Advertising can play a critical role in promoting your business, but you have to plan it carefully, research your market, and simplify your message as communications.

ONE OF THE BIGGEST challenges – probably the biggest challenge – most businesses face is how to successfully sell their product or service. Advertising is a great way to promote your business and generate interest in your services, but you need to make sure your advertising campaign is well planned if you want to achieve the best results from your investment.

Advertising is about changing people’s thinking or behaviours, so before you rush out and create an ad, you need to have a clear idea of what you want your advertising to achieve, who it’s aimed at and what your budget is.

Planning your advertising campaign doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are a few critical steps to follow. The first thing you need to ask yourself is who do I want to talk to and what do I want to say to them? What is your advertising message? What can you offer that no one else can? We call this the ‘central promise’.

If you’re a butcher, maybe you have the cheapest cuts of meat. If you’re a dry cleaner you might specialise in cleaning delicate garments such as wedding gowns or suits.

You also need to think about how you can phrase your ‘central promise’ using the least amount of words while ensuring they have a powerful impact.

Know your audience

Once you’ve established your central promise, or what you’re going to say, you need to determine who you’re going to talk to.

Are you talking to children, housewives or your local businesses community? What do you know about these people? What are they looking for in your product or service? Some people shop on price, others are looking for quality, others want convenience – think about what you are offering.

Find out why your current customers choose your product or service and how they first heard about you. Find out from potential new customers what you would have to say to them to make them try you out.

The greatest marketing blunders occur when businesses assume they know what their target audience wants. Always take the time to do research – even if you don’t have a large budget, you can still talk to customers, neighbours and friends who fit into your target audience.

Ask them how they make their purchasing decisions and what kind of advertising influences them.

It’s also important to know where they look for information – do they look in a particular newspaper, do they read trade magazines, what TV programs do they watch, which radio programs do they listen to, what websites do they regularly visit? This will help you decide where to advertise.

What do you want them to do?

Be clear about what result you want to achieve when your audience reads your ad. Do you want them to call you? Come into your shop?

If so, provide clear directions and give them a reason to act now, not wait until later and possibly forget about you. Coupons, simple phone numbers, special offers with clear deadlines and sales give people a real reason to contact your business today.

Keep it simple

Once you are clear about what you want to say, who you are talking to and what will make them interested in your ad and where best to place your advertisement, you’re ready to create your advertisement.

It’s important to remember that 90 per cent of people only glance at headlines or look at pictures, so your headline and visual image will be crucial in determining whether your advertisement is effective. Remember that your headline and visual can only communicate one selling point and they need to work together to make this point. Any further selling messages should go into the body copy.

Headlines need to be as short as possible and clearly state your promise and why they should use you. Visuals need to be eye-catching and should only be used if they work hard to sell your promise. It’s vital to invest in a professionally designed advertisement. Some publications offer in-house ad design, but often you’ll end up with the same type of ad as every other advertiser in the publication. You want your ad to stand out in a crowd!

Placement = exposure

So now you’ve developed a brilliant ad, but make sure it is placed where your audience will see it, and at a time when they are most likely to consider your message.

For example, if you are targeting the local business community, a billboard in an industrial precinct may be the best.

Planning your advertising strategy

  • Have a central promise that encapsulates what you are offering
  • Know your audience – do some research to determine what potential customers or clients are looking for
  • Know what you want your advertising to achieve, set goals and use coupons or special offers to give people a reason to act on your advertisement
  • Use eye-catching visuals and text, and invest in professional design to ensure your ad stands out
  • Make sure your advertisement is placed so your target audience will see it
  • Set a budget for your advertising and stick to it
  • Make sure you get bang for your buck – you can often negotiate discounts or editorial space with your advertising
  • Create a positive experience for your clients or customers to ensure they keep coming back

If you want to target local families, perhaps the front page of your community newspaper would be the best place. Let your research guide you and use the place your target audience are most likely to see it.

Plan ahead

As with any communications effort, it’s important to plan ahead. Set your budget for the year, work out where and when you want to advertise and stick to it.   Make sure you’re getting maximum bang for your buck when buying your ad space -perhaps you can negotiate some free editorial as part of your advertising, or get a discount if you purchase multiple ads to appear over time.

Create the right ‘experience’

Finally, don’t expect your ad to transform your business – only you can do that! Yes, your advertising will bring more customers through the door to try your product or service, but it’s your job to make sure they keep coming back.

The experience you offer your customer is the key. Think about your central promise – are you actually offering what you’ve promised? Even the most well thought out and expensive advertisement will fall down if a customer comes in to try your product or service and don’t get what they were promised.

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