Advertising is a powerful communications tool. There’s a lot it can do for you. To get the most from your advertising spend it’s important to understand what it does best – and specifically, what it can do best for you.

Here are some of the things advertising is particularly good and useful for:

  • Informing, raising awareness of a business’s offer. This is the fundamental purpose of advertising – no matter how good your product or service, it’s no use if people don’t know its there, or what it can do for them.
  • Building brands. In a competitive marketplace, there may be many others with products or services that compete with yours. This is where your brand is important. Advertising’s good for keeping your brand in people’s vision – to keep reminding them who you are and what you do.
  • Differentiating your offer. Like brand-building it can help explain why and how your product or service is special.
  • Prompt specific actions or responses, such as visits to your store or website.
  • Communicate changes in your business or services.
  • Notify vacancies and recruit staff.
  • Make you more attractive to the opposite sex. (Okay, I lied about that one. Just to see if you are paying attention).

When mounting an advertising campaign, no matter what size, it’s important to be clear which of the above are your objectives. That should help decide your media choice and creative approach. It should be the benchmark by which you judge how appropriate your communication is.

What’s it worth?

Once you’re clear what your advertising is meant to achieve you can ask yourself,  if you hit that goal what is worth to you, financially. Some of these goals may seem rather intangible, but it’s useful to try to quantify them. For example – if your objective is raising awareness of your offer, it suggests you are concerned potential customers may not be aware. So how many customers do you want to have you on their radar, and how much would they be likely to spend. Not particularly scientific, but it’s a basis for getting a grip on a worthwhile spend.

It also can give you a measure of success  at the end of a campaign.

Is advertising about selling?

That’s an interesting question, because in most of the cases above you’ll see that it’s not about advertising actually making a sale. All of the above activities facilitate and lead to sales. They are part of the sales cycle. We all remember acronyms such as, AIDA: Attention/Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action.  However the final stage of sales is closed by some other mechanism – a sales-person, retail foot-fall or negotiation.

There is one form of advertising which does ‘sell’. It’s so special it has its own name – direct response. This is advertising which has built in mechanisms for a customer to make a purchase. Traditional press advertising may have coupons to fill out, to buy. Online advertising makes response even easier. Click and pay.

Direct response is great for selling tangible product. Services are less applicable to direct response. Smart service-providers try to turn their services into products. You’ll often hear banks or insurance companies talk about ‘new product’ – of course what they are doing is packaging finite bits of banking or insurance to make them more digestible.

Advertising doesn’t start with a great idea. It starts with a clear objective. Great solutions follow.