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A Beginner’s Guide to Paid Advertising

The truth about everything is that at some point in our life’s journey, we have all been beginners. Not just at one point and done, but at every point of transition along the pathway. As a marketer, entrepreneur, pitchman, or seller by any other name, we all have stood at the threshold of understanding and mastering the art and science of paid advertising.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” – Mark Twain

It can appear to be easy. Just find the right words to describe the features and benefits of a product or idea, form the words in sentences and phrases that explain why it is necessary to an audience’s desire for a solution and it is done. Well, maybe not.

Advertising has been around since the beginning of time. It can be argued that Adam’s effort to convince Eve to take a bite of the apple, in that infamous garden, was in fact a successful piece of advertising that had a price attached to it. Paid advertising in the digital era is a “marketing model where brands pay to show ads to a target audience.” Once upon a time, not long ago, the term applied to the purchase of ads on many platforms like newspapers, radio, direct mail, or television with the price determined by the ad size, frequency, publication position, or time of day. With the arrival of digital, social, and virtual domains growing dominance in communications, the term “Paid Advertising” has become synonymous with the act of bidding for advertising space on internet platforms where the price is determined in an auction setting by algorithms that measure the engaging relevance of each promoter’s effort. Becoming a winner in this newest environment has found many a veteran advertiser a beginner, again.

“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” – Steuart Henderson Britt

Much discussion has occurred around the necessity and cost of advertising. Is it an expense or an investment, how much advertising is enough, and what is the right budget amount? While Mr. Britt’s comment may sound a bit politically incorrect today, the message has remained true and clear over time. Failing to advertise is a plan for obscurity. Effective paid advertising can generate instant traffic and build a brand’s value and loyalty with consumers. Digital platforms offer an advertiser an economical opportunity to gain attention and command consumers to act. The economics of promoting can easily be controlled by developing a comprehensive advertising strategy from the outset.

Transforming a brand into a socially responsible leader does not happen overnight by simply writing new marketing and advertising strategies. It takes effort to identify a vision that your customers will find credible and aligned with their values.” – Simon Mainwaring

Start planning by identifying the brand’s best potential customers and where they are listening. Define clear goals and objectives and create relevant content, images, videos, banners, display ads, and messages that display consistently across multiple channels.

“Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at.” – Leo Burnett

Speak in concise and simple language that the intended audience understands. Consumers want and need conversations to make sense, to address a problem and understand where they are in the process. Establish the right tone when creating a conversation and validate the message by providing supporting data and documentation that portrays the brand as an authority in the field. Tell a compelling story that ends with a solution that solves a listener’s problem and serves as a call to action.

“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” – Henry Ford

Set a budget and resolve to spend within your means. Advertising platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising use a bidding process to determine the costs of an advertisement. Some words will attract more competition and therefore cost more than others. Focus on identifying the “keywords” that best complement the goals and objectives of the campaign and are within the budget. Exercise caution, auctions can be exciting and competitive which may lead to paying too high a price and result in lower return on investment (ROI).

“Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” – David Ogilvy

Develop a process of validating paid advertising campaigns by measuring consumer responses. Embrace a comprehensive system of measuring and tracking customer reactions. Every campaign should be monitored and analyzed to determine its effectiveness and adjusted to ensure future efforts produce the best level of ROI. Actionable metrics provide opportunities to measure goals and analyze success.

Click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of people who click on an ad after seeing it. The Conversion rate is the percentage of users who take a desired action after clicking on an advertisement and a Cost per click (CPC) denotes the average amount paid every time a prospective customer clicks on an advertisement. Cost per conversion or cost per acquisition (CPA) will indicate the average cost of making a sale. Lifetime value (LTV) refers to the projected value of a lifetime customer.

Not all metrics will be adopted by all businesses or individual campaigns, but staying adaptable to changing consumer behaviors will create new opportunities to connect with a targeted audience and optimize a paid advertising strategy.