Written by Craig Haugo, Valhalla Community Magazines

“I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half”

– John Wanamaker, 1838-1922, American merchant, Wanamakers Department Store

True. Though the quote is tongue and check, it still has a ring of truth. And this from a very successful businessman, who spent millions on advertising, whom I am sure, was not fond of “wasted” money. Fortunately, there are ways to limit the waste and make your ad in a way that gives it the best chance for success. The basics.

Like every process, there are fundamentals that should be followed in order to achieve success. Creating a successful ad is no different. The following 6 “basics” is not an exhaustive list, but rather a list of the ones that we see missed or misunderstood most often. While all of them are important, unless you do number one, Target Your Market, the rest do not matter.

1. Targeting Your Market
Knowing precisely whom you are trying to reach and how to reach them is the first and most critical step. A blurred notion is not good enough. What age, income level, education, buying patterns, etc. is a start. Without knowing at least this, how could you expect to find the right media source with which to reach them?

Once you uncover these answers about your customers you can start to identify what they read, listen to, and watch. Then you can start to make choices on how to get in front of them and how to tailor your message. If you have not figured this out, stop “wasting” advertising dollars until you have.

2. Say Something (but not to much)
Packing everything that your company does into an ad is not advertising, it is writing a bio. Customers that are looking at your ad do not care about you, they care about what need you can fulfill, or what problem you can solve. Use the space or time effectively, by explaining how you meet a need of theirs. Phrases like, “Locally Owned and Operated” mean nothing to most customers, while “Purified water from your tap” lets customers know exactly what you deliver for them.

3. Keep it Simple
For the most part, being too clever or too funny creates an ad that people remember the punch line and not necessarily the name of your business or make a sale. That would be a bad ad. Do you want to be funny or to make a sale? Does it matter if your carpet cleaner has a clever ad or are cleaning and service the most important? So, unless you have the money of Budweiser or Go Daddy, focus on solving problems and fulfilling needs. You want your ad to be memorable and influential, not funny and forgettable.

4. Repetitiveness and Consistency
Unless you are announcing a new product launch or a sale event (and you are already known to the customer), be repetitive. When creating a budget, create it for the long haul. Many ad campaigns fail, not because the ad is bad, but because it did not run long enough. When you run an ad consistently, you are building brand awareness. The result is when the reader/viewer needs what you offer – your name is triggered in their mind. But, only if your ad has been repetitive and consistent.

5. Advertising on the Cheap
Of course there are many places to advertise cheaply, and some are effective. But for the most part, there is a reason they are so cheap. Less people read, listen to, or watch them.

6. Call to Action
Too many ads do not give the customer a reason to act. When designing an ad, remember this acronym AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. Grab their attention, get them interested in what you’re selling, create a desire for what you’re selling, and finally, offer a call to action. The whole idea is to get the potential customer to act.