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Make your advertising content work

You’ve done the research so you know which media provides the best opportunities to reach potential new customers and you’ve committed to some advertising. Regardless of whether the medium is offline or online it will be the content that makes the difference to its cost-effectiveness.

If you have put the effort into making sure that you have the right media you won’t want to waste it by filling the slot with poor content.

In the past, the more traditional advertising media have been print (trade and consumer magazines, local, national and international papers) and broadcast media (radio and TV (including satellite)). Now in addition to those there is a seemingly ever-expanding choice of other places to place your advertising. The digital offerings include a bewildering array of websites, e-newsletters, portals, intranets, social media, online magazines and online TV. The media may be evolving but the principles for its content are largely the same – if you don’t have good content no-one will notice your ads.

Get their attention

Whichever medium you choose your business will be vying for attention in a highly competitive ‘space’ and you will need to make sure that your content gets attention in the first few seconds – and then keeps it. Whether at home or at work people are busy and changes in technology means that they are easily distracted and used to getting everything now. They want a quick fix and they don’t want to work too hard to get it. Don’t make them work to get your message – they might get bored and go elsewhere.

Make sure that you know your target markets as well as you can. You will certainly know their needs but you must also know what gets their attention. What is your company offering that they really need to try or buy now and how are you going to get them to act? Why should they care about your product or service over that of every other company? Basically, what’s in it for them? Answering those questions will make it easier to decide what you need to communicate.

Get them to act

Good advertising that leads to action should:

  • Be simple – resist the temptation to make the advert do all the work. You want the reader/listener to be interested enough to act, make that call, go to the website, or return the form. Make it easy for potential customers to get the point quickly and act on it
  • Tell them about the benefits rather than the features – benefits deal with the ‘So what?’ and ‘What’s in it for me?’ questions
  • Stop them in their tracks with bold, but short, headlines that address their need. Make them think, or wonder how they’ve managed without your product up to now. The headline should draw them in and make them want to read on and act
  • Ideally be visually/aurally interesting – you don’t want them to be distracted from your message
  • Make outrageous, or even just tempting, offers which last for a limited time only. Give them an incentive to act now while the offer still stands (and more importantly, before they forget or get caught up in the next thing). If the offer is only for new customers don’t forget to make that clear – you don’t want to risk upsetting your existing customers
  • Have a specific call to action – what do you want them to do and when? Ideally you want them to give you their contact details, in exchange for the fulfilment of a desire, and you also want their permission to build, what will hopefully become, a long and mutually-beneficial relationship
  • Make it easy for them to respond, for example by clicking on a link if it’s digital, or sending an email, or texting a word
  • Feature the best photography the company can afford – especially if your product is visual

Track the responses

Make sure that you have a means of tracking the effectiveness of the ads through mechanisms such as codes, click-throughs and google analytics. By tracking the responses to your advertising, and measuring the returns, you will get a good picture of how they have worked and it will be much easier to inform future marketing planning.

Now for the legal bit

It may be your advert but you still need to be careful about what you say in it. The advertising industry (quite rightly) takes itself very seriously. There are strict regulations about what you can and can’t say – about your business, your products and your competitors. For example, you can’t be rude about the competition or make suggestive comments about the quality of their products. You can only say ‘you are the best…’ if you can prove it if challenged – so it’s probably safest to go for ‘one of the best/oldest…’

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the independent regulator of advertising content across all media in the UK. In 2011 its authority was extended to include online advertising and marketing on websites. It is there to apply and uphold the advertising codes and help to maintain the high standards set by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).

If you advertise a product as environmentally-friendly or sustainable you will be required to prove it if someone decides to complain about any aspect of the claims you have made. ‘Greenwashing’, i.e. making unsubstantiated claims for the environmental nature, or sustainability credentials, of your products or business, is definitely not allowed. If any complaint is upheld against an advert it can be costly not just financially but also in terms of the company’s or brand’s reputation.

Make sure that your content works for your business and is ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’ and you should be fine.

Share this article if you found it useful! And leave a comment in the box below. We hope to connect with you soon.

About Deborah Rowe

Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing. Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations that want to achieve great things.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for this. I’m trying to build up my blogs and traffic and need all the information and advice I could get. I haven’t been doing so well, so am looking at other ways to fulfil what I want to do.

  2. Deborah,
    I could use tips and help in several areas. Sometimes it seems a bit tough to find places on the Internet that will be good for my Hypnosis Products site. Also, I tend to shy away from using clever persuasive means to close a sale, in fact I don’t. I’ve had to learn things like that to help people make changes in their life, but that is after they agree to pay me to help, but tend to want them to seek me out and buy because the want to.
    Any tips you may have for me would be great.

  3. Great post Deborah. I think the second bullet point, focus on benefits rather than features is always one of the hardest to concentrate on when creating an advertising piece or website. It seems so easy to get stuck on features. It has always been my experience that people react to benefits but still I have to remind myself to use them instead of features.

    Thanks for a great post!

  4. Happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for the comments posted. Here’s to an exciting and prosperous 2012 and to sharing our collective knowledge so that we can all benefit in some way.

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