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5 Steps to a better return on your advertising investment

If you think that, because your business is small, you can advertise without having a defined marketing strategy, Ed Yeaker disagrees with you. Yeaker, a former adjunct marketing instructor at Pace University, offers five tips for small businesses that want to get more ka-ching out of their advertising.

1. Have a Clear Marketing Direction -- and Stick to It. "Advertising helter skelter just because of aggressive media sales reps, friends' suggestions, status and emotional appeals usually has little or no value, or even hurts the business," Yeaker says. "Every business, no matter the size, needs a planned approach to marketing-directed advertising that supports the company's goals and allows it to prosper." The key elements of a solid plan should include:
  • A situation analysis, including market data, consumer profiles and attitudes, plus competitive appraisal;
  • Assessment of problems and weaknesses along with opportunities and strengths;
  • Review of the overall business and its financial goals; and
  • Objectives, strategies and rationale for the money you're spending on advertising.

2. Distinctive Positioning.You must separate your business from competitors selling the same thing in a way that is meaningful, memorable and believable. Then you have to apply that identity consistently and visibly in every facet of your business and operation. Strong positioning is at the heart of effective creative strategy for advertising, but only if it is meaningful and memorable. Being believable is at the heart of advertising success. "The stronger the assertion, the greater the disbelief," Yeaker notes.

3. It's All About Customer Benefits. It's not what you have to sell, but what customers need that's important, even if the customer doesn't know (yet) that she needs it. And your advertising's focus doesn't end when you produce the commercial, print ad or Internet campaign. That's just the beginning. Understanding how customers use and experience your product should drive your ongoing promotion. Yeaker notes, for example, that some bedroom furniture manufacturers advertise the benefit of their materials and construction, emphasizing durability. But when he designed a campaign for a client in this space, the consumer promise was "sweet dreams," because research showed a good night's sleep was the key emotional benefit of the product. "Sure, they want a good product and a fair price, but first things first when you're trying to get their attention," he says.

4. Integrate All Promotional Activity. Yeaker suggests you take a top-down approach to your advertising strategy so you get results greater than the sum of the parts. Rather than initially focusing on the individual components of an ad campaign -- the media where the ad will run, the creative content, the price you'll pay, the number of customers you will convert, and fitting together all the different types of ads and promotions -- think first about the problem you are solving for your business. This is a typical "forest and trees" issue: if you center your attention on the mechanics of advertising and promotion and how well they look and sound individually, you may miss the opportunity (which is really a necessity) of making sure they all add up to a well-integrated whole that delivers new profits for your business. Taking a top-down approach assures a cohesive look and attitude so that each of your ads is instantly recognized as being uniquely yours in every application, from print media advertising to TV and radio, from mailings to telemarketing, plus sales literature and especially, Internet marketing".

5. Accountable Performance. At its heart, advertising is an experiment. You can't have perfect knowledge of what will work, so it's critical to test your assumptions. There are a couple of key ways to measure and analyze advertising to make it accountable:
  • Creative development, with some preliminary research to confirm viable appeals and offers, followed by testing of different messages and executions;
  • Testing different messages within each media you use;
  • Testing the demographics and psychographics of the lists you use for direct mail and telemarketing; and
  • Testing media in print and broadcast -- each with virtually infinite variations and combinations.

While all this testing and preparation may sound complex and expensive to do, it's actually much cheaper than doing what most small businesses do: winging it.

From an article by Mitchell York for About.com.

8 Comments to 5 Steps to a better return on your advertising investment:

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