You've probably heard the old saying - I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted, if I only knew which half! Although it's not possible to know all the factors that go into effective advertising, there are a few elements that are crucial to an ad campaign that is profitable. If you strive to achieve as many of the following 7 factors as possible, you can be confident that you'll have a winning campaign.
1) Choose an appropriate medium to convey your message. This is so obvious, but you'd be amazed at how many people don't use common sense when buying media. If you're trying to reach a 14 year old, don't buy an ad in the daily paper - buy the radio station that plays hip hop music! Try to target your advertising as much as possible. Think about the person you're trying to reach with your message. The more you know about that person, the easier this will be. If you're selling clothing to working women, buying TV is probably not a good idea. They're probably so busy doing household chores and taking kids to various activities, they probably don't have time to watch much TV. But billboards and radio are great because she's probably on the road a lot and those media fit for that audience.
2) Don't believe that everyone uses media the way you or your spouse does. Just because you don't like a certain program on TV doesn't mean that your potential customer doesn't like it - they may be big fans and never miss an episode. Don't assume that everyone reads the newspaper because everyone you know does. Ask for information about the medium's audience - let your rep show you exactly who is watching/reading/listening/driving by/surfing their medium.
3) Don't judge the price of the ad by the dollar amount alone. Just because an ad is expensive doesn't mean it isn't a good buy - and the opposite is true also. If an ad is cheap, but no one reads or sees it, it's worthless to you. If an ad is reaching tens of thousands of people for 1,000, it might be a good buy if those are the people who are in the market for your product. Try to gauge the real value of an ad by the cost per thousand or cost per rating point (for TV, radio & cable). If you're not familiar with those terms, ask your ad rep - they will be happy to fill you in. (And if they aren't, find a new rep.)
4) Develop a relationship with your customers and prospects. This is another thing that should be obvious, but very few companies actually do this. Proctor and Gamble has found that this is what makes them money. And it makes sense. If people trust your brand and feel that they know your company, they're far more likely to buy your products. This is actually easier to do as a smaller business than a large one - and many local businesses have done this for years. It may be schmaltzy, but when the local furniture store owner is on camera for all his TV commercials, people develop a relationship of sorts with him or her. They feel like they know that business. Anytime you can link a personality - even if it's not a celebrity - to a business, that makes that business stand out. This is an important element that there's not nearly enough room to cover - so think this one through for your business and come up with ways (and they can be very simple) to develop a relationship with your customers and prospects. An email newsletter is a simple, cheap and very effective way to do this, by the way.
5) Have a hook. Give people something that makes them remember you. Big companies spend millions on this - and for a good reason - it sells stuff. Whatever you do, don't say "for the best in service and quality" - no one will believe you! If you want to convey that message, have one of your customers give a testimonial on camera - have them describe how you provided them with great service and quality. Give details. A hook needs to be simple, memorable and if possible, fun or heartwarming. The Taco Bell Chihuahua is a good example - the Pillsbury Doughboy is another one. Do something different and let people know about it. Give them a reason to choose your company over your competitors.
6) Be relevant. Talk to your prospects in your advertising - let them know that you feel their pain and are going to help them make it go away. If you're talking about something they can't relate to, they'll ignore you. There are way too many advertising messages in the world today - and people have learned to tune them out unless they click with something that is important to them. You know how this works - you do the same thing. If you're sick of how your car is nickel & dimming you lately, you suddenly are much more aware of ads for cars. Find out why people buy your product and talk about how you will give that to them. It's really pretty simple - but an overwhelming majority of businesses totally miss this.
7) Make sure you know what you're trying to get your prospect to do. Do you want them to come to your store and buy a specific product? Or do you want them to call your business to get an estimate on a project so your sales person can close the sale in person? The more specific you are in your call to action (please make sure to include one!), the more likely your audience will do what you want them to do.
All of the elements that go into your advertising - the media, the creative, the copywriting, the call to action - create a synergistic result. The more focused you are with any of those elements, the better your results will be. It's always crucial to measure your ad results. Determine what you want to achieve and include devices that will allow you to determine whether or not you achieved your goal. Then you can tweak results from there.