The Purpose, Process, and Perils of Digital Advertising
Everything you need to know before pulling the trigger on a digital ad campaign.
Defined Purpose: The Foundation of Successful Digital Ads
For many companies, digital advertising is the primary driver for new business; for others it’s a costly expenditure without enough return. A deep understanding of successful digital advertising will help you determine whether or not you should run digital ads and, if so, how.
The first thing to determine when you’ve decided to begin advertising is the purpose the ads will serve. I can hear you already, “The purpose is to make more sales…duh!” I hear you. And you’re not wrong; but, your ad’s purpose has to be more defined than that. Properly defined, the purpose of any given ad will inform the structure and behavior of the ad itself. If you’re new to digital advertising, I’ll explain what I mean by “structure” and “behavior”.
Unlike traditional advertising that seeks to broadcast to the most people in hopes of a marginal return of interest (ie - radio, tv, newspaper, etc), digital advertiasing is targeted, meaning that the advertiser gets to choose who interacts with the ad and how. Of course, deep market research is a large part of this process, but we’ll cover more on that later.
Depending on ...
Unlike traditional advertising that seeks to broadcast to the most people in hopes of a marginal return of interest (ie - radio, tv, newspaper, etc), digital ads are targeted, meaning that the advertiser gets to choose who interacts with the ad and how. Of course, deep market research is a large part of this process, but we’ll cover more on that later.
Depending on ...
Depending on the platform, this audience targeting can get quite granular in terms of details. We can choose people from specific age groups, genders, ethnicities, by their expressed and non-expressed interests, their online behaviors, and more in order to define a very specific type of person to see our ad. No one outside of that defined target will encounter the ad, meaning that our likelihood of a high ROI is higher.
The structure of a digital ad refers to the format that will resonate with that audience most clearly and stand out from the other similar ads they see every day. This might mean we run a strongly worded ad on Google that leads them to a flash sale, or a captioned video on facebook that leads them to a downloadable e-book, or any other valuable method that trends highly among the target population.
The behavior of an ad refers to the process that we send ad clickers through to qualify them. When they click the ad, we’ll have set up a systematic qualifying process (also called a funnel) that offers valuable information, gathers data, and makes an offer. The purpose of a funnel is to gain trust and establish the company as a top authority in the mind of the customer, and uses proven psychological methods to effectively drive conversions on multiple fronts.
Properly defined advertising has clear objectives, targets and functions.
Poorly Defined Advertising Purpose:
“The purpose of this ad is to make more sales.”
Clearly Defined Advertising Purpose:
“The purpose of this ad is to drive brand awareness and long-term revenue by utilizing high-value content offers, email subscriptions and re-targeting, special offers and free consultations. It will leverage a mixture of visual media, interactive landing pages and scheduled appointments to generate, qualify and close leads.”
These examples are generic. Your advertising purpose definitions will have more specificity in terms of your specific goals, methods, platforms and target audiences; but, they do illustrate the point that defining the purpose in detail will inform the rest of the process.
Intentional Process: Forming a Detailed Plan of Attack
Now that you have a defined purpose and a clear understanding of what you want your advertising to accomplish, it’s time to map out the process. You’ll need to determine your exact target audience, the platform you’ll use, the method of converting cold traffic to warm buyers, and the means of closure.
Defining your target audience will take research, experience and an understanding of potential customer attention, not to mention a technical understanding of the terms and conditions of the platforms you use. Sometimes, certain types of products or services aren’t permitted for marketing on certain platforms, and you’ll want to know that information before you begin buying software subscriptions or paying a developer.
We’ll assume that everything is kosher with your products or services, and we’ll move right into the research phase. Remember, just because you have a specific purchasing demographic in your brick-and-mortar or P2P sales does not mean that you are necessarily limited to that demographic online. Physical demographics are largely built around local population demographics and your own social circles; it’s important to research online demographical trends before settling on the target audience.
There are a multitude of online tools we can use to do this research, and it can take some time to complete. Researching target demographics may even involve running broad, low-cost campaigns to see who clicks your ad the most, what actions they're likely to take, and who responds best to a free conversion offer.
The information you uncover through this research will allow you to create an avatar of your ideal customer. This is a key step that many advertisers bypass, but doing this exercise will allow you to form the details of an ad based on this fictitious person.
The example below should shed some light on how executing a successful ad campaign might go.
Target Audiences and Avatars
The first thing you’ll need to do is specifically define the kind of person that you’re after; a generic description won’t cut it. Making the most out of advertising dollars means getting granular with targeting minutia, and not doing this can cause missed opportunities and overspending.
Let’s say as an example that you own a law firm in Florida, and your specialty is marital law. You want to drive more leads to your divorce services, but aren’t sure how, or to whom, you should be targeting.
Your research, paired with experience, tell you that those most likely to seek out or file for divorce are women between the ages of 30 and 55, who’s incomes are above $60k/yr, who have children over the age of 6.
You create an avatar of this person, and list out everything you know about her. Her name is Kate. She’s a college graduate and a professional. She has 2 kids, a car note on a. mid-sized sedan, and shares the mortgage with her husband on their 4 bedroom home. Her kids are in middle and high school, and she spends a lot of time on Pinterest, Etsy and Amazon.
This Avatar is highly specific, and it is that very specificity that will inform your ad development. Now you can move on to platform development.
Platform Development, Sales Methods, and Closing Leads
The next step is knowing exactly how you’re going to present your offer to your target audience and what methods you’ll use to garner sales. This is going to require a certain level of both technical and psychological prowess to execute properly; a lazy or disingenuous approach can be spotted by anyone who sees your ads, so transparency and true value are key.
Your target audience research has led you to believe that a Google Ads campaign, as well as a Pinterest Ad Campaign, are going to yield the most leads for the least amount of money per click. These platforms are where your Avatar is spending her time, and you can now create an ad tailored specifically to her.
You figure out the technical minutia, such as what kind of picture or video you want to use, what kind of language the ad will use, and what your offer is. We won’t go too deep into how an ad ought to be written or what considerations to make in terms of content in this article, except for that you have to offer something valuable enough to garner a click. It can’t be ho-hum or “salesy”.
You’ve developed drafts of what your various ads are going to look like and say, so now what? What happens when the viewer decides to click on your ad? Where do they go?
You’ll want to send them through a funnel that builds trust, establishes authority, and qualifies the viewer as a potential client. There’s a lot of psychology involved in doing this properly which we won’t get into here. Just know that ads that utilize this process properly are far more successful in garnering leads than ads that jump straight to the conversion point.
The reason I mention this is because a platform has to host every step of this process. There are many great platforms to choose from, including ClickFunnels, HubSpot, Thrive Leads (highly recommended for those with Wordpress sites), and a slew of others.
Whatever the steps in your lead funnel, you’ll need to develop them on one of these platforms to perform in a sequential order. You can design this funnel to take place completely on web pages, or develop it to operate over automated email communication. Either way is great and offers benefits exclusive to the platform chosen.
At this point you’ve set up your digital assets. For this example, you’ve got a 3-step funnel where-in your ad leads the viewer to a free download of a small ebook that answers the most burning and popular questions about divorce in exchange for an email address.
When you receive the email address, you’ve got an automated Hubspot email campaign designed to continuously email the viewer helpful content, as well as an appointment invitation, multiple times over the course of 30 days. The viewer has also been redirected to an offer page after submitting for the download.
On this offer page, you’ve got reviews of your service, a strong statement of intent, some copy that explains the need for your service and that aligns with the viewer’s plight, and a call to action that prompts a scheduled consultation.
Assuming the viewer takes you up on your consultation offer, they will be taken through a small questionnaire aimed at gathering preliminary data (this data will inform the approach you take with her during the consultation), and she will use the automated scheduling calendar built right into your landing page to schedule a consultation with you.
This will be considered your first conversion, as you’ve now converted cold traffic off of the Internet into an interested prospect.
Re-Targeting: Your ROI-Boosting Secret Weapon
A good ad campaign focuses on more than the single sale. Individual ads can lead to 3 or more conversions from a single click.
On average people have to see an ad or visit a site an average of 7 times before they take action. Leveraging immediate interest by gaining contact information will allow you to continue marketing to those who haven’t purchased from you yet, but who have shown an interest in your offer.
This process can easily multiply the value of every dollar spent on the ad itself.
You’ll meet with her, listen to her concerns, and hopefully close the deal. Once she agrees to purchase your services, you’ve completed your second conversion as you’ve made a sale. Maybe this is where your journey with her ends…or maybe you have a third conversion to complete.
Remember the automated email marketing platform? You can now use that to garner a written or video review from your client to build your social proof and increase your future conversions. Your sales funnel is still running long after you’ve made the sale, and you’re leveraging your client’s experience for your growth.
As you continue to garner reviews, your rate of business, as well as your rank on Google, gets higher and higher, positioning you as the top divorce attorney in your area. Furthermore, your clients are sharing their experience with their friends and family, who may also turn to you for your services based on the experience of one client.
By properly utilizing and positioning the correct digital platforms, you’ve leveraged relatively inexpensive ads and turned them into a plethora of clients over the long-term that may have not come to you for these services otherwise.
To back up a little bit, lets assume that the ad viewer signed up for the download you offered but did not schedule an appointment…it’s ok! Your automated email campaign is designed to ease any concerns, educate, and encourage the reader to schedule when they’re ready. This is called “re-targeting”, and is the primary sales driver for consultation-based lead conversions.
Deadly Perils: Surefire Ways to Lose the Advertising Game
As exciting as digital advertising can be, it is equally dangerous. The vast majority of people who run digital advertising lose money (sometimes lots of money) because they neglect to take the appropriate time needed to research targets, learn psychological sales techniques and execute specified plans.
Understanding Your True Commodities and Competition
The most important think to know about digital advertising is that it takes time, money and patience. While the ads you publish are nearly instant, (myself and every other advertiser in the world talk about how ads can boost your business right away), that is only true if the time is taken up front to do the hard work.
For all its advantages, digital advertising is tough. Consider who your real competition is…are you really competing against the other firms that offers the same service you do? No. You’re competing against the attention of your audience. Consider all the ads you encounter on Google, email, social media and everywhere else. Consider the fact that many of your viewers use the internet primarily to watch Netflix, YouTube, or adult entertainment…those things are always one small click away.
Why should they not tune out your ad? Why should they give you any attention at all? What is going to set you apart? We believe that the biggest peril in digital advertising is failing to understand that your primary commodity is not your service, but your ability to gain the attention of your target audience.
Where Are Your Clients?
Before you get caught up in platform development, or start brainstorming ad purpose definition, you’ve got to understand where your clients are spending their online time. It does you no good to advertise on Facebook if your clients are typically on professional networks like LinkedIn and Alignable. Conversely, advertising on Pinterest won’t do you any good if your clients’ most valuable digital assets are mobile games.
The point is this: you can have the sleekest ad in the world with the most persuasive copy ever written and the most effective sales funnel ever built; however, if your targeting is on the wrong platform, or focusses on the wrong demographics, none of that amazing ad development means anything at all. In terms of practicality, accurate targeting trumps everything else involved in the process. In fact, a dull ad with proper targeting will still yield more results than a slick ad with inaccurate targeting.
Understand who and where your clients are.
Balance is Key
Absolutely nobody, wants to feel like they’re at a used car lot with a slimy sales creep trying to get one over on them. No one wants to feel like all you’re after is their money. Obviously you do want their money, but there’s something you need to be able to relay to them above that in your advertising.
They need to understand that your desire to solve their problem is bigger than your desire to take their cash. They need to understand that you have a love for helping and providing value, and that the money involved is simply a result of the service being performed and not your driving motivator.
On the other hand, you still have to be persuasive. People still need to be convinced to click an add, offer an email address, or make a phone call. And when it comes to digital advertising, that persuasion has to be all the more gripping due to the sheer amount of ad content your audience is being bombarded with every day.
One of theist painful things we see online are advertisers who doesn’t understand how to balance persuasive language with customer-centric attitudes. So many ads are either WAY too aggressive and “salesy” or they fall the other way and are completely uninspired.
The ability to use content that is value-driven, customer-centric, and persuasive is what will set your ads apart from the deluge of vultures trying to make a quick buck.
Saying that there’s a lot to digital advertising is an understatement, and there are amazing alternatives to digital advertising that can be just as effective and even cost less (see our page on lead generation) for the right type of client.
But, if you’re like us and see the immense value in digital advertising but don’t have the bandwidth, expertise or dedicated personnel to run and manage campaigns, give us a call. Let’s get your ads running on autopilot together!