How to get your message across

Many financial advisers use advertising to help generate leads. Following simple guidelines can ensure those adverts produce more leads for less money. Using public relations alongside an advertising campaign is one of the most cost-effective ways to boost the response rate to a campaign.

To be effective and make a real impact, an advertising campaign usually needs to run over a sustained period, with adverts appearing regularly to increase awareness and help generate sales.

Cost is a key consideration, which means that advertising in the national media (usually expensive) is only suitable for companies that have a national operation. For most financial advisers advertising in their local media – or indeed trade media like Mortgage Strategy – is more suitable as it is cost-effective and targeted at the audience.

The first step to organising advertising is to research the media available. As well as trade publications this includes paid for and free newspapers, local radio and even parish magazines. Consider if they are suitable for a financial services advert and whether they are read or listened to by your target audience.

Most will have a media pack which will detail the geographical coverage, circulation/audience figures and key copy dates. The media pack will also contain a rate card showing the cost of placing an advert. You may, however, be able to negotiate a discount, particularly if you plan to run the advert over several weeks.

You may get offered last-minute, heavily discounted advert slots, usually because another firm has withdrawn their advert. Before taking up the offer consider if it fits in with your campaign, whether you have another advert running at the same time, the position you are being offered and if any of your competitors are advertising at the same time.

Designing an advert is important as research shows you only have three seconds to grab a potential customer&#39s attention. The following guidelines provide key pointers on what to do.

The position of a press advert is another important factor to consider. Some adverts on right hand pages tend to be noticed more than adverts place on a left hand page. The prime positions are front cover right hand corner; inside top corner right hand side; back page, right hand side.

You should also make sure your advert is in the right section of the paper. In a local newspaper, for example, it may be cheaper to advertise in the &#39Births, Marriages and Deaths&#39 section, but you will probably have a poor response by doing so. Sections on money, personal finance or property are more appropriate for mortgage adverts.

If the publication is planning a feature relevant to your business, for example on buy-to-let, placing an appropriate advert promoting your buy-to-let service next to the feature will boost the response rate.

Unlike direct mail when you can stagger a mailing to manage the responses, with an advert you are likely to get most calls on the day the advert appears. So make sure you have a copy of the publication and your team is geared up to manage the calls generated. Log each call and the business generated to measure the success of your campaign.

Public relations aims to raise your profile through coverage in the media and by networking with key groups of potential customers in your local area. You should be in a stronger competitive position if your business is mentioned frequently in your local paper or people hear you on local radio.

Start by building a good relationship with relevant journalists and editors at newspapers, magazines and radio stations. Then if they plan to write a feature on mortgages or financial planning they will think of contacting you for a quote or an interview.

You can also announce news about your business by writing press releases for journalists to use as the basis for their own articles. If you want an article to be published in your own name then you can submit an editorial. You could do this on spec or agree it in advance with the publication. Either way you should keep the subject generic so that it comes across as objective. Make sure you include your contact details.

Newspaper offices receive many press releases and editorials every week. To make yours stand out it needs to grab the editor&#39s and journalist&#39s attention quickly.

Reaching your target audience

The right advert

•You only have three seconds to grab the attention of your target audience

•Testing the impact of alternative adverts before committing to a long campaign can identify if one generates a better response than another

•Adverts on right hand pages are noticed more than left-hand page adverts

•Placing an advert in the same position each week helps readers remember it

Getting your message across

•The essence of the story should be conveyed in a simple headline and a short first paragraph

•Be brief – press releases particularly are best kept to one side of A4

•Include quotes from yourself, colleagues or clients (with their permission) to bring the story to life and establish your name as an authority

•Include contact details for your business

•Double space the copy so that it can be easily read and edited

•Always check if a promised feature has appeared. If it hasn&#39t, find out why

Top tips

•Boost the response rate to your advert by placing an editorial in the same publication

•Research/survey findings are often a good way of getting coverage in the local paper, especially if they have a local flavour

•Keep cuttings of your press coverage and place in a cuttings book for potential customers to look at