Science Views

Most recent articles

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

How to Improve Your Ad ROI with Landing Pages

Posted by on Nov 6, 2020 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Tips | 0 comments

by Deb Harrsch

Do you remember when every ad pointed to a company’s home page on their website? It wasn’t all that long ago either – especially for B2B companies in the life sciences and software industries.

Did you ever experience that? When you clicked on a web address listed in an ad and landed on a home page, did you feel lost and left wondering what on earth you were supposed to do next?

That particular use of an ad spend always frustrated me and left me asking customers, “What do you want visitors to do?” The response I used to receive was typically, “What do you mean, what do I want them to do?”

Yikes!

If you expect to show an ROI for your ad spend, you’ve got to do more than drop an interested visitor on a random web page with no instructions.

What you’ve got to do is ‘marry’ the ad to a landing page. That landing page needs to:

  • Look the same as the ad your potential customers viewed
  • Finish your marketing message from your ad
  • Tell the visitor what they should do next

It’s only by helping your visitor finish their journey that you’ll produce a measurable ROI from your ad spend.

What is a Landing Page?

Let’s begin with some basics. A landing page is a web page built specifically for an ad campaign. It is the spot on your website where someone lands (hence “landing” page) after they have clicked on the link in your ad. It has one goal – to deliver the call-to-action (CTA) of your ad campaign.

Whether your ad is a print ad, Google display ad, a digital ad from a trade publication or a LinkedIn ad, in every single case it will drive to a specific landing page to finish your marketing message and deliver your CTA.

The call-to-action is almost always a form for potential customers to download an asset that will provide them with information they need. Assets include white papers and/or case studies – these are the deliverables for any kind of advertising campaign. The trick is this: you cannot ask people to register for a case study, it would be like asking people to register for a brochure. The best practice is to provide both. Remember, at the end of the day it is about lead generation.

Every single ad should drive to a landing page. In this time of COVID marketing, the landing page has become so much more important than ever before.

There is no option, you’ve got to use them.

Why You Need a Landing Page

Your print or digital ads can’t just drop a prospect onto your website home page – or even a product page. If they do, your prospect will be lost. They won’t know what they are supposed to do next and you won’t capture their information. Your lead generation opportunity will be lost – and also the ROI on your ad spend.

A landing page does the heavy lifting in guiding ad prospects through the journey from your ad to your lead generation tool to your website and its content. It does three things for you remarkably well:

  • One, it finishes your marketing message
  • Two, it guides your customer and prospect on their journey
  • And three, it’s rich in SEO

Here’s what I mean: the prospect clicks on the link in your digital ad or types in a vanity URL and travels to your landing page. The copy on your landing page finishes your message to the prospect and tells them what to do next (e.g. fill out the download form for your white paper). They’ll receive the white paper, and you’ll receive their contact information for follow-up. They’ll then follow the marketing path you set up within your website for them to explore.

In addition, search engines see every display ad or digital ad. And when they touch that ad, they follow the link that goes to your landing page. When search engines get to the landing page, they then follow the links on the landing page to the next step. For instance, if you’re sending them to a case study, it takes them there. If you’re taking them to a blog post, it takes them there. It’s a very rich source of organic SEO.

Where Do You Build a Landing Page?

There are two places where you can create your landing pages. One is inside your marketing automation platform. The other is inside your website.

The easiest – and most comprehensive way is through a marketing platform such as Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot or SharpSpring. Some of our clients have marketing automation tools and we build landing pages in their specific platforms. But, we also have some clients that don’t have a marketing automation tool and we can use their website to help them meet their goals.

Most marketing automation platforms interface with your CRM systems and can track exactly who submits their information on the landing page’s download form. This gives you the ability to log and follow all these interested parties and allows your sales team to follow-up with the people who downloaded your content. You can also use this data to create an email marketing campaign which offers another related piece of content or even create an ongoing drip campaign. In addition, you can see real-time how your ad is doing without waiting for the publication to let you know weeks after the ad ran.

Many companies don’t have a marketing automation platform. While we do recommend one – and there are many reasonably priced ones available now – if a customer does not have one and doesn’t wish to use one, the default is to build the landing page on their website. If your website is developed using a content management system, like WordPress, this is a good substitute and it worked well for one of our clients.

One of our pharma clients didn’t have an automation platform, but did have a WordPress website. We were running an extensive ad campaign for them and needed a landing page. Our goal was to take prospects on a journey and focus the marketing message while ensuring we captured valuable leads. Because their website was WordPress, we had the flexibility to build the landing page right inside their site. The WordPress content management platform allowed us to create and publish a page that was only available to visitors through a unique URL or by clicking on a link in a digital ad.

There is one challenge to building landing pages within a website. It’s more difficult to create what we call ‘clones.’ Essentially, we create one landing page for the ad campaign and make copies of that page – each with a unique URL. Each cloned page with its unique address is assigned to individual ads. While this is more easily managed in a marketing automation platform, it still helps your website’s SEO and finishes your marketing message. It’s also a way to keep costs down.

3 Reasons Why You Need a Separate Landing Page for Each Ad

Why do you want to clone the same landing page? Doesn’t that get messy? Why would you want that many versions of the same page?

Well, no – it’s actually not messy and the reason behind why you want that many versions of the same page speaks to tracking and measurement. You do want to know exactly how each ad performs, don’t you?

I know that when I run ad campaigns for our clients, I want to know – and so do they!

Whether you’re placing print ads or digital ads, you should always create a landing with a specific URL for each ad placement. If you have the same ad in multiple places, but a different URL for each one, you’ll be able to tell which ad placement performed best.

This unique-URL-by-ad-placement approach also serves to measure any A/B testing of ads you do. Say you create two versions of an ad in your campaign and those two ads are placed in the same publication – but you use the same landing page for both. How do you know which performed better?

You won’t.

The only way to differentiate the A version from the B version’s performance is by using a different landing page.

Another reason you want to create specific landing pages is because publications can only tell you what your open rate was and that you received a certain number of click-throughs. (If you are running a gated white paper promotion, the publication will also provide you with a spreadsheet of names.)

Having individual landing pages is smart marketing and you get immediate monthly confirmation of what’s happening, what’s working, and what’s not working. By having your own landing pages, you receive far more data on your campaign, faster. With specific landing pages, you’ll be able to tell exactly who downloaded which asset from the landing page.

One of our clients is a software company with a product that helps labs dealing with COVID-19 research and testing. We placed several ads targeting different audiences. For our first one, we placed a digital publication ad which targeted researchers struggling to find good solutions to help them with the increases in COVID testing. The landing page had a custom URL specific to the ad placement and had 30 downloads. Another ad targeted professionals grappling with how to test their employees for COVID. This was also a digital publication ad with a different publication. This landing page also had a unique URL and had 22 downloads. That same client ran a promotion where the publication created and hosted a landing page for our client. That landing page produced 27 downloads. Having individual landing pages provides instantaneous data on our ads – and how each one is performing at any given time.

What Do You Need to Build an Ad Campaign that Delivers?

As I mentioned, in addition to targeted ad copy and proper ad placement, you’ll need landing pages and assets to deliver measurable ROI on your ad campaign.

But, what are some of the key things you need to do when you create your landing page?

  • Landing page content should be tailored to your ad placement.

You’ll want to be sure you customize the copy and download offering to match the audience of each ad. For example, don’t create copy on the landing page focused on what software needs a researcher wants if the landing page is linked to an ad targeting non-research people (such as an HR professional).

  • Match your download asset to the ad and make it exclusive!

The topic of your downloadable asset (like a white paper) should match what the landing page copy is talking about and offer exclusivity. For example, your download should be created from original content produced by your company that the prospect wouldn’t be able to get by going to your competitor. You can use your company’s mined data to create a white paper and prospects wouldn’t be able to get that information anywhere else.

  • Update your landing pages.

The beauty of landing pages is that they can be updated at any time. As your campaign progresses and you learn more about what works, you can update landing pages to reflect that learning.

Still have questions about landing pages and ads? 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.

10 Tips for Getting Results from Your Life Science Ad Spend

Posted by on Oct 2, 2020 in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Channels, Marketing Tips, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!)

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

How to Develop Your Ad Plan

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

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.