Advertising 2011…Are you overwhelmed yet? Part 2

In my last blog I talked about the overwhelming choices available in today’s advertising world and how making the right choices for small businesses can be difficult. Along with the choices, there is an ocean of misinformation that complicates the advertising equation. A few examples…

Your daughter just got home from college and tells you that no one reads newspapers, and yet there are still millions of newspaper subscribers. Your hair stylist told you that only the youth are tuned in to social media, yet women over fifty-five are the fastest growing segment of Facebook. At the family reunion, Uncle Al told you for an hour that coupons are the only way to go. But Uncle Al owns a pizza shop and you are selling real estate. It seems like every time you chat with somebody, the choices you need to make for your adverting dollars get more confusing. Here are some basic thoughts on how to simplify your advertising plan and make those choices easier.

BUDGETING-Unfortunately, advertising budgets are often the last item covered on the business plan and are not adequate in today’s competitive environment. If you find yourself buying ads based on who has the cheapest rate, you may fall into this category. Think about finding the dollars to double your advertising budget and your potential for results will grow dramatically. Like most things in business, money can help make those hard choices a bit easier.

FOCUS ON A PRESENCE AND CONSISTENCY – Know your target audience demographics and establish a presence in media products that reach those customers. Then run the campaign over and over and over! Remember, only a small percentage of people need your product at any given time, so consistency is a building block for your advertising. In other words, be there when they are ready to buy. It’s also better to have a large presence in one targeted media product than a small presence in five.

You can also improve your advertising presence through contextual placement. Take advantage of compatible editorial environments! If you sell sporting goods, place your ad on a website that has a sports page. If you own a restaurant, request that your ad be positioned opposite the recipe column in the newspaper. If you are in a cluttered print product, use white space to make your ad stand out. Consider a video instead of a banner ad for your web marketing. Send your direct mail piece on the day of the week when the least amount of direct mail is sent. There is a way to make your advertising stand out in every type of media available. If you just ask, you will find many ways to give your advertising dominance. Yes, you may have to pay a little more, but the return is worth it.

TRACKING RESULTS – Before web marketing there were basically two ways to track your results. One was with a coupon and the other was simply by asking your customers where they heard about your business. I strongly suggest that you still ask your customers how they heard about you. It should be part of every sale and documented for your future advertising decisions. Now the wonderful world of web marketing provides a third way to track results. “Click through “reports are available or should be available from any web marketing sales person. Every time someone clicks on your web ad, it is recorded and a report can be provided to you on a timely basis. Make sure that you get this report and document where the results are coming from.

TIME – You are checking your messages and find 9 voice mail, 11 e-mail and 5 written messages about the people who stopped in to sell you advertising. And it’s only Monday. You have a business to run, so you hit the delete button several times. Part of the difficulty with choosing where to spend your advertising dollars is time.

TIME FOR A PLAN – Establish that budget and squeeze every nickel you can find to increase your advertising power. Spend some time looking at the web marketing and traditional advertising methods available in your market area.  Choose ten candidates and set aside two days to talk to them. Yes, I said talk to them. If they are doing their job, they will have a list of questions to ask you. Tell them what your budget is for their product. With budget in hand, they will leave and come back during another two day marathon session and give you their proposals. Choose the best program and let it fly. Remember: focus on creating a strong a presence, building consistency into your program, and tracking your results. You have just spent 4 days planning your advertising, but the good news is you are done for 6 months or even a year depending on the results. And the next time one of those 16 adverting sales people contact you, tell them to come back in one year. Now you can focus on your business knowing you put your best effort into the marketing choices for your company.

If marketing decisions still seem too complicated and time consuming, consider this. You would have to read several books and media trade magazines to really understand all that is available in the advertising world today. That is why hiring a marketing person or an advertising agency makes more sense than ever to help you make the right choices. They will cut through the clutter and put your message where it should be. And their decision will be based on results and long term benefits, not the cheapest ad available.

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