What to do when planning advertising

Theories about advertising come and go, but the basic starting point for designing an advertising campaign is the USP. As a minimum, there must be a USP – Unique Selling Point – compromising a benefit which is uniquely yours and which attracts. Then you must gain attention from the reader.

Creating a print ad with both these elements is a skill which, in my opinion, demands the hiring of professionals. A good idea drawn on a napkin during a business lunch is not normally a good way to plan an advertising campaign!Nor should you be using the publisher to design your advert. Many publishers offer “free design” as a part of their sales pitch and you must resist the temptation to take them up on their offer! They do not know your business or what your aims are so may well miss the point altogether. In my opinion, there must be no economising at all with advertising and no DIY.

Many designers will relish the chance to display their talents in print and there are many companies to choose from, but set a clear budget and give a clear brief or the design could end up costing a lot more than you thought. If you do make your advertising professional you will stand out from the crowd and this is a worthwhile investment.

At the risk of repeating myself from other posts, please don’t forget to have some sort of response mechanism in your advert. After all, a key aim should be to sell a meeting so give your target market the chance to identify themselves! Some companies display the name and details of a senior person within the organisation to encourage a response.

When purchasing advertising space there is one key word – negotiate! Very few companies will pay “rate card” so nor should you. Explore a special offer or an introductory offer if you are a new advertiser. I would suggest you avoid advertising in supplements as these are generally a vehicle for the media to generate additional revenue and you will quite often find yourself surrounded by your competition which will reduce your potential impact.

Fight to get a colour spot if there is a difference in cost between colour and mono advertising space. Try for a full page for the cost of a half and try for a repeat ad at no additional cost. Some agencies (like Bath Marketing Consultancy) have very good links with the media and can negotiate an advertising package on your behalf which may well include a press release or a news snippet in the magazine or paper. However, most agencies will take a commission from the media so beware of costs (BMC do not).

And then there is the internet……………..


Advertising. Just adverts yeah? No.

Advertising can come in many forms and, I feel, it comes under a heading of using this form of marketing as an activity to spread your message with the aim of making an impact.

In the current climate pretty much all organisations have a website of sorts to act as a place to provide more information as well as an online advertising, but advertising can also take the form of sponsorship. However, the medium itself is usually the message as there is often very little room for the message itself. For example a leisure company aligning itself (sponsoring) a well-covered sporting event.

Sponsorship could also be demonstrated by companies or brands being associated with people or celebrities who might typify the brand values the company is trying to create. A good example could be a certain George Clooney and Nespresso.

There is also PR as a form of advertising where you can target certain geographic sectors or areas with positive messages about your brand, but PR can be deemed as having a low signal power compared to other advertising activities. It can really achieve its aim via a sort of stealth marketing; hiding it’s actual sales message among in a press releases about a new product or award!

Whatever “advertising” you decide to explore, the evaluation of advertising and its effectiveness is tricky. Usually you have to rely on additional measures to compliment advertising unless a direct response mechanism is incorporated. This makes advertising as a marketing tool could be limited compared with something like a digital campaign where you can see “hits” and “visits.”

However, do not underestimate advertising in its many forms as something to include in your marketing mix. What your advertising should look like and contain is something for another article……

Advertising. Does it work?

This is something I get asked regularly by clients and it is normally followed by something about how much it costs! Two questions which are very hard to answer. However, I will try…….

To me the process of running an advertising campaign is something that can really add value to the marketing activity of a company. However, it’s not just about the anticipated image building benefits advertising can bring. It is also to do with to what extent can advertising generate leads.

Given the limited number of prospects who buy in the professional services arena and the infrequency of their purchase design making, a case needs to be made before doing any advertising. Not many advertising agencies seem to advertise. There might be a message in that!

As touched upon earlier, a consideration for implementing advertising as part of your marketing strategy is its ability to generate leads or open new doors. Don’t allow yourself to be seduced by the desire to become famous and to be talked about at dinner parties! In my opinion it is your job to focus your and your organisations’ attention on the additional benefit advertising can offer.

A well thought out media plan & advertising campaign can underpin your marketing strategy and aid other marketing areas, but, to give it the best chance of yielding a response, aim to produce a campaign that is unique, has real flair, is creative, well written and pleasing to the eye and its impact can be quite dramatic.

There is one obvious circumstance in which using advertising can be defended – when you launch a new product or service. This sort of campaign falls under the “announcement” heading which is aimed at building awareness, but it must contain the potential benefits. Merely stating that your organisation has a new joiner or a new department won’t cut it!

I think it is hard to deny that advertising will create curiosity and allow your sales people to make prospecting calls or follow up activity such as direct marketing as a minimum outcome of running it. In addition, advertising can also act as proof of commitment to marketing and raises profile both externally and internally as well as can maintain a trickle of new leads. This means that it very much can “work,” but you need to outline what the strategy is behind your marketing activity is before adding advertising to the mix.

Who knows, if you do decide that advertising is part of the plan, it may well even create a buzz within the industry and, whatever the outcome, please, please, please make sure that each campaign has an obvious response mechanism!

Professional services advertising, some more tips

Beyond the anticipated awareness and image building benefits that good advertising campaigns can achieve, the majority of the clients we work with simply want to know if advertising can generate leads!

Recent Campaign for Dible & Roy.

Well, in a word, yes it can. But given the limited numbers of companies who buy in the professional services arena and the probable infrequency of their purchasing decision making, it is likely that a strong case would need to be made before undertaking any advertising at all!

Of course, for many years some professional services were not actually allowed to advertise for so-called ethical reasons and when these restrictions were lifted, there was a mass pilgrimage to the media for advertising where they tried to emulate their FCMG cousins!

Anyway, I digress. Yes, we all want our advertising to generate a response, but there also can be other objectives which are equally as important; a desire to be talked about and famous which is hard to resist for example! Similarly, advertising in the professional services arena may well succeed in getting your competition rattled – which may be satisfying enough!

To me, advertising falls into 2 key categories or types – brand awareness and direct response. The former may well require some budget allocation, but it can be justified when running, for example, a campaign to launch a new professional service agency or a new offer. Similarly, announcements aimed at building brand awareness can have a valuable role to prepare for the other marketing initiatives you’re running. Direct response advertising is primarily what we all want, but this is hard to achieve without an element of brand awareness.

Which is it you want to achieve from your advertising? Or maybe you want a combination of both? Either way ask yourself, who are you targeting? Where are they located? Are you sure they read the publication you are considering – don’t always believe the media salesperson when they churn out readership and circulation figures! Also, is the publication you’re considering a free one or a paid one – this makes a difference as the value consumers place on the advertisers within it.

To simplify things, I try and stick to 4 key elements when deciding what style advertising to run :

Identify the target audience’s problem big and bold – “deafness”
Promise them something new and helpful immediately – an aid
Sell as hard as possible – “only from us”
If possible, offer a relevant incentive – free trial

I hope all this helps and feel free to see some of our examples >>

Advertising on a limited budget

I am pretty sure that this post applies to the vast majority of us in that using advertising as a route to market is probably not at the top of the list and, even if it is, the budget is going to be small. This means that, if you are going to use advertising as part of your marketing strategy, you probably need to get as much bang for you buck as possible.

So…..imagine you are a plumber in and around Bath – i.e. some sort of service company. Your budget for marketing as a whole is probably £5k per annum so you’re probably very tempted to use the local free-sheet (because it is cheaper than the local paper) and something like the local Parish magazine. Neither of these are, in my opinion the most cost effective way to spend your small budget as the need for something like a plumber is occasional and only usually once something bad has happened. Therefore, the 2 main areas to invest in are something like the Dentons Directory and online as people use these when actively looking for services.

But…….these 2 platforms are probably exactly where every other plumber with any intelligence is also advertising so how do you make your advertising stand out?

If we take advertising in this case, all you have to do is ask yourself 2 simple questions (the answers are probably more tricky than the questions!) 1. Why should anyone flicking through the plumber section phone me? 2. What do I offer that no one else is offering?

The answer to these may be functional – “we guarantee to have someone round within xx minutes or we’ll do it for free.” The reasons may also be non-functional – “all our plumbers are clean, well presented, transparent and clean up after themselves.”

The next step is to make your ad look good, professional and then make your phone number/contact details stand out. You’d be surprised how many companies do not do these basics!

I will address the online side of things in the next post!

If you like this post and need some help, please get in touch with us on 01225 436426.

Sell the benefit NOT the features or techniques

When dealing with prospects, there is often an overwhelming temptation to talk about what interests you, i.e the features of what you are “selling” or the mechanics, rather than the benefits that should accrue to the prospect as a result of working with you. As a professional, features will interest you. As a potential buyer, the prospect may share your interests, but equally may well be solely interested in the end result. It is your job therefore, to make sure that your message outlines those benefits in a clear and concise way….a sort of “and this is what you can get” rather than a “and this is what it will do.”

For a number of clients, going into detail about the actual mechanics of what you do could work against you so I suggest you keep them in a black box only to be opened if requested. If you follow this type of approach, it will allow you to adopt a sort of “laddering” approach with your marketing; moving from feature to benefit with transitions such as:

“..and this provides you with….”
“….which means you’ll be able to ….”
“….allowing your company to….”

My suggestion is that you try this out; practice it when running marketing initiatives and always remember to use the word “you” or “your company” which are words for that personal focus. Your marketing should be about reassurance and keeping things simple!

If you need any help, get in touch with Bath Marketing Consultancy…..

Annoying TV ads

I can safely say that there are a number of TV ad campaigns running at the moment that are simply baffling to me in terms of their messaging, their content, their scripts and their all round presentation and I wonder why the agency who did them would even present them to their client not to mention why the client would’ve signed them off and handed over a (presumably very large) cheque.

For example, why oh why did Enterprise Car Hire sign this one off? How annoying is it?

Also, what in the world of sports is the new Compare the Market ad on about?! I know humour and celebrities “sells” but is this ad funny??!

What do you think? Do they work for you? Is it about time Compare the Market thought up another gimmick?! What other ads make you want to change channels?!

Spreading the word.

There are numerous ways that you can get your message out to potential customers, but the main ones are advertising & PR. I know that online is a huge area, but, in this instance I am grouping advertising together as advertising encompasses TV, radio, magazines, local press, billboards, leaflets, Blogs, podcasts, social media, public speaking, networking etc etc.
In this post, let’s look at getting your message out via advertising. In my opinion, one of the key aims of advertising is to get word of mouth marketing. I posted on Twitter recently that 53% of online traffic at the moment comes via WOM. When your satisfied customers tell others how great you are and suggest that they also use your product or service, that’s pretty much the best kind of publicity you can get!

To get this process started and before anyone can talk about your business, they need to know about it and this is where the initiatives mentioned above come into play. Sometimes, this can come from a YouTube video, sometimes it can come from social media and/or traditional advertising in a local paper or it can even come from giving out samples in the high street. It almost doesn’t matter how it get’s started; it matters that it does get started.
Do you know when people are most motivated to tell others about you? This might shock you, but it is right after they have bought or made a purchase.
Here are just some suggestions on how to spread the word:
Offer customers a reward for doing so; maybe a coupon for the contact details of 3 friends who might have a similar need to them.
Add a ‘tell a friend’ or ‘share’ button to your website or Blog.
Create space for them to talk. i.e. adding some sort of forum to your website.
Maybe introduce some sort of limited edition label to what you do.
Create a club that gives benefits to members.

Whatever you decide to do, people will always talk about the outstanding or unusual!

The advert – avoid these mistakes & categories

The “Tombstone” ad

Following on from my post yesterday on the merits of advertising, I thought it was worth pointing out some of the traps that professional services organisations can fall into when advertising.

Firstly, most of the adverts I see are all very similar and more often than not, of poor or average quality. A lot of small businesses fall into the trap of buying advertising space and letting the media house that is selling the space do the design as it comes as “part of the service or inclusive of the price” – the deal clincher for the sales person. Be very carefull as most media houses are not your brand custodian and can make a real hash of your advert.

Continuing on that theme, when putting together your advert, categories to avoid falling into are :

  • The “Tombstone” ad – black & white, obituary-style. Yuk!
  • The “Boring” ad- offering nothing new, nothing enticing; blah, blah, blah…..snore!
  • The “Over scripted” ad – reams & reams of small print, cramming in as much as possible.
  • The “Pompous” ad – this is where the organisation simply boasts. i.e ‘..we’re number 1 in’ or ‘..we’re the leader in the UK..’
  • The “Feature rather than benefit drive” ad – ‘..we do this’, ‘we offer that’ rather than ‘..we can help you for this’ or ‘..we can do this better, cheaper, faster that others….’

And finally……….

  • The “Metaphor” ad – the horrible ad with a jigsaw with a piece missing or the staircase visual  with the heading -‘..we can get you to the top’

My suggestion is to ALWAYS try and promote how what you are advertising can add value. After all, would any of the advert types I have listed above really influence a sophisticated buyer of professional services to change his/her decision?!

I am a big fan of the line “people buy people” (see my website) yet not enough people seem willing to get that personal chemistry across via an advertisement.

More advice to follow folks…..

Advertising. Yes or no?

Standing out?

Can advertising generate leads? Should it be a part of your marketing activity? What type works? Some quite strong questions for a Monday morning!

I believe that that there are limited numbers of prospects who buy in the professional services arena and, the infrequency of their purchase decision making makes a strong case for not doing any advertising at all. After all, why do so few ad agencies advertise? Maybe there is a message in that!!

Of course, for many years, some professional services were not permitted to advertise for ethical reasons (i.e. the legal sector), but, when these restrictions were lifted, their first impulse was to rush into advertising. But they forgot about below the line activity.

My main interest in advertising is whether it can generate leads; whether it should be taken seriously as a response generator. Do prospective clients come knocking as a result of an advert or does seeing an advert leave them cold? To me, advertising is about ensuring that prospects see the added value working with you brings. However, there are some professional establishments simply advertise to satisfy their egos………….and to annoy their competitors!

There is one obvious situation where advertising would seem an obvious route to market – the launch of a new product or service……or what I like to call “Announcement advertising.” However, for this to be truly effective, the advertising needs to be full of flair and create a buzz around the market. I have tried to do this with my latest Bath Life advert promoting my website/CMS package using a chocolate cake.

Wherever possible try (as written about by a fellow Tweeter Andy from Pro Ipbx), and put a response mechanism in place to allow reactions to get straight back to you. Or, at least ensure that you find some way of viewing effectiveness. Maybe by simply asking enquirers or promoting a particular page on your website that can be viewed via analytics.

Although it is sometimes hard to quantify, I believe advertising does create curiosity. It can also lay the foundation for other marketing initiatives such as e marketing or direct mail. It can also generate real positive feelings internally from your employees by showing real commitment to the business and raising morale. Hmm, but does this answer the question of its use? Tough one.

There will be plenty more on this subject from me tomorrow and later in the week, but, what do you think? Let me know by leaving a comment. Let’s share experiences!