by Deb Harrsch
The year 2020 has introduced us to a whole new situation where the only way to generate leads is through digital media. Because of COVID, advertising has become even more important. In fact, I would say that social media and advertising are the two most important digital channels right now. And both of those are supported by useful and creative content on your website.
After all, where else are you going to get leads from?
That’s why advertising is important to have in multiple formats, from print and digital to publication websites and search engine marketing. Your prospects need to see you in multiple places. If they do, you can generate leads in several ways.
It’s important to put all of the ad puzzle pieces together in a way that makes sense. Your puzzle is your budget for producing leads. Your job is to figure out which pieces fit together to achieve the best results in the most cost-efficient way.
And all of the normal rules are out the window.
There are lots of moving pieces when it comes to developing advertising that delivers solid results. It starts with knowing your audience and developing your ad plan. Because it never hurts to have some useful tips to help you choose your puzzle pieces wisely, here are ten points you’ll want to dig into.
- Maximize your publication ad spend
Should you be in every publication your audience reads? Well, sure – if you have an unlimited budget. But, who does? I can’t say that I’ve met anyone with one!
The point here is that you need to choose publications wisely. You also need to understand the audience demographics for each publication – and match that with what you’re trying to deliver. For example, publication A has an audience of 13,000 readers. A solid audience number for sure. But, say publication B has a larger audience – and reaches the same 13,000 person audience as publication A. Which publication do you choose?
Well, if I have a limited budget, I’m not going to run my ad in both. Unless there is something spectacular happening in publication A, I’m going to choose publication B since it has a larger audience for the same market. With a limited budget, instead of spreading your budget across five publications, think about choosing the three which cover your audience best.
Another aspect of maximizing your ad spend is the value you receive. You can stretch your budget by negotiating with publications. For instance, if you run a print ad, you may be able to negotiate a free digital ad – or perhaps a free podcast sponsorship.
We work hard to negotiate with publications on behalf of our clients and publications really do try to help clients achieve their end goal. While our clients pay the publication directly for advertising, we try to make sure that they also get some free value-adds as well. Many times, publications are able to discount an ad product or provide a free opportunity if we build an advertising package of products with them. While you can’t always make it happen, we try to deliver the value-add. A good place to start is with your ad rep.
- Put ads in the right places in publications
Once you’ve got your publication list nailed down, choosing where in those publications to place your ads becomes critical. It’s always optimal to have a mix of both digital and print ads. But, how can you get the most out of print ads?
Editorial calendars are the key.
While editorial content isn’t as important for digital ads, it is extremely important for a print ad. Think about it. If a print article focuses on something your company offers, isn’t that the very best place to insert an ad?
We only ever place print ads where the editorial reflects what our client does. For example, if a publication is running a piece on selecting API suppliers, we’ll run a print ad for one of our API manufacturing clients. We always try to get those ad insertions placed in the feature story itself.
We know that clients have limited budgets and you can’t always do a full-page ad buy. In those cases, our strategy is to do what are called half-page island ads. The reason we choose the half-page island ad is because there won’t be other ads on the page competing for a reader’s attention. The only copy on the page other than the ad is the article copy. You really can’t ask for a more targeted ad placement than that!
As I said, it is optimal to have both print and digital ads running. The best mix is when you place print ads in editorial content specific to your company and balance those with digital ad placements in multiple publications in that market segment. Of course, this strategy depends on the publications that serve your audience.
- Make your digital ad buy do double duty
Digital ads in publications have a particular advantage – they are extremely flexible. Once a print ad is published, there’s nothing more you can do until you run another insertion. But, a digital ad can be updated quickly or you can rotate two ads within one ad buy. This is called a split run, and makes your ad dollars work harder for you.
For digital ads, we typically run a three- or six-month campaign with a publication. This ad block usually consists of multiple ad sizes. For example, a large block ad down to a small mobile ad. (This helps us control the look of the ad everywhere.) During this ad buy, our marketing plan may call for promoting multiple products or services to the same audience. When this happens, we’ll start running the digital ads with our first set of creative and then at any time during the run we can swap the initial ads out with new creative.
For example, we are working with a life science software client. They have a product which helps companies manage COVID-19 research. They also have a product that helps employers get staff back to work safely. The publication we identified has a pharma audience – and it tends to be the managerial C-suite. This group of folks has not only the responsibility of getting their employees back to work, but they also have the responsibility of doing research. Both products answer this audience’s needs. Therefore, we are running separate digital ads for both products on this publication’s website. The publication is rotating the ads for us in our ad slot.
Even if you don’t have multiple products, the important thing to remember is that your ad buy can be updated for almost any reason. If you’ve got a new white paper coming out and you’re promoting it, or if you’re going to a trade show (when we can do that again!) and want to drive booth visitors, all of these can be reasons to create another set of ad creative and request the publication rotate them in your ad buy. You won’t even need to tell them when – they’ll automatically arrange it.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Ads
Don’t forget about search engine ads. But, what type of SEM ads work best? Should you dive into Google Ads and the complex bidding and building process for search ads? Or is there another option?
I am an advocate of Google Display ads. When budget is tight, I’m able to spend less money for a wider audience than I can achieve using search ads. We find that display ads perform very well for our clients – and they are far less expensive.
The reason? Display ads target people who have already searched for something similar to your product. Remember that pillow you searched for a couple of weeks ago? Well, that’s why you see nothing but ads for bedding – everywhere!
The purpose of display ads is to provide you with content that is relevant to your needs. This serves up a niche audience who is already pre-qualified for your ad. Additionally, because display ads rotate, the user doesn’t get tired of seeing the same ad and doesn’t start ignoring it.
Search advertising can be complicated, so it’s important that you work with someone who is Google-certified. You must know what you’re doing to avoid wasting budget. Never forget to measure your ads to see what is working and what needs changing (see number 10 below!)
- Animated versus static ad results
There’s a lot of choice when it comes to digital ads. One of those choices is whether to run a static ad or an animated ad. A static ad means the ad doesn’t move or change while it’s on the screen. An animated ad has movement and changes messaging.
You might think that since video is a key content choice today that animated ads perform better than static ones. That’s not actually the case in practice. We’ve found that clickthrough rates are the same. There’s no need to develop flashy animated content for display ads.
If you think about it, how long are you going to wait for an ad to animate on your phone? Not long enough.
People are scanning faster; they are using mobile more and aren’t sitting around waiting for the ad to rotate through its content. And that’s not just for mobile users. They may not even give it that amount of time at their desktops anymore either.
There is another challenge with animated ads. Some publication websites have tight restrictions on the size of the file which limits your ability to put more information in an ad.
We focus our efforts on static ads. There’s no negative to an ad being stationary, because the truth is most of the display ads from Google are, in fact, static – which means users are used to them.
You need to remember, too, that when you run ads in newsletters, Outlook does not accommodate rotating banner ads. In addition to static ads, we mix up the allocation with text ads, making sure we monitor and measure what works best.
- Improve performance with A/B testing
This is one area that is continually forgotten in the rush to deliver results. But, A/B testing can mean the difference between an ad spend that didn’t work at all and a successful ad spend.
When we create a digital ad for a customer, we sometimes run two different versions – an A and a B version. It’s a great way to test your ad copy – especially headlines and your call-to-action (CTA). The key to digital ads is a strong headline and a strong CTA. A/B testing allows you to experiment with all areas of your ad to achieve the best results.
More importantly, it gives viewers something new to look at when they’re on that web page – and when they re-visit that page.
- Deliver value and receive leads via ads
What good is an ad without giving the audience something of value? It turns out – not much.
We’ve learned that digital ads with deliverables (such as white papers or case studies) perform far better than ads without them. Our secret sauce is an ad that drives to a landing page, which finishes the marketing message begun in the ad. That landing page allows the audience to download (usually) a case study or white paper, giving them real information that helps them understand more about:
- your product or service
- how it works
- how you work
- what it’s like to work with you
- results customers like them have achieved.
Another option for you is having a publication run a gated promotion of your white paper. In many cases, this is the better choice for lead generation, because people are more willing to give their information to a publication than they are to a company’s direct landing page. In this case, the publication will gate your white paper and provide you with a spreadsheet of the names and contact information for the people who downloaded it.
- Think outside the box with sponsorships
Sponsorships are another advertising opportunity. A webinar or podcast sponsorship is an excellent way to put your company in front of a targeted audience. But, it can’t be just any webinar or podcast topic.
The first step is to always – always – make sure that the content being delivered matches what your company does. For example, we found a webinar was being offered on COVID-19 and research. Well, we have a client with a COVID-19 software product. Our client doesn’t do COVID-19 research, but their product supports it, so they sponsored the webinar. That produced a list of leads for companies doing COVID-19 research, which were perfect targets for the salesforce.
- Publication sponsored email campaigns target hard-to-reach audiences
Another product available from publications is the sponsored email. With certain client bases, our only option to reach them is via an email campaign. It’s extremely important to only use this advertising method when you have something newsworthy to promote – such as a whitepaper about a new product offering. With sponsored email, you need to have some solid information or offer with a strong CTA – a new brochure won’t cut it!
- Monitor and measure
The key to successful advertising is monitoring what’s happening and measuring your results. Don’t throw money at something without measuring it. We measure social media, we measure email, and we measure advertising. We constantly look at what’s working and what’s not working. If it’s working, we don’t need to change it. If it’s not working, it’s time to change it.
Again, ad buys get snapped up fast, so you’ve got to be on your game. Create your ad plan and make sure that the puzzle pieces fit together. Always be sure you have all the assets in place to deliver measurable results.
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.