The Basics of Advertising
What Advertising Can Do For Your Business
- Remind customers about the benefits of your product
- Establish and maintain your identity
- Enhance your reputation
- Encourage existing customers to buy more of what
- Attract new customers
- Slowly build sales to boost your bottom line
- Promote your business to customers, investors and
What Advertising Cannot Do For Your Business
- Create an instant customer base
- Cause an immediate sharp increase in sales
- Solve cash flow or profit problems
- Substitute for poor or indifferent customer service
- Sell useless or unwanted products or services
- You have complete control. Unlike public relations
efforts, you determine exactly where, when and how often
your message will appear, how it will look, and what
it will say. You can target your audience more readily
and aim at very specific geographic areas.
- You can be consistent, presenting your company's
image and sales message repeatedly to build awareness
and trust. A distinctive identity will eventually become
clearly associated with your company, like McDonald's
golden arches. As a result, customers will recognize
you quickly and easily.
- Advertising takes planning. It works best and costs
least when planned and prepared in advance. For example,
you'll pay less per ad in newspapers and magazines by
agreeing to run several ads over time rather than deciding
issue by issue. Likewise, you can save money by preparing
a number of ads at once.
- It takes time and persistence. The effectiveness
of your advertising improves gradually over time, because
customers don't see each and every one of your ads.
- You must repeatedly remind prospects and customers
about the benefits of doing business with you. The long-term
effort triggers recognition and helps special offers
or direct marketing pay off.
Getting Ready to Advertise - Drawing the Blueprint
1. Design the Framework
What is the purpose of your advertising program? Start
by defining your company's long-range goals, then map
out how marketing can help you attain them. Focus on advertising
routes complementary to your marketing efforts. Set measurable
goals so you can evaluate the success of your advertising
campaign. For example, do you want to increase overall
sales by 20% this year? Boost sales to existing customers
by 10% during each of the next three years? Appeal to
younger or older buyers?
How much can you afford to invest? Keep in mind that
whatever amount you allocate will never seem like enough.
But given your income, expenses and sales projections,
simple addition and subtraction can help you determine
how much you can afford to invest. Some companies spend
10% of their gross income on advertising, others just
1%. Research and experiment to see what works best for
2. Fill in the Details
What are the features and benefits of your product or
service? When determining features, think of automobile
brochures that list engine, body and performance specifications.
Next, and more difficult, determine the benefits those
features provide to your customers. How does your product
or service help them? For example, a powerful engine helps
a driver accelerate quickly to get onto busy freeways.
Who is your audience? Create a profile of your best
customer. Be as specific as possible, for this will be
the focus of your ads and media choices.
Who is your competition? It's important to identify
your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing
what your competition offers that you don't, and vice
versa, helps you show prospects how your product or service
is special, or why they should do business with you instead
of someone else. Knowing your competition will also help
you find a market niche.
3. Arm Yourself with Information
What do you know about your industry, market and audience?
There are many sources of information to help you keep
in touch with industry, market and buying trends without
conducting expensive market research. Examples include
U.S. Government materials from the Census Bureau and Department
of Commerce. Public, business or university libraries
are also a good option, as well as industry associations,
trade publications and professional organizations. You
can quickly and easily learn more about your customers
by simply asking them about themselves, their buying preferences
and media habits. Another, more expensive, alternative
is to hire a professional market research firm to conduct
4. Evaluating Media Choices
Your next step is to select the advertising vehicles
you will use to carry your message, and establish an advertising
schedule. In most cases, knowing your audience will help
you choose the media that will deliver your sales message
most effectively. Use as many of the above tools as are
appropriate and affordable. You can stretch your media
budget by taking advantage of co-op advertising programs
offered by manufacturers. Although programs vary, generally
the manufacturer will pay for a portion of media space
and time costs, or mailer production charges, up to a
fixed amount per year. The total amount contributed is
usually based on the quantity of merchandise you purchase.
When developing your advertising schedule, be sure to
take advantage of any special editorial or promotional
coverage planned in the media you select. Newspapers,
for example, often run special sections featuring real
estate, investing, home and garden improvement, and tax
advice. Magazines also often focus on specific themes
in each issue.
5. Using Other Promotional Techniques
Advertising extends beyond the media described above.
Other options include imprinting your company name and
graphic identity on pens, paper, clocks, calendars and
other giveaway items for your customers. Put your message
on billboards, inside buses and subways, on vehicle and
building signs, on point-of-sale displays and shopping
Here are other ideas that you can use for your advertising
- Co-sponsor events with nonprofit organizations and
advertise your participation.
- Attend or display at consumer or business trade shows.
- Create tie-in promotions with allied businesses.
- Distribute newsletters.
- Conduct seminars, contests or sweepstakes.
- Send advertising flyers along with billing statements.
- Use telemarketing to generate leads for salespeople.
- Develop sales kits with brochures, product samples,
or application ideas.
The Advertising Campaign
The first step is to establish the theme that identifies
your product or service in all of your advertising. The
theme of your advertising reflects your special identity
or personality, and the particular benefits of your product
or service. For example, cosmetics ads almost always rely
on a glamorous theme. Many food products opt for healthy,
all-American family campaigns. Automobile advertising
frequently concentrates on how the car makes you feel
about owning or driving it rather than performance attributes.
Tag lines reinforce the single most important reason
for buying your product or service. "Nothing Runs
Like a Deere" (John Deere farm vehicles) conveys
performance and endurance with a nice twist on the word
"deer." "Ideas at Work" (Black &
Decker tools and appliances) again signifies performance,
but also reliability and imagination. "How the Smart
Money Gets that Way" (Barron's financial publication)
connotes prosperity, intelligence, and success.
By USBA (United States Small Business Administration)