Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Archive for May 2008

Advertising Media – Part 6: Outdoor

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Your name should be in lights.

Of course, by that I mean, your business name should be spread across yard after yard of billboard space where hundreds of people traveling about 65 miles per hour can glance at it for a total of about 2 seconds…if they bother to look up at all.

Then there’s the bus. Ever thought about putting your logo on that smelly crosstown bus that drives the same route everyday driving by the same people day after day? Or what about on the bus stand itself.

How about the side of a blimp? Or a panel truck? Or a cab top?

There are so many ways to buy outdoor, many of which you might not even heard of, that you could go crazy trying to examine them all. You can rent a cycling team to drive through downtown areas carrying a flag with your logo. You can rent street crews to give out flyers. How about buying the top of pizza boxes from a popular pizza restaurant?

Really, the question is who are you trying to reach? Which do you think is more effective, flying your banner behind a biplane over the 50,000 in attendance at game 4 of the World Series or the millions watching on TV? Are you trying to reach the one person walking down the street coincidentally at the same time a truck or van with your logo goes by, or the thousands that are reading the newspaper at the same time?

Hitting scores of people at once is always inferior to hitting thousands at once. After all, the whole idea of mass media messaging is to reach your potential new customers in a memorable way. Like sales, it’s a numbers game. The more people you hit, the better the chance those people are looking for your goods or services.

It’s been my experience that outdoor advertising is the definition of clutter. Like a bad TV ad, it’s just part of our daily environment and our brains have been trained and conditioned to tune it out. I’ve never really considered outdoor as a viable cornerstone to a marketing campaign nor have I recommended it to my clients. However, there are a substantial number of companies that specialize in outdoor advertising. They must be successful for a reason. I’d like to hear from you if you’ve had any experience in outdoor advertising. What’s worked for you? How have you cut through the clutter and done something that’s memorable? Was it part of a bigger campaign or was it your campaign? What would you recommend to others that are considering the same avenue?

Written by Jeff York

May 25, 2008 at 1:08 am

Advertising Media – Part 5: Direct Mail

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Have you ever responded to a piece of junk mail?  The chances are that you have.  Not often, but once someone sent you a flyer, an ad within a weekly circular, or some other postcard type piece of snail mail that just happened to be what you needed at exactly the time that you needed it.  Maybe you received a coupon for a new pizza place that you wanted to try out.  Maybe, like me, you received a postcard for a tree removal place at just the same time that you’ve spied a dead tree in your yard that could take out your kitchen during a strong storm.  It’s likely you’ve acted on a piece of direct mail advertisement at some point in your life.

Now, just for a minute, think about all the times that you’ve received junk mail in your life.  Compare that to the number of times you found a piece useful.  Not a very good rate of return, is it?  Care to guess the national average rate of return on direct mailings?  0.5%.  One response out of every 200 mailings.  Is that good?  Yes and no.

When I was the Creative Services Director of a pair of TV stations in Vermont, our lifeblood was the Nielsen ratings system.  In this rating system, receiving 1 rating point meant that 1% of the TV households in your market was turned into your station watching a particular program.  Even that’s not entire accurate.  The ratings books published only whole numbers which Nielsen would round up after reaching .5.  Therefore, buying a commercial in a show that had a 1 rating point in our market at the time meant that you were reaching at least 1640 TV households.  To achieve the same rate of response as direct mail, that means you would have converted 8.2 new customers.

Sounds good so far, but you have to consider reach.  To figure out if direct mail might be good for you, you have to consider the cost of sending direct mail to 1640 households versus the cost of a spot that airs in a show that receives a 1 rating point.  Expand it out.  How much to send out 5 times that number in direct mailings versus a 5 rating point show?

If the numbers start to work for you, you also should be considering the base differences in the media.  With TV, you can use the senses of sight and sound to build your message, but by virtue of the medium, the message is transitory.  With direct mail, it’s a print piece.  It’s sight only.  But the message is persistant until that time when some decides to turn your message into recycling…which might be immediately.

For my clients, I’m willing to talk to them about direct mail as an option.  I think when done well and targeted properly with a well generated mailing list, it can be more effective than a print ad placed in a newspaper, but it’s still considered low-brow advertising.  Direct mail is to advertising as puns are to comedy.

Have you had experience in direct mail?  If so, what has been your rate of response?  Is this form of marketing something you’ve considered for your company?

Written by Jeff York

May 18, 2008 at 1:14 am

Advertising Media – Part 4a: Original content delivered by web

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As I mentioned in my last entry, “advertising on the Internet” is just too broad of a statement to make. There are too many ways in which to get your message out via the Internet as a delivery platform. That’s way I decided this week to create a sub-topic which is a new and creative way to soft-sell yourself and your company.

I have been working with companies to develop original content delivered to viewer’s desktops, laptops, TiVo’s, iPods, and so on. These days, people want their content when they want it and how they want it. But simply tacking on a :15 or :30 pre or post roll commercial onto a video podcast, for example, is only slightly better than advertising on TV. It’s an excellent way to reach a highly targeted audience with your message, but that audience is increasingly adversarial toward traditional advertising methods. A :15 preroll might be marginally acceptable. A full :30 spot is just too long to endure in a podcast environment. Other traditional modes within podcasts include product placement, sponsored segments, and lower thirds. I have a more effective solution.

What I wanted to talk about today is something even more creative and acceptable. I also believe that it’s far more effective. Imagine creating a 5 minute video podcast in which you teach your audience about something they didn’t know about, but something that your business does well. It should be something connected to your company’s core business. As you teach your audience, it will become clear that you are an expert in this topic. At no point do you try to overtly sell your business, but it’s clear that you know what you’re doing. Plus, you have the benefit of teaching your audience something new. Ultimately, if your audience finds they need someone with your talents, they will contact someone they know to be an expert. They will call someone they’ve had interaction with, even if that interaction is just through the podcast. They will contact you.

And after all, isn’t that the whole goal of marketing?

Written by Jeff York

May 10, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Advertising Media – Part 4: New Media/Internet

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I’m pushing it a little. What, you might ask. Saying you “advertise on the Internet” is starting to become like saying you advertise in broadcasting. It’s too broad of a statement to really tell anyone exactly what you’re doing.

Once upon a time, advertising on the Internet pretty much meant that you bought a banner ad on someone else’s website. Then came pop ups. And then sponsored links, rich media, and on and on. Now there are whole companies buying other companies just for the ability to gain revenue from ‘Net advertising. Many of us visit sites like Google and Yahoo every day. We use their free services, mostly search, and then leave their site without once thinking about pulling out our wallets. Yet, these are some of the most profitable websites on the Internet. Why? Why would a company like Microsoft even consider having made play at Yahoo to the point of concidering a hostile takeover?

Income from advertising.

In the same way that advertisers should seek to generate compelling content that will cut through the clutter and be retained by viewers, Internet advertising should also be compelling without being overly intrusive. Today we still find the standard banner ads and pop up windows, but there are easy to find, free pieces of software out there that will suppress those types of advertising. That software is used often by most people surfing the web today. In fact, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari all have some type of pop up blocker built in free.

Most of the effective Internet advertising that I’ve seen today is more subliminal in its pitching. A couple of months ago, Wired wrote an exceptional article outlining the concept of free being the new business model. I have successfully seen how a company will generate video or audio podcasts where in they give away 5 minutes of information on a topic related to what they are an expert in for free. By doing so, they are establishing themselves as an expert above their peers by virtue of the fact that they are proving that they know their topic. This is one of the focuses of my company as we work toward helping people grow their business. It is also an excellent way to generate frequent new content on your website creating an excellent reason for your web visitors to come back. Your website becomes a destination and your branding on it gets reinforced through repeated visits.

Other methods for reaching out to customers is via rich media. Since it is not frequently used by many websites, those that do use it stand out from the crowd more. One of my favorite companies that’s doing innovative rich media today is Eyemedia. Check out some examples of work that they’ve done.

Much of this is possible because we have now surpassed the tipping point where more than half of the Internet users today have broadband connections. As the Internet grows and expands, the opportunities and methods for reaching new customers creatively and effectively will also expand. Whatever media developer and provider you choose to partner with, make sure that they are constantly looking at emerging technologies to ensure that you continue to be on the cutting edge of this advertising medium. If you’re wondering if your current partner lives up to that billing, see my post on passion.

Written by Jeff York

May 4, 2008 at 4:55 am