The Japanese have a proverb that if your only tool is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. When it comes to small business marketing, that tool is often advertising. Although we strongly believe in the power of advertising, many of the small businesses we have worked with have needlessly wasted thousands of dollars in ineffective and sometimes un-purposeful advertising. By understanding that advertising is not always the best solution for your business and understanding how to advertise effectively and purposefully when it is, small businesses can grow their brands and their sales. There are four primary questions that must be answered before launching any sort of advertising campaign.
Who is the target?
We believe the first step in marketing is always to better understand your customer. When it comes to advertising, this could spell the difference between an effective advertising campaign and a complete waste of your money. One of the first considerations you should make before investing in advertising is whether or not your target audience is readily identifiable. If your target audience is very large and specific target members are not readily identifiable, then advertising may be the best means of communicating your brand’s message. However, if your target audience is relatively small and individual members are readily identifiable, then direct sales may be a preferable approach.
If advertising does appear to be an inappropriate tactic for your brand, then understanding characteristics such as demographics, psychographics, and other information that allows you to segment and target your advertising is very important to achieving the best results. This information accompanied by information about your product or service, its benefits, and how it is used is also important for crafting a message.
What is the objective?
What’s the point? This question seems unnecessary but is vital to advertising effectively. Advertising can accomplish many different objectives ranging from building a brand, maintaining a brand’s position, attracting new customers, and protecting a brand from new entrants. Whatever the objective, it is important that it be defined up front with SMART objectives that can be used to evaluate its effectiveness.
What is the message?
There are entire books written on crafting advertising messages. There is a good reason for this. Crafting the appropriate message that engages your target audience, communicates a product or services benefits in a way important to consumers, and helps position your product or service appropriately is not easily done. If you’re following along, and have sufficient knowledge of your target audience as well as your product or service differentiation then you are ahead of most small businesses who ineffectively advertise without either.
How will we measure the results?
Earlier we discussed the importance of having SMART objectives. One of the key characteristics of a SMART objective is it’s measurable. As a famous adage in which a business executive stated ” I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted. The problem is that I don’t know which half.” Although some forms of advertising may be difficult to measure, especially traditional advertising mediums, it is important that you take the time to understand how you will measure all advertising investments before you begin.
Answering these four questions will help you ensure that your small business approaches advertising knowledgeably and with strategic foresight and not be one of the millions who advertise ineffectually and purposelessly. The answers to these questions will also help improve your return on advertising spend (ROAS), as you will not needlessly be spending money targeting the wrong audience with the wrong message.