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Should you buy this ad? An advisor's guide to advertising

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As a local business owner, you have likely encountered a number of advertising opportunities from your local radio, newspaper or similar media outlets to promote your financial firm in your market. They are often laced with urgent deadlines and special incentives to sweeten the deal. The question is: should you or shouldn’t you?

How do you know if you are receiving a good value and if this is really an opportunity appropriate for you?

Think of it this way: If someone walked into your office and placed $100,000 on the desk and asked you what to invest in, what would you say? Consider ad space as a financial product — whether a mutual fund or annuity — if you do not know a client’s financial picture or investment objectives, you cannot make an educated recommendation for their needs. The same can be said for marketing decisions. Both investment products and advertisements are vehicles. They require a strategic plan to be most effective.

What is your objective?

Long gone are the days of putting your name and phone number in the newspaper and expecting the phones to ring. Before ever considering or seeking out an ad buy, identify your end goal. Are you trying to increase brand awareness? Generate leads or attendance for an event? Establish thought leadership?

If you do not know what action you want viewers or listeners to take, how will they know? Be clear and be realistic. Know that you will need to create compelling and tangible value to drive a prospect to pick up a phone or visit your website. Creating a unique call to action that provides content, whether a white paper or report or signature first appointment process they can only receive from you, will go much farther than a standard “complimentary consultation.”

Who is your audience?

It is standard for a media outlet to provide an annual survey of their audience to provide a profile of their reach. Consider this their “prospectus” to provide the stats you need to make an informed buying decision.

While a medium may reach 300,000 people, how many of them are your people? Look at the age, income, hobbies, zip codes, etc. to micro-define your ideal prospect. Especially in larger metropolitan areas, you are likely to get much more bang for your buck by buying a full-page ad in a targeted country club newsletter or niche hobby publication than trying to dominate your entire market at large.

How will you evaluate the effectiveness of your investment?

Depending on the objective for your advertising, metrics for evaluating your purchase may vary. Lead generation is fairly straightforward with the number of contacts generated from your campaign, but general branding and thought leadership can be more difficult to quantify.

Paid advertising is considered the least credible of media exposure, but it creates a reach and awareness that can contribute to your overall success when mixed with other marketing efforts. For example, a prospect my have heard you on the radio, seen you on the news or in the paper and then received a seminar mailer, making them much more receptive to your invitation. For this reason, you may consider a broader metric such as measuring the length of your sales cycle, average size of your case or growth of production or client retention year over year to gauge the cumulative impact.

The bottom line

While the perfect investment opportunity (for your ad dollars or life savings) might show up knocking at your front door, it is best to start by clearly identifying your objectives, strategy and benchmarks before you ever move a dollar.

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