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Advertising: a quick way to waste money?

27 October 2003 by
Advertising: a quick way to waste money?

Advertising is in many instances expensive, time consuming and baffling. What begins as being a good idea and something that "everyone does" ends in tears as the invoice arrives but the added custom doesn't. But there are some simple guidelines that will help make your advertising work, with minimum time and effort.

Why advertise?

Because everyone else does? Not a good enough reason. Arm yourself with a reason to advertise and you are on the right road to effective advertising. For example:

  • Make a special offer in a period when custom is slack
  • Tell people about your refurbishment, your new extension, or your new menu
  • Target a certain market that you know your product or service will appeal to, for example older people or singles
  • Simply tell people where you are and what you are selling.

Where should you advertise?

Once you have decided why you are advertising it becomes much easier to focus on where you should be spending your money.

There are some key guidelines:

  • Match your advertising medium to your desired market
  • Price-led advertising featuring a special rate or offer should have an advertising medium that is only in circulation for a suitable period
  • General awareness advertising may cost more; be sure it in a publication that will stay around for a sustained period to justify the higher cost.
### Special offers: These run for set periods, which means that you should choose an advertising medium that will deliver your message at the right time to the people you want to appeal to. The local press is a good place to start, or perhaps posters in transport centres such as a railway station, or in a shopping centre. The classified sections of the national press at the weekend may offer a good opportunity to offer deals for early bookings over traditional trough periods. ### Where you are and what you are selling: You'll be able to invest your money in a more long-term advertising medium with this message. Look at local tourist board publications, or some of the national publications produced in association with the British Tourist Authority](http://www.britishtouristauthority.org). You could link up with other tourism-related businesses in your area and piggy-back on their publications. And don't forget that where there is a written word these days, there is also a Web site. ### Attracting specific markets: Do your homework. Time spent finding the right publication will mean you spend far less money and get better results. Senior citizens travel on buses, use local shops and read the local press. You may be able to find a council publication that is sent to the area's senior citizens. Or try the local library. Do a little detective work and reap the rewards. ### Getting started on a decent advert: Keep it: 1. Simple. Remember, you should be putting out a single message. 2. Standard. Don't reinvent the wheel every time you place an advert. Have a set format and use it each time, with simple variations. 3. Sales-led. Remember that you are selling on every spare millimetre of space. ### What should a good ad include? - A headline that attracts the reader. Keep it short, sharp and simple. - A line or two of text, which explains the offer or your message. Don't go over the top. Keep it straightforward. - Bullet points that set out the main benefits of your product or service, the reasons that people should use you. - - Your telephone number. - A call to action. This is your sign-off, which makes the reader want to call or visit you. - An advertising reference. This is essential, as it will help you track the business your advert has generated. - It's not always necessary to feature prices, but you may find it suits the market you are aiming at. ### What should I do once the ad has been placed? You need to make your team aware that the advert is in place, what it is offering and what reference to ask people for should they ring or visit you. By doing this you will be able to track your advert's impact. Asking your customers how they heard of you or how they found out about a special offer may seem a little awkward but it will save you time and money. You'll soon know if the ad has worked. If you don't ask, you'll never know. Keep a record of the advert's impact in a diary with the date you placed the ad, the business generated and how much it cost. If it worked, call up and ask about a discount for a repeat advert. ### Being ahead of the game: Advertising opportunities often present themselves with a very short lead time, which means you have to rush to get a suitable ad together, or you end up having to leave it to the publication to put your advert together for you. You can get ahead of the game by preparing an ad template with the help of a local high-street printer. This advert can be held on computer disk for you as "artwork" (see below) so that you can add a specific price, reference or make other changes quickly with a call to the printers. They can then send the artwork to the publication for you. ### Getting the template ready: 1. Contact three local printers, such as Kall Kwik. Ask them to quote for preparing "digital artwork" for a standard size advert. A6 is a size businesses often use. 2. Provide your chosen printer with the information you want to feature in the advert. You may also want to include your logo and/or a photograph of your business. It would also help to provide the printer with your thoughts on the style of advert you are interested, for example "modern, clean and contemporary" or "traditional and reassuring". 3. Ask to see a "proof" (see below) of the advert. Check it very carefully for correct spelling, telephone numbers, prices, and make sure your photograph has been used the right way round. Once you've checked it, ask a colleague to check it again. Mistakes look unprofessional and have a big negative impact on your advert. 4. Check your changes to the advert. Once you are happy, sign it off for the printer so he can either send it to the publisher or keep it on disk for you to use at short notice. ### Glossary:Artwork: the term used to describe the graphics used to make up your advert, usually produced on a computer. This can also be termed "digital artwork". Proof: a draft copy of your advert before it is completed. You should be able to make changes easily to this draft. by Stuart Harrison Stuart Harrison, formerly managing director of brands and franchising at Premier Hotels, now runs his own consultancy, the Profitable Hotel Company. He is also a visiting fellow of Oxford Brookes University. [Disclaimer
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