5 Essentials for Effective Advertising

Whether a company is experiencing a bit of a revenue dip or simply wants more leads to keep growing, advertising is a time-honored way to reach prospective buyers and enhance sales.  But it’s easy to waste dollars on advertising that doesn’t work.

We sought advice from James Ward, creative director for Saturday Brand Communications in Charlotte, regarding what to know before starting to advertise.  Ward has developed successful ad campaigns for companies large and small.  His advice applies whether the target is consumers or other businesses.

* Stay focused on what your audience wants, not what you want from them.  Resist the impulse to develop a message – called “the creative” in advertising lingo – that talks to you and your employees rather than to customers.  If an ad describes how everyone loves a product or service, that’s a clear signal the company is not really speaking to its target audience.

Here is one simple way to develop the creative: Talk to consumers about the real benefits of your product or service to them.  Connect with them emotionally. 

For any type of business, the advertising needs to be consistent with the company’s brand positioning, core values and mission statement.  It must be genuine and an honest reflection of the company.  Other important rules: Keep design simple and use a minimum number of fonts. Don't get overzealous with the size of the company logo. Finally, ask if the ad stands out and distinguishes your product from the competition.

* B2B advertising requires strong strategy and creative tactics, just as consumer advertising does. While B2B advertising is often built around functional benefits or bullet lists of competitive advantages, “solving the pain points for your target market and connecting emotionally are universal keys for effective advertising,” Ward says.

* Consider the campaign budget and goals when deciding where to advertise.  For businesses which have never advertised before, Ward suggests investigating relatively low-cost digital and social media advertising. “These are usually a great starting point for smaller businesses to connect with their most loyal customers, use word of mouth to their advantage and reach people using the Internet to make purchase decisions,” he says. It’s possible to use online tools to identify and reach customers closest to a purchase decision and the most interested in one’s brand.

Print ads can range from very wide to narrow targeting, depending on the publication. Look for new publications or websites that might complement the message of a particular campaign. Search blogs and blog networks for venues that might help the company reach its ideal customers.  Industry publications and websites can be an especially effective way to reach B2B clients. 

Overall, consider the number and quality of people reached when vetting an advertising opportunity.

* If using an ad agency, choose one with a collaborative, partnership-driven approach.
Review an agency’s past campaigns, particularly those they have produced recently.  “Sometimes experience in a specific industry can be an asset, but don’t underestimate the power of fresh thinking,” Ward says.

The best agency will be easy to work with, but will also be comfortable pushing for the right things to build the company brand. Pick an ad agency for their creativity, ingenuity and ability to leverage their experience on your company’s behalf.  Trust is essential on both sides for a successful partnership.

* Don’t begin until the product or service is ready.  If the product or service is not at its peak of quality, or the company is not able to handle increased demand, don’t advertise.  “A very true adage is, ‘Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising,’" Ward says.  “Be ready to deliver when advertising brings people to your door.”

Advertising takes many forms, but regardless of which method used to reach customers, the message needs to resonate with them. Following these points can help business owners maximize the return on their advertising dollar and ensure the customers gained from the campaigns are right for the business.