Thursday, January 2, 2014

About advertising

© 2014 Ben Delaney 

Advertising. We're all surrounded by it, inundated by aural and visual noise that pollutes our environment and covers every surface around us. But advertising serves a purpose, and the best advertising sticks in our minds for years. Good advertising reaches the right audience with the right story at the right time. Good advertising creates good impressions and memories. There's no reason that you shouldn't use advertising to help get your message out. The only question is how to advertise so that your advertising is effective, both in terms of reaching the people you want to talk to with the message you want them to hear, and doing that while spending the least amount of money.

As with any other marketing, you first have to understand your audience. If you are a nonprofit organization you should know your audience fairly well. You should have lots of records on your donors, as well as people who have expressed an interest in your organization. You should also have good records on your clients, who often can become donors and supporters. You have a clear mission and vision, and a fine message crafted.

As in any other marketing effort, you first want to define your goals. What are you trying to accomplish with this advertising? Who do you need to reach? What do you want them to do? How much money do you have to spend? How long do you have to accomplish what you need to do?

As part of your System Marketing™ plan, advertising needs to fit in with all the other marketing that you're doing. Everything needs to form a coherent whole. Your staff needs to be ready to handle inquiries and be prepared to respond to people who are interested in your product. Depending on the product you're promoting, whether it be your big annual benefit, a donor outreach effort, or new product from your social enterprise, the entire advertising campaign, including preparation for response, needs to be thought out in advance, and with data collection and measuring points built-in.

One of thing to remember about advertising is that one ad rarely is as effective as you hope it will be. People respond to repetition. They need to see your ad over and over again. So before your event you should run the same ad, or very similar ads, in as many places, as many times as you can afford. Weekly newspapers and online outlets provide regular updates which enable you to have many impressions in the window of time available. More impressions are good. Just be sure you're reaching the people you want to get your message.

Let's consider a hypothetical case, an advertising campaign to support Kitty Rescue League's Fat Cat Bash. The goal of this at this event is to bring a hundred seventy-five donors to a fancy dinner. The advertising budget is $2,000. That might not seem like a lot money but will see how to spend it to get the most effective return.

Identifying our target demographic is fairly easy. We know we want cat lovers in our local area. We know that older cat lovers have greater disposable income, and possibly more free evenings. However, we don't want to ignore the significant millennium generation; a lot of them like cats too.

We start by start by surveying local media: radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines. For each of these we want to ask publishers to provide demographic as well as distribution information. For example, where I live, the San Francisco Chronicle is the largest newspaper, reaching close to half a million people every day. Its distribution range is roughly a 200 mile diameter from its publishing base in San Francisco. If I needed to reach a lot of people who didn't need to be in any particular nearby area, the Chronicle is a great way to do it. However the Kitty Rescue League is in a small suburb of San Francisco. Ninety percent of their donors live within twenty-five miles of the office. So buying advertising in the Chronicle would not be cost-effective, because much of the advertising would be wasted on people who live too far away. Looking further, the marketing intern at Kitty Rescue League discovers that a local weekly newspaper covers the target geographic area well and has a broad demographic appeal. This newspaper fits the criteria very well, and happily costs far less than the Chronicle.

Other local advertising opportunities might include church newsletters, local animal shelters' newsletters, and newsletters at local senior centers. All of these are relatively inexpensive. Because this is a one-time event your campaign will only stretch over a month or two, which also reduces cost. What is important is reaching the target demographic, and reaching a lot of people a number of times, within your budget.

For radio and TV, be sure to consider public service announcements (PSA's). The can be provided by email, or, if you have the ability to produce it, a complete video announcement. Be sure to contact the stations directly to learn how they handle PSA's. PSA's are free, but you have no control over when, or even if, they are shown.

However, print and TV are far from your only advertising option. Social media is an essential part of your advertising mix, especially for fast-breaking information. Social media is also very inexpensive – essentially free – so you can use it a lot with minimal impact on your budget. Remember, though, that the criteria for social media must be evaluated in the same way as those for print: reach and audience are key items to look at. Social media casts a broad net, but since it's free, it doesn't matter that much of the reach is wasted. Remember, too, that social media is ephemeral and dynamic, so you must update it frequently, and you must keep your updates interesting or you risk losing your audience.

Here's a checklist of things to remember when you plan your advertising:
  1. Demographics of your target audience, including gender, age, income, physical location, previous giving history, and the source of this name.
  2. Specific program interests, which means that certain donors prefer to give for certain programs.
  3. Media preferences. for example, if most of your donors are under 30, mobile media might be the way to reach them best. However if your donors are older and perhaps not as computer literate, you may reach them best on traditional media; television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.
  4. Budget. You don't want to spend more than you can afford.
  5. An offer. What's your call to action? You need to get people to do something; in this case, buy tickets for the Fat Cat Bash.
  6. Set goals. How many tickets do you need to sell to pay for this advertising? That's your minimum goal.

Finally, be sure your budget includes a good graphic designer for your print and online efforts. Your audience is sophisticated and will ignore or deride bad design. The money you spend for good design will help your organization look professional and help your advertising cut through the noise. And ultimately, that's your bottom line.