Most small business owners make the same mistake when it comes to online advertising. They focus on tactics instead of strategy and it costs the typical business owner thousands of dollars a year in wasted advertising spend.
Online advertising works. It actually works very well if you build the right strategy around it. If you can get your advertising right, it is one of the only true scalable marketing tactics in your marketing arsenal.
Running a Google Adwords campaign, boosting Facebook posts, buying ad space in an online directory – these are all marketing tactics and without a proper strategy to wrap around it, will most likely bring in poor results.
The actual advertising should be the very last thing you do. There are lots of things you need to do before then that will make or break your online advertising campaign.
First Off, What Not To Do
Be smart with your money and take your time when making advertising decisions.
Stop making reactive advertising decisions. Never, ever spend money on advertising unless you have thought it through first and created a strategy on how to best make it work.
If an advertising salesperson walks through your front door and tells you they have a great deal for a hot new directory listing in your city, do not give them any money! The same holds true for anyone who tries to rush you into spending your advertising dollars without you properly thinking it through. This is how most small business owners waste their money, they are reactive and throw their advertising dollars around with little thought – and then complain to everyone that advertising doesn't work.
And once you do decide to spend your money on an advertising campaign, never let the salesperson create the ad for you. They don't know your audience, they don't know your business, and they don't really care. They will slap together whatever is easy for them and move on to the next sale. Once you make the decision to spend money, make sure you follow all of the steps below.
Creating an Advertising Strategy
Running a successful online advertising campaign is made up of many parts. When you have thought through all of these parts and put them together, then you have the makings of a real advertising strategy. The best part is that once you've gone through this process a few times, it becomes easier and easier to launch new advertising campaigns that rock.
Who Is The Target Audience?
Unless you are selling pizza, tacos or similar mass appeal generic product, running a generic online advertising campaign rarely works. The great thing with online advertising is that, unlike traditional print ads, you have the ability to segment your audiences and give each a customized experience created just for them. All of the major platforms, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, Linkedin ads all let you do this with ease.
Think about the audience you want to target. Once you have this in hand, you can start crafting the ad, offer and landing page to give that audience a unique experience and show that you are speaking to them and only them.
Segmenting your audiences and creating customized ad campaigns for them is how you can greatly increase the conversion rates on your ad campaign. If you have multiple audiences you want to target, then create a separate ad campaign for each of them. Yes, more work but you'll get much better results.
Decide on The Goal Of Your Advertising Campaign
Without a clear goal and end result planned out, what is the purpose of doing any of this? The very first thing you need to figure out is, “What do I want people to do when they see this ad?”. Decide if you want people to call, visit a landing page, redeem a coupon, etc. And how many of these leads or redemptions will you need to be happy with in regards to what you are spending?
If an advertising opportunity presents no way of tracking results or metrics to track, then don't spend your money. You have a limited budget and wasting it on vague, undefined advertising campaigns is just a way for you to waste your advertising budget.
Decide on the action you want people to take when they see your ad and how you will track people who redeem your offer.
Non-actionable ads lead to non-actionable results
What Will Your Offer Be?
Once you have decided on your audience and goals, then you need to craft an offer to get them to take action. Non-actionable ads lead to non-actionable results. You need to incentivize people to take action, otherwise, most people will look at your ad and think, “good to know”, then move on with their day.
You need to create a little pressure for the reader to take action. You do this with a good offer and making it time sensitive. A coupon or discount offer with an expiration date are prime examples, but you can also create offers like free reports, downloads where the reader has to take action on the ad now or may lose the opportunity to get it later.
The offer you decide on will usually make or break the success of the ad, so be sure to spend time crafting an offer that your audience will love.
Create Your Landing Page
Once you have your audience, goals and offer in place, then you will need to decide where you will send them. The landing page you send your ad traffic to will determine if someone decides to take you up on your offer or not. Many people assume it is the ad itself that will determine conversions, which is true for traditional advertising like newspaper ads or direct mail postcards with no digital landing page, but not so with online advertising.
With online advertising, the ad is only meant to get your message in front of the right audience and pique their interest enough to get them to your landing page. It is what happens on the landing page that will determine if you are going to get a conversion or not. So please do not do what many people do and just point people to the homepage of your website, you'll get better results in spending the money on a nice dinner with your better half.
A good landing page should be dedicated to the audience you are targeting and the offer you are making. There should really be no other distractions on the page other than what you are offering them.
You can learn more about crafting a good landing page here.
Create Your Ad
Do you see how far down the list creating the actual ad is?
Unfortunately, this is usually step one for most small business owners, which is why their online ad campaigns usually fail. If you have done all of the steps above then creating the actual ad is simple as you already know who the audience is, decided on the offer and crafted the copy for your landing page. Just take those elements and apply them to your ad.
When it comes to online advertising you want to keep what is called the “scent trail”. This means keeping your ad copy and a landing page copy tight and closely related so people don't get confused when they click from your ad to your landing page.
I recently saw an online ad from a major pizza chain advertising gluten-free pizza crust. One of my kids likes to eat gluten free so I clicked on the ad to find out more. The ad sent me to a page that did not mention gluten-free pizza crust, just current specials. I clicked a few times to see if I could find the gluten-free page but quickly gave up and left the site. What a waste of money on their part.
Make sure your ad and your landing page have the same offer and similar language so people can transition between the two without missing a beat.
If you want to get the most mileage out of an ad campaign, consider tacking on a remarketing (sometimes called retargeting) campaign to pick up even more conversions. See below to learn more about remarketing.
How Will I Track results?
The great thing with online advertising is that it makes tracking pretty easy. All of the major online ad platforms provide a wealth of metrics for you to see so you know exactly what is happing with your ad.
Now, depending on what your offer is and how it is redeemed, you may not be able to track your conversions online. If someone is going to fill out an online form or optin to your email list, then it is simple to track conversions using Google Analytics.
If the conversion will happen offline, like redeeming a coupon or booking over the phone, then you'll need to set up a system in-house to keep track of these offer redemptions.
Don't skimp out on this part, this is going to let you know if your ad campaign worked or not. Mediocre marketing eventually turns in great marketing when you regularly measure results and make continuous improvements to your campaigns.
Your Online Advertising Strategy
Yes, there are several steps involved in creating a successful advertising campaign, but doing it right is the difference between getting little to no results and getting the kind of results that will really grow your business. And the good part is that once you go through this process 1-2 times, it's actually pretty easy to set up and you can reuse landing page templates and tweak current offers to apply to new ad campaigns.
Online advertising works but only if you take the time to do it right.
Have questions or need help with your online advertising campaigns? You can contact us here.