We've purchased ads a number of times. One of the best places to advertise are up and coming websites related to the hosting industry. Their prices are usually relatively cheap - 1/4 of that larger sites would charge, and their memberships are generally descent.
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Nope. Did do adwords campaign (with some free $100 and another $400). I am tiny and local design and getting started on hosting. I guess I am small enough (this is side biz) and get enough referrals I really have not gone after it. If I wanted to get going, and get going quick, I could definitely see the value in forum/banner ads. Not sure what the ROI on it is.