So you are about to invest a boatload of dollars to run your print ads. And there’s this question that’s been bugging you: is this going to work?
Marketers have asked this question for years, but measuring print ad effectiveness can be very difficult. While it’s tempting to wait and see the impact of your ads on sales, a lot of factors come into play before a sale happens, and it usually takes a long time to see sales results from ads.
That means you can waste a lot of money on an ineffective ad before you even realize what’s going on. So it’s imperative that you quickly discover the effectiveness of your print ad.
There are two ways to measure ad effectiveness. The expensive way, and the creative way.
To find out which one is right for you, read on.
The traditional solution lies in hiring a market research company to conduct pre-advertising and post-advertising measurements. If you are about to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in your advertising campaign, a market research firm is the way to go. They may help you prevent very costly mistakes before it’s too late.
Even after just the first month or two of advertising, a researcher can jump in and compare factors awareness, preference, and perception of your brand, before and after your ads run.
Or, even without the benefit of running your ads, researchers can simply pretest your ad concepts and measure the likely effect that your ad message will have on typical customers. “Soft” factors that can be pre-measured include, interest, relevance, likeability, believability, uniqueness, news worthiness.
But what if you are a smaller advertiser who cannot justify the cost of research?
Can you still measure the effect of your ad without waiting for sales reports? The answer is yes, if you are prepared to get a little creative with the information you include in your ads.
One creative approach is to add a response element to your ad—give prospective customers a secondary reason to respond, even if they are not ready to buy immediately.
For example, if you have a brochure for a complicated or expensive product or service, offer to mail it to prospects free. The response your offer generates, while not yet sales, is a faster, cheaper way to measure whether your ad is attracting notice.
Other types of creative offers you might consider including in your ad are: free 30-day initial trial… contest entry… free how-to guide… free evaluation… free consultation… free analysis.
Besides giving your ad readers a reason to respond, the second approach you can take is to carefully control how they respond.
For instance, if your offering that free brochure, perhaps you’ve included a phone number in your ad. If you can dedicate a special phone number tied to the brochure offer in your print ads, it’s easy to track the number of calls your ad is generating. If not a special phone number, simply provide callers with a special extension number to ask for—even a fictitious extension—so when someone mentions the extension, you are always measuring ad response.
Even more savvy is creating multiple ‘extension numbers,’ each representing a different ad message variation or a different publication. By tracking response down to the individual ad or individual publication you can make subtle changes to your advertising ‘on the fly’ as you learn what message/publication combination generates the most interest.
An alternative to the phone extension method is the creation of a special “offer code” that callers must specify when requesting your bonus offer. Again, different codes will indicate which ad or the publication the caller is responding to.
If you have a website, it can be easier still to set up special “splash pages” on your site and only known by your ad readers. As you see visitors accumulating on this unique greeting page, you are measuring ad response.
So, with just a little ad creativity — adding special offers and with special coding — the small advertiser can buy intelligence a lot more cheaply than the cost of market research.