Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Posts Tagged ‘direct mail

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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Now I’m an advertiser. What does that mean?

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This past week, I was talking with a friend whom also happens to own her own business.  Recently, she’s been thinking about putting spots on TV which she’s never done before.  One of the questions she asked me was how will that make her look.  Does being on TV make a business look “desperate?”

This is actually a very viable question and one I’ve never really considered before.  Within her business peers and competitors, she was concerned that this would impact how they would view her.  In her line of business, how she appears among her peers is important.

If she has a commercial created and puts it on the air, what does that say about her business?  What does that say about her?

Advertising means telling as large an audience as possible about you and your business.  It’s a very effective way to establish your brand and to create points of differentiation in the minds of potential customers.  Advertising means that you believe in your business enough to put marketing dollars behind it.  Since no business has 100% market share in their segment, every business can increase sales with smart marketing.

All of that said, the key has to be smart marketing.  It starts with the message.  Is it right for the medium you plan to use?  Does it exactly match the image of your business you want to portray?  If not, then you can actually damage your business by releasing that message into the public.

Let’s say you now have a perfectly crafted mass media message that will cut through the clutter.  The job is only half done.  Next is finding the right medium for delivering the message.  As I stated in my series of posts on the various mediums, there are a wide range of media to use for delivering your message:  television, radio, newspapers, Internet, direct mail, and outdoor.  Deciding which to use requires thought as to what type of audience you want to reach, the message you want to convey, and budget.  Then you have to make sure that your placement within that media works for you as well.  Is your print ad buried in the paper or did you get a good placement?  Did the TV station sell you ROS (run of schedule) and then put your spot in Jerry Springer?  Did the radio station give you first spot in break or bury you in the middle of the break?

It’s vital that you talk with a good media buyer before committing to a media plan.  Speaking with a rep from a media company will only give you the perspective of why you should advertise only on their station.  Once you’ve purchased a plan from them and started to establish yourself as an advertiser, then good reps will start to have an eye out for you on other media…and you better still be buying time/space with them.  Media buying firms have the whole picture in mind and generally can secure better rates than you can on your own.  They make their money from ad agency commissions that media companies give for placing buys with them.  If you place the buy directly, the media company keeps that commission for themselves.

The bottom line is advertising is good for your business.  If your competition is already advertising, then by not doing so you will start to lose market share.  If they are not, then you immediately place yourself above them in the public’s mind and will start to reap the benefits shortly.  You should know that by putting yourself out there as an advertiser, you should expect that other media reps will start to call on you.  It’s wise to find a good media partner (buyer or ad agency) that you are comfortable with and are confident that they have your best intentions in mind.

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