Planning your advertising

When planning your advertising, you need to consider:

  • the objective of the campaign (your goals)
  • how much to spend (your budget)
  • who to target (your audience)
  • the type of advertising you'll use (your strategy)
  • when you will advertise (your calendar or schedule of activity)
  • how to monitor your success (your results).

These elements are a key part of your marketing plan. You should regularly review your marketing plan to ensure that your advertising strategies are helping you to achieve your marketing goals.

Set clear goals

It's important to set clear goals when considering advertising, just as in any other part of your business. What measurable results do you want to achieve in the market this year, and in the longer term?

Targeting your advertising will make it easier for you to decide how and where to advertise. You may want to increase the sales of a particular product, make your customers aware of a new service, or attract regular customers away from your competitors.

For example, a men's clothing store may have as its main goal: To create awareness of our new range of imported suits for businessmen aged 20-29, in the first 3 months of the year.

This goal identifies what is to be advertised, to whom, and when. Knowing what you are trying to achieve is essential when planning your advertising.

Set your budget

When deciding how much to spend on advertising, consider your costs and cash flow as well as your goals. While spending too much on advertising is risky, spending too little can also cause problems. If your advertising is not professional or frequent enough to generate results, competing with other businesses may be difficult. Sometimes you need to see advertising as an investment in your business to build awareness over the longer term.

Knowing how much other businesses spend on advertising can be invaluable when setting your budget. Benchmarking is the best way to compare your business with other similar-sized businesses in the same industry.

Research your competitors and customers

Where do your competitors advertise? What do they say about themselves? How do they position their business? You may decide to follow their strategy, or do something completely different. Either way, it's important that you know how your competitors advertise their products or services.

Market research involves finding out as much as you can about your competitors and customers. You may find that your target market reads a particular magazine, and your competitors advertise in every issue. If so, it might be a good strategy for you to advertise in this publication as well. You may find out that your customers are in need of a particular service which you could easily establish and offer as a competitive advantage.

Research the numbers

In most cases, the more people who read a newspaper, watch a television show or drive past a billboard each day, the more expensive it is to advertise. However, this also means that more potential customers will see your products and services.

When comparing readership figures, television ratings or the average number of cars that drive past a billboard each day, always check that the numbers have been verified by a reputable independent body.

When researching your advertising options, ask sales staff for a rate card. This will list the circulation (the number of copies distributed) or readership figures, as well as the cost of placing advertisements.

For example, display advertisements in newspapers are often sold by the number of columns across and the number of centimetres down the page, while classifieds are usually sold by the line. You may be able to get a discount if you book multiple advertisements at the same time.

Choose your strategy

Every type of advertising has advantages and disadvantages. For example, print advertising can cost more than its online equivalent. However, a carefully targeted leaflet through a door may have more impact than an advertisement on the internet, where competition for customers' attention is high.

The type of advertising you choose will depend on the target audience you are trying to reach and your budget and by determining the most cost-effective way to reach your audience as many times as possible.

Ask the professionals for help

In the same way that you would regularly seek help from your accountant or solicitor, it is wise to ask for help when planning your advertising. If you want professionals to handle your advertising campaign from start to finish, ask your business adviser or networking contacts to recommend advertising agencies. Make sure to thoroughly research agencies to find the one with the skills and fees to suit your goals and budget.

Develop an action plan

Developing an action plan and a timetable will give you plenty of time to meet advertising deadlines. Many advertisers are very strict with bookings and often work months ahead (e.g. to advertise in the April issue of a magazine you may have to supply artwork in January).

Make sure you give yourself enough time to create effective advertising for occasions such as Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day and other seasonal events.

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