Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Posts Tagged ‘advertising

It’s time to get horizontal

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product2This blog has been chock full of ideas and concepts on how you can increase awareness of your product. We’ve talked about on-air advertising (television and radio), print, outdoor, Internet, direct response, economic challenges, the power of social media, and Guerilla Marketing. We’ve even talked about co-op advertising. This week, we’re going to explore the idea behind horizontal marketing.

Let’s say you make…oh, I don’t know…in keeping with the horizontal theme: mattresses. You want to increase the awareness of your product so you know you have to advertise. The problem is your particular product isn’t something that people can easily browse in a store like a candy bar or shirts. Your product has to be a destination for a shopper in order for a potential customer to lay hands on it. Beyond traditional media buys and storewide sales events, what else can you do?

Similar to the concept I forwarded with co-op advertising, are there interconnected businesses that you have a relationship with where you can co-promote together? For example, maybe there is a home improvement store or a bed sheet manufacturer where you can build a partnership. With the purchase of a mattress, you get a set of bet sheets or a gift card to a home improvement store to further improve your bedroom. Then in buying the traditional media, you can split costs with your partner thereby lowering your advertising costs.

If you own a mattress store, it’s smart to think vertically and split ad costs with mattress manufacturers, but there are endless possibilities horizontally as well, all of which can lower your marketing costs and increase your exposure.

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imagesThere is no shortage of ways in which you can get your name and brand out in the public eye. Between straight spot buys on TV, radio, placement within print and outdoor, you can carve out your own slice of the medium and craft your message for maximum impact.

But that doesn’t prevent those who sell media from thinking of additional ways of getting advertisers to spend money. You can always purchase a sponsorship. You can sponsor shows on TV, holes during a golf tournament, or printed materials for a non-profit’s event. These are great ways for ad sales reps to earn income beyond the standard selling of advertisements (internally, you might hear reps refer to this as “non-traditional revenue” or NTR).

But is this right for you?

In the case of cause marketing (marketing of an event connected to a cause such as the American Cancer Society’s Rely for Life), this may be a great opportunity to generate goodwill toward your organization in the form of displaying that you care and that you are a part of the community. Selfishly, it also puts you in front of a particular segment of people that you may want to reach. Even if it’s not just cause marketing but a local event, you may also find value in your sponsorship given that your company’s brand will be seen as involved.

Through years of both sponsoring and creating public events, I’ve gotten to know what really works from sponsorships and what might not necessarily generate value for your marketing dollar. The biggest mistake I’ve seen people make is to give dollars to sponsor something and then not worry about how they will be represented. If you’re worried about maximum exposure, then make sure that your providing a banner, sign, or logo and know where it’s going. Unless your signage is truly unique, then having it placed among so many others is simply spending money to become part of an ignored background.

How many times have you been to an event and seen how many benefactors were listed in a program? How you bothered to look at every name? Have you done business with an organization because they were listed among so many others in that program? It’s likely they got lost in the shuffle. They weren’t worried enough about their placement to make their sponsorship marketing purchase worthwhile.

Take control over how you will be presented. Where will you be listed? How will you be listed or placed? How many other people will be listed with you? Is your competition also participating? If this is the first year you are participating with an event, is there something “extra” that they can do for you? All things you’ll want to think about before consenting to sponsor an event.

Have you sponsored an event that you found to be exceptionally worthwhile and enhanced your business through its participation? How you given an event sponsorship dollars only to find it was a total waste? And if so, what did you learn from the experience?

Written by Jeff York

August 22, 2009 at 9:53 am

It’s on sale

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L4-77782As I write this, today is one of the major national holidays: Independence Day. Around many of the holidays, many retailers (and other small businesses) decide to take the opportunity to go into sale mode.

On a fundamental level, just what is a sale? It’s when you take your goods and/or services and discount their price point in hopes of spurring buying behaviors.

Is this a good idea? To help you decide, let’s take a look at both sides of the equation.

Pro:

Lowering your price is the perfect reason to ramp up your marketing efforts. You have an intrinsic reason for advertising. Your advertising takes on a more active voice rather than branding-oriented and compels immediate action. Generating more traffic to your business increases the likelihood that customers will buy more than what they came for. Decreasing the price of certain merchandise helps move that product making way for new items for which you might want to dedicate shelf space.

Con:

Lowering your price implies that you’ve been overcharging all along. Having sales increases foot traffic which demands that you increase staffing to accommodate. Creating a sales mentality with your customer base may create a situation where they will not buy an item until you place it on sale. Lowering price means you have to sell more product to realize the same profit.

Before going into sale mode, determine if the reasons for having a sale benefit you in the long run. If your product/service is currently priced correctly, then there might not be a need for lowering it. Having a sale is often a good short term cash flow fix which in turn creates long term branding issues.

Written by Jeff York

July 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Say that again…and again

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shouting1Having an on-target message is only part of the formula you need for a successful marketing campaign. What good is a solid, well-crafted message if no one hears it? Putting it into the right channels (tv, radio, etc.) to reach the right demographic is crucial. But if you ever have the chance to talk shop with a media buyer, you will hear them talk about reach and frequency.

Reach is putting the right message into the right channel to reach the desired people. If you’re a mom-and-pop business with a small local hardware store, do you really need to spend the money reaching across the entire state or will a local campaign be more effective?

What I wanted to talk about this week is the importance of frequency. It is often the most neglected part of the media buy. Failure in mass media marketing often comes at the hands of well-intentioned, but inexperienced media reps that overestimate an advertiser’s goals or budget.

The narrative often starts with a sales rep that makes a living from selling one form of media and one single channel (one group of radio stations, one newspaper, one tv channel, etc.) and a neophyte business owner. They have been trained and know the power of their particular offering. They have a meeting with a business owner who is looking to grow their business. They may not need to buy the entire coverage area that the sales reps offers, but that’s all the rep can offer. The campaign starts, it’s more expensive than the business owner needs (the business owner is paying a premium for reach without any benefit from it) and pulls the plug on the whole program early, thereby ending all frequency. Even in the areas where the message would have had effect, the ending of the campaign early ends all chance of success.

In today’s ultra-saturated media world, you have to reach your desired audience over and over again just to start to penetrate the clutter. It’s not enough to state your message and disappear. You have to repeat it over and over again. Say it enough times, and people start to recall your message on their own. Say it enough times in a respectable medium and it will have legitimacy.

Say it enough times and it will be effective.

Put a face on that

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vinceshamwowEvery so often, I come into contact with a business or a business’s ad agency that wants to explore the idea of a pitchman or spokesman. They see others doing it in their advertising and they think it must be a great idea.

It can be…or it can be a critical and expensive disaster.

Before going down this road, let’s think for a minute what you’re actually doing by adding a spokesman to your marketing. You are hoping that the equity from this famous person will translate into legitimacy for your business and product. This immediately rules out one class of spokesman: the infamous.

How big is your business? Are you currently local with hopes of going regional? Are you on the cusp of reaching into new national markets? This will also help you determine how much “celebrity” to bring on board. Why pay for a top dollar famous actor when you’re just reaching into a local market? This may seem like common sense to some, but believe me, it’s come up in conversation with business owners.

On the reverse, is the person you’re considering really a celebrity with all of your prospective clients? This comes into play often when using a professional sports figure. Recently I was part of a discussion as to using players from the local women’s college basketball team. The client loves women’s basketball. The sales rep loves this particular women’s college basketball team. Neither is part of a good reason to select a spokesman from this pool. Additionally, unless you’re grabbing one of the best off of a team, even at the pro level, it’s not likely going to be a hit.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is this spokesman willing to be on your team? Is this person in it for the check or your success? Most celebrities that I’ve worked on commercial shoots for are in it for the quick buck. They’re pros and they walk in, do what’s expected of them, and walk away. I’ve also been attached to projects where a celebrity clearly loves the client. They want the product to succeed. This invariably translates well into all of the marketing components.

Here’s another thought…create a character instead of using a spokesman. They don’t even have to be a fictious character. Dave Thomas from Wendy’s was a classic example of someone that was an immediate successful face on the business. Until his death in 2002, Dave served as a steller face on the brand and brought success to the organization not seen since the Clara Peller “Where’s the Beef?” campaign.

Let’s talk about me

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wordofmouthLet’s say I’m your ad agency. You hire to me to create compelling messages that talk about how great you are, how you deliver more (service, value, expertise, whatever) than your competition. And then we channel that message into all the right places for you to reach new customers. Finally, we repeat that message enough to cut through the clutter and reach into the consciousness of the audience.

Success? Likely, yes. But then what? It’s one thing to toot your own horn. It’s quite another to have someone do that for you. When interviewing for a job, you get the chance to talk all about how great you are. If you’re then a serious candidate, then the employer’s going to want to talk to others that know you.

If you’re bidding on new work, your prospect will likely want to know what you’ve done in the past. Then they’re going to want to talk to people you’ve done work for.

Third party information about you carries a lot of weight and credibility. When conducting B2C business, why not put that power to work as well?

How? Testimonials. Get others to talk about you.

I’ve done it successfully in TV commercials, in radio spots, in print collateral, and even in my own personal online bio (check out my LinkedIn page).

In the past, you’ve heard me suggest that you should talk to your customers. It’s vital to know what they think of you. If you’re doing your job well, then it’s likely you will have no shortage of people wanting to sing your praises. Get them to write something. Ask them if they’d be willing to be on camera or in front of a microphone.

It’s the closest thing you can get to buying word-of-mouth advertising.

Written by Jeff York

April 25, 2009 at 10:17 am

Cooperative Advertising

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stack-o-moneyFor many small business owners, the idea of coop advertising is foreign. Typically, it’s only something available to franchisees and those whom sell product from vendors. However, if you’ve been a long time reader of this blog, you know that as a small business owner, now is as important as ever to continue (or start) to advertise. The idea of generating a coop for advertising might be a great way for you to explore expanding your advertising opportunities.

If you’re not familiar with coop advertising, here’s how it works. I’ll explain both franchisee and vendor based coop.

Franchise owners typically have to pay to their corporation a percentage of sales. Part of that fee gets put into a pool to be used for advertising. The brand-holding corporation then can leverage the strength of those dollars to execute national campaigns, regional/localized campaigns, and secure best pricing from the media.

Vendor based coop works a little differently. A local retailer agrees to mention their vendor for a minimum of a certain percentage of the advertising message. In exchange, the vendor agrees to pay a certain percentage of the advertising costs. This helps the local business owner to defray the cost of advertising and/or do more advertising since they have more dollars to work with than their budget allocation. These additional dollars also help the business owner to use the strength of their buy to obtain best pricing from the media which can be used to maximize the campaign.

See the similarity here? In both scenarios, the business owner has the advantage of additional dollars that they didn’t have to generate themselves which puts them at the advantage when negotiating both pricing and overall campaign with the media.

Many business owners don’t know they have coop dollars available from their vendors. If you have that type of business, it’s certainly in your best interest to explore that today. Call your vendors and ask if they have any coop programs that you can participate in. Don’t think of it as asking them for money. Far from it, they want you to participate. If you sell more of their product, everyone wins.

Without metrics to back me up, I’m willing to bet that the majority of people that read this blog are not in either type of situation. Therefore, you may be asking yourself, how can I leverage the strength of coop to help my business?

Here’s where you might have to get creative. Think about your particular business. Are there similar businesses that perhaps don’t serve your region? You can advertise your goods/services regionally (instead of locally) and tag the spots with several business all participating in your coop. Maybe your business is located in a plaza or other business area. Pooling advertising together to generate foot traffic to your location helps everyone.

Not owning a franchise or having vendor based programs doesn’t mean that you can’t use the power of cooperative advertising to your benefit. You may have to get creative in how you choose partners and develop formal advertising agreements with other companies. If you’re not sure how to get started, ask your business contacts that have experience with one of these scenarios or contact a marketing company. They will be able to give you real-world expertise as to what to expect and how to execute.