Mastering Advertising

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If you could master the art of  advertising , you would soon be an extremely rich individual. An “ Advertising  Master” could not only sell just about anything, for any price, but could also sell his or her expertise to others for untold sums of money, especially if that Master could guarantee results.

Now the bad news. Becoming a true  Advertising  Master is probably as difficult and time consuming as it might be to become a nuclear physicist!  Advertising  is that hard!  Advertising  is that elusive!  Advertising  is that much of a mystery!

 Advertising  is like writing a brilliant poem on the sand of a beach. Just when you have written a masterpiece, the tide comes in and washes it away forever. Then when you try to rewrite the poem, it turns out not to be so brilliant the second time around – even if you wrote the very same thing. The poem may stay the same, but the world around it changed. It lost it’s the original relevancy that made it brilliant the first time around. That happens with great ads all the time.

Is this starting to sound like a philosophy lecture? But here’s the thing about  advertising : You never know what good  advertising  is until it works. That means you can’t tell if an ad is a good, effective ad before it is actually used.

Now, let’s get in touch with reality here. We know a lot about  advertising . We know a lot about what works and what does not work. It’s just that there’s never 100% certainty about anything. Add to that fact that  advertising  tends to be extremely expensive and you have a very delicate situation, indeed. Still, very few businesses can exist without doing at least some kind of paid  advertising , and very often,  advertising  can be a tremendous source of new customers, business and profit for just about anybody who is selling anything.

When  advertising  is done right, the profit it can bring to a business can be truly spectacular. That’s why it’s so tempting to roll the dice with your ad budget. But when it comes to  advertising , what you need is a healthy dose of common sense, combined with a strategy that risks only as much money as you think you can afford to lose.

First of all, one must decide what kind of  advertising  is right for the business type. The choices are:

· print  advertising  in things like newspapers, magazines and other specialty publications.

· broadcast media eg. radio and television.

· internet  advertising  is a whole new and different kind  advertising  world in itself

· directory  advertising 

· billboards and poster sites

· promotional  advertising 

It can all be pretty intimidating. What  advertising  vehicle is right for you? What if you only had £1,000 to spend. Is it best to spend that £1,000 on an ad or ads in the local newspaper, take out an ad in the Yellow Pages, or maybe buy some radio time on a local station. If you only have £1,000 to spend, which should you choose to gain maximum effect? And by maximum effect, we mean bringing in more than the £1,000 you spent on that ad!

Well, we’re only going to talk about some general principles here and give some basic guidelines. That’s because literally whole libraries of books have been written on the subject and art of  advertising , and we simply can’t cover it all here. It’s a subject that is nearly inexhaustible, and any entrepreneur worth his salt should be spending a lot of spare time reading up on all the  advertising  information he or she can get his or her hands on.

First, never buy a large print advertisement without testing a smaller less expensive ad first. Maybe start with a classified ad, or very small space ad. If the results are promising, you can reasonably upgrade to a bigger more expensive ad in the same publication. The key is test and measure! You must have a system to determine that the ad you bought is responsible for the leads you get from that ad. It’s not always easy. Take the case of a restaurant.

Let’s say that Restaurant A buys an ad in the local newspaper. How do you know that the people who come into the restaurant are doing so because they were prompted to do so by the ad in the local paper? Is it reasonable to ask every patron who comes in if they saw your ad in the paper? Probably not. But if you included a clip out coupon in the ad which patrons can bring in for a 10% discount, you can get a pretty good idea of how well the ad performed. Simple techniques like this can make all the difference.

Companies that sell things via mail order key their ads to show where each order sent in came from. All orders which include a key from a print ad will show exactly how well the ad performed. This is an almost 100% accurate way to test a print ad.

But what about a radio ad? How could a restaurant  advertising  on a local radio station determine if their broadcast ads were working? It’s a lot tougher. You could ask patrons to mention your radio ad when they come in, but this is unreliable, to say the least. If business suddenly increases when the ad runs, you might reasonable conclude that the radio ad is working, but you can’t be 100% sure. It’s a tough call, and the smart restaurant owner will have to decide if the radio ad is worth it or not. If business continues to be brisk while the ad runs, it’s probably a good idea to keep it going.

Whatever the case, having a reliable way to test ads is essential to making intelligent decisions about the  advertising  budget. Another major point is this: Always remember the central purpose of an ad.- to bring in customers who will buy what you are selling. This point is so often forgotten and the design of the ad becomes an exercise in creative design rather than something designed to generate new sales.

The ad should produce more in income than the cost of the ad itself. This seems obvious, except for the fact that we are all bombarded every day with all kinds of  advertising  that is not necessarily selling very much. If this is so, then why is all this  advertising  being bought and paid for?

Well, much of the  advertising  we are confronted with every day is purchased by major corporations with very deep pockets, and gigantic  advertising  budgets. The big players can afford to buy ads that merely create “name recognition” and help them keep a high profile in the public mind. But small to mid-sized businesses can’t afford this kind of thing.

How many times have you seen a TV commercial that is fun to watch, completely hilarious, and really gives you a good laugh — but leaves you with no idea whatsoever about what is being advertised? We all see dozens of these ads every year. They’re fun and entertaining, but they don’t sell much. So why do people buy pay for ads like these? Again, such ads are usually the venue of major players with more money than brains, and who are also willing to take big risks in the  advertising  game.

But the vast majority — perhaps 99% — of businesses can’t afford this kind of thing. The purpose of an ad is to sell, not to entertain. The purpose of an ad is not to “be creative” but to produce profits. The purpose of an ad is not to be a work of art — but to get customers marching through the door. If an ad happens to entertain while making money, well, that’s fine. The trouble is, too many people have been led to believe that an ad must first be funny or entertaining, when the true first task of an ad is to inform customers about your product, tell them where and how to get it, and get them to buy.

Many small and mid-sized business owners see a lot of funny and creative ads on TV or in magazines, and then assume that because huge rich companies are using these kind of ads, they must be a good thing. That’s not the case.

There are other pressures to create ads that are nice to look at, but which don’t work. Ad agencies, for example, compete for creativity awards sponsored by  advertising  associations. Ad writers and creators who get awards get a boost to their careers when they win awards. This encourages them to lose sight of what their primary purpose is — to create ads that sell. Many TV ad producers tend to be frustrated film makers. How many TV ads have you seen that have the look and feel of miniature feature films? A lot! It’s great if they actually do something to sell the product, but much of the time they don’t.

So how can you be sure that your  advertising  vehicles have the proper elements needed to make sales? While there is no such thing as a guaranteed formula for ad success, you can give yourself the best chance by remembering the tried and true basics, and those basics are represented by the anagram AICDA — Attention, Interest, Credibility, Desire and Action.

An ad must first attract Attention. With a print ad, that task falls to the headline. In a radio ad, that means a loud, attention getting intro made up of any number of sound effects. In TV it’s something similar, but with visual effects added. In a sales letter, its teaser copy on the outside of the envelope, and an attention grabbing headline on the opening page. Photos and graphics can also grab attention in print ads — whatever the case, an ad must first capture attention before it can accomplish the next mission which is….

…. Interest. Once you lure the prospect in, you must create instant interest in what you are selling. That’s usually handled with a subhead and the first sentence of the body copy, or the first dialog of a radio or TV ad. Credibility is provided in a variety of ways, including past customer testimonials, statistics which demonstrate success and more.

Desire is created by appealing to the emotions of the ad viewer, and this is done my showing what the product will do for those who buy, such as solve a problem, or enhance prestige, or improve health. The final function of an ad is to produce Action! The ad viewer must be compelled to call, write in, stop by in person — or whatever you want them to do. Urging action usually means providing incentives and rewards to do so. For example, putting a time limit on when an incredible 25% discount can be obtained will spur people to action. There are many other ways as well.

How you produce the elements of AICDA will be your challenge. There is no one, good way to make sure you have all the elements of AICDA hitting on all cylinders. Again, this is  advertising , not mathematics. You may have to test several different versions of an ad. before it really starts working. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit the jackpot the first time you place an ad.

Please be aware that this short discussion on  advertising  is only a primer. Getting  advertising  right is a major challenge for any business and an ongoing process. A lot of marketing gurus out there offer a lot of hype and unrealistic notions about what  advertising  can do for a business, but here at Alchemy, we don’t deal in hype. We deal only in reality, and solid, grounded business practices that are guaranteed to work. You will need to advertise, but you must take the correct and careful approach. Do that, be persistent, work smart, and you are bound to succeed. Millions of others have.

Summary

Few companies can afford to ignore buying paid advertisements to grow their businesses, but the key is to proceed carefully, intelligently, and stick to the basics.  Advertising  is by nature a somewhat arcane art. There are no magic formulae that guarantee success. All  advertising  must be rigorously tested. Buy small ads before risking major money on large ads. Remember the AICDA formula and the real purpose of an advert is to SELL! And not to entertain.

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