Planned Spending, Smart Spending

Get the most for your money with an advertising plan

plan without action is a daydream; action without a plan is a nightmare.” – Japanese proverb

“Put simply, your advertising plan tells you how you plan to attract customers.” – Roy H. Williams, the Wizard of Ads. 

The No. 1 error I see time and again with businesses of all industries and sizes is the lack of a marketing or advertising plan, and the subsequent sporadic spending (and eventual pouring) of precious marketing funds down the drain. 

A lot of buzz surrounds having a marketing and/or advertising plan for a business operation — but it seems the general consensus is that its merit is a little fuzzy. Those who have a plan may be unsure why, and those who do not are unsure where to start. 

“If you don’t have a budget and a plan, your ad spend will blow out due to persuasive ad reps,” said Craig Arthur of Wizard of Ads Australia. “You spend a little here, a little there — a discounted radio package pops up, a newspaper liftout (all your competitors are in it — you don’t want to miss out), a TV run-of-station deal — little by little, your wallet is emptied and your ad spend becomes obese.”  

Let’s compare it to an experience we can all relate to: grocery shopping. Consider the following two scenarios: 

  1. 1. You are hungry. You need something to eat, and fast. You visit your local supermarket and grab anything and everything that strikes your fancy. “If you’ve ever gone grocery shopping while you’re hungry, you know the task can be a challenge: Everything looks good,” wrote Rachael Rettner, senior writer for MyHealthNewsDaily. You will likely end up at the checkout with far more items than you originally intended to purchase, and they will probably not be the healthiest choices.
  2. 2. You make a plan to visit the grocery store. You write a list of the items you need. Visit on a full stomach and fully hydrated—you will likely end up at the checkout with little more than your list dictates. 

In option 1, you sporadically purchase items that you do not essentially need, but look good in that moment. In option 2, you buy what you need to contribute to the overall goal of stocking your cupboards with necessary items. This is the comparison between having a marketing/advertising plan for your business or not.

Preparing a Plan

Having an advertising plan is a great theory. Here is how to put it into practice. 

A plan is essentially deciphering the best uses of your time and money. Both need to be budgeted for — remember, time is money too. 

First, go to www.adbudgetcalculator.com. My friend, Wizard of Ads partner (and general nice guy) Dave Young, formulated this tool for calculating optimal advertising investment range. 

Second, calculate your time budget. How much time per day/week/month/year are you willing to invest in attracting customers to your business? 

If you like working visually, as I do, utilize the budget templates in the various Microsoft Office Suite programs (Excel, Word, etc.). Often, simply using a guide for laying it all out takes half the work out of the exercise. 

Third, and most importantly, what is your company’s message? “Until you get your message right, there is no right media to deliver it,” according to Williams. What does your business stand for? What does your business stand against? What are the needs of your customers? How can you solve their problems? Think “Volvo = safety.” 

Fourth, write it all down. There is something about committing words to paper that makes it more definite. 

I suggest starting small. Don’t get bogged down into putting together a five-year plan — stick to a 12-month plan initially. 

Having a plan will give you clear direction and also help you say no to the tempting phone calls from sales representatives asking you to advertise. Being void of a plan will always result in ad hoc advertising spending, which will, in turn, evolve into an expensive experiment. Don’t be swayed by those seemingly “once-in-a-lifetime” advertising deals either. Trust me — they will not be once in a lifetime. 

Words of Advice

Here are my parting tips. First, be consistent, both in your message and your medium. Within your plan, develop a style guide for your message that outlines the words you will always associate with your brand (including any taglines, keywords, etc.), along with words you will never associate with your brand (negative words, those your competitor uses, etc.). 

When attributing the budget, commit to yearly spending with each medium (or just one if that is what you can afford). For advertising to be effective, it needs frequency and repetition — not small bits here and there. 

Second, don’t feel that a plan cannot be molded over time. Things happen. A plan can be adapted, although changes should not happen every time a “good” advertising opportunity comes along. 

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” says the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

Plan your spend. Know exactly where you are going. 

Sarah Ripley is marketing consultant and partner for Wizard of Ads. Ripley can be reached at sarahripley@wizardofads.com.

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