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Advertising, defined as "the action of attracting public attention to a
product or business," is one of many marketing tools you can use to draw in
more customers with greater frequency. Also falling under the broad
umbrella of marketing are public relations and promotional programs,
signage, premiums and incentives, newsletters, trade shows and word of
mouth -- in short, everything you do to help attain your company's overall
goals. Ideally, your firm should invest in an on-going, consistent
marketing program using a combination of these tools for maximum impact.

What Advertising Can Do  For Your Business
Remind customers and prospects about the benefits of your product or
Establish and maintain your distinct identity or "personality"
Enhance your reputation
Encourage existing customers to buy more of what you sell
Attract new customers and replace lost ones
Slowly build sales to boost your bottom line

What Advertising Cannot Do For Your Business
Create an instant avalanche of customers
Cause an immediate sharp increase in sales
Solve cash flow or profit problems
Substitute for poor or indifferent customer service
Peddle useless or unwanted products or services, such as snow tires in
Florida during July

Advertising's Two Important Virtues
You have complete control. Unlike public relations efforts, you have
final word in determining 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 (working mothers, new home purchasers, small truck
owners), and aim at very specific geographic areas.
You can be consistent, through advertising which presents your company's
image and sales message over time to build awareness and trust. Similar to
McDonald's golden arches, a distinctive identity can eventually become
clearly associated with your company. People will recognize you quickly and
easily -- whether in ads, mailers, packaging or signage -- if you present
yourself consistently through all the promotional vehicles at your

What Are Advertising's Drawbacks?
It takes planning. Advertising 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 achieve certain economies by preparing a
number of ads at once.
It takes time and persistence. The effectiveness of your advertising is
measured over the long run. That's because people don't see every one of
your ads. They only see some of them some of the time. 
     You must repeatedly remind prospects and customers about the benefits
of doing business with you. It's this constant repetition and the
cumulative effect that win the day. It is also the long-term effort that
triggers recognition and helps special offers or direct marketing really
pay off.

How to Get Ready to Advertise - Drawing the Blueprint
     Most of us are impatient; we want our advertising to spark an
immediate sales increase. That's equivalent to giving a builder one week to
construct a three-bedroom home without a blueprint.
     Think of the planning process as drawing a blueprint for your
advertising campaign structure. First you design the framework, next you
fill in the details, and finally you begin to build.

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. Zero in next on possible advertising
routes complementary to your marketing efforts, and be specific.
     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? Sell off old products
to free resources for new ones?
How much can you afford to invest
     Keep in mind that whatever amount you allocate is never enough. Even
giants such as Proctor & Gamble and Pepsi always feel they could augment
their advertising budgets. 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 a full 10% of their
gross income on advertising, others just 1%. Sorry, there is no fixed rule.

2. Fill in the Details
What are the features and benefits of your product or service?
     In first determining the features, think of automobile brochures that
list engine, body and performance specifications. Or food products that
detail ingredients. Or accountants whose services include preparing tax
returns and cash flow consulting.
     Now the hard part -- what are the benefits of those features to your
customers? How does your product or service actually help them? For
example, a powerful engine helps you accelerate quickly to get onto busy
freeways. Certain food ingredients are cholesterol free or low in fat to
aid in staying healthy. 
Who is your audience?
     Create a profile of your best customer. Be as specific as possible,
for this answer will be the primary guidepost in creating your ads and
choosing appropriate media.
     Examples: A restaurant may target adults who dine out frequently in
the nearby city or suburban area. A computer software manufacturer may aim
at information managers in companies with 10-100 employees. A bottled water
company may try to appeal to athletes or people over 25 who are concerned
about their health.
Who is your competition?
     It's important to identify who your competitors are, as well as their
strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what your competition offers that you
don't -- and vice versa -- helps you show prospects why 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 niche in the
marketplace and establish a particular positioning in your customers'
minds. For example, is your product perceived as the most or least
expensive? Are you regarded as a large or small company within your
industry? Is your service seen as prestigious or utilitarian?

3. Arm Yourself with Information
What do you know about your industry, market and audience?
     Many sources of information can 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 are 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 alternative is to hire a professional market research firm to
conduct your research. 

4. Build Your Action Plan -- 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
who your audience is will guide you towards the type of media that will
deliver your sales message most effectively. Use as many of the tools as
are appropriate and affordable. 
     Remember you can stretch your media budget by taking advantage of
co-op advertising programs offered by manufacturers to encourage you to
advertise their products. 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.
     Casablanca Fan Company, for example, funds as much as one-half the
media cost per ad or radio spot, up to a total of 5% of a dealer's annual
fan purchases. The company also supplies ad slicks (ready-to-go ads
featuring its products, with a blank space for the dealer's name and
address) and radio scripts.
     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 Avenues
Advertising doesn't start or stop with 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 bags.
     You can 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. Send a newsletter. Conduct
seminars. Undertake contests or sweepstakes.
     In addition, you can send advertising flyers along with billing
statements. Use telemarketing to generate leads for salespeople. Develop
sales kits with brochures, product samples or application ideas.
      In short, the number of promotional tools used to deliver your
message and repeat your name is limited only by your imagination and the
parameters of your budget. 

At Last -- The Advertising Campaign
When armed with knowledge of your industry, market and audience, a media
plan and schedule, your product or service's most important benefits, and
measurable goals in terms of sales volume (number of units sold), revenue
generated or other criteria, you are now ready for action.
     The first step is to establish the theme and, if appropriate, the
specific tag line that identifies your product or service in all of your

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.
     Likewise, a tag line rests on 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
     "Ideas at Work" (Black & Decker tools and appliances) again signifies
performance, but adds reliability and imagination to the statement.
     "How the Smart Money Gets that Way" (Barron's financial publication)
clearly connotes prosperity, intelligence and success.

Preparing the Ads
The initial design of your advertising, and creation of the tag line and
tone of voice you'll use to establish your personality, are so critical
that it almost always pays to have professional help. Hire the best
designer and copywriter you can afford at the start. Later you can ask
newspapers, radio stations or magazines to follow your guidelines in
preparing specific ads if you can't afford to continue relying on
     How do you know a good ad when you read, write, design or evaluate
one? Most importantly, a good ad focuses on one message -- the single idea
you want this ad to convey. That idea may revolve around price, features,
convenience, quality, enhanced technology or a time-limited offer. Support
that idea with as much copy or illustration as time or space allows.
     Also, good ads rely on "The Three I's": Involve, Inform and
Involve the audience. A good ad arouses curiosity, lures in prospects,
and invites them to participate. It does that with words, images or sounds
that are compelling and with information that aims at their strongest
     Example: "Please Your Client & Your Accountant" appeals to the
reader's desire to be doubly successful by giving good service and making
Inform the buyer. Your prospect wants the answer to one question: "What's
in it for me?" This may be a faster, easier, or less expensive way to
attain a specific objective -- "TransEuropa Express: The Fast Track to the
Time of Your Life," for example.
     Or it may be something less tangible -- stylishness, prestige, praise
or the admiration of friends and colleagues. Look at clothing, soft drink
and health club ads for good examples of this appeal.
Illustrate the benefit. Even people who aren't paying much attention
while turning the channel or the page can see your message in a
micro-second -- if it's well illustrated. This means not only illustrating
the product or service, but the benefit as well.
     Example: Campbell Soup advertising shows mom and her kids in a
traditional kitchen setting with a loving atmosphere and hot soup. Nordic
Track ads portray a slim young man or woman exercising. Both imply the
customer will also look or feel that way by using the products being

You can even illustrate radio and television ads with your choice of music
and background sound effects.

Fundamentals of Headlines, Copy and Design
While there are many opinions about what constitutes good headlines, copy
and design, most professionals agree that these individual elements of the
ad must work together. In combination, they must grab attention, convey a
persuasive message and portray a consistent identity.
     An ad that's too cluttered can't convey a message quickly enough to
engage the reader or viewer. One that's out of character with the product
or service will be confusing rather than convincing.
     An effective headline (or a broadcast ad's opening moments) must
immediately capture the audience's interest and pull them into the ad. A
good rule of thumb is to look for the inherent "drama" in what you are
offering, and capitalize on that to create an alluring ad.
     Examples: "We're Losing Our Minds" -- a university ad appealing for
funds. And "You Don't Have to be Jewish to Love Levy's" -- a bread company
ad featuring a Chinese man biting into a whopping pastrami sandwich.
     Next, the photo or illustration amplifies the message. A recent ad for
Bull Worldwide Information Systems, for example, showed a satellite photo
of the earth with the headline "GloBull."
     Once the headline and illustration have drawn the customer into your
ad, the copy convinces them to buy. So make it believable, full of
information, and bolstered with words and style that complement your
identity. Almost any Mercedes Benz print ad exemplifies convincing copy in
a style that suits the product perfectly.
     Broadcast advertising will also involve selecting music, sound
effects, actors or announcers, and perhaps a theme song. All these elements
enhance your message and reinforce your identity but, for the most part,
the copy and what it conveys actually do the selling.

Measuring Results
     Now that you've advertised regularly and consistently with dramatic
ads full of information and impact, it's time to look at the bottom line to
measure results.
     In the short term, results   are often difficult to ascertain because
advertising is not a knee-jerk instrument. It is an on-going process
designed for sustainable results over time.
     However, when your ad contains a coupon, special time-limited offer or
other inducement to act immediately, you can get measurable results almost
at once -- if your offer, timing and media selection were right and you had
already established a rapport with your audience.
     Remember, a single ad does not an advertising program make! Each
individual advertising exposure, whatever response it generates,
contributes to a residual result that will eventually show up at your
bottom line: name recognition, reputation and trust.
     To gauge long-term results, go back to your original benchmark. Were
you successful in attaining the goals you set up?
     Now look at the specific advertising vehicles you employed. Which
media were most effective in a quantifiable way -- not for a specific ad
but during your overall campaign -- in terms of response versus cost
expended? Which offers worked best? What pricing levels? Did you see
steeper upward curves during certain times of the year?
     Armed with this analysis, you can fine tune your overall advertising
program, and its individual components, for the next year or years. For the
value of advertising -- as a complement to other promotional efforts --
justifies it as an integral part of your marketing strategy. And yes, it
does get easier as you test, refine, re-evaluate and measure over time.

 What are your organization's overall goals?
 Which marketing tools will help you achieve them?
 What is the purpose of your advertising program? (Be specific.)
 What is your advertising budget?
 What are the most important features and benefits of your
 Who is your target audience? (Create a profile of your best customer.)
 Who is your competition?
 How are you perceived relative to your competition?
 What identity or personality do you want to project?
 What is the single most important benefit you want to convey about your
 What other benefits set you apart from the competition?
 What advertising tools will you use? 
      Yellow Pages       Newspapers    Magazines    
      Radio/TV      Direct Mail   Telemarketing 
      Billboards    Signage            Other
 How will you measure the effectiveness of your advertising program?

1. How did you first hear about our product/service?
2. Have you seen any of our advertising? If so, where?
3. What do you like best/find most useful about our product/service?
4. How could our product/service be improved?
5. What other products/services would you like us to offer?
6. What was the single most compelling reason for choosing our
7. What other reasons were important?
8. What friends, family members or colleagues, if any, influenced your
buying decision?
9. What newspapers and magazines do you read regularly?
10. Which radio and television stations do you tune in most frequently?
11. Please indicate your age and sex:    Male     Female
      18-34    35-49    50-65    66+
12. Please indicate your annual household income:
      Under $15,000      $16-24,000    $25-49,000
      $50-100,000   $100,000+
(For businesses, omit #11 and instead ask something to indicate size, such
as number of employees. Rather than #12, ask for annual sales volume.)
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