Notes from Jeff York

Small business marketing thoughts from a marketing small business owner

Posts Tagged ‘media

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.

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.

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.

Hit ’em where they are.

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boxingBesides being a marketer, I’m also a consumer. I have some value to advertisers. I have to buy things occasionally just like everyone else. And, just like everyone else, I’m susceptible to advertising messaging.

By try reaching me. I’m not easy to get a hold of.

I’m media and tech savvy. That means I’m not necessarily easy to reach via normal media channels. Typically I watch broadcasting content via TiVo or other digital delivery like iTunes or Hulu. My commute to the office in the morning is typically spent with a podcast (if I’m not conducting business by cell phone – hands free of course). Like many my age and younger, I don’t consume news via newspapers. My magazine consumption is limited to trade magazines, but I do allow myself the guilty pleasure of a Macworld subscription.

Let’s say that you have some goods or services that you want to market to me. How do you reach me or others like me? And I’m approaching 40. If you think I’m difficult, just try the current 18-34 demographic. They don’t trust standard media messaging techniques. Their interactions with any media is typically divided as this new generation is shaping up to be one of the best multi-tasking generations in history.

My original question is now expanded and is still unanswered. How do you reach people like me?

Have you researched a social media channel lately?

I’m on LinkedIn. I have email (which I bring with me everywhere in the form of a Blackberry). I listen to/watch podcasts. And I do consume some locally originated broadcast. If this doesn’t provide you with enough clues on how to reach this new media savvy and over-connected pool, you need to email me and let me set you straight.

Because if you don’t learn this today, it’s going to be too late.

Written by Jeff York

December 29, 2008 at 3:11 am

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

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

Advertising Media – Part 3: Newspapers

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One of the oldest advertising media out there is newspapers. Since the beginning of distributed printed material, newspapers have shown an ability to reach a large audience.

When newspapers first started to appear on the scene, there was very little in the way of competition for advertising dollars. If you were a business owner and wanted to advertise, you had to use newspapers to reach a wide and varied audience (aside from painting your business name on the side of a building).

Today’s advertising landscape is substantially different. With audiences for any given medium becoming more fractured and the construction of the so-called 24 hour news cycle, newspapers have not only become simply one of many advertising options, the newspapers themselves have dimished value. Today’s readership for newspapers continues to age and dwindle. People in the 25-54 demographic have become accustomed to reaching for television as a source for news. With CNN, FOX News, CNBC, and other cable news outlets, current news is available when you want it. Now that the Internet has become nearly omnipresent from our desktop computers to our handheld devices, instanteous and customized news services push content to wherever we want it, whenever we want it.

That said, newspapers have been around for a long time and as such lend a certain degree of credibility to its content. If you are considering advertising in print, you should keep the following things in mind:

  • Readership is older – if you’re hoping to reach the key 18-49 demographic with your print ad, it’s not likely to happen. If you’re looking to be in front of the aging Boomer generation, then this is a viable option.
  • Advertising is persistant – your audience can stare at your ad for as long as they want. Unlike a tv spot or a radio spot, your print ad isn’t going anywhere. If they wanted to, they could cut out your ad and save it in a scrapbook.
  • Advertising is static – you know how people are sometimes so enamored with tv spot that they saw that they go to YouTube or a similar site and sent the web address to all their friends. Doesn’t happen with print ads. Sure, there are journals with dazzling print ads, but unless you’re in the business, it’s not likely you’ll ever see one.
  • Advertising is unobtrusive – you ad will just sit there on the page. Reader’s brains have been well trained over the years to simply pass over the ads and read just the stories. When you buy advertising in newspapers, you are paying a cost relative to the readship numbers. But who’s to say that the readers are reading your ad…or even the paper itself for that matter?

Written by Jeff York

April 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Advertising Media – Part 2: Radio

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My multi-part series in advertising mediums continues this week with radio.

An older medium than television, radio is more predominant in people’s lives than they might suspect. Television offers advertisers a single daily opportunity to reach maximum audience numbers during Prime Time. Radio offers two, but only Monday through Friday. These periods are called Drive Time and represent when people are typically using radio: driving to work in the morning and from work in the afternoon/evening. During these drive time periods, advertisers can reach a large audience across many demographics by focusing their buys and maximizing promotional and/or contesting opportunities.

Outside of drive times, the demographic that uses radio changes substantially. Some people are lucky enough to be able to listen to the radio while they are at work and we are sometimes exposed to radio while in public shopping areas. However, the bulk of radio users outside of drive times are either retirees or teens. If you get the chance to read audience trend information, you will find radio formats such as oldies, talk, and top 40 will hold an audience all day long while other formats have their strong spikes during their drive times and holes elsewhere.

While the demographic composition of a television station will vary by show, in radio the “show” is the format programmed by the station. Therefore 24 hours a day/7 days a week, you can predict what kind of demographic is listening to a radio station. Exceptions might include college radio where formats change every 3 hours or so depending on the student DJ or speciality programming such as “Breakfast with the Beatles” weekend mornings on a station not typically running classic rock/oldies or the odd Jazz programming block.

One of the biggest challenges to successfully buying mass media advertising is finding a way to cut through the clutter and finding the ear of an attentive audience. Radio faces the same clutter issues (including Clear Channel despite their ill-advised Less is More initative), but also must contend with a more transitory audience than television does. The length of a show on television is 30 minutes for sitcom, 60 minutes for drama. In radio, the length of a show is only the length of a song. People are more in tune with changing between stations sooner than they are with TV.

Additional issues with constructing an effect radio message include being bound to only having access to the aural senses. Unlike television where producers can create compelling visuals to go with the audio, radio spot producers must rely in the listeners creating visuals in their mind’s eye.

It’s been my experience that purchasing radio is best done in concert with a strong television campaign. Radio can do an excellent job of reinforcing a branding message that was otherwise started. Should an advertiser be restricted to radio only, they would be well advised to talk to their local radio sales rep about finding ways of integrating their advertising messaging with DJ content and making it part of song wrap-arounds as much as possible rather than letting a traffic manager drop their spot in the middle of an extended break.

I hope this short insight into radio buying proves to be helpful to you. I’d love to hear any feedback you might have about your personal experiences in buying radio and what’s worked for you. Of course, if you need help with radio or any other kind of media buy, please give my company a call.

Written by Jeff York

April 13, 2008 at 7:57 pm