Ad Spend Tips for 2014
It’s nearing that time of year when we help clients plan their marketing budgets for the coming year. It’s during this time that we often uncover misconceptions that people have about where their money is best spent. Because advertising spend, in particular, seems to be cause for confusion, we’ve put together a list of some of the top Advertising Myths we’ve encountered, and debunked them:
1. People will forget about you if they don’t see your ad in a magazine each month.
Why it’s false:
Many companies continue to buy ads in print publications because they are afraid of dropping out of sight and mind. But chances are, readers already forgot about your ad as soon as they turned the page.
Why does this happen? There are several issues that can render print ads ineffective:
- Lack of a clear Call To Action (CTA) – You can use all the adjectives, adverbs and nouns you want to describe your product or service, but verbs – specifically, commands – are what keeps your audience from saying “that’s nice” and moving on.
- Unappealing Design – Particularly for non-full-page ads, if the design doesn’t catch the reader’s eye first, they will never pay attention to the words.
- Irrelevance – A common mistake is placing a too-general ad in a highly-specific trade publication, or vice versa.
Even if your ad is well-designed, directive and relevant, the ways to measure its effectiveness are limited. Unless you include a specific URL or QR code that you can track, you won’t know how many or what kinds of interactions came from the ad. Your money can be better spent on digital ads and inbound marketing, using tools that allow you to assess the impact of your activities.
- Cut your total ad budget by 30-40% this year. Shift 30% of the remaining budget from print to digital, and measure effectiveness using tracking URLs and visit-to-lead conversion rate (of those who clicked the ad, how many took the next step and filled out the form?).
- Include a clear Call to Action: “To learn more” “Sign up for a free trial” “Contact us to discuss.” Link to a landing page using a unique URL (www.yourwebsite/name-of-landing-page-you-made-specifically-for-this-purpose) so you can trace visits from that particular ad in that specific media outlet.
- If using a QR code, use it deliberately. Direct it to a landing page or website page related to your CTA, and make sure the link includes a tracking code. DON’T include a QR code if your site isn’t optimized for mobile, and DON’T simply direct people to your homepage. A QR code works best when it points to something that is time-sensitive or that people wouldn’t find on their own, like a limited-time offer or discount.
- Design to break through the noise – Include a focal point (a central image or text) to draw the reader into the ad; hierarchy (the more important stuff is bigger) so they quickly grasp the message; and visual movement to direct them to the CTA.
2. If you place ads in front of your target customers online, they will click them.
Why it’s false:
Banner ads are fairly costly yet, in our experience, don’t drive a lot of traffic to your site. In one case, we saw that our client’s highly targeted banner ad traffic cost 10x the cost-per-lead as their Google ads.
HubSpot compiled a list of 10 unsettling statistics on display advertising, including:
- Only 8% of internet users (some of which are just auto-clicking robots) account for 85% of clicks on display ads.
- The average clickthrough rate of display ads is 0.1%.
- About 50% of clicks on mobile ads are accidental.
- You are more likely to get into MIT than click a banner ad.
- Use banner ads either to a) announce specific new products, or b) reinforce the brand (not expecting click-through traffic). You won’t achieve both with the same ad.
- We like placing banners in e-newsletters with links to related content such as whitepapers. Tradeshow-related editions of newsletters, such as Photonics Spectra’s recent Optics + Photonics Preview, are also a good option; include a specific call to action such as “Visit us at booth X” or “Sign up for a demonstration.”
3. Online directories are just as effective as print directories used to be.
Why it’s false:
Directories have lost impact since they’ve moved away from print. Once upon a time, cluttered search engines were less helpful than online directories, a blog post by Elite Venture Media explains; but then search engines started improving their algorithms to combat “black hat” SEO, and organic search became much more effective. Now Googling is the way to go.
- Focus on optimizing your website’s on-page SEO. Include content that is appropriate to your target audience, with clear Calls To Action on each page.
Here's a great on-site SEO template from HubSpot.
- If you do want to list, try out a niche directory. Many industry publications maintain supplier or advertiser listings on their websites; find those relevant to your target audience.
4. Advertising = Marketing.
Why it’s false:
Many businesses rely on advertising as their only form of marketing, but in reality, advertising is just a small piece of the puzzle. Ads are most effective when combined with other approaches such as great web presence, targeted PR, social media promotion and engagement, and email marketing.
- Plan your ad schedule around your news announcements (new products, research findings, etc.), and schedule placements in conjunction with any articles you submit.
- Complement with social media – Cross-promote offers or announcements through your social media channels; you can also alert customers to an upcoming ad or article, or gather feedback.
- Promote newsworthy stories directly to industry-specific media contacts – They are often looking for news ideas.