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What's in an Ad?

For financial services firms, advertising is often one of the most familiar parts of a marketing campaign. After all, practically everyone has encountered advertising in their daily lives—we know what advertising “looks like” and can easily imagine our products or services being displayed on a website, generating clicks, traffic, and qualified leads. But is it really so simple? Frequently, would-be advertisers begin with their target audience and work backwards (for example, “we want to reach more financial advisors”) or begin with a designated media outlet (for example, “we want to run ads on XYZ publication’s website”).

These approaches may still result in effective advertising campaigns, but they represent inconsistent strategies that may not necessarily produce the results you want. What follows is our guide to building an effective advertising campaign that produces real results.

Related: How to Take Your Email Marketing to the Next Level

Step 1: Ask yourself—what is the goal of this ad campaign? What does success look like?

You can’t begin to plan your ad campaign without establishing the parameters of success. Naturally, for most ETF issuers, “success” means growing assets under management, but there are a number of intermediate steps that lead investors along a journey from prospect to buyers. It’s important to be more specific. Is your goal to grow an email list, through which you can send educational content? How many investors would you like to add to your list? Is your goal to lead would-be investors to a specific piece of content, such as a whitepaper or animated video? Will you track PDF downloads or video views?

Step 2: Determine the content and tone of the ad

By defining what success looks like for your ad campaign, you have inadvertently defined a number of other important parameters, the most important of which is target audience. If you are seeking to grow an email list that will send out educational content, it’s likely you are targeting a certain kind of investor—perhaps a retail investor who’s somewhat familiar with ETFs. On the other hand, if you are planning to use your ad campaign to drive traffic to a lengthy whitepaper or report, you will probably be targeting a very different sort of investor—maybe a sophisticated financial advisor or even an institution. Knowing your target audience will also go a long way towards helping you craft copy and design elements that will speak to this particular demographic.

Related: What Does It Take to Produce Viral Content for Financial Services?

Step 3: Where are your ads going to “live?”

You’ve already decided who your target audience is, now you need to identify what sorts of publications cater to that target audience. Feel free to do your own research; brainstorm what sorts of publications might appeal to the kind of investor you’re trying to reach. Your marketing agency may be able to help you narrow down the possibilities to the few that have the highest chance of reaching your target demographic. Keep in mind that different target audiences will tend to have different price tags attached to them. Higher-traffic websites will charge a premium compared with lower-traffic, less prestigious websites. Likewise, highly specialized websites that cater to institutional investors may charge more to display your ads.

Step 4: Run the campaign

The only thing left to do at this point is to run your campaign. We recommend running “A/B split tests” which involves running two different versions of the same ad to identify which version generates more clicks.

Ad campaigns aren’t the right fit for every kind of marketing initiative, but by taking a closer look at your marketing goals, defining success, identifying your target audience, you’ll be well on your way to running an effective advertising campaign.