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What is advertising and how can I profit from it?

Advertising, defined as "the action of attracting public attention to a product or business," is one of many marketing tools you can use to draw in more customers with greater frequency.

Also falling under the broad umbrella of marketing are public relations and promotional programs, signage, premiums and incentives, newsletters, trade shows and word of mouth -- in short, everything you do to help attain your company's overall goals.

Ideally, your business should invest in an on-going, consistent marketing program using a combination of these tools for maximum impact.

What Advertising Can Do For Your Business


What Advertising Cannot Do For Your Business


Advertising's Two Important Virtues

Unlike public relations efforts, you have final word in determining where, when and how often your message will appear, how it will look, and what it will say. You can target your audience more readily (working mothers, new home purchasers, small truck owners), and aim at very specific geographic areas.

Similar to McDonald's golden arches, a distinctive identity can eventually become clearly associated with your company. People will recognize you quickly and easily -- whether in ads, mailers, packaging or signage -- if you present yourself consistently through all the promotional vehicles at your disposal.


What Are Advertising's Drawbacks?

Advertising works best and costs least when planned and prepared in advance. For example, you'll pay less per ad in newspapers and magazines by agreeing to run several ads over time rather than deciding issue by issue. Likewise, you can achieve certain economies by preparing a number of ads at once.

The effectiveness of your advertising is measured over the long run. That's because people don't see every one of your ads. They only see some of them some of the time.

You must repeatedly remind prospects and customers about the benefits of doing business with you. It's this constant repetition and the cumulative effect that win the day. It is also the long-term effort that triggers recognition and helps special offers or direct marketing really pay off.


How to Get Ready to Advertise - Drawing the Blueprint

Most of us are impatient; we want our advertising to spark an immediate sales increase. That's equivalent to giving a builder one week to construct a three-bedroom home without a blueprint.

Think of the planning process as drawing a blueprint for your advertising campaign structure. First you design the framework, next you fill in the details, and finally you begin to build.


1. Design the Framework

What is the purpose of your advertising program?

Start by defining your company's long-range goals. Then map out how marketing can help you attain them. Zero in next on possible advertising routes complementary to your marketing efforts, and be specific.

Set measurable goals so you can evaluate the success of your advertising campaign. For example, do you want to increase overall sales by 20% this year? Boost sales to existing customers by 10% during each of the next three years? Appeal to younger or older buyers? Sell off old products to free resources for new ones?

How much can you afford to invest

Keep in mind that whatever amount you allocate is never enough. Even giants such as Proctor & Gamble and Pepsi always feel they could augment their advertising budgets. But given your income, expenses and sales projections, simple addition and subtraction can help you determine how much you can afford to invest. Some companies spend a full 10% of their gross income on advertising, others just 1%. Sorry, there is no fixed rule.


2. Fill in the Details -

What are the features and benefits of your product or service?

In first determining the features, think of automobile brochures that list engine, body and performance specifications. Or food products that detail ingredients. Or accountants whose services include preparing tax returns and cash flow consulting.

Now the hard part -- what are the benefits of those features to your customers? How does your product or service actually help them? For example, a powerful engine helps you accelerate quickly to get onto busy freeways. Certain food ingredients are cholesterol free or low in fat to aid in staying healthy.

Who is your audience?

Create a profile of your best customer. Be as specific as possible, for this answer will be the primary guidepost in creating your ads and choosing appropriate media.

Examples: A restaurant may target adults who dine out frequently in the nearby city or suburban area. A computer software manufacturer may aim at information managers in companies with 10-100 employees. A bottled water company may try to appeal to athletes or people over 25 who are concerned about their health.

Who is your competition?

It's important to identify who your competitors are, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what your competition offers that you don't -- and vice versa -- helps you show prospects why your product or service is special, or why they should do business with you instead of someone else.

Knowing your competition will also help you find a niche in the marketplace and establish a particular positioning in your customers' minds. For example, is your product perceived as the most or least expensive? Are you regarded as a large or small company within your industry? Is your service seen as prestigious or utilitarian?


3. Arm Yourself with Information

What do you know about your industry, market and audience?

Many sources of information can help you keep in touch with industry, market and buying trends -- without conducting expensive market research. Public, business or university libraries are also a good option, as are industry associations, trade publications and professional organizations.

You can quickly and easily learn more about your customers by simply asking them about themselves, their buying preferences and media habits. Another alternative is to hire a professional market research firm to conduct your research.


4. Build Your Action Plan: Evaluating Media Choices

Your next step is to select the advertising vehicles you will use to carry your message, and establish an advertising schedule. In most cases, knowing who your audience is will guide you towards the type of media that will deliver your sales message most effectively. Use as many of the tools as are appropriate and affordable.

Remember you can stretch your media budget by taking advantage of co-op advertising programs offered by manufacturers to encourage you to advertise their products. Although programs vary, generally the manufacturer will pay for a portion of media space and time costs, or mailer production charges, up to a fixed amount per year. The total amount contributed is usually based on the quantity of merchandise you purchase.

Casablanca Fan Company, for example, funds as much as one-half the media cost per ad or radio spot, up to a total of 5% of a dealer's annual fan purchases. The company also supplies ad slicks (ready-to-go ads featuring its products, with a blank space for the dealer's name and address) and radio scripts.

When developing your advertising schedule, be sure to take advantage of any special editorial or promotional coverage planned in the media you select. Newspapers, for example, often run special sections featuring real estate, investing, home and garden improvement and tax advice. Magazines also often focus on specific themes in each issue.


5.Using Other Promotional Avenues

Advertising doesn't start or stop with the media described above.

Other options include imprinting your company name (and graphic identity) on pens, paper, clocks, calendars and other giveaway items for your customers. Put your message on billboards, inside buses and subways, on vehicle and building signs, on point-of-sale displays and shopping bags.

You can co-sponsor events with nonprofit organizations and advertise your participation. Attend or display at consumer or business trade shows. Create tie-in promotions with allied businesses. Send a newsletter. Conduct seminars. Undertake contests or sweepstakes.

In addition, you can send advertising flyers along with billing statements. Use telemarketing to generate leads for salespeople. Develop sales kits with brochures, product samples or application ideas.

In short, the number of promotional tools used to deliver your message and repeat your name is limited only by your imagination and the parameters of your budget.


At Last -- The Advertising Campaign

When armed with knowledge of your industry, market and audience, a media plan and schedule, your product or service's most important benefits, and measurable goals in terms of sales volume (number of units sold), revenue generated or other criteria, you are now ready for action.

The first step is to establish the theme and, if appropriate, the specific tag line that identifies your product or service in all of your advertising.

The theme of your advertising reflects your special identity or personality, and the particular benefits of your product or service. For example, cosmetics ads almost always rely on a glamorous theme. Many food products opt for healthy, all-American-family campaigns. Automobile advertising frequently concentrates on how the car makes you feel about owning or driving it rather than performance attributes.

Likewise, a tag line rests on the single most important reason for buying your product or service."Nothing Runs Like a Deere" (John Deere farm vehicles) conveys performance and endurance with a nice twist on the word "deer."

"Ideas at Work" (Black & Decker tools and appliances) again signifies performance, but adds reliability and imagination to the statement.

"How the Smart Money Gets that Way" (Barron's financial publication) clearly connotes prosperity, intelligence and success.


Preparing the Ads

The initial design of your advertising, and creation of the tag line and tone of voice you'll use to establish your personality, are so critical that it almost always pays to have professional help. Hire the best designer and copywriter you can afford at the start. Later you can ask newspapers, radio stations or magazines to follow your guidelines in preparing specific ads if you can't afford to continue relying on professionals.

How do you know a good ad when you read, write, design or evaluate one? Most importantly, a good ad focuses on one message -- the single idea you want this ad to convey. That idea may revolve around price, features, convenience, quality, enhanced technology or a time-limited offer. Support that idea with as much copy or illustration as time or space allows.

Also, good ads rely on "The Three I's": Involve, Inform and Illustrate. -

Involve the audience. A good ad arouses curiosity, lures in prospects, and invites them to participate. It does that with words, images or sounds that are compelling and with information that aims at their strongest interests.

Example: "Please Your Client & Your Accountant" appeals to the reader's desire to be doubly successful by giving good service and making money. -

Inform the buyer. Your prospect wants the answer to one question: "What's in it for me?" This may be a faster, easier, or less expensive way to attain a specific objective -- "TransEuropa Express: The Fast Track to the Time of Your Life," for example.

Or it may be something less tangible -- stylishness, prestige, praise or the admiration of friends and colleagues. Look at clothing, soft drink and health club ads for good examples of this appeal. -

Illustrate the benefit. Even people who aren't paying much attention while turning the channel or the page can see your message in a micro-second -- if it's well illustrated. This means not only illustrating the product or service, but the benefit as well.

Example: Campbell Soup advertising shows mom and her kids in a traditional kitchen setting with a loving atmosphere and hot soup. Nordic Track ads portray a slim young man or woman exercising. Both imply the customer will also look or feel that way by using the products being advertised.

You can even illustrate radio and television ads with your choice of music and background sound effects.


Fundamentals of Headlines, Copy and Design in Communication

While there are many opinions about what constitutes good headlines, copy and design, most professionals agree that these individual elements of the ad must work together. In combination, they must grab attention, convey a persuasive message and portray a consistent identity.

An ad that's too cluttered can't convey a message quickly enough to engage the reader or viewer. One that's out of character with the product or service will be confusing rather than convincing.

An effective headline (or a broadcast ad's opening moments) must immediately capture the audience's interest and pull them into the ad. A good rule of thumb is to look for the inherent "drama" in what you are offering, and capitalize on that to create an alluring ad.

Examples: "We're Losing Our Minds" -- a university ad appealing for funds. And "You Don't Have to be Jewish to Love Levy's" -- a bread company ad featuring a Chinese man biting into a whopping pastrami sandwich.

Next, the photo or illustration amplifies the message. A recent ad for Bull Worldwide Information Systems, for example, showed a satellite photo of the earth with the headline "GloBull."

Once the headline and illustration have drawn the customer into your ad, the copy convinces them to buy. So make it believable, full of information, and bolstered with words and style that complement your identity. Almost any Mercedes Benz print ad exemplifies convincing copy in a style that suits the product perfectly.

Broadcast advertising will also involve selecting music, sound effects, actors or announcers, and perhaps a theme song. All these elements enhance your message and reinforce your identity but, for the most part, the copy and what it conveys actually do the selling.


Measuring Results

Now that you've advertised regularly and consistently with dramatic ads full of information and impact, it's time to look at the bottom line to measure results.

In the short term, results are often difficult to ascertain because advertising is not a knee-jerk instrument. It is an on-going process designed for sustainable results over time.

However, when your ad contains a coupon, special time-limited offer or other inducement to act immediately, you can get measurable results almost at once -- if your offer, timing and media selection were right and you had already established a rapport with your audience.

Remember, a single ad does not an advertising program make! Each individual advertising exposure, whatever response it generates, contributes to a residual result that will eventually show up at your bottom line: name recognition, reputation and trust.

To gauge long-term results, go back to your original benchmark. Were you successful in attaining the goals you set up?

Now look at the specific advertising vehicles you employed. Which media were most effective in a quantifiable way -- not for a specific ad but during your overall campaign -- in terms of response versus cost expended?

Which offers worked best? What pricing levels? Did you see steeper upward curves during certain times of the year? Armed with this analysis, you can fine tune your overall advertising program, and its individual components, for the next year or years. For the value of advertising -- as a complement to other promotional efforts -- justifies it as an integral part of your marketing strategy. And yes, it does get easier as you test, refine, re-evaluate and measure over time.





A useful tool to gauge how effective your marketing and advertising efforts are!

1. How did you first hear about our product/service?

2. Have you seen any of our advertising? If so, where?

3. What do you like best/find most useful about our product/service?

4. How could our product/service be improved?

5. What other products/services would you like us to offer?

6. What was the single most compelling reason for choosing our product/service?

7. What other reasons were important?

8. What friends, family members or colleagues, if any, influenced your buying decision?

9. What newspapers and magazines do you read regularly?

10. Which radio and television stations do you tune in most frequently?

11. Please indicate your age and sex: * Male * Female * 18-34 * 35-49 * 50-65 * 66+

12. Please indicate your annual household income: * Under $15,000 * $16-24,000 * $25-49,000 * $50-100,000 * $100,000+ (For businesses, omit #11 and instead ask something to indicate size, such as number of employees. Rather than #12, ask for annual sales volume.)


Reports I have written:

Measuring the impact and ROI of social media
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making social media work for your business
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: the new business communication landscape
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing

How to use social media to engage employees
Contributing author to How to use social media to engage employees - for Melcrum Publishing

Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing



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