Any business today, wanting to make itself heard and relevant, is spoilt for choice. There are so many ways of reaching a target audience because advertising covers anything to do with putting your name in the way of the public’s eye. From billboards to direct mail, to competitions to giveaways, to banners, pamphlets and websites, to marketing, television and radio, to social media, live events or social responsibility, you are advertising your business. In effect, you are always saying: This is our product or service – and it’s great!

Some businesses are guilty of neglecting this side of their operations. Sometimes expense has been the defense for lack of action – but with the variety of choice now available, you can’t run that lame excuse any longer. The fact remains that the only way to reach customers is through advertising – whatever shape or form that might take. Running a business is not only about producing a product or service, it’s also about competing with others who operate similar ventures. Advertising is about competition and profitability – the backbone of your business.

And that’s why a business without an advertising strategy is usually a business lost in the wilderness. How to best to reach customers, and how best to build and retain your customer base, should always be on your mind.

Breaking the process down

  • The target audience: Firstly, you would consider the needs of your market. Does your product or service meet the ever-changing needs out there? How do you get your message across so that people understand that you can meet their needs? This is where you need to know what your competition is offering and how they are going about it.
  • Determine your message: Here’s a whole range of things to think about – from the words you will use, to the tone, design and colour. What will be impactful and catch the eye? Will your communication get the message across or are you just going to confuse or bore people? This is the crucial moment when you must differentiate your product or service from competitors. Why is your product a better choice than any other?
  • Choose your media: Are you going to run a radio campaign? Or door-to-door knock and drop? Or make videos? You have to ensure that the media you choose not only suits your product or service, but will also find the audience you are looking for. Today, we have the convenience of pinpoint advertising, knowing exactly where our customers will most likely be, and when. Market research gives you answers to so many variables such as: age, education, gender, professions, area, financial status, lifestyles, etc. You can target your audience both in number and in the design of the advertising.
  • Creating your advertising: Make sure you design a really impactful communication – a dynamic, appealing message that gets your point across. Some companies go to exhaustive lengths to be noticed, but lose the message along the way. Be succinct, be clear, treat your audience with respect. They usually pick up your purpose very quickly, so don’t hide your meaning in wads of words or inappropriate pictures. Be bold, be different, test response with innovation.
  • Cost-benefit analysis: Will prospective returns be worth the money? How much response are you hoping to achieve, and how much will you have to spend to get that response? Will the rewards justify the means? This not always the easiest part of the process of advertising – it is always a step in the dark, but if you have confidence in your product, and the process you have taken to produce a communication that will put your name out there, highlight your offering, and drive greater recognition over time, then yes, it is always worth it. Success is much less likely if you don’t try.
  • Response measurement: This is where social media is so useful. You are able to ascertain very quickly how many people saw your ad, liked, shared and responded to your ad. From every channel of advertising, you can read a response of sorts: an uptick in queries, sales and general feedback. Tracking your response to advertising across various media, helps to pinpoint the best places, timing, and message that will generate a positive brand image in customers’ minds, and drive a call to action, as well as garnering useful information for the creation of the next campaign.

Your image through advertising

Awareness of brand: The most useful thing about advertising is that you are not only telling people about your product, you are also giving your brand the opportunity to create a positive image by designing a communication that is concise, clever and easy to understand. In the way you put your message across creates an impression in the consumer, from choice of words to colours, to people, to visuals, to the quality and tone and impact of the message itself. In every ad, and in every way, and in every choice of channel, you are sharing your story with your audience – and that is the way you build loyalty, trust and retention.

Exploring new avenues of business: Take your brand into new areas of potential business. Dazzle consumers who may not have used your brand before. Find ways to advertise that will speak to them specifically, and persuade them that your product or service is definitely worth trying from a quality, cost or experience point of view.

Meeting the challenge of competition: When you go to market, there are others right there ahead of you. Make sure your advertising doesn’t get swallowed in the mix. Research your competitors – and do better. After successfully identifying your target market, a well-crafted advertising campaign is essential to promote what you have to offer. Advertising is the way you keep up, and surpass your competitors. So you can never stop the process!

Keeping your business relevant in the market place: Advertising boosts the visibility of your business and attracts customers to try your goods and services. Your company’s very survival may depend on advertising; sales and revenue are the vital lifeblood that draws down from your advertising.

Building your customer base: Not only does advertising build your customer base, it emphasizes your brand in the cacophony of the marketplace. A customer who understands and relates to the mission and vision of your company will likely become a loyal customer.

Creating relevant and sincere advertisements on an ongoing basis is important; consumers are discerning and can be sceptical of meaningless advertising. Retaining an interest in your brand is vital to maintaining your customer base, and building the value of word-of-mouth advertising.

The purpose of business is to sell products and services to customers in order to engender profits. But how will your potential customers know about you if you don’t shout out what you do and where you can be found? Consumers will never get to know about the products or services of which you are justly proud, if they are not advertised. Advertising gives consumers direction and options, and assists them with ultimate decision-making regarding which company they may like to support. It’s that basic – and that crucial.