Whether your company spends a little or spends a lot, advertising usually constitutes a major cash outlay for most small-business owners. That's why it's prudent to plan your expenditure to assure that you are maximizing your advertising return on investment. The risk is considerable that your cash outlay will be ill-spent without a plan. Advertising objectives, strategies and tactics are integral and related parts of your advertising plan.

Advertising Objectives

The function of advertising is to persuade an audience to buy whatever you sell. Advertising can help to accomplish one of two objectives or both: acquire new customers or retain existing customers. Customer acquisition can fall into two sub-groups: new customers who do not know that you exist, and new customers taken from your competition. Customer retention can likewise fall into two sub-groups: current customers, and customers you are trying to woo back who defected. Your advertising objective is a statement of what the advertising must accomplish in terms of moving one or more of these customer groups into the current user category, or stimulating repeat buying from current users.

Audience Analysis

Before you decide which of the preceding customer groups to target with your advertising, identify the group that is worth targeting as the first step, and the appropriate advertising message that produces the desired effect. This requires upfront analysis by demographic and psychographic traits and current usage of your brand. Demographics include age, gender, income and other characteristics that may be relevant, such as boaters if you sell boats. Psychographic defines the subjective characteristics, such as lifestyles, aspirations, personalities and interests.

Advertising Strategy

The advertising strategy is different from your creative or copy strategy. Your ad strategy communicates the message that will move your target audience's current beliefs and usage of your brand to a desired position of beliefs and usage. The advertising strategy includes a description of your target audience and the message you want that audience to receive. Your target audience will be one or more of the customer groups previously discussed, any of which might be narrowed further through your audience research. Your advertising message will evolve out of knowledge gained about usage and attitudes toward your business or brand. Strategy is where audience analysis and message content precede your advertising objective. You need to know the consumers you are targeting and the message that resonates before discussing your objective for that audience in terms of response to your message.

Advertising Tactics

Your advertising tactics, sometimes called the "tactical plan," make up the specifics of "how" your advertising strategy will be executed. The two primary components of your tactical plan are your creative or copy strategy and your media strategy. Advertising tactics are normally the exclusive domain of the advertising agency. The creative strategy translates the target audience and messaging guidance from your advertising strategy into specific guidelines for agency art directors and copywriters to create the actual advertising product. The media strategy specifies the media vehicles that will be used to effectively and efficiently reach the target audience. Advertising is a specialized field. Get help from a reputable ad agency if you plan to spend significant dollars on advertising and check their credentials and references.