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The Advertising Component

While advertising is a key component in a marketing strategy, advertising alone is not marketing. It is important to develop a clear message before committing and spending advertising dollars. An effective advertising campaign can quickly provide a return on your investment, while a poorly planned advertising campaign may drain profits from your business.

The basic premise of an advertising plan requires analysis of four key questions before you make your advertising decisions:

What do you want your advertising to accomplish?

The first step in developing your advertising strategy is to specify your advertising goals. Be precise. Your goals should include increasing awareness of your business, attracting customers away from the competition, increasing the likelihood of keeping your current customers, developing customer loyalty and increasing the immediate sales and leads.

While all of the above goals are important, you should prioritize your specific goals and focus on one or maybe two goals at a time.

Who is your audience?

Once you have determined your advertising goals, select the target audience for your message. Your market research should have already identified your customers and potential customers. Advertising that tries to reach everyone rarely succeeds. Picture the people you must reach to achieve your advertising goals. Use the following as a guide for targeting and evaluating your customers:

  • Demographics such as gender, age, income, location of residence, occupation, marital status, etc.
  • Behaviors, such as awareness of your business, loyalties, hobbies and recreational activities, lifestyles, etc.
  • The wants and needs of your customers and the decision as to whether your product and services can fulfill those needs.

What should your advertising say?

Once you know who your target audience is and what they are looking for, you can decide what your advertising will say. Communicate a message that will be important and speak clearly to your customers. It should explain the important benefits your products and services offer.

Where should you place your advertising?

Many advertising media work well to reach a diverse range of target customers. No single medium is inherently good or bad. A good medium for one product may be a poor choice for another. Guide your advertising placement by a simple principle: go where your target audience will have the greatest likelihood of seeing and hearing your message. As you consider media choices, make your selection based upon which one(s) fits your advertising goal, reaches your target customer effectively and is within your advertising budget. The following is a brief summary of the advantages and disadvantages of some of the most commonly used advertising media:

  • Television: Television reaches a great number of people in a short time. Small businesses usually use spot ads. A spot ad is placed on one station in one market. Cable TV is placed on a local cable channel. Advantages of television include the ability to convey your message with sight, sound and motion. The disadvantages of television include its higher cost, limited length of exposure and the clutter of many other ads. It may require multiple exposures to achieve message retention.
  • Radio: Radio, like television, has the ability to quickly reach a large number of consumers. The major advantage of radio lies in its ability to effectively target narrowly defined segments of consumers. The vast array of radio programming formats lets an advertiser gear ads to almost any target audience. It is also relatively inexpensive. The disadvantages of radio are that the message is limited to audio-only, there may be a lot of ad clutter, and exposure to the message is short and fleeting.
  • Newspapers: Newspapers have the advantage of reaching a specified geographic area. Other advantages include ad size, placement and short deadlines that allow for quick responses to changing market conditions. Disadvantages include potentially expensive ad space and ad clutter. Newspapers are generally read once then discarded, thus requiring multiple insertions.
  • Magazines: Magazines provide a means to reach a highly targeted audience. Specific groups can be reached by using magazines of particular interest to the audience. This is true of both consumer and business magazines. Magazines frequently have a well-defined geographic, demographic or lifestyle focus. Magazines have a relatively long life; they are often reviewed by a single reader and are passed along to others. The disadvantages of magazines include long lead times, limited flexibility on ad placement and the high cost of production.
  • Billboards: Outdoor advertising is typically used to reinforce or remind consumers of the advertising message rather than original communication. The advantages include long life, and high visibility and frequency of viewing. The primary disadvantage of billboards is the length of viewing time. The target audience is frequently moving and the message must be kept simple, direct and should be easily understood.
  • Direct Mail: Direct mailers use specific ranges of mailing addresses, normally by zip code, that place the advertisement directly into the hands of your target audience. With proper focus of the mailing list, there is low waste and greater flexibility on the message presentation. Disadvantages are the relatively high cost per contact, the accuracy of mailing lists and the audience confusion with junk mail.
  • Social Media: Social media is a form of marketing in which people can create, share and exchange information and ideas on online platforms and communities such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube. Social media platforms are highly interactive and differentiate from traditional marketing channels in quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy and permanence. This allows the user to connect with his or her audience and creates an exchange where business owners can promote both their goods or services as well as their company values, product updates, staff activities and more. A complete marketing strategy should include one or more social media platforms in order to round out your online presence. Carefully consider all social media platforms before choosing which one(s) are the best fit for your business.

Selecting the right advertising format or combination of formats is a crucial part of a successful marketing plan. Carefully consider how to best reach your target audience.

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