I only have two types of clients that hire me:
- Clients that haven’t done any mass media advertising prior to working with me, and
- Clients that have paid to run low-impact ads on TV or Radio
And believe it or not, both types of clients are anxious about what to expect when they begin a branding campaign based on sound strategy and outstanding execution. So I thought it might be worthwhile to give readers a roadmap on what to expect, seeing as many of you might fall into those same two categories of prospective clients. Just keep in mind that while the milestones are reliable markers, their exact order and time-frames are variable.
The First 5-6 Months & The First 4 Milestones
If your ad campaign is conceived to get real traction, you’ll see these first four milestones within the first three to five months:
Milestone #1: Friends and Acquaintances Mention Hearing or Seeing Your Ads
If your ads are actually capable of cutting through the clutter and being noticed, your family, friends, and acquaintances will not only hear them, they’ll feel compelled to mention them to you. If that doesn’t happen in the first few weeks of launch, your ads aren’t what they need to be to drive serious results.
Milestone #2: Brandable Chunks or Earworms Get Repeated Back to You
A good campaign will have Distinctive Brand Assets baked into it, typically in the form of Brandable Chunks, ear-wormy jingles or audio signatures, slogans, etc. And if those are effective, you’ll have them repeated back to you by the audience. Could be little kids singing your jingle or customers repeating a catch-phrase or a friend teasing you about an ear-wormy brandable chunk. I know one colleague whose client had a brand “stinger” get repeated back to them by a bank teller, of all people. And this goes double if you voice or appear in the ads. As audience members begin to bond with you, they’ll feel compelled to repeat the stickiest elements of your ads back to you when and if they see you in person. If you don’t have this happen sometime in the first 6 months, your ads are missing out on developing proper “Distinctive Brand Assets” and are likely not cutting through the clutter and grabbing attention the way they should.
Milestone #3: Website Traffic Increases Along w/ Traffic from Branded Terms
As your mass media brand campaign progresses, more traffic should be searching on your brand name or branded term rather than generic keywords. In other words, not only will web traffic be up, but more people will come to your site by typing your url in directly, or by searching on your brand name. For example, people will search “Joe Schmo Plumbing” and not “Plumbing Repair”Not only does this leave your PPC-dependent competition totally out of the game, but it improves your SEO ranking with Google. But ultimately, this milestone means the branding is starting to “set” in the minds of your audience, as more customers think of you first and feel the best about you when they need what you sell, causing them to search for you by name.
Milestone #4: PPC gets a boost with increased CTR and decreased CPC
Although you ideally want people searching on your brand name or a branded term, there is also a half-step before that. The half-step is when they search on a generic keyword but positively recognize and respond to your brand in the search results. And this half-step leads to increased Click-Through-Rates for your ads. In turn, your better-performing ads get a boost in bidding, and that leads to decrease Cost-Per-Click over time. Of course, if you don’t know to expect this, it’s a fair bet your PPC manager will take credit for this boost in performance. But don’t let ‘em fool you: that boost came from your mass media advertising!
Months 7-9 and Milestones 5-8
Milestone #5: Phone Calls and Booked Leads Increase
This is the exciting part because it’s what many clients most want from their advertising: more phone calls and more leads. Of course, more calls is one thing, but more leads is another, and if your phone staff aren’t up to snuff or adequately staffed, one won’t lead to the other. But assuming you’ve got competent phone staff and excess capacity, you’ll start seeing an increase in calls and leads when comparing this month to the same month last year.
Milestone #6: Some Brandable Chunks Take on a Life of Their Own
You can’t predict exactly what will end up going “viral” within your local community. But you can have a pretty good idea of what words or catchphrases might catch on. What at least has the potential to take off. So a good ad strategist and creative will bake a handful or more of those things into your ads, with the expectation that one of them will take off. In every truly successful campaign, I’ve launched this has always happened. Something in the campaign took on a life of its own.
Milestone #7: Sales Cycle Shortens / Average Ticket Price Increases
At this point, your share of mind and your reputation are really starting to take hold. Meaning that your people have added credibility from the get-go, simply by wearing your uniform and being associated with your brand. And that manifests itself in two ways:
- Your people have an easier time selling, as prospects arrive pre-convinced, and
- More customers select the “better” and “best” options, because of their increased trust and confidence in your brand, and therefore your people’s advice.
Milestone #8: Price Increases Become an Option
When you become known as a premium product or service, you attract customers willing to pay a premium price for your increased level of expertise, service, quality, etc. In other words, you’re attracting Relational rather than Transactional customers. That means you’ll enjoy increased price elasticity and can (and probably should) increase your prices to reflect your newly acquired “premium” status in the minds of customers. Now, if you began advertising as the highest-priced option in the market, this won’t apply to you. But if you’ve always been the best-kept secret of your industry, and therefore underpriced compared to your quality, then this definitely applies to you (and probably more than you’re comfortable admitting)
Months 8-12 and Milestones 9-12
Milestone #9: Employee Morale Improves & Bad-fits Self-select Out
Branding is as much a leadership tool as a marketing effort. At least when done well. So one “side effect” of good branding is an increase in morale from your people.
- When the story you live internally matches the story you project outside your company, morale improves.
- When people are given increased respect by customers based on their affiliation with the brand, morale improves
- When your people find it easier to recommend options and sell needed services, morale improves.
Even better, the stronger your company culture, the more you will both attract the right people and repel the wrong people. And the strongest expression of that is when new hires who are a bad fit culturally self-select out before you even have to take action to fire them. Low performers always prefer to hang out in a company that tolerates mediocrity and will readily flee the company that insists on high performance and high standards. If that happens in your company, you know you’re on the right track.
Milestone #10: You Need to Hire More People & Run Recruiting Ads
In all honesty, this one might come in the first 6 months, rather than at the tail end of the year. It all depends on where you started from in terms of staffing and how good your recruiting options were outside of mass media. But sooner or later, you’ll want to turn to mass media to help you recruit great people [link https://wizardofads.org/recruiting-good-people-overcoming-limits-to-growth/] to meet increased demand. In fact, you’ll likely find yourself running recruiting ads often enough that getting them to do double duty as branding ads [Link https://wizardofads.org/the-extreme-branding-of-recruiting-ads/] will be crucial. And if that doesn’t happen to you somewhere within the first year, something might well be wrong with your ad campaign.
Milestone #11: Revenue increases
I wrote earlier that “more calls and more leads” was what most every client most wanted from an ad campaign. And that’s true, but more in a “means to an end” way. What they really want is increased revenue, truth be told. And somewhere either before or during the last quarter of their first year of mass media advertising, they should see that increase. Seasonal businesses might need to wait until the next season starts, but even then, they should see increased revenue when compared month-over-year. And while this can be one of the last numbers to move, it also should move decisively by the time an ad campaign has been on the air for close to a year.
Milestone #12: Growth Feels Predictable and Inevitable
The final test of a great ad campaign is that it makes growth and lead flow predictable. You’re no longer suffering from Feed-the-Beast-itus and no longer feel captive to expensive digital lead sources. In fact, you’ve probably turned several of them off. Suddenly your aspirations for your business start to feel not only attainable, but inevitable — if you just keep up your ad campaign and continue to service your customers. And this is in stark contrast to how most businesses operate prior to launching an effective branding campaign, where growth is sporadic and market domination can feel like a pipe-dream rather than a goal.
12 Months Will Pass Anyway…
The block that keeps many businesses from experiencing all these great milestones is the daunting idea that they’ll have to wait a year before really experiencing the benefits. And while the main benefit of increased revenue can take that long, you should now see that many milestones bring with them valuable benefits much earlier than that. But the truth is this: the 12 months will pass anyway, regardless of whether you get started now. The only difference will be whether you’ve gained benefit and growth from those 12 months, or whether you’ll still be pondering whether you should get started or not. So… Would you like to get started now, rather than later?