How to Make an Ad: A 10-Step Guide

Advertising is changing — in fact, in 2020, companies will spend more than $250 billion on media advertising for the first time in U.S. history.

More companies are spending money on advertising than ever before. As a result, there are now innumerable platforms you can use to promote your product, service, or business.

But how do you choose the right medium to promote your platform? And once you decide, how do you actually make the ad?

There’s a lot that goes into making an advertisement — from market research, to choosing the right medium, to developing creative assets. To simplify the process for you, we’ve outlined the necessary steps you’ll need to take in order to bring your ad to life and start promoting your business in the right way.

Keep reading to learn our recommended 10-step process on how to make an ad.

Featured Resource: Advertising Planning Templates & Kit

To make your advertising planning easier, use HubSpot’s free Advertising Planning Kit. Included are templates to help you plan and present your ad pitch, schedule your release dates, and inform your stakeholders. We’ve also thrown in an advertising best practices guide to help you choose the advertising method that works best for your business.

1. Choose Your Target Audience

When making an ad, you’ll first need to decide the audience you’re making the ad for. People see up to 10,000 ads in a day (yup, that’s a real number), so your advertisement may end up being white noise if not targeted correctly.

One way to help your ad find the right audience is to get granular on whom you want to target with your messaging, which will help you incorporate the best messaging and select the best advertising platform. This should be based off of your buyer personas — semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

If you need help building your personas, try using HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool.

2. Conduct Marketing Research

Market research is an essential part of campaign promotion. Feeding into your buyer personas, market research can answer key questions about your target market, such as:

  • How old are they?
  • What do they spend most of their time doing?
  • What social media platforms do they use, if any?
  • Do they live in suburban, urban, or rural areas?

Knowing the above information about your target audience can help you answer questions like — TV or YouTube? Instagram or LinkedIn? Billboard or bus? — because you’ll understand more about how to appeal to the right people.

You can use this Market Research Guide and Set of Templates to get started on market research for your ad.

3. Choose Your Platform

Your market research should give you the insight and confidence you need to choose the most effective platform to reach your target audience. You should also do some supplemental research on the costs, ROI, and benefits of certain ad platforms and methods.

You may come to the realization that using multiple ad platforms and methods would be the right move for your campaign – such as social media and search engine ads. This is actually a great strategy, as it casts a wider net and opens up the possibility of reaching even more prospects where they already are.

4. Decide on a Budget

For advertising, you need to spend money to make money.

Getting your budget approved can be difficult, so make it easier to get what you need by clearly outlining:

  • The total budget you need
  • How the costs are broken down
  • A projected ROI (or business impact)

Be sure to come to any budget meeting prepared to answer whatever questions could be thrown at you and to defend the specifics.

For instance, saying “We need $10,000 to run a Google Ads campaign” doesn’t sound nearly as compelling as “We’d like to run a series of ads on Google. Here’s a list of our keywords and negative keywords, their monthly search volume, and our preliminary bids for each. With these projections, we’re expecting to bring in 400 new contacts next month for a total cost of $10,000.”

5. Craft a Message

By this point, you know your target audience and your preferred platform, but you’re still not sure what you’re saying. Here’s where you’ll want to think about the broad purpose of your campaign to inspire your ad.

Do you want people to come to your store, or visit your website? Is your immediate goal to drive free signups for your software, or ebook downloads? Think about the message and how that can feed into the end goal(s) of your ad campaign.

For inspiration, take a look at The 18 Best Advertisements of All Time.

6. Develop Creative Assets

Whether it’s copy for a Google Ad or a flashy landing page from your in-house designers, all ads need creative assets. Chances are, most of the ads you run will need one or more of the following:

  • Short, promotional copy (for image ads and online ads)
  • Long-form copy (for video scripts)
  • Photographs (for online ads)
  • Custom-designed images and/or animations (for online ads and video ads)
  • Video (for…video ads)
  • GIFs (for online ads)

All of these assets can be overwhelming, and if you’re thinking “I’m not a videographer/writer/designer/photographer!”, that’s totally fine. If these resources aren’t available to you in-house to help make your ad, consider hiring a team of freelancers or an agency to help you produce these deliverables and make an outstanding advertisement.

7. Determine Measurements of Success and Set Up Tracking

No matter if your ultimate goal is Page Likes, online purchases, or promo code uses, you should never launch an ad without first being crystal clear on two questions:

  1. What do we want to see in order to call this ad successful?
  2. How are we measuring success?

You already thought of your advertisement’s goal in Step 5, so now, make the expectations of your campaign known by setting up the proper ad tracking.

If you’re advertising online, there’s a good chance the platform you’re using — like Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn — has an ad management and tracking platform, allowing you to see how many interactions your ads have had and how much they cost.

However, you’ll also want to take a few extra steps to aid in your analysis down the line:

  • Use an automated free ad tracking platform to measure advertising ROI and see how your ads tie into larger marketing projects and campaigns. You can also use this platform to compare ads from different sites, say, if you were running ads on both Instagram and Twitter.
  • Set up a custom tracking spreadsheet offline to measure engagements with your ad and other data points like cost, conversion, and advertising ROI, especially if your ad is online.
  • Use custom tracking tokens for links promoted in your ad so that you can analyze engagement and conversions on your own website.

8. Launch Your Ad

The stage is set, and you can finally launch your ad for the world to see.

Needless to say, the process of launching an ad on Google is different than on Bing. The same can be said for every social media channel, TV ads, or transportation ads.

Here’s a list of the more detailed, step-by-step process for launching an ad on some of these platforms. Click through to learn more about the platform or platforms that you’re creating an ad for:

9. Track & Analyze Performance

For campaigns that have a set run time (transportation, television, etc.), determine how the ad’s results performed against expectations. Since it’s difficult to draw a one-to-one comparison for these ad types, you may want to look at general business trends, change in revenue, or even social media/press mentions to gauge success.

For online ads, this process is a bit easier. Results start coming in immediately, so you can see how well your ads are performing instantly, and over time. Take note of the ads that are bringing in high numbers at low costs and — just as importantly — ads that are costing a lot but not performing that well.

Remember, you can take the headache out of the manual ad tracking with a free online ads tracking tool.

10. Make Changes, Rinse, and Repeat

Once your ad campaign is over (or if it’s an ongoing online campaign), take your learnings and apply them to your next advertisement.

For instance, maybe you realized your online ads that were wordier performed worse than ads that were more concise, or that YouTube just didn’t work this time around. Lean into what worked (or is working) and abandon what’s not to continue to strengthen your company’s advertising program.

Making Your Ad, Simplified

And there you have it — a simple 10-step process for planning, creating, launching, and analyzing an advertisement. Remember to use an advertising planning template to outline your ad campaign, keep all contributors informed, and rally behind the same end goal for your business.

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