All this week, The 365 Guide has been examining some of the issues involved in advertising your agency’s services through various media. We want to bring together a few final considerations and tips that will place your advertising program on solid footing.
Advertising is only one tactic in a well-rounded marketing strategy. Public relations, word of mouth marketing, your blog and website, newsletters and all of the other topics we discuss here daily work in tandem with your advertising to condition the market to be receptive to your efforts. Seek to coordinate all of your marketing tactics to work in unison.
Advertising is highly visible when it works well – so make sure it represents your travel agency in total alignment with your company’s brand message. Your ads carry your company’s mission into the living rooms of people who may not know you in any other way than through that ad. Make sure it represents you fairly and well. There is no doubt advertising can be a “hit or miss” proposition and even the most skilled advertising executive sometimes creates an ad that simply does not work. Some advertising is meant to raise the profile of a company’s image. Such “strategic” advertising seeks to reinforce the brand in the mind of the consumer. Other ads are more “tactical” in their message. Tactical ads have an immediate call to action. For most small business owners, tactical ads have a higher immediate return on investment, but the value of long term strategic brand building is high. Tactical ads work best when preceded by long-term and consistent strategic brand building.
Advertising does not have to be “clever”. Yes, we all love the ad that becomes a cultural icon, but typically only for a little while (“Where’s the beef” anyone?). It is more important that your ad speaks to the viewer directly on the emotional level of benefits: explain in a few short words the benefit of acting as you want the consumer to act.
When designing your marketing efforts, remember the principle of frequency: a potential client typically needs to hear your message more than once before responding. Too many marketing efforts look like bursts of activity rather than well-designed campaigns. In order to gain mindshare, your marketing and advertising efforts need to have a consistent look and feel and be repeated often on a regular, continuing, and ongoing basis. Naturally, “repeated often” is different from being repetitious. Vary up aspects of your promotions to keep them fresh, but keep enough common elements to brand your efforts. You want clients to immediately recognize your logo and distinctive branding. Plan your advertising as a campaign rather than as sporadic placements. A single ad has very little impact. Whatever your marketing effort, plan your marketing budget to reflect your commitment to repeated placement in your venues of choice to gain the necessary mindshare of the audience.
Develop a visual statement for your company that is reflected in your advertising. A visual statement is a combination of elements in your creative that signal to the viewer that immediately identifies your company. Typically, this is a combination of your logo, color palette, font, and choice of images. Establish clear and steady guidelines in your selection of these elements so that you develop brand consistency in all of your advertising. Over time, viewers will come to recognize your visual statement and clearly associate it with travel. This is where professional assistance in design is particularly important. You are making a long-term investment in the way the public will perceive the personality of your company and well worth the expense of a professional graphic artist and designer. Appoint someone in the company to keep the visual statement front and center in your marketing efforts to ensure that the various marketing efforts in which you engage all incorporate the same visual elements.
With that said, however, remember that every display advertisement, whether in print or online, runs the risk of becoming invisible. Too often, we place an ad and then let it run unchanged for months. Little by little the response tails off, and we blame the media. Instead, we need to occasionally do some makeover on our creative. There is a balance to be achieved. Enough elements of the ad need to be consistent to build your brand. However, too much consistency will fail to stimulate a viewer to respond. After all, why look at the same ad twice? Periodically, shake up your advertising. Mix up your ads a bit by changing the graphics and the layout. You do not want the ad to appear stale and to become “invisible”. By the same token, however, leave in enough common elements, logo, font, company name, tag line, to allow your visible statement to make your brand instantly recognizable. This combination of frequency in a venue with a mix of new and old elements in your ad layout will help to insure that you get noticed and receive an appropriate return on your advertising dollars. Shift the position of the ad from top of page to bottom. Move from a vertical ad to a horizontal one, from a black and white to color and back again. Adding a little variety to your display advertising will make an invisible ad visible again.
Advertising does not have to be a black art if you manage it well and learn to measure its impact, making adjustments along the way. The travel agency that successfully integrates advertising in a solid mix of other marketing tactics will have a real competitive advantage.