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Don't Place Another Ad Before You Read This!

Sep 2, 2008
These days there seems to be a bewildering profusion of magazines, newspapers, blogs, networking sites, television stations and the like all of whom want us to pay handsomely to advertise our services via their medium. Plainly we can't do so on all of them - our advertising budgets restrict us to only a very few. So how do we get the most out of our advertising budget?

Let's look at four areas we must give careful attention to before we sign on the dotted line or hand over the cheque. Making sure that we get these four components in place will have a massive positive impact on the return we get from our advertising budget!

Are You Talking to the Right Audience?

It may be hard to believe, but time and again I see this basic mistake being repeated. The question is simple: If you run an advertisement through this medium, what is the likelihood that a large number of the kind of people you want to do business with will see it? Don't take this for granted, nor should you believe everything the salesperson tells you! I'm not suggesting that they are (all) dishonest, but do remember that they want your money - and they don't guarantee results!

So how might you determine the answer to this question? Realise that every advertising medium has an editorial focus, and it uses this focus to attract readers/viewers. Broadly speaking, you need to understand the editorial focus of your chosen medium on three dimensions: geography, demography, and interest. Sometimes it's obvious: A monthly magazine called Scottish Field & Stream, for instance, is likely to count lots of relatively well-heeled (so probably older), outdoor-focused male residents of that area north of Hadrian's Wall among it's readership. It's not always that clear, though; so take your time and ask specific questions.

Is Your Message Clear and Attention-Getting?

If I had sixpence for every time I've seen an advertisement and wondered what it was trying to say ... well, you know! There seems to be a school of thought that your ads don't actually have to say anything, they can just make the audience feel something.

Understand this: you and I do not have the budget to do that, so we cannot afford to waste our money on ads without a message! How would you feel if you went to a fancy restaurant, ordered a fillet steak, and got a plate full of parsley? Would you go back - or even pay the bill that night? Similarly, your target audience needs something to sink their teeth into or your ad will not move them to take the next step.

One final thought on key messages: Your audience is far more likely to pay attention if you engage them with something of interest to them than if you bore them with lots of information about your business. (Subscribers to The Marketing Edge e-zine (see http://www.zee2a.com) can work through the free Verbal Signature™ workshop which assists in developing key messages to catch the attention of ideal clients.)

Is There a Clear, Appropriate Call-to-Action?

How would you feel if your favourite sporting hero did all of the hard work to completely dominate their opponent and then - just as they were about to finish things - they went and sat down on the sidelines leaving the opponent to come back and win the game? Pretty stupid, huh? So why run an ad that catches the attention of your desired prospect, then not tell them what to do next?

'Oh,' I hear you say, 'they can see our telephone number - they'll call if they want to.' Why should they? What reason have you given them to do so? A piece of ancient wisdom tells us: 'If the trumpet sounds an indistinct call, who will get ready for battle?' Similarly, without a clear powerful call-to-action your ad is useless.

So should you ask the prospect to call you for a quote? Offer money off if they place an order? Really, your prospect (assuming that the ad is the first they've seen of your organisation) doesn't know or trust you enough to do business yet, and will probably not respond to such a call. Rather focus on getting them to 'learn more ...' perhaps by giving away some free information.

Are You Ready to Measure the Advertisement's Effectiveness?

Once you've placed the ad the hard work is done, right? Er, no. Marketing is not a precise science at the best of times, so the hard work is actually in figuring out what worked and what didn't. Yes, we might as well acknowledge right now that not all ads will pay for themselves. If we know which ones didn't, we can be sure not to place them again. You might think that's simple logic, but I know of many organisations that renew ads month after month, year after year without any idea whether they are working!

How could you measure the effectiveness of an ad? First, you need to know exactly what the cost of the ad was (including graphic design/copywriting costs etc), then you need to find out how much signed new business it generated. That means you have to find out which ad brought you each new lead your business gets. To do so, you might offer a slightly different free gift in each ad - then when the prospect calls to collect you'll know which ad they are responding to. Or you might try something a little sly, like saying 'Ask for Jim' when there is no Jim! Prospects who call asking for Jim must be responding to that ad. (Make sure everyone who answers the phone is 'in' on this one, please!)

Follow the four guidelines above whenever you place an advertisement for your business and you can be sure that you are getting maximum bang for your advertising buck.
About the Author
David Deakin, CEO of Zee2A, works with Professional Services Executives yearning to take their business to the next level. Through one-on-one mentoring he helps them create sustainable marketing strategies that attract more clients at profitable rates. To learn more, sign up for his e-zine, or enquire please visit www.zee2a.com.
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