh, one detail I forgot to mention: your 1,000,000 circulation is in the Chinese Times, which is currently circulated only in Western China.

See the difference?

Here's what really matters: how many qualified prospects are included in those circulation figures?

Let's say you sell diet products. Where to advertise? Well, you could run an ad in your daily newspaper, but only a portion of your circulation needs to lose weight. Plus, your ad might get lost in a large daily newspaper.

However, for the same ad cost, you might be able to purchase an ad in The Fatter Times, a small newspaper for the horizontally challenged.

Because the newspaper is small, almost everyone will see your ad. And because your readers are not, virtually every reader is a prospect. Your circulation is smaller but, well...

fatter. For the same money, you are now reaching fewer people--but more qualified prospects.

"What about leads that I purchase? What about e-mail lists?"

It's the same principle. The number of qualified prospects in the list makes all the difference. Which of the following e-mail lead lists would you choose?

a) 1,000,000 randomly compiled e-mail addresses on a CD-ROM for the low, low price of only $99.

b) 1,000,000 names from the Bombay, India telephone book, again, for the low, low price of only $99.

c) 100 prospects who visited your website, read about your products and services, and filled out a form at your website asking you to contact them--once more, for only $99.

If you chose "a"--well, get ready for plenty of spam complaints and grief.

If you chose "b"--I hope you have cheap long-distance telephone service and speak Hindi.

If you chose "c"--you'll enjoy visiting with hot, pre-qualified, interested prospects.

So, before you place your next ad or purchase your next list, think. Ask yourself: "How many qualified prospects will I be contacting?"

Tom schreiter writes Fortune Now (www.fortunenow.com), an online newsletter for network marketing leaders.