Mel Bragg - The Edge Magazine, WirralGuest Blog by Melissa Bragg of The Edge Magazine, Wirral

Half of my advertising works, I just don’t know which half’ – this is a famous quote oft trotted out by people in media sales, and I don’t mean to be predictable, but it fits this blog because it’s true. It was said by John Wanamaker, an early retailer considered to be a pioneer in marketing. His biggest store Wanamaker’s was Philadelphia’s first department store and he attributed the successful growth of his business to marketing.

Since the days when Wannamaker was planning his marketing spend, the media landscape has changed dramatically with local and regional radio and television now viable options alongside the traditional print platforms, and of course there are many online platforms for advertising: high traffic websites, search engines and on social media platforms such as facebook. Online analytics equip us with detailed data so we can make a more informed choice than ever before about where we place our marketing budget, but have we addressed the conundrum of identifying the half that may not work?

Successful marketing including advertising isn’t about guesswork, it is a science and there are basic principals that you should stick to when planning your advertising – no matter what platform you choose.

Target your message

There are so many niche platforms designed to appeal to a wide range of audiences so by choosing one relevant to your target audience you’ll ensure that your message is actually seen and seen by potential customers with an interest in your product.

Talk to your current customers to research which available media channels reach them. Make sure to ask about the whole spectrum of platforms they engage with so ask what publications they read, do they receive trade publications,  what radio station they listen to, do they ever click on the sponsored results on Google or Facebook, can they recall any ad they’ve seen on the side of a bus etc

Make your message appealing

Reaching the right audience is only half the battle – then your space has to do the talking and it needs to be effective.

Textbook rules are:

  1. Keep it simple – you’re just looking to get people interested in finding out more – not go through the whole sale process there and then.
  2. Open with a desirable attention grabber
  3. Don’t be cryptic, make it clear what you do
  4. Mention the benefits of your service – not just the features

Stand out from the crowd

Keep your branding consistent. If your ad can be recognised before they’ve even read it, your message will be twice as effective.

A picture really can say a thousand words – and will enhance your marketing message too.

Use PR to present yourself as the expert

Things have moved on a lot since the PR’s heyday and today’s readers are far too savvy to fall for the bland, generic ‘business does business’ news pieces written in the past. It’s essential for good PR to add reader value, publishing something that will broaden the reader’s knowledge rather than just reporting that you have customers or you have done a deal.  Use your advertising space to write a good piece of native PR in your field of expertise, giving readers the benefit of your knowledge and ensuring they engage with you for further help in your field. The only downside is that to be effective this has to be written by you – you’re the expert, not a PR firm. You couldn’t get someone to do your job for you, and similarly you won’t find someone to write decent native PR for you – they’re not the expert in your field.

Design a mechanism to monitor response

Can you include a sweetener to entice people to get in touch which will allow you to monitor your response? Insurance backed guarantee? Extra discount for early booking? Free report or anaylsis? Every little helps! People will only volunteer to tell you what they are responding to if it benefits them, and even then, the genuine response route can get skewed. They may tell you they contacted you from your website, but what lead them to your website? So ideally offer a discount / freebie / extra when they mention your advert / post / tweet etc.

More effective, but not always possible is to set up a brand new telephone number or web page to respond to – you’ll definitely know that those responses originated from your marketing activity.

If this isn’t feasible, ensure you religiously track your analytics in the days and weeks following your campaign. Even if the phone doesn’t ring the week your ad comes out, if your website traffic increases measurably that’s due to your marketing activity and it’s all helping to achieve your marketing objective of publicising what you do to potential customers.

There can be do doubt that marketing is imperative to the growth of a business. If you don’t work to secure a bigger share of your market, you won’t stand still, you’ll effectively go backwards as your competitors increase their market share. Advertising is a highly effective way to communicate to potential customers how great your company is and how your products and services will benefit them. However to be effective it needs to be well written, well designed and well planned – no half measures.