How to Make an Advertising Plan in 10 Easy Steps

Stephanie Theisen
Last updated by Stephanie Theisen

Every business needs an advertising plan. Think of it as your guide to promoting your business. Your plan will tell you who your targets are, how to reach them – and most importantly, it will point out what you're failing to do. This allows you to correct your course and improve your business's marketing, which leads to increasing sales.

Advertising Plan graphic

Time to get started planning an ad campaign.

How to Create an Advertising Plan

Once you go through these steps the first time, you'll have the groundwork already laid out for subsequent campaigns. Thus, each new campaign will be easier to plan out.

1. Start with Your Goal

Simply put: what do you want your advertising plan to accomplish? Are you trying to attract new customers or are you trying to encourage previous customers to come visit? The best goals are specific: what kind of increase in customer traffic are you looking for and in what time period?

2. Develop Your Budget

Know how to build an advertising plan to fit your budget. How much are you willing to spend on promoting your business? If you have some ideas already, how much will these ideas cost to implement?

3. Define Your Audience

When you're focused on increasing sales, it helps to figure out who's most likely to buy your product or service. What is your target demographic? Are you catering to affluent seniors or teenagers who are finding money beneath couch cushions?

4. Determine What Products or Services You'll Feature

The more specific you can be, the better. That's why fast food chains will advertise particular products instead of a general advertisement that says "come eat here." Are you launching a new product you want to feature or are you offering a discount on an old one? What are you highlighting?

5. Complete a SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for your company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What is your business's core competency? What do you do well that provides you with an advantage? If you sell clothing, and winter is around the corner, that's an opportunity to launch new winter gear. Likewise, what are your competitors doing that might hinder your business?

6. Use the SWOT to Articulate Your Key Differentiators

When you're promoting your business, you want to focus on what makes you different from your competition. Look at your competitors and use your SWOT analysis to find the mismatches – do you offer lower prices? Better products? You'll want to exploit those differentiators in your advertising plan.

7. Build Your Advertising Plan

You need to answer three questions: what, when, and where. What type of advertisements are you going to run? When are you going to run them? And where are they going to appear? Are you putting up a billboard in a mall for all of September or running a radio campaign throughout the holiday season? Running display ads on the web? It all comes down to a great advertising strategy!

8. Consider Other Low-Cost Methods

The best advertising is word of mouth – and few things are capable of generating word of mouth like a well-run social media campaign. What kind of social media campaign can your business run? Could you sponsor a local event or run a contest of some kind? Make a list of low-cost actions your business can take that naturally support your advertising plan.

9. Launch Your Advertising

An advertising plan won't help in promoting your business if no one follows through. Now it's time to take all of your ideas and put them in action. Create the social media campaign, produce the television spot, and broadcast the radio commercial.

Keep everything consistent, no matter the medium or channel. Consistency is crucial when running a multi-faceted campaign. Be consistent in both messaging and brand. It's one thing to use the same logo and colors. But the messaging itself should be consistent as well. Billboard copy should mirror social messaging copy, which should be the same as any radio or television ads, which should mimic what's on your website's homepage.

10. Analyze Results

The last step in developing an advertising strategy is arguably the most important: The results! Did you do what you set out to do?

This is likely the first of many advertising campaigns for your business – so pay close attention to the results. Did you reach the goals defined in step one? If so, what worked best? If not, why not? For your next advertising plan, go back to step one and do it again – but keep these results in mind.

Bringing it All Together

If this was your first ad campaign, it was probably a lot of work going through each step in detail. But guess what? Now that you've done it once, the second, third, and hundredth times will be easier and easier. Since you've taken note of what worked and what didn't, every subsequent campaign will be that much more successful. Learn from your mistakes and double down on the successes. As George Santayana so eloquently put it:

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

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