Advertising is a whole lot more complicated than just arranging TV spots, creating billboards and launching ads on social media. There's a lot of thought and strategy that goes into successful advertising campaigns, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach for businesses. Every business has different needs to fit and different customers and clients to reach, and every advertising platform has different options and requirements to fill. So how do you make sure your advertising strategy will work for you?
Before you launch your next big advertising campaign, make sure you follow these five important tips for success.
Reach the right audience
Before you put any time, effort or money into your advertising campaign, you need to make sure you know your target audience well. Without this important step, your campaigns will be a waste.
"If you don't know your target market, it's impossible to create effective advertising," said Louisa Levit, co-founder of web development company Reliable PSD. "In fact, the majority of the work in advertising is compiling this target-market research."
Levit said that to advertise to people, you have to really know them. This means you need to know who they are, where they congregate, what their personalities are like, what their deep wants and desires are, and the emotional reasons they have for seeking your service, Levit said.
"Any purchase a consumer makes is driven by an emotion. Uncovering these emotions and using design and copy to connect with them in a meaningful way is when successful advertising happens," Levit said.
Make your campaign measurable
Big companies may be able to get away with throwing away money on big advertising campaigns that may or may not be effective, but small businesses have to be much more careful in their ad strategies.
"There are tons of advertising avenues available, but some are about as effective as throwing money in the wind," said Nikolas Allen, author of "Heavyweight Marketing: Knockout Strategies for Building Champion Brands" (CreateSpace, 2014). "Maybe big business can afford to do that, but [small businesses] need to pick and choose wisely."
This means small businesses need to focus on creating campaigns that are measureable, so they can track their results and get the most out of their budgets.
Allen said that ad campaigns could include promotion-specific coupon codes, landing pages, toll-free numbers or email addresses correlating to a strong, clear, concise and urgent call to action. And if your business uses Advanced Google Analytics, you can track essential data on the whole purchase cycle if you have e-commerce capabilities, Allen said. [5 Proven Marketing Tactics to Gain (and Keep) Local Customers ]
Allen also pointed out that tracking doesn't need to be high-tech and confusing; it can be as easy as asking your new customers and clients where they heard about you.
"Whatever tactics you use, tracking the results of your ad dollars will tell you whether or not your campaign was a success," Allen said.
Location, location, location
If your business has one or more physical locations, it's important to make the most of your company's geography, said Marc Prosser, co-founder of Internet publishing firm Marc Waring Ventures and publisher at Fit Small Business.
"I recommend setting up separate pages on your site for each of the areas you service," Prosser said. "That might mean a city and two or three suburbs, or it might mean individual neighborhoods. Use Google Keyword Planner to see what people are searching in your area, and focus on those targets."
Once you set up these pages, you'll want to keep them updated to maintain their search rankings, Prosser said.
"One easy way to do this is to post reviews from Yelp and other sources on your site," he said. "That way, you'll make sure your local pages are all up to date and high up on Google's rankings in the areas you cover."
When you're advertising on several different platforms, it's necessary to make various changes to your campaign to fit each platform. But overall, your message should be very consistent. Khalan Bridges, co-founder of domain-name marketplace The unFactory, said you should think about your advertising campaign the same way you would a responsive website.
"When creating a responsive Web design, you build several different-size versions of your site, so it's readable across platforms," Bridges said. "When creating an advertising campaign, you need your assets to be equally consistent — design, style, voice, etc. — but easily scaled for different outlets."
Bridges suggested creating a tagline that can be used in paid ads, then scaling it down to create a hashtag for social media campaigns and building it out for blog posts and press releases.
"Ensure all of the elements are just bigger or smaller versions of each other — consistency is key," Bridges said. This is important if you consider the "effective frequency" theory, which states that consumers must be exposed to an ad at least three times before it becomes recognizable to them, Bridges explained.
"If your ads are inconsistent, you risk losing the customer's attention," Bridges said. "While this approach may feel redundant to you, it's the key to making your ad campaigns [stick.]"
Add urgency to campaigns
When it comes to direct-response advertising — or advertising meant to generate sales more so than brand awareness — it's all about contextual relevancy and urgency, said Michele Gobatto, director of marketing at brand-strategy agency King Tide Creative.
"Success highly depends on creating contextual campaigns and adding a sense of urgency to your ads," Gobatto said.
She added that an example of this is to create special collections and limited-time styles alongside special occasions like Mother's Day, Labor Day and Valentine's Day.
"Adding shipping deadlines to get by the holiday or doing a limited-time run on a style or collection are usually great motivators for conversions," Gobatto said. This, along with targeting the right audience, is the key to success, she added.