In the past, I worked with a business that made its decisions on where to advertise based entirely on which publications and stations actually called up and solicited an ad. While plenty of publications are cold-calling potential advertisers in hopes of getting a little ad revenue these days, I wouldn’t really recommend taking a similar route. Instead, approaching advertising like any other business project can guarantee that your advertising budget actually has the affect you want in the long-term. An advertising project isn’t so different from buying a new office or designing a new product: with the right process, you can complete your project efficiently and with great results.
Here are eight steps you can follow to keep your advertising campaign on track and successful:
- Market research: Before you even start thinking about where you might want to place an ad or even what it could look like, it’s important to do at least some basic research. Even if you aren’t in a position to bring in an expensive research firm, you can ask your current customers questions about why they come back to you, as well as taking a close look at your target demographic’s needs and interests.
- Budgeting: Your business probably has a set advertising budget for the year — but how do you divvy it up between your various advertising projects? For each project you’re planning, you need to be clear on just how much money you’re willing to spend. You’ll almost certainly change exactly how you divide it between costs like copy writing and design, but you can treat the overall amount as set in stone. Write it down and put it in your project folder.
- Setting goals: The aims you have in mind for a particular advertising project need to be written down ahead of time. While it’s good to be ambitious, it’s also important to decide what constitutes a successful advertising campaign for your business. Sales can be the simplest metric: if you’re advertising a particular product, how many units will you need to sell to pay for that campaign?
- Advertising venue: The website, tv station, newspaper, radio station, magazine or other advertising venue you place your ad with is a crucial decision. You’ll need to look at not only the cost of your preferred venues but also whether they reach your target demographic. Ad buys can make up a significant portion of your budget. Deciding on where you will place your ads first tells you how much money you’ll have left over for actually creating your ad.
- Choosing creatives: Unless you’re planning to write, shoot and design every part of your ad, you’ll probaably need to bring in some help. Finding the right freelancers for each aspect requires checking through portfolios and rates — if you can find a business or freelancer who can handle all aspects of creating your ad, even if that means subcontracting, it can save you a lot of time. You’ll also want to make sure that you find any talent you’ll need for your ad (voice actors for radio, models for photography and so on).
- Design and wording: While you may not have a lot of actual writing and designing to do for your ad, during the creation process you will need to review and sign off on different stages of the project. When starting with a new designer or other creative, make sure that you both know any expectations for timelines and progress checks.
- Placing the ad: Once you have a finished ad in hand, it’s time to actually place it with your preferred advertising venue. You may have a few contracts to sign and a check to hand over. You’ll also want to make sure you actually see your ad once it’s run — from a newspaper, for instance, you’ll want to see the tear sheets of pages containing your ad.
- Evaluation: Depending on your ad, how you evaluate it can vary. If it included a coupon, for instance, you can simply count how many customers brought in the coupon. For other ads, you may be simply comparing sales before, during and after your advertising campaign. Spend as much time on analyzing how your advertising campaign worked as you can. That information can point you to more effective uses of advertising in the future.
While following such a set process may seem like it would stifle the creativity necessary to put together a new ad, following these steps can actually make it easier. You can minimize confusion and make sure that everyone is meeting the necessary deadlines — and you can ensure that you’ll be able to measure your ad’s actual cost and responses during each step. You’ll be better equipped to tweak your ad or move it to another publication in the future.