As an advertiser, it’s easier than ever to dip a toe into many of the biggest digital channels that exist. With a modest budget and a few clicks, your ad can be seen on the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter.

This low barrier to entry has empowered countless marketers and business owners to decide that it’s easy enough to advertise on these channels, and everyone else is doing it, so might as well throw a quick ad up there and a couple hundred bucks behind it to see what happens.

It’s tempting to think this way. Don’t do it.

Nothing gained, nothing gained

When you cut corners on the planning process, you’re setting yourself up for failure. And I don’t mean that good kind of “fail fast” failure where you learn something valuable that helps you in the long run – I mean people-woman-coffee-meeting.jpgthe kind of failure that doesn’t leave you with any substantive lessons or takeaways. (In technical verbiage, I believe this is referred to as “extra bad failure.”)

To use an example, let’s assume I’ve just spent $500 advertising my new service on Facebook. I spent the budget, got a handful of clicks, a few “Likes” and no inquiries or new business.

So, I only spent $500, but now I know that Facebook isn’t a fit for my business – which is worth something, right?

Except that the ad that my intern whipped up… it’s possible that could have been more compelling, plus I didn’t do any split testing with the ads. And that landing page I sent people to was just my homepage – which doesn’t look great on mobile. And now that I think about it, I’m not sure if $500 was enough for a test. Also could my targeting maybe have been better?


Effective advertising takes careful planning

The truth is that “easy” channels like Google and Facebook warrant just as much planning as marketing channels with long production cycles and big budget minimums.

True, you’re not making as big of a commitment with a $500 Facebook buy as you are with an outdoor advertising test that costs 20 times as much, requires weeks (if not months) of collaboration between vendors, writers and designers and will be getting thousands of daily impressions with no option to pull the plug before your cycle is up.

That said, if you’ve made a commitment to growing your company, it’s critical to carefully and thoughtfully plan for every ad to ensure you emerge with at least the meaningful takeaways and insights that will inform your ongoing strategies.

Before dipping a toe into any channel, spend the time to make sure all of the following considerations have gone into your ad planning:

  • Who exactly does the ad need to reach?
  • Where/when/how do these people learn about your type of service/cause/product?
  • What is the most important objective the ad need to accomplish? (Brand awareness? Education of benefits? Sales?)
  • Based on the personas that make up this audience, what do they need to hear for the ad to be relevant and compelling?
  • What are the expected outcomes and returns from the ad? (Use this to determine the most effective budget rather than starting with the budget as a percentage of revenue or profit)

If it sounds like a lot of work, it can be, but remember that half-baked ad campaigns don’t work. Brands with successful ad campaigns have logged countless hours of planning and consideration before you see or hear that seemingly simple creative. They’re not burning those hours for fun – they’re doing it because they know that the front end work pays dividends.