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Elements of an Advertising Plan

by Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff

An advertising plan is a document created with the goal of matching the most effective message to your audience. This article is intended as a companion piece to "Advertising Your Services," which describes key advertising concepts and includes additional pointers.

A psychologist new to the world of advertising might find the following process complicated and intimidating. If that is the case, you might find it useful to work with a marketing consultant and/or design professional to help you develop and execute your plan.

A good advertising plan should include the following sections:

  1. Situation analysis.  A review of problems and opportunities.

  • An advertising message should address a problem. You might think about this in terms of why more people do not access your services. Does the difficulty stem from a problem with your image, a lack of information, or from the potential client or referral source’s perceptions or attitudes? List the problems.

  • Now, turn these problems into opportunities to shape your professional image, correct misinformation, educate the public and change perceptions. Describe how you will use the opportunities.

  1. Strategy statement. The framework for your approach.

  • Clearly define your advertising goals. Be specific.

  • Report the annual revenue you generate and the market share you command for the services you provide in the geographic area you serve.

  • List the market shares of your competitors and brief statements describing the services they offer, their marketing strategies, and their advertising efforts. If you don’t have this information, it is time to collect some data about the market you are working in.

  • Describe the services you offer. Include the results of any marketing research you have conducted, such as client satisfaction surveys and feedback, opinions and reactions from peers, colleagues and family members about your practice or your professional image. What if you don’t have the information? You guessed it…time to collect more data.

  • Profile your target audience, including others who may influence the decision to seek your services — for example, potential referral sources and family members. Include demographics such as age, gender, education, income, and geographic distribution and psychographics such as lifestyle, interests, values and concerns.

  • Describe your competitive advantage, the benefit or value your services provide, your professional image and the niche you occupy in the marketplace.

For more information, read the following articles: "Develop a Professional Image that Reflects Your Strengths" and "Have You Found a Niche?"

  1. Creative plan. The focus of your actual advertising message.

  • Use the information from your situation analysis and strategy statement to create an effective core message. Think about your marketing objectives, the problems and opportunities that exist, your strengths and weaknesses and your target audience.

  • Flesh out the details of how your core message will be executed in a way that will capture people’s attention and be memorable. How should your advertisement look and feel? What content do you want to include? What tone do you want to convey?

  • Basic approaches to the creative plan include promoting your practice in general, promoting a particular service you offer, focusing on educating and providing information, and attempting to associate a particular image or lifestyle with your practice.

  1. Promotion plan. Identifying the best way to deliver your message to your target audience.

  • Think about the most cost effective route. Will you use direct mail, an ad in the yellow pages, print advertising in local newspapers or magazine, radio spots, television?

  • Also consider timing issues. Will you advertise year round, seasonally according to market needs or according to your business cycles (when you are busiest or slowest)? Do you want your ads to be spread out and appear at regular intervals or in more intensive clusters? A consultant can help you with these decisions and over time, you will fine-tune your advertising strategy based on the results of your previous efforts.

  • In addition to advertising, which is just one part of your broader marketing strategy, think about other marketing approaches that can help get your message to your target audience.

For more information, visit the Marketing & Building Your Practice section or read the article titled "Using Practice Consultants to Your Best Advantage."

  1. Evaluation. How you measure the success of your advertising campaign. Success should be determined based on progress towards the objectives you defined in your strategy statement. Establish how you will regularly collect data on your progress and use the information gleaned to improve your advertising efforts in the future. The effects of advertising are cumulative and in the end, the success of your advertising is not really determined by how much revenue it generates, but rather how well it helps you build relationships with potential clients and referral sources.

  2. Budget. Your advertising budget is part of your overall marketing budget. Balance is key. If you spend too little, you will not achieve your goals, but spending too much can waste resources. Consider the life cycle of your practice. New practices or services will require more advertising to build awareness. Similarly, growing your market share or working in a very competitive market will require more advertising. Your advertising budget is important because it will help determine:

  • How much advertising you can afford to do

  • What media options you can afford to pursue

  • How broad a target audience you can attempt to reach

A well-thought-out advertising plan should be consistent with your larger business plan, as well as your other marketing efforts. By using an organized approach to advertising your services, you can reach a broader audience, help more people access appropriate psychological services, and build and maintain a successful practice. 


Date created: 2005