Ten FAQs on advertising strategy.
- Does my business need to advertise?
- What can advertising do for me?
- How do I plan an advertising campaign?
- How much do I need to spend on advertising?
- Where can I find out about advertising opportunities?
- Where should I advertise?
- Should I use an advertising agency?
- How can I make my adverts stand out?
- How long does it take to see results from advertising?
- Should I try to match my competitors' advertising?
1. Does my business need to advertise?
Most businesses need to advertise at some stage - but for many, PR, events, direct selling, email marketing 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 advertising do for me?
A good advert might bring in 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:
- generate sales or enquiries;
- improve your company image;
- create awareness of your products or services;
- get the word out about a sales promotion or offer;
- help establish you in a new location.
It is important to decide what your ad to achieve before you start writing it. Remember to lead with a customer-focused proposition - what problem can you solve for your audience?. Clear is better than clever.
3. How do I plan an advertising campaign?
The best time to advertise is when your target audience is most likely to buy. Building awareness of your offer when (or shortly before) people would naturally want that product or service could pay dividends.
Alternatively, advertising during quieter times can help to boost sales when you're struggling. If your customers are other businesses, you may need to consider their buying cycles and when their budget becomes available.
Set out what you want to achieve from your adverts, which might include:
- launching a new product or service;
- letting customers know about a change of premises or expansion;
- targeting a new market segment;
- promoting a special offer.
The campaign should cover the placement of adverts, budgets, design, timing and follow-up. Also think about how you will handle the enquiries that come in, and how a surge in orders might affect how much stock or how many staff you need to have to hand.
Try to make your adverts stand out so that your limited budget goes further. It's important that your advertising is memorable.
Who do you want to talk to?
Draw up a profile of your target group. For example, are you contacting prospects or regular customers? Are they mainly male or female? Are they from a certain age group? Do they have a particular lifestyle?
If you recognise that you have three different audience segments, with different needs and preferences, accept that you may need three different campaigns.
Where are these people?
Decide whether your target audience is local or regional, national or international, or a mixture. The advertising channel you choose should suit the target.
You might want to try newspapers (local, national, trade or freesheets), magazines (general interest, specialist, in-house or local), local radio, cinemas, posters (on public transport), brochures and leaflets, point-of-sale displays or directories.
The internet allows you to target your advertisement specifically at people who are searching for a product or service like yours, or those who have already shown an interest in them.
The objective of an advert is not always to increase sales. It might be to educate people about new products or special offers, to create awareness of what you do, or even to reassure existing customers.
If you are not clear what you want to achieve, the confusion will show through in your advertising.
What do you want to say?
Keep your message simple. Stress the benefits, not the features, of your offer. Try to build in a unique selling proposition and make a claim your competitors cannot match.
4. How much do I need to spend on advertising?
Consider how much you normally spend on marketing, and how effective it is in relation to your business objectives. Assess what your competitors are doing - 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 create 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 refine your online campaigns and improve their return on investment.
5. Where can I find out about advertising opportunities?
A digital marketing agency can tell you more about the costs of advertising online, including pay-per-click advertising, and what you can expect to achieve.
Find information about newspapers in your area and how to advertise in them on the News Media Association website. Check circulation figures verified by the Audit Bureau of Circulations on the ABC website.
Look in the BRAD directory (available in good reference libraries) for lists of newspapers and specialist magazines. Look for publications whose readership is close to your target niche or segment.
Ask for a media pack, which should include a rate card and a back copy of the publication. 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 it and see your advert. Freesheets may be widely distributed but often discarded unread, while paid-for trade publications may be read by several professionals in a business.
6. Where should I advertise?
Always match your customer profile with what the target segment reads or visits online. If you are uncertain, speak to 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 need to be there for several weeks.
By comparison, a small ad in a specialist magazine may initially be more costly - but if it reaches the target audience effectively it may work out cheaper on a cost-per-thousand basis.
Using pay-per-click to get to the top of relevant search results could pay off even more quickly.
7. Should I use an advertising 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. Look at samples of their past work and ask whether there are any satisfied customers you can speak to, or testimonials you can read.
Ask for initial ideas to get a feel for what they can offer you - but don't expect too much without a full creative brief.
Whether you decide to do your own advertising or use an agency, remember that your advertising creates an image of your company. It is better not to advertise at all than to have a poorly thought out, mediocre advert 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. How can I make my adverts stand out?
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 customer testimonial. In the same way, well-chosen illustrations and the use of colour can help your advert stand out from the competition.
Always leave design to the professionals; poor design can tarnish your reputation. The image of the advert should reflect your market position and values.
9. How long does it take to see results from advertising?
If you monitor the effectiveness of your campaign, you will get an idea of how long it needs to run to achieve its objectives.
If you are not getting the anticipated results, tracking what is going on 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 your other customer communications.
10. Should I try to match my competitors' advertising?
You should keep an eye on your competitors' adverts, 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 things 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 create a rivalry for the sake of it.
It is much better to put your energy into creating a customer offer that is attractive and profitable.