Advertisements reach potential customers and inform them about your products and services. A good advertisement should catch the attention of potential customers and entice them to use your product. It does not matter how you advertise, all your advertising must consistently reflect your unique positioning statement.
Advertising is communication aimed at informing, educating, persuading and reminding people about your product or company. To be successful, advertising must work in conjunction with other marketing and business tools.
Advertising must interrupt you – it must keep you from flipping through the newspaper or thinking about your day long enough for you to read or listen to it. Advertising also needs to be credible, unique and memorable to work.
Effective marketing support is based on a solid positioning strategy. Enough money should be spent on any advertising campaign to secure a media plan for ad frequency, one of the most important elements of advertising memorability.
How to make a good advertisement?
You can’t be confident that your customers share your zeal for your business proposition, so you need to convince them that they need what you’re offering. The way to do this is to tell potential customers about what you’re selling by advertising your wares.
The skill of advertising lies in reducing the global population to your target audience and reaching as many of them as you can at an economic cost. You first analyze the benefits or virtues of your product, isolate the features and translate these into customer benefits. Who has a need for your product? Define exactly who your potential customers are.
Question all the time. Then the advertising process is to set objectives for your campaign, decide on a budget, design the message, pick the medium to reach your target audience, and determine how you’re going to evaluate the success of your advertising.
When you understand the basics, you should also be able to analyze advertisements better, break them down into their elements and avoid the all too common mistakes that advertisers make every day.
1. Defining Your Product or Service Parameters
To be successful in any marketplace, you need to have a clear picture of exactly what you want to do and for whom you’re doing it. In other words, you need a vision and a mission.
To market your product effectively, you have to make decisions about factors such as product range and depth before you’re ready to enter the market. Having decided to open a corner shop, for example, you still have to decide whether to focus on food only, or to carry household items and perhaps newspapers and flowers too.
You also need to decide whether to carry more than one brand and size of each product. If the key advantages of your corner shop are its location, opening hours, delivery service and friendly staff, all at competitive prices, then perhaps you don’t need a wide or deep product range.
2. Considering the customer’s point of view
People buy a product or service for what it can do for them. Customers look for the benefits. As the seller, your mission is to answer the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ from your potential customer’s point of view. Every time you compose a sales letter, write an advertisement, or plan a trade show, you must get to the heart of the matter.
Why should customers purchase your product or service? What benefit may it bring them? You need to view all your marketing efforts from the prospect’s point of view, not just your own. When you know what you’re selling and to whom, you can match the features of the product (or service) to the benefits the customers can get when they purchase.
A feature is what a product has or is, and benefits are what the product does for the customer. Finally, include proof that the product or service can deliver these benefits.
3. Making an exhibition of yourself
One way to gather useful market research data on customers and competitors is to attend exhibitions. This is also a useful way of seeing whether a demand for what you have to offer is likely to exist, because hundreds of key decision makers are gathered in one place for you to make a pitch to.
Equinox, a designer furniture company, took part in a national exhibition at London’s Earls Court while on an enterprise programme at Cranfield Business School. A grant paid for half the cost of its £1,200 stand and the £5,000 of firm orders it received more than covered the rest of the cost. More importantly, the founder felt more confident in his product and he took away 40 contacts to follow up later.
You can find out when exhibitions relevant to your business take place in the UK by searching Exhibitions UK (www.exhibitions.co.uk), the official website for the British exhibition industry, sponsored by UK Trade & Investment, the government organisation responsible for all trade promotion and development work.
If you want to exhibit or attend a show overseas, TSNN (www.tsnn.com), which calls itself ‘The Ultimate Trade Show Resource’, operates a widely consulted event database containing data on more than 15,000 trade shows, exhibitions, public events and conferences worldwide.
You need to register (free) for full access to the database. Business Link, the British government’s help agency for small businesses, has a comprehensive guide to getting the best out of exhibitions (go to www.businesslink.gov.uk, then select Sales and Marketing, Marketing and finally Trade Shows and Exhibitions).
5. Setting advertising objectives
You’re wasting your time advertising your product or service unless it leads to the opportunity for a sale in a significant number of instances. Ask yourself what potential customers have to do to enable you to make these sales.
Do you want them to visit your showroom, phone you, write to your office, return a card or send an order in the post? Do you expect them to order now, or to remember you at some future date when they have a need for your services?
The more specifically you identify the response you want, the better you can tailor your promotional effort to achieve your objective, and the more clearly you can assess the effectiveness of your promotion. The more general your advertising objective is – for example to ‘improve your image’ or ‘to keep your name in front of the public’ – the more likely it is to be an ineffective way of spending your money.
6. Deciding the budget
People commonly use two methods to calculate advertising budget numbers:
What can we afford? This approach accepts that cash is usually a scarce commodity and advertising has to take its place alongside a range of competing demands.
Cost/benefit: This approach comes into its own when you have clear and specific promotional goals. If you have spare capacity in your factory or want to sell more out of your shop, you can work out how much it costs you to increase your production and sales, and how much you may benefit from those extra sales. You then figure out how much advertising money it takes to get you the extra business.
Suppose you expect a £1,000 advertisement to generate 100 enquiries for your product. If your experience tells you that on average 10 per cent of enquiries result in orders, and your profit margin is £200 per product, then you can expect an extra £2,000 profit. That benefit is much greater than the £1,000 cost of the advertisement, so it seems a worthwhile investment.
In practice, you should use both these methods to decide how much to spend on promoting your products.
7. Defining the message
To define your message, you must look at your business and its products from the customer’s standpoint and be able to answer the question ‘Why should I buy your product?’. The best way is to consider the answer in two stages:
1). ‘Why should I buy your product or service?’
The answer comes naturally when you look carefully at customers’ motives for buying and the benefits they get from the product.
2). ‘Why should I buy your product or service?’ The only logical and satisfactory answer is: ‘Because it’s better and so it’s different.’
The difference can arise in two ways:
- You, the seller, are different. To achieve this, you establish a particular niche for your business.
- Your product or service is different. Each product or service should have a unique selling point, based on fact.
Your promotional message must be built around the strength(s) of your product or service and must consist of facts about the company and about the product or service. The stress here is on the word fact.
Although many types of fact may surround you and your products, your customers are only interested in two – the facts that influence their buying decisions, and the facts of how your business and its products stand out from the competition.
The assumption is that everyone buys for obvious, logical reasons only, but of course innumerable examples show that this isn’t so. Does a woman buy a new dress only when an old one is worn out? Do bosses have desks that are bigger than their subordinates’ because they have more papers to put on them?
8. Choosing the media
Broadly, your advertising choices are above-the-line media, which is jargon for the Internet, newspapers and magazines, television, radio and other broadcast media, and below-the-line activities such as distributing brochures, leaflets, visiting cards, stationery, letterhead and the way you answer the phone.
The printed word (the Internet, newspapers and magazines) probably takes most of your above-the-line advertising budget. It’s the accepted medium to reach the majority of customers. Most people read a newspaper, especially on Sunday, and magazines cater for every imaginable interest and range from parish magazines to Sunday supplements.
News and articles are also increasingly available on the Internet, either as online versions of conventional papers or via blogs. You must advertise where your buyers and consumers are likely to see your message.
Your market research tells you where your likely prospects lie. Before making your decision about which paper or journal to advertise in, you need to get readership and circulation numbers and the publication’s reader profile.
You can get this information directly from the journal or paper or from BRAD (British Rate and Data), www.brad.co.uk, which has a monthly classified directory of all UK and Republic of Ireland media. You should be able to access this through your local business library.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic (www.abce.org.uk) audits website traffic, among other media, and Rajar (Radio Joint Audience Research) independently compiles radio audience statistics every quarter, providing an industry benchmark (www.rajar.co.uk).
Newsgator (www.newsgator.com), and Blog Catalogue (www.blogcatalog.com) operate blog indexing services that can help you filter through the millions of blogs to let you home in on the ones that operate in your business sector.
When considering below-the-line advertising, identify what business gurus call moments of truth – contact points between you, your product or service and your customer. Those moments offer you a chance to shine and make a great impression.
You can spot the difference at once when you get a really helpful person on the phone or serving you in a shop. The same is true of product literature that’s actually helpful, a fairly rare event in itself.
Some of the most effective promotional ideas are the simplest, for example a business card with a map on the reverse showing how to find you, or thank-you cards instead of letters on which you can show your company’s recently completed designs.
9. Choosing the frequency
Think carefully about the timing of your advertising in relation to the kind of media you’re considering. The copy dates of some monthly publications are two months before publication; trade exhibitions often only occur once or twice a year.
This poses problems if you’re waiting on a shipment or uncertain about a product change. Daily or weekly publications allow much prompter changes. The ultimate are probably the Internet, which can be updated minute by minute, and radio, where messages can be slotted in on the same day. Yearbooks, diaries and phone directories require long forward notice.
10. Writing a leaflet
Whether or not you actually use a leaflet as part of your advertising strategy, I always recommend writing one. The process forces you to think about what you have to tell potential customers about your product or service and, most importantly, what you want them to do next when they know of your existence.
So if you want them to buy now, you need to give prices, availability, delivery times and so forth. A leaflet doesn’t have to be big – both sides of a sheet of A4 paper is as much as you can hope to get most readers to plough through, even if you’re peddling the elixir of life.
As well as carrying text, leaflets are a great way to get across more complex messages that a picture or diagram delivers best. The rules for leaflets are that the content needs to be:
- Clear, straightforward English, simply laid out and easy to read
- Concise, using as few words as possible and jargon free
- Correct, because spelling mistakes and incorrect information destroy confidence in you and your product or service
- Complete, providing all the information needed for the reader to progress to the next stage in the buying process.
Christian Aid has a useful guide to basic leaflet writing (www.christianaid.org.uk; go to Act Now, then Useful Stuff and then How to Write a Press Release)aimed at charities and pressure groups, but also useful for a small business on a tight budget.
And Hewlett-Packard offers professional- looking business materials with free, easy-to-use and customisable templates for creating leaflets, flyers, brochures and advertisements (www.hp.com/sbso/productivity/howto/marketing_main/m arketing_brochure).
11. Using the Internet for viral marketing
The Internet is now central to the marketing process for most businesses. Even where customers don’t buy online, most consumers and all business buyers check out products and services using the Internet to check price, quality and competitive offers.
Increasingly, products that once had a physical presence are disappearing from the shelf. Music, software, film and now even books are available in ‘soft’ form to try or buy and download online.
Nine out of every ten visitors to a website arrive there via a search engine and your chances of being found depend on how your website is constructed, what words you use and where they’re positioned on the page.
Viral marketing is a term that describes the ability of the Internet to accelerate interest and awareness in a product by rapid word-of-mouth communications.
The birth of viral marketing, using the power of Reed’s Law to the full, has been attributed to the founder of Hotmail, who insisted that every email sent by a Hotmail user should incorporate the message: ‘Get your free web-based email at Hotmail.’
By clicking on this line of text, the recipient would be transported to the Hotmail home page. Although this email sent by the company itself wouldn’t have had much effect, at the foot of an email sent by a business colleague or friend it made a powerful impact.
The very act of sending a Hotmail message constituted an endorsement of the product and so the current customer was selling to future customers on the company’s behalf just by communicating with them. The recipient of a Hotmail message discovered that the product works, but also that someone she respected or liked was a user.
You only have to see how quickly a harmful computer virus can spread in hours and days, to cover the whole world, to see the potential of viral marketing. For a small firm this technique has the added advantage of being inexpensive and easy to execute. Just look at some major sites on the Internet to get ideas.
Book e-tailors all have links for you to email a friend about a book you’ve ‘stumbled’ across on their site. Travel sites encourage you to email any of their special offers that you don’t plan to take up to a friend. However, the beauty and limitation of viral marketing is that it only works when you’re talking about a good product. People don’t recommend something they don’t like using themselves.
12. Providing opportunities to see
The more opportunities you give potential customers to see your name or your product, the greater the chance of them remembering you. This is why direct mail letters usually involve more than one piece of literature.
The theory is that the recipient looks at each piece before discarding it. The recipient may only give a brief scan, but it gives the seller another chance to hook a customer. So rather than using different advertising messages, try getting the same or a similar message to one customer group several times.
One claimed benefit of breakfast television is that it can get your message out before the shops open. In business-to-business sales, trade buyers are deluged with calendars, diaries, pen sets, and message pads in the hope that when the buyer is making a decision, the promotional materials are still close at hand and have an influence on that decision.