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?
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.
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
- 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.