Advertising. Do I include it in my marketing plan?

There are a lot of pros to including advertising as part of your overall marketing strategy, but, over and above the anticipated image building advertising can achieve, it also gets your company noticed and generates leads. (It can also rattle your competition, but that’s not really a reason for including it…… it?!)

There are some who would ask whether advertising spreads the marketing message net too thin.

There are others who question whether people who “buy” in the professional services arena would be looking at advertisements at exactly the right time to see your ad and buy from you. However, advertising can be a very good response generator and that is where your focus must be.

Using advertising as an out-an-out brand builder can become a costly exercise. It can also be hard to monitor, but a well thought out media plan for a well-executed advertising campaign can underpin your entire marketing strategy as well as ease the path for other elements of the marketing mix.

To elaborate. What advertising does primarily is create curiosity. This can smooth the way for a prospecting phone call or a direct response e shot. We tempt with the advert and follow up with something else.

For example, we have a client who is in the retail sector. Being in retail inevitably means promotions are run periodically and these promotions require marketing. Our first port of call is advertising. The campaigns we design state the facts – what is happening, where and at what price. We also create a dedicated page on the website for “more information” and then e shot the database, use PR and social media to raise awareness of the promotion.

We feel that advertising shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re considering your marketing. However, to get the best from it as a marketing tool, be sensible. Plan what you want to do. Build a relationship with the media and allocate a budget.

 p.s. Advertising can also demonstrate a proof of commitment to the marketing initiative and raises morale internally as employees see their company in print and will know that the people in charge are investing in the future of the company!

Bath Marketing Consultancy plans, negotiates, designs and delivers effective advertising across Bath, Bristol, Somerset as well as nationally.


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. 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 >>

Design and corporate identity

Whenever you start thinking about corporate material, the question of design will rear its head. i.e do we use a new style; do we buy in someone to help, what style do we use etc. The next step usually is to review your corporate identity.
Yes, design undoubtedly has a vital role in the presentation and marketing of your organisation.

It is a key means for you to try and distinguish yourself from your competition. It is also a way to reveal your organisations’ “personality.” Traditionally the mix of your identity and house style will feature on your logo and corporate ID such as letters & faxes (if you still use fax!) as well as documents, proposals, stationary, leave behinds, creds presentations etc.

Under such circumstances it is crucial that any review comes from the person at the top of your organisation and, in Bath Marketing Consultancy’s opinion, that high quality outside professionals are brought in to handle the exercise. The need for authority inside and outside your organisation is because this operation is almost certain to result in proposals for some sort of change and this “change” may not be something everyone wants to undertake.

So…if you are to go down the professional route, a full and clear brief must be given to the company selected. This brief should focus on the personality of your business i.e. what does your brand stand for? Remember that design should work at an emotional and rational level so try and consider these aspects in your brief. It might even be worth collecting (subtly!) examples of what your competitor’s literature looks like as well as other examples from different sectors you like. When Bath Marketing Consultancy puts together initiatives like websites or marketing literature, we always do an audit of the existing material and then ask for a steer from clients as to what they like before putting together initial design ideas.

I would always advocate listening to the rationale from your designer and then taking a long term view when making decisions. I am all too aware of the difficulties of decision by committee, but make sure that your designer has identified who you are and what you stand for.
One area Bath Marketing Consultancy tends to insist on is some sort of style guide for a signed off logo which gives consistency across ongoing marketing material……and stops staff playing with the designs!

Finally, marketing initiatives like brochures might have a long shelf life so my suggestion would be to keep names of personnel out of the design (unless the details are yours and you own the business!).

Good luck!

Pretty pictures vs making marketing work

Some might see this topic as controversial, but my aim is to show that having a beautiful logo, a “creative” advertisement and/or a pretty website is not necessarily going to mean a fast track to early retirement! I have spent my career “debating” the importance of creativity with numerous creative directors and, as yet, opinions still differ.

What I am saying is that, in my opinion when it comes to the pecking order, producing an effective marketing platform like a website is more important that what it looks like. Why? Because I feel that design is so subjective. What a designer may like or what an MD of a company might like may be totally different to what a customer or prospective customer may like. This is where testing can play a major part.

Dont be too “arty”

The key area for me is ensuring that the initiative ticks certain boxes BEFORE the creatives get hold of it! I am not devaluing the importance of visual impact (after all, there are awards ceremonies for creativity and not strategy!); more that, if a website doesn’t take the browser on a journey and/or answer all their questions, they are not going to interact with the site. Thus, do a site map for a new website before the initial design.

In addition, the trend a while back was for having an advert with lots of “white space” which meant that essential information that the buyer needed may have been left off. e.g Dont assume just putting a website address or a facebook page will suffice vs showing your full contact details!  

Similarly, never underestimate the importance of good copy. Some businesses are very quick to dismiss content in favour of doing it themselves, but a business owner is unlikely to write about their business in the correct way that attracts a potential customer.

When communicating with customers, give them enough information to make a decision. Yes, make the look of the advert or the website or the exhibition stand inviting, but try not to dwell too much on the look. 

It is the job of the marketing consultant to get under the skin of an organisation; i.e. get to know its personality, its customers, its target market and then put together its brand identity and USP.

I know there are lots of designers out there who may disagree so I would be interested in hearing any comments.

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…..