With a little thoughtful planning, advertising will enhance your business and improve your company's bottom line. Here are some simple guidelines for a successful campaign.

With a little thoughtful planning, advertising will enhance your business and improve your company's bottom line. Here are some simple guidelines for a successful campaign:

Establish Objectives

Clearly state what you want to happen as a result of your advertising. More customers? How many more? 5%, 10%? When? Today, this week, this year? More of a specific type of order or sales? Set clear, measurable and achievable goals for how much you want to improve and you'll have better results achieving those goals. Nebulous goals such as "improve sales" are not effective in improving your business.

Define Your Audience

The more specific the audience, the more effective your advertising will be. The more targeted you are, the more successful you will be in sharing information with only potential customers. Who is it you want to reach and what exactly do you want them to do? Do you want them to call, come in, place an order, visit your website? Be specific and make a strong call to action. Most importantly: make it as simple as possible for them to do so. Most people won't bother overcoming obstacles to doing business with you, especially if someone else offers the same product or service and makes it simple.

Define the Best Way to Communicate to YOUR Audience

Determine the best ways to reach your targeted audience. What do they read, listen to on the radio, watch on TV or surf on the Internet? Where are they driving? What about a billboard campaign? Word your message so that they will respond positively. Show people doing what you want them to do. Have a strong call to action.

Set a Budget

Consider all costs including copy writing, design, printing, ad space and air time. Always buy the best quality you can afford. You may have a great ad but if it misses your target market, it is worthless and a waste of money. In the same manner, if you have a poor ad and it reaches your market, it may cost you customers because they lose confidence in your product or service; or worse yet, can't find you at all!

Establish a Realistic Schedule

Allow plenty of planning time. Set your ad schedule on a weekly, monthly or annual basis as appropriate to your business. Adjustments can be made as necessary. For instance, if most of your business is on weekends, plan your advertising for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Remember to check community calendars to prevent conflicts or to piggyback on already established holidays or events.

Follow Up

Once the schedule has been set, make sure all is going according to schedule. Check in to see what your customer response is to each advertising effort. Ask them! If you don't already have a way to track responses to advertising, set something up. Some ideas include: issuing a discount for mentioning an ad; at the time of purchase, ask how they came to choose your business, mail special offers and track responses.

Evaluate Your Customer's Response

Develop a simple method to determine the effectiveness of your advertising efforts. You might want to develop a short customer questionair, or include a response link on your website. Use the results to define future advertising. Advertising must be responsive to your customers's needs. It must be ever-changing and speak clearly. When I say ever-changing, I don't mean changing your brand, I mean changing ideas and promotions.

Advertising Materials

Copy-writing: Clearly state who you are and what it is that you have that customers will want to purchase. All communication should be benefit oriented to your customer. Make sure you point out why your product or service is preferable. More effective? Are you more convenient? Do you offer better service after the sale? Are you competitively priced? Do you offer delivery? Don't ever make promises you can't fulfill. Remember there is usually someone else offering your product or service. Give your customer reasons to come to you and keep returning.

One common mistake many companies make with copy, is to tell their company story first. While your customer may be interested in who you are eventually, the first thing they want to know is how you can meet their need. What product or service do you offer that will help them accomplish their goals?

Design: Invest in the finest quality design work you can afford. When you see poor quality workmanship, you don't expect much from the company and you certainly don't expect to pay much for it. However, when you see quality in promotional materials, you expect quality from the provider of the product or service and you are more likely to be willing to pay a reasonable price. At the same time, your goal should be to do the best possible job of promotion at the least possible cost.

Good design makes it clear to your customer that you are the best place to come to for the products and services they need. If your customer can't find your contact information or if your ad needs explanation, it is a lousy ad. Think of your customer first and you will develop great advertising to promote your company.

ALWAYS think of your customer first.