Posted by on Jan 4, 2021 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Channels, Marketing Tips | 0 comments

Why You Should Take a Breath and Re-evaluate Your Marketing Plans

by Deb Harrsch

Welcome to January 2021! It’s finally here.

We’ve made it through the holidays. We figured out how to visit with our families and how to be safe doing so. We’re still in the midst of this major wave of COVID-19 and we’re all eagerly awaiting vaccines to make life a little easier.

Now, your boss wants to know, “What are we doing for marketing in 2021?”

Before you start reeling off a list of marketing activities, let’s stop for a minute. I think that while you may have started the 2021 planning process in December, this particular January it’s important to take a breath and reset your expectations. I know there is still uncertainty as to what this year will serve up.

We do know we are still in a world where digital communications are the primary marketing method, and that’s not going to begin to shift until at least the second half of 2021. You also must keep in mind that some things will never go back 100% to how we used to market.

So, How Are You Going to Tackle 2021?

Your 2021 marketing will be a combination of how we marketed before the pandemic and what we did last year.

You began a digital rebirth and learned how to function in a virtual world last year, and that same buyer behavior is going to continue this year. This January, you should start your marketing planning with a re-evaluation of where you are now. Have a look at the assets you created last year. Review the work you did around your buyer personas and what your customers’ awareness-consider-buy journey is today.

Take a deep breath and first make sure you’ve matched each persona’s awareness-consider-buy journey with strong calls to action. Then lay out all the assets you have and map them to the journey.

Applying Your New Marketing Skills

Now it’s time to figure out how to apply all the new skill sets you learned about last year – and how you are going to implement them going forward. If you need a refresh on those skills, check out these blog posts:

Next you’ll begin building out – and documenting – your marketing strategy and the implementation plan. This is where integrated marketing is most important, because you can think through and use all the marketing tools in your toolbox. Be sure that you have everything working together and working toward the same goal – your web copy, your white papers, your case studies, and your videos.

2021 Strategies

In 2021 and beyond you’ll need to outline strategies for both virtual marketing and in-person marketing as we start working our way back to in-person meetings. We need to keep in mind that we might be able to attend trade shows in the second half of the year once vaccines are available, but that is up in the air for now.

But, remember that even if we do get to attend trade shows in-person, they will likely never again look the way they did in 2019. In 2021 at least, they will probably become a hybrid model of virtual and in-person. I think that every single one of us over the course of this past year has realized how important the personal touch really is. We’ve tried to duplicate it with virtual events and tried to do it with Zoom calls and it has worked to some degree, but we all know that shaking hands and being together on the trade show floor is important.

There are several good things that have come out of adapting to pandemic lockdowns, however. The situation has given us an opportunity this last year to increase our marketing toolkits, whether it’s:

  • creating assets like white papers and case studies
  • learning to use social media to increase brand awareness and leads
  • reviewing our traditional marketing
  • building story videos, proof point videos, and how-we-work videos
  • or experiencing the cool technologies that build virtual trade shows.

I think that you should be rolling out and using all the new tools in your toolbox both while we’re at virtual trade shows, and when attending in-person trade shows. We’ve talked to clients for a long time about building video tools or interactive marketing tools. Some have executed and some have not, while others are in the process of building those tools. If we consider that at least the first half of your year is still virtual, then you need to dive in and do some videos or podcasting so it’s available in your toolkit.

Let’s Get Going!

We endured a lot last year. We’re still working on coming to grips with the pandemic. We continued building our businesses. We tried to figure out what we needed on the fly. But, we are starting to see a little light at the end of a long tunnel and it’s time to implement some of the strategies we worked on last year. Lay it out and make sure your plans are tight.

If you need help, give us a call.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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Posted by on Apr 30, 2021 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Tips | 0 comments

How to Implement Integrated Marketing in Your Organization

How to Implement Integrated Marketing

by Debra Harrsch

Marketing covers a lot of territory these days, and it’s easy to get confused about what you should do and when – never mind the abundance of tools to help you execute your ideas. Perhaps more important than making all those individual decisions is launching your marketing activities with an integrated marketing approach.

An integrated marketing approach ensures that you provide a consistent experience with your brand to your customers. Think about it. If you deliver multiple messages across marketing channels, you’ll confuse your customers instead of achieving brand awareness or the leads you need to meet your revenue goals.

Integrated marketing always starts with your messaging

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, marketing always starts with your messaging. Your messaging must be targeted and remain consistent across every marketing channel from your website, to email marketing, to advertising, to social media, and across all of your content assets. It’s not until you have the messaging for all your buyer personas nailed down that you build out the engine to drive your marcom plan.

Building an integrated marketing plan

I love analogies, and I think about integrated marketing plans in terms of a car engine. There are many moving parts in a car engine, and we all know that a car will not work if a part of your engine is either missing or not working properly. You can’t move forward if every part of that engine isn’t running smoothly.

The same thing is true of integrated marketing plans.

You’re building a marketing engine to accelerate your business. In creating your marketing engine, you’ll need to assemble all your marketing choices and assets into a cohesive plan. You want to make sure all parts of that engine – from your social media and website to your white papers, case studies, videos, and podcasts – are working together to propel your business forward.

And you need to remember that while you can build an engine, you can’t expect it to drive anywhere unless you maintain it. It will need oil and gas (or electricity), and it will need to be monitored and tuned-up periodically.

Marketing is the engine that will take your sales team to where they need to be

You’ll maintain your marketing engine based on shifts in market trends and on what your sales team is saying. The business development team is closest to your customers. Because the marketing department isn’t always in the room when sales is doing their pitches, it’s essential to have ongoing conversations with them. Open communications allow you to understand what sales is seeing and what kinds of questions the customers are asking. One of the most beneficial moves any marketing department can make is to work together with the sales team.

(I find that going to trade shows with our customers and listening to them pitch is incredibly important, and it helps laser-target their marketing campaigns.)

Engine building sounds complicated

Do you need to build a turbocharged marketing engine to get started?

No. I think the best integrated marketing plans start simple and grow from there. We don’t start with a Lamborghini. We begin with a little Honda Fit. Marketing engines need to start simple, and then you can keep upgrading the plan. We do get to the turbocharged engine, but that level of work isn’t going to happen in a few months.

As you are building your marketing plan, you’ll need to keep in mind that you may need to create multiple engines. This will be the case if you sell into different markets or deliver products or services with a complex buying process (for example, many people in a company are involved in the buying decision). In these cases, you’ll need to build engines that speak to the different personas involved in that process. For instance, if the chemist, the IT department, and procurement are involved, you’ll want your brand messaging to address each of those people and their unique challenges or concerns in your marketing.

The point is to put the most efficient and robust lead-generating engine together. To do that, you need to review your assets, figure out where you are, and figure out what has to change. Ask yourself if there is anything that needs fixing, if you need to add assets to your mix, or if you need to repurpose older content?

What’s in a plan?

We know that the engine parts include all your marketing elements like social media, website, white papers, blog posts, case studies, videos, podcasts and ads, etc. But, it doesn’t just include the elements themselves. It also includes where you are placing those elements.

For example, you may decide to use print and digital ads to target that chemist I mentioned above. The marketing action isn’t just a matter of developing the creative for the ads.

When you use an integrated marketing approach it means that the ad in question has the right messaging for the chemist’s stage in the buyer’s journey, along with a landing page which completes the marketing message in the ad – and drives the chemist through to a back-end asset (such as a white paper) that moves them forward on their journey. It also means that the ad creative may be used in social media, and that the white paper may be developed into a blog post and organic social media content to drive the chemist to the landing page and white paper.

Do you see how by keeping your messaging tight and assets working together, you are able to explain the full story of your product or service to your customers and help them in the journey to buy? You’re also able to re-use and repurpose your marketing assets, which can help your budget stretch further.

Everything works together and drives leads

Let me share a case study with you. We have a software client who has seven distinct vertical markets. Those range from highly regulated pharma to oil and gas (O&G) to food and beverage (F&B). We need to build integrated plans for each of those verticals, so we treat them as separate engines.

When we built the plan for the pharma vertical, for instance, we didn’t just look at building ads. We built a messaging platform for the personas in that vertical. And then we built the assets for that vertical. In this buying process, there are multiple personas. They have a chemist and a senior lab director who both need to solve a scientific problem. There is an IT department that has to integrate the software with other internal systems. And there is the procurement office which is not intimately involved in the science.

Expanding this thinking across their business for each vertical’s plan, we created ad campaigns to use across all of their marketing opportunities – from Google display ads to digital and print publication ads, to podcast and webinar sponsorships. We also created videos, white papers, case studies, brochures, tech sheets, and PR based on new offers that have been launched in each vertical. We made sure that all of these elements worked together across every channel, from advertising to social media to trade journals to audio and visual media.

When we built their campaign for the year, that campaign flowed throughout all six verticals. It looked slightly different for O&G than it did for pharma, but it has the same theme and the same energy driving it forward.

(You may not realize it, but ad campaigns have longer legs than you might think. You don’t have to change your ad campaign every year. I know people will say to me, “oh, you know, we’ve seen that for a while.” Yes, maybe you’ve seen it for a while, but your customers/prospects may not have.)

The result?

Last quarter we generated more than 1,600 leads with 55 requests for demos and an RFQ from our digital pharma campaign. In addition, we had 64 Google search phone calls last quarter requesting demos.

Keep it running and producing leads

And just like tuning up an engine – to keep your plan operating smoothly and getting you everywhere you want to go – you need to run diagnostics on your marketing actions and measure performance.

When you’re measuring your ROI, keep in mind that the challenge in marketing is people need to see things six to eight times before they react to it or remember it. Your ROI may in fact be attributable to several of your activities. For example, you may not know if the first ad you ran made the difference or if it was the non-promotional thought leadership article that ultimately drove the lead conversion – or if it was a combination of four or five different marketing actions you took that made the difference in your prospect’s mind. This is why it is called a buyer’s journey, moving from “aware” to “consider” to “buy.”

Drive your business forward with integrated marketing

Marketing’s job is to produce leads to help propel your business forward. But, to drive anything forward, you need an engine. That engine is your integrated marketing plan.

If you need help developing an integrated marketing plan to drive your business forward, give us at call.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – that want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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Posted by on Jan 29, 2021 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Tips | 0 comments

The Messaging Platform and Why It’s Essential for Your Marketing

by Deb Harrsch

Marketers talk a lot about messaging platforms. They talk about the need for one, and how to use it in marketing. But, not everyone understands what a marketing message platform is or why it’s an essential part of your marketing strategy.

What is a Messaging Platform?

A messaging platform empowers you as a marketer, and it empowers you as a business. It is the basis of everything you need to communicate with your buyers. Your integrated marketing plans are built from the information in your message platform.

Any message platform should include:

  • Your target audience and their needs
  • A position statement
  • A long elevator pitch
  • Your brand (or product) pillars and headline benefits
  • Support examples
  • Tone of voice

It doesn’t sound like much, but it delivers deep ongoing value to every area of your business – from the C-suite to sales to marketing. If you think about your business today, each department is likely delivering different messages about what you do and what benefits you give customers. In addition to those mixed messages, each person is probably using different language and support examples to demonstrate your value. They may even be chasing customers outside of your target audience. None of this is helpful to growing your company – or its revenue.

A marketing message platform gives everyone in your company very clear language, proof points, and positioning – ensuring that your brand is consistent in every engagement with a potential customer. It tells everyone in your company:

These are our brand pillars. This is how we talk to our customers. This is what we do.”

That’s what a messaging platform is.

Developing a Message Platform

The six elements of a message platform are the basis of all communications and they do take some significant upfront work.

Who is involved in creating a message platform? Everyone.

  • Your C-suite needs to be in the room
  • Sales needs to be in the room
  • Marketing needs to be in the room
  • Every department with customer-facing communications needs to be in that room

This may sound like there will be too many cooks in the kitchen, but what actually ends up happening is this: it brings your entire team together. It is an outstanding exercise for your company, and everyone ends up on the same page.

No, it’s not a bing, bang, boom, five-minute conversation. It’s a process. I’ll be honest, it can take weeks to get this done right.

Developing this platform gets to the core of what your company does, what you want to be, and how you want your customers to perceive your brand. Those are big questions, and you may think you know the right answers, but when you dig down deep everyone may have different viewpoints.

I understand that as a marketer you need to move fast and it’s hard to take a step back, to spend time and money on messaging. But, you can either set yourself up for success by focusing now and getting it done right, or you can go on about your business and find out that your messaging isn’t right and lose your audience.

Your messaging is critical to your business. If you don’t follow a solid proven process and develop the right messaging, you’re going to lose out.

How do You Create a Message Platform?

Every messaging process starts with discovery. Whether you’re working on a company brand messaging platform or a product messaging platform, you need to have a discovery session to begin figuring it out. What are you going to talk about?

The discovery process digs deep into your business. Here are the areas that you’ll explore to create your platform:

  • Define the background of the product or in the case of a brand platform the company. What are your business goals for your company or product or service?
  • Ask what exactly does the company or your product or service do. You’ll work on listing out all features and benefits and how they solve customer pain points.
  • Talk about the target market and your buyer. This is where you’ll spend considerable time. You want to confirm who your target markets are. Who’s your audience? Who are your buyers? If you haven’t developed your buyer personas, do it now. You’ll look at what their roles are and what their individual journeys are in moving from awareness, to consideration, to buyer. Analyze your customer’s pain points.
  • Develop competitive positioning. Where do you fit in the marketplace and where do you want to fit? Explore your business intelligence. Look into anything that you can get from third parties or marketing trends or information you may have inside.
  • Explore why your product or service or company is different from your competitors. What makes you better at addressing your customer’s pain points? Develop your SWOT analysis. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? What makes your company or product/service special?
  • Determine the value you offer. You need to know what the value proposition is for what you’re doing – whether it’s for a product or service or your company. The value could be all wrapped into one proposition, or there could be multiple value propositions. For example, big companies tend to have multiple value propositions for multiple products or services, while smaller companies may be much more integrated. Develop a short value proposition and a long value proposition.
  • Figure out what the brand pillars and benefits are for your messaging – what’s important to your company and customers. For example, if one of your brand pillars is security, what does that mean? Is the benefit reduced risk?
  • Each of your brand pillars must be substantiated with support examples. Use cases are a good source for this information. These support examples are what sales and marketing will use to talk about your company or products and services. In the case of the brand pillar – security – above, the support examples could be end-to-end solutions, or geographic diversity, or an alternative supply, or all of the above. All of this supports your security brand pillar and you’ll need this information when you develop your content.
  • While everyone is in the same room working on the big vision for the company, it’s also a good time to figure out what the sales strategy is and what the marketing goals are. Sometimes the marketing goal is just developing a message platform or web copy or a brochure, but you need to figure out what your marketing goals are for the near-term and long-term.

For brand platforms, the process does deviate somewhat and is much more visionary in nature. You need to develop clear vision and mission statements. Everything else remains the same in terms of your target audience, value statements, brand pillars and benefits, as well as the support examples.

If you have a messaging platform from a corporate standpoint, the information in your brand pillars needs to flow through all of your content and assets, including your graphics. We also work on the tone of voice, which ties directly into content development. It skis into your social media and into your website copy. It skis into ads and all your marketing collateral. All of this work is done in service to your buyer personas – to get them from awareness, to consideration, to buy.

What Does the Application of a Messaging Platform Look Like in Practice?

We had a recent example where a client was developing a sell sheet. The copy was essentially a bullet list. When they showed it to me, I said, “Wait a minute, we just did a messaging platform. Tell me, how does that sell sheet relate to the message platform we just worked so hard on?”

Can you guess the response? It was, “Oh, my, it doesn’t.”

My next question was, “What does that mean?”

“We can’t use it.”

Ouch. No one wants to spend time and money developing collateral that doesn’t meet the needs of customers.

Messaging platforms give you a way to be consistent in your content and how it is used. It does everything from give you the keywords you need in your copy (especially digital copy) to how you build your integrated marcom plan.

A messaging platform that everyone in your company has weighed in on and worked together to develop is essential to your sales and marketing efforts. Yes, it takes work, but the ROI far outweighs the investment.

Sometimes it helps to have an impartial outside firm facilitate the discovery process and develop the platform. At Brandwidth Solutions, we have a proven approach to building an integrated marketing plan – one part of which is a brand or product messaging platform.

Our approach takes your team from discovery into strategy development. After those two critical steps, we build the plan and implement branding and marketing tactics. Give us a call to learn more about developing your marketing message platform.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – that want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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Posted by on Dec 4, 2020 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Channels, Marketing Tips, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Managing Marketing Through the Fog: What We Learned About Marketing in 2020

by Deb Harrsch

This is our last post this year and I don’t know about you, but I’ll be glad to see the end of 2020. I know that everyone is tired of dealing with COVID, and tired of trying to find the silver lining. We’re tired of thinking about it and preparing for it every time we leave our homes – and even tired of being at home.

It’s not just about business, it’s about our personal lives too. Everyone is thinking, “What’s it going to look like for the holidays? When am I going to see my family again? When am I going to see my friends again?” And you know what, the answer is this: it’s unfortunately going to be a bit longer. I wish it wasn’t the case.

Yes, it’s hard. There’s no doubt about that. But, the good news is that we can absolutely get through this. It is just another challenge in our journey, and we will all have stories to tell about how we survived both personally and professionally. We just need to be patient and hang on.

We are all managing through this fog of indecision and uncertainty. If anyone still feels like they are the only one feeling that way, please give me a call because I will tell you that you’re definitely not alone.

And guess what? Not only are we managing our day-to-day activities in a fog, but whole companies and sales and marketing and product management departments are managing business in a fog. We’re all struggling for clarity, we’re trying to manage it, we’re all trying to figure things out – and we can’t rely on last year’s data.

How to market without historical data

Marketing departments tend to do things based on data. We ask: “What did we do last year? What publications did we advertise or publish in last year? What trade shows did we do? And how well did that provide sales leads and awareness?”

I don’t think a lot of that data is relevant anymore. While I think you should look at your data and should monitor it monthly, 2020 has been a challenge for all of us. Many marketing departments are lacking clarity and struggling to manage this mass of marketing without any data relevant to today’s environment.

Yes, we can learn from history, and we should always learn from history, but things have changed. We must pay attention to the fact that things have changed. We need to process the change and collect and act on current data while keeping aware that there could be more changes.

What did we learn over the course of this year?

  1. We learned that as organizations we have to be more digitally focused and think more broadly.

As I mentioned, the old data doesn’t apply here so you can’t do the same thing you did last year just because that’s the way it’s always been done. Frequently, marketing departments tend to do the same things that worked the year before. But, now you have to figure out what tomorrow might look like. And yes, that’s going to mean educated guesswork and testing. The best part about this is we get to put on our creative hat and think outside of the box.

We learned that a strong digital strategy is key. Without a digital strategy and without a place for people to find out information about your products or services, or go buy your product, you’re sunk. Take a hard look at your website – are you marketing to your customers? Are you being the thought leader in your industry? If not, it’s going to impact your sales more now than ever, because there’s nowhere else for people to go to get the information.

  1. We learned that we need to be able to pivot our marketing at almost a moment’s notice.

It may be time to pull out our copies of “Who Moved My Cheese?” for a refresher. When someone moves your ability to market in the ways that always worked in the past, as marketers, we need to be able to pivot and that’s not always as easy as you’d like it to be.

For example, look at trade shows. They disappeared – except for virtually – this year and the truth is, you’re probably not going to any trade shows at the beginning of next year either. It’s scary, but very true. And looking ahead to how conferences are held, it may not go back to the way it was. We all learned that trade shows and conferences are very important, but they cannot be the only way to get our message out and reach our customers.

In order to easily pivot your marketing, you need to have a full range of tools in your toolbox. This means the right marketing software coupled with the right content.

  1. We learned that it’s crucial to be organized and have a real marketing plan. When marketing departments didn’t have a marketing plan with a digital strategy and the organizational ability to implement it, they weren’t able to pivot – they were stymied. Instead, what happened was companies tried to bolt together random sections of pipe (the ‘pipe’ being a metaphor for marketing activities) creating a new marketing initiative to replace what had been budgeted based on prior years’ marketing efforts. The result of bolting small pieces of pipe together was a very leaky pipe – those leaks were all their potential leads and customers disappearing through the holes in their marketing.

We learned that you can’t just bolt pieces together. Every time you do, you add a joint and every joint represents a potential problem. You have to think about your audience holistically and create a solid length of pipe – an overall marketing plan.

Marketing is not just a website. It’s not just your print advertising. It’s not just your digital advertising or social media. It is a whole functioning organism that needs all of its parts and systems to work together to keep the entire body healthy.

What this has proven to even the most doubtful of marketing managers is that you need a holistic and integrated marketing plan which includes a strong digital strategy as well as a non-digital strategy. You also need the right messaging and assets to deliver on both those plans.

  1. We learned that the market has shifted and sales and marketing must improve collaboration.

I have talked about how sales and marketing need to be best friends in the past and it’s never truer than right now. Both sales and marketing need to step up. Sales needs to start contacting customers one-on-one to get real facts which drive the development of messaging and KOLs. Marketing needs to use that information to continue reaching out – to keep the brand front and center.

Overall we’ve learned that things can change quickly and we have to be prepared as organizations to not just look at what we have right here and now, but to see the full picture. We have to continually evaluate strategies and how you’re marketing. We must re-think how you spend your marketing dollars.

We need to remember that when we get back to whatever “normal” looks like now, it will change again. 2020 is not the first change, but I do think this particular change has forever altered how we think and deliver marketing in a B2B world. Companies should embrace the holistic marketing approach to succeed.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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Posted by on Sep 4, 2020 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Channels, Uncategorized | 0 comments

How to Develop Your Ad Plan

by Deb Harrsch

Today sales and marketing departments are adapting to a new method of prospecting and selling. Since we’re not traveling to trade shows or prospects’ labs and offices, we have to find creative ways to generate leads and deliver content.

Last month we discussed the importance of digital marketing, like social media and digital advertising. We also explored the new lead generation products available from life science and trade publications. Today, we’re going to share how to develop an ad plan that delivers leads to your sales team.

Smart advertising is all about making the right choices – placing ads in the right spots at the right times, and strategically spending your ad budget.

But, how do you do that successfully?

Ad Budget

We always need to start with the budget. Some customers will ask, “How much should we spend?” While other customers say, “We have X amount of dollars.” But, in the end, everybody’s got limited budgets so you’ve got to be smart about how you spend it.

Your budget determines the kind of advertising you’ll be able to do. You may do print ads or you may do digital ads, or you may be able to do a mix of both.

We often recommend a mix if you have the budget for it. (The reason for this: in some markets your audience is still reading print publications. They don’t fully engage with the digital version of the publication.)

Identify Your Audience and Research How to Reach Them

Once you’ve decided what your budget is, and you know one of your goals is to generate leads for the sales force, you’ve got to decide who your target audience is. Then you need to figure out what publications fit that target audience. And what publications overlap.

Above all, you need to understand your market and know how your customers consume their media. For example, in the pharma and contract pharma space there are still many who prefer print publications. There is one publication with a readership of 60,000 and they’ve told with us that one third of the readership only consumes print.

When you are researching publications, you need to do your homework on the demographics they reach – and whether the reach is in print or digital. Don’t let the reps sell you! You’ve got to dig deep and figure out what the best product is for you to reach your client, to get them from A to B and meet your objective of generating leads.

Now that you’ve decided what your goal is, what you have for a budget, and who your target is, you can develop your ad mix and identify what assets you’ll need for delivery.

Advertising Mix

There is a surprising amount of choice when it comes to life science advertising from publications and from search engine marketing. As you develop your ad plan, you’ll be working with the following ad mix:

  • Google Ads and Google Display Ads. For more information on these two options, see this blog post.
  • Print Ads
  • Digital Ads
  • Text Ads
  • Webinars
  • Webinar sponsorships
  • Podcast sponsorships
  • Publication website advertising
  • Targeted newsletter sponsorship to specific audiences
  • Promotional gated content
  • Ad retargeting
  • Email blasts

What you need to remember, however, is that creating a successful lead gen ad is more than a pretty graphic and punchy copy. You do need that, yes, but you also need the lead capture landing page and a case study or white paper to make it all worth the prospect’s time and effort. We’ll talk more about getting the most from your ad spend next month.

Flexibility in Digital Publication Ads

When you are designing your ad mix you should keep in mind a particularly unique feature of digital ads through publications: flexibility.

Typically, in B2B publications, you pay by the month. That’s not true of search engine ads. But it is with digital publication ads. This means you’ve purchased that ad space and you aren’t limited to just one ad. You can use it for more than one ad.

Digital ads can be updated quickly. If you have more than one service or a product that answers audience needs in the same publication, you can start with one set of creative for a specific product or service. Then, at any time during your three or six month run, you can provide new creative for a different product or service and the publication will digitally swap them out – allowing you to rotate your ad.

Once you’ve identified your publications and negotiated with the ad reps to maximize your spend with them, the next thing you have to do is develop the actual ad plan.

Developing Your Ad Plan

The ad plan is what we use to make sure all of the ads get placed throughout the year at the right time for each publication. This spreadsheet gives you the ability to know exactly what ads are running, where, and during which month.

When you’re creating your plan, there are two ways you can lay it out. One, you can lay it out by vertical market, or two, you can create a schedule by month and publication. This allows you to see quickly details such as:

  • What type of ad it is (e.g., print, digital, promotion, email)
  • What size it is
  • The demographics
  • The audience
  • A short description of the copy

TIP: You might consider an internal ad plan as well. Your production people (graphics and copywriters) will thank you for it! This internal plan provides your team with exactly what is due and when. It lays out everything required, the landing page requirements, and what the deliverable is.

When you build your ad plan, keep in mind that old rule on brand touches – that your audience needs to see things seven times before they remember it. Be sure to mix your ads in a way that’s smart. For example, if you do the right print advertising (if your audience is more print-based), and do enough digital to support that print, your audience is going to recognize you. Just to be clear, even if your audience is print-focused, I can promise you they still access the web for research and for fun – so digital ads do make sense.

You’ve got to balance your ad mix, not only in terms of the product choices you make, but also in terms of the deliverables you offer through the ads. Be sure you sprinkle in some gated white papers because they will give you the leads you need. And remember that the audience will always download a case study before they will register for a white paper.

When to Buy Ad Space

Design your ad plan on an annual basis. Let me say that again. Your ad plan MUST be annual.

We have clients that say, “Is it okay if we go month-to-month?”

The answer? No. You won’t ever see an ad.

Don’t think you can do it month-by-month? Most of the ad inventory will be already bought out and you will have nothing. And that is not where you want to be when your sales team is counting on you to deliver leads.

There’s only so much advertising inventory that’s available. So you’ve just got to be smart. As soon as you get your ad budget approval, you’ve got to lock in your ad spend because the digital spots sell out.

If you try a month-to-month approach, you’ll find yourself in an extremely stressful situation. You’ll end up spending more time recreating that ad plan each month and losing opportunities left and right. You’ve got to develop a plan for the entire year. This way, you’ll get the ad space and positioning you want – and you’ll be eligible for any free value-adds offered – as well as the best price from the publications or associations.

This is a challenge for those companies whose fiscal year starts in April or June. We do have some clients whose fiscal years start in April and it’s a challenge because most of the ad inventory is bought out in Q1. It’s critically important to create your ad calendar right at the end of Q3 or Q4.

Questions on creating an ad plan? Give us a call! Tune in next month when we talk more about how to maximize your ad spend.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

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