How to Plan Your First Advertising Campaign

They say if your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic. Read our guide and make sure your business is being seen

How to Plan Your First Advertising Campaign

If you have just launched a new business, the first thing you want to do is tell the world. A well-targeted ad campaign can plant a flag in your intended market and let a wide range of customers know about your offering – assuming you have the budget for it.

This article is intended as an introduction to advertising for businesses looking to advertise for the first time. For a more general guide, read this article. If you want to make your marketing budget go even further, you should also consider a PR campaign.

How do I set my goals?

Your advertising budget will almost certainly be misspent if you don’t have a clear idea of what you need advertising for. You need to think about a number of things:

  1. Who is my target audience? You need to be very clear about which demographic you are targeting.
  2. What are my goals? Advertising can help your business in a number of ways:
    • Brand awareness
    • Entering a new market
    • Increasing sales
    • Increasing website visits
    • Launching a new product
    • Reinforcing brand image
  1. What specific results do I want to achieve?

Using your goals, plan out your intended results, using hard figures where possible – perhaps you want to reach a certain percentage of the market, or drive up sales leads by a specified percentage.

What platforms should I target?

Perhaps the most important element of your advertising strategy, picking the right media channel will make a huge difference in terms of results. Your options include:

The national press.

Tabloid and broadsheet newspapers should be used when you want to reach a mass-market audience in order to quickly build awareness or immediately boost sales. Your advertisement will be seen by millions of people, but the cost will normally be prohibitively high for a start-up.

The local press.

Local papers, community magazines, and local lifestyle magazines are good for reaching consumers in a specific geographical area. They are relatively inexpensive, and will suit businesses that rely mostly on local custom, such as restaurants. Because of the low cost, local papers can be used to pilot ambitious ad campaigns before a nationwide launch.

The trade press.

If you have a primarily business-to-business offering, or sell a niche product to enthusiasts within a particular sector, trade publications (both online and in print) represent another good, low-cost option for start-ups. The readers that view your ad are much more likely to have an interest in your product.

Online advertising.

You have a huge range of options when it comes to online advertising – from simple banner ads on another business’ website to highly targeted campaigns utilising social media such as Facebook. Customers can immediately follow up their interest by clicking through to your website, and the range of payment options available (such as pay-per-click) can represent one of the most cost-effective advertising methods.

Telephone directories.

Increasingly scarce, telephone and business directories such as the Yellow Pages could perhaps be a good option for trade businesses and other services that consumers will already be looking for. However, the advent of the internet has rendered these bulky directories more or less obsolete.

Poster ads.

Ads on the sides of buses, taxis and bus stops can reach a huge number of commuters, but can be expensive in popular locations and will often produce slow results. They are divided into two categories:

    • ‘Waiting sites’ are locations such as bus stops and airports in which the customer has time to read and digest your ad. They should be written much like a print advertisement.
    • ‘Passing sites’ are locations like the side door of a taxi or bus.

Local radio and cinema advertising.

Again, these are good for reaching customers in your geographical area, but it is often difficult to stand out because of the timed nature of the ad, and results will be slow.

What is an advertising pack?

An advertising or media pack is a leaflet or online publication produced by the journal or publication you wish to target. Media packs will typically contain:

A rate card.

This will give details of how much you will pay for ad space of various sizes in the publication. Typically, special rates will be charged for prominent positions, such as the front or back page or a double-page banner spread.

Circulation and readership.

Circulation refers to the number of actual copies of the publication sold, whilst readership refers to how many people will read it (such as members of a household).


The media pack should give details of what kind of readers they have – e.g. ‘70% ABC1 male consumers’ or ‘50% of readers own a second home’.

You can use the figures provided in the advertising pack to work out how much it will cost you to reach each individual customer. For example, say the cost of a particular advertisement in a trade magazine is £5,000. The magazine has a readership of 4,000 people, of which 70% fit your target demographic (2800 readers). Divide your target audience by your ad spend and you reach a price of 56p per customer. Using various media packs, compare your projected cost per customer to find the most cost-effective publication.

Bear in mind, though, that cost per customer might not be your only consideration – perhaps the publication has a prestigious image which you wish your brand to be visually associated with, for example.

How do I negotiate on price and position?

Do not take the figures on the rate card at face value. Especially in trade and local press, you might be able to get some significant discounts.

If you purchase repeated ad space you will almost certainly get a discount. However, you should test the waters first with a one-off purchase before committing to a longer term deal.

Try playing publications off against each other by mentioning that you are planning on purchasing space with a rival, and quote their rates if they are more favourable.

Finally, you can try and wait until the last minute. Publications will often have last-minute ad space they need to fill, which you can obtain at a heavy discount. Be aware that your choice of size and location will be limited.

How do I know whether an ad has worked?

Getting a good return on investment is vitally important – especially as a start-up, as every penny counts.  So it becomes necessary to find out whether your small business ad actually worked. There are a number of ways to find out this information.

You can be straightforward, and simply ask customers where they found you. Whenever you make a sale or generate an enquiry, get into the habit of asking customers how they got to you. This will give you the data you need to measure an ad campaign’s success.

Monitor the campaign closely. Using your customer data, measure the number of leads directly generated by the ad and divide it by your cost, giving you a cost per lead. Do the same for actual sales – known as ‘yield’.

Look at the kinds of sales generated. Whilst one campaign might generate a large number of one-off sales, another might be more effective at generating smaller numbers of long-term customers or large orders.

Consider the hidden costs. The actual cost price of the ad will only be a part of your advertising spend. Factor in how much time it took you to actually produce the ad, or how much money you spent on an agency.

Finally, be patient. Just because an advertisement hasn’t generated immediate results doesn’t mean it has failed. You may have generated invaluable brand awareness, and sales could trickle in over a longer period.

Should I use an advertising agency?

An advertising agency will have the nous to create an effective ad campaign for you, taking away the hassle of creating the ad, selecting a publication and so on.

However, ad agencies are expensive – if your planned ad spend is less than £10,000, you will be better off using this guide and doing it yourself.

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