John Wanamaker famously said: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." With a clear strategy, you can maximise the results you get from your advertising.
What are your goals? The first step in any media advertising campaign is to set your objectives. Your goal could be to raise awareness to pave the way for a sales drive. You could be advertising to drive response, perhaps by promoting an offer on your website or flagging up your stand in an exhibition guide. Or you could be aiming to change customer attitudes by highlighting specific benefits of your products or service.
Targeting your audienceThen you need to work out how to reach your target audience. Local papers and free magazines could provide the right audience for a small business operating in a specific catchment area. Business-to-business firms can use industry publications and events to advertise to specific groups. Always negotiate - rates are rarely set in stone.
Your advert needs to convey a clear message with a call to action. Your strategy should be based around promoting a single, solid benefit, so you need to understand what motivates your target audience to buy.
The look and feel of your advertising should be in line with your brand values. A cheap-looking advertisement can damage your reputation.
Return on investmentToday, no matter what type of advertising you do, you can measure the results. Analytics tools enable businesses to measure and fine-tune every aspect of their online advertising. Media advertising can be measured by using specific response mechanisms - dedicated telephone numbers, web pages, email addresses and even QR codes.
After running your advert, you need to look at the response levels you generated. Did your advert deliver a good return on investment; in other words, has it brought in more new business than it cost to run? What adjustments can you make in the future?
Fulfilling the enquiryFollow up is the final piece of the jigsaw. An enquiry from an ad is often just the first step towards making a sale, so make sure you and your sales staff are ready to make the most of the increased interest that your advertising brings.
Advertising strategy faq's
1. What sort of businesses does advertising work well for?
Most businesses need to advertise at some stage but for many, PR, events, direct selling, email and use of social media will also achieve excellent results.
Online advertising is now generally the most cost-effective and easiest way to reach a large audience; national media publications are losing readership. However, local papers and magazines are still widely read and some specialist journals can also hit the mark if you want to reach a niche audience. Pay-per-click advertising is also a useful way to gain exposure for a niche or local business.
2. What can my advertising realistically achieve?
A good advert might attract a lot of enquiries but lead to few sales because it is poorly worded or badly targeted. Measuring the effectiveness of your advertising is absolutely key.
A well-designed advertisement can serve several purposes - generate sales or enquiries, improve your company image, create awareness of your products or services, support a sales promotion offer, or help establish you in new geographical areas. It is important to decide what precise purpose you want your ad to meet - before you design it. Remember to lead with a customer-focused proposition. Clear is better than clever.
3. How do I plan a campaign?
The best time to advertise is when your target audience is most likely to buy your product or service. Set out what you want to achieve, which might include:
The campaign should cover the placement of adverts, budgets, design, timing and follow-up.
Try to make your adverts stand out so that your limited budget goes further. It's important that your advertising is memorable.
You need to decide the following:
4. HOW MUCH DO I NEED TO SPEND?
Consider how much you normally spend and how effective it was in relation to your business objectives. Assess what your competitors are doing, as if they are advertising heavily you might need to do the same to ensure your message is heard.
Consider how far you are from achieving your objectives. For example, if you are launching a new product you may need to spend heavily to increase awareness. Consider what your advertising is worth to you. Calculate how many extra sales you need to make to justify your spend.
If you want to get value for money, only undertake campaigns that can be tested and revised as you go. Online advertising allows you to manage and control costs. By measuring results you can also refine your online campaigns and improve their return on investment.
5. Where can I find out about advertising opportunities?
Talk to an online advertising expert to find out more about the costs and rewards of advertising online, including pay-per-click advertising.
Find information about newspapers in your area and how to advertise in them on the News Media Association website at www.newsmediauk.org. Check circulation figures verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations on the ABC website at www.abc.org.uk.
Look in the BRAD directory (available in good reference libraries) for lists of newspapers and specialist magazines. Look for a publication whose readership is close to your target niche or segment.
Order a media pack that will include a rate card and a back copy. Check the circulation figures (which should be ABC audited), but be aware that this may be very different to the number of people who will actually read the publication and see your advert.
6. Where should I advertise?
Always match your customer profile with what the target segment reads or visits online. If you are uncertain, sample a few target customers and find out. Measure each of the approaches you are considering in terms of the cost per thousand target viewers. This comparison sometimes yields surprising results.
For example, a poster in the high street may seem cheap, but it might only be read by a small proportion of your target audience. To reach a thousand people, it may have to be there for several weeks, making the actual cost higher. A small advert in a specialist magazine may initially be more costly. But if it reaches the target audience immediately and works out cheaper on a cost-per-thousand basis, it may be a better deal. Using pay-per-click to get to the top of search results, could pay off even more quickly.
7. Should I use an outside agency?
As a rule of thumb, only consider using an advertising agency if you plan to spend more than £10,000 on advertising. Typically agency fees will amount to around 15 per cent of your advertising budget.
Look for an agency that has experience of your industry or type of business. Look at samples of their past work. Ask for ideas to get a feel for what they can offer you, but do not expect too much without paying for it.
Whether you decide to do your own advertising or use an outside agency, remember that your advertising creates an image of your company. It is better not to advertise at all, rather than have a poorly thought out, mediocre piece of advertising that damages your reputation. If you decide to do it yourself, get as much help as you can from people you know with experience in this field.
8. What sort of look should I go for?
On average, a casual reader will spend about two seconds looking at your advert. If it has not caught the eye or grabbed their attention in that time, this reader will move on to something else. How your ad looks is therefore very important.
An eye-catching headline is essential. It may be in the form of a question, a statement, an
invitation or even a testimonial based on what your customers tell you. In the same way, well-chosen illustrations and the use of colour can help your advert stand out from the clutter.
Always leave detailed design to the professionals; poor design can tarnish your reputation. The image of the advert should reflect your market position and carry through the same values and content.
9. How long does it take for an ad campaign to work?
If you monitor the effectiveness of your campaign, you will get a measure of how long it must run to achieve its objectives. If you are not getting the anticipated results, tracking what is going on in this way will show you when and how your advertising needs to change. The quickest results tend to come from online advertising.
Advertising should not be used as a quick, short-term fix, only brought into play when something is going wrong. It should be planned to support your overall marketing strategy and to complement all your other communications.
10. Should I try to match my competitors' advertising?
You should keep an eye on your competitors' advertising, as this can give you valuable insights into their marketing strategies. But don't try to copy them.
Marketing is all about creating a competitive advantage. Just doing the same as your competitors does not put you ahead of them. Either do better or be different but above all, work to your own strengths and don't feel the need to compete with your competitors for the sake of it. It is much better to put your energy into creating a customer offer that is attractive and profitable.
Lisa Hunter is an experienced Marketing, Events and Project Manager. She has over 10 years’ experience working in the IT and marketing industry, delivering strategic marketing support and managing creative projects for a wide-range of clients. In this blog she shares her knowledge and experiences…we hope you enjoy it.