Sunday, June 1, 2008

Specialty Advertising

When we hear "advertising" most of us think of the big three - newspaper, radio, or TV. There are many ways, beyond these big three, to advertise our products and services. Some are creative and effective, and some, which I call "junk advertising," are profitable only to those selling them.

In this article, you will learn how to evaluate and protect yourself from falling in the junk advertising trap.

Junk advertising takes as many different forms as there are people to think them up. This type of advertising may include such things as restaurant place-mats, signs in bathrooms or business entryways, event posters and public awareness campaigns and specialty advertising. Specialty advertising refers to imprinted handout items such as pens, key-chains, and a host of other such items.

About 65% of junk advertising is telemarketed. A more accurate way to look at it - 99% of any advertising or sponsorship opportunities offered you by phone (especially long distance phone) is junk advertising to be avoided. It will be extremely over-priced for what you actually get, and you will seldom notice any difference in store traffic.

The primary sales pitch for this type of advertising is exclusivity. Only one business in your category will be allowed to participate. This adds seemingly great value to the opportunity, and, at the same time, a sense of urgency. You must act before your competitor takes your spot.

In reality, being exclusive is of no great value. What it does is take your focus off the most important issue - like who will ever even SEE the ad anyway. And of those few that do, what are the odds they are interested in what you have to offer at that very moment of impact.

The best strategy with any such offer is to establish a strict policy. Never buy any of these "opportunities" within 24 hours of first contact.

No matter how good it sounds!

Tell them you have to discuss it with your partner. It will give you the time to evaluate the offer much more objectively without the emotional involvement. Emotion has no place in investing your money wisely.

Event posters and other sponsorship advertising are strictly a donation and should be shown in your books as such. Otherwise it will be difficult to evaluate what you spent on real advertising and the benefit you received. If you need to trim your budget next year, you will not be trimming what is actually valuable to you.

Most event posters today will have more sponsor ads on them than information about the event. The posters are placed in very limited locations. The people that actually do read them are looking for information about the event and could care less about who is helping to pay for the poster. Strictly speaking, the event poster has very little value to the public and a lot less value to you. They are primarily a fund raising scheme. At least Girl Scout Cookies give you some value for your donation.

Many local, state, and national organizations and charities will ask you to run sponsor ads in their publications. Perhaps you may be asked to place a sign in a local sports venue. Even local newspaper, radio, and TV will contact you about sponsoring different local events or public awareness campaigns.

From an advertising standpoint, this is all junk advertising.

Specialty advertising has a lot of perceived value and is very appealing to the business owner. Handing out items with your name on them can really give you a self-esteem boost.

But think about it. You probably have a drawer full of pens, key-chains, refrigerator magnets, and ball caps from other businesses that you will never look at or use - and will eventually be thrown away. Out of sight, out of mind. Most people will never wear an item with a business name unless it is their business - or a socially popular logo such as Coke. It is not a bad idea for your employees to wear such items, but that should be the extent of your investment in imprinted clothing. And even then, very few employees like to wear those items in public, so the real advertising value is very little.

Here are some tips that will save you a lot of money and grief.

1. If you want imprinted items to give away, make sure the items are directly related to your business and are useful for the recipient. If not, then do not waste your money. One drycleaner gave away a convenient lint remover that could be carried in the pocket or purse.

2. Make sure to keep donations and advertising separated. Donating to local groups is a good idea, but only donate to those events and organizations that you have a strong interest in, your customers are involved in or has some relationship to your business. For example, if you sell sports equipment, supporting the local softball teams will be pure gold for you.

3. Once you buy a sponsorship, keep in mind that you will then be a target for other organizations - and next time for the same organization. This can be a real nuisance. Sometimes I just give the organization a donation and skip the ad.

4. Make sure that any donations you make in this regard are going to benefit you on a local basis. A statewide police magazine, for example, will only be read by a dozen or two local people.

5. Never buy any "advertising" sold over the phone. If they cannot stop by and see you, it will have no value to you.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you will, as so many others have, find a lot more money in you wallet at the end of the year.

One drug store owner, in a small town of 20,000, decided to follow these suggestions for just one week. He saved over $500 from prior year. He then took the $500 and placed a half-page sale ad in the local newspaper and realized an excellent profit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Maximum Impact Media Advertising

If you sell a product or service, and want to be successful quickly, you must tell people about it through advertising and marketing.

TV, radio and newspaper are still considered the major media for effective marketing off-line.

However, a lot has changed with these top three marketing vehicles in the past 15 years.

In this article some critical changes are revealed that have occurred and how you can get the maximum impact for your advertising dollar.

Television is primarily an entertainment medium. Research shows the average person spends more time with television than with radio and newspaper combined. For many years, TV was considered the most powerful advertising choice because of the huge audience it provided. Even today, nearly everyone watches some TV every day.

There are three things you must consider before spending money on TV advertising - limited lifespan of your ad, audience fragmentation, and ad avoidance.

Keep in mind that once your ad has aired, it is gone for good. There is no way your potential customer can refer back to it. This fact makes it imperative that you run your ad many times to embed your message in the mind of the viewer. Frequency is important with any advertising, but especially broadcast.

Audience fragmentation is one of the major problems local broadcast television faces today.

At one time, a huge TV audience was split over only a few local channels. Community businesses could reach a large majority of their potential customers very quickly. Large national companies, such as Coke, only had to choose from the three major networks - ABC, CBS or NBC - to reach over 80% of the population.

Today, with cable and satellite TV, this same audience is now fragmented over 200 or more channels. The percentage of viewers on local TV has dropped dramatically. Yes you can run ads on cable and they will spread them out over ten or more channels. This shotgun advertising has not worked well for small businesses because many of these stations have only a half percent or less of the total viewers. And, what are the odds that they will be watching during the 15 or 30 seconds that your ad is presented?

Ad avoidance is also a very rapidly growing problem for TV today.

Because the public watches TV primarily for entertainment, they see advertising as an unwelcome interruption - not unlike the hated telemarketing. This was true 30 years ago but there was nothing a person could do about it except channel surf or leave the room. As you know this was, and still is, often done. Today, with TIVO, pay-per-view, public broadcast stations, and the multitude of satellite and cable channels, the public has shown a willingness to pay for reduced interruption from advertising.

Radio has similar problems. It is also primarily an entertainment medium. As such, advertising is also considered an interruption. Satellite radio is one of the fastest growing industries today primarily because people, again, are willing to pay to avoid commercials. In fact, most new cars have satellite radio built in.

Additionally, radio has evolved into an entertainment source for primarily driving, and background noise at work. If you buy any radio advertising, it should only be aired during drive time.

At home, radio use drops off. People can play CD's or listen to satellite radio. This way they can choose exactly the music or programming they prefer without commercial interruption. The radio industry understands that folks do not want to be interrupted with advertising. Many times radio stations promote themselves by offering "more music, less commercials".

Newspaperes have had their ups and downs, but have steadily maintained their local readership base and strength for local marketing. Even when radio, then TV, came on the scene, people still were loyal in reading their local newspaper.

Unlike TV and radio, advertising in a newspaper is not viewed as an interruption. In fact, one of the reasons people buy newspapers is for the advertisement content. Surveys have shown among 15% and 23% of those buying a newspaper do so primarily for the advertising.

You see, people do want to see and read advertisements. They do want to - and need to - buy products and services. They just want the ads on their terms.

TV's best day of the year is Superbowl Sunday, delivering nearly 40% of U.S. households. In striking contrast, newspapers consistently deliver well over 50% of your community households. They do it every day, 365 days a year. Now that is some serious marketing power.

Another advantage over broadcast that only newspapers can deliver is engagement of the consumer at the moment they are making a buying decision. When a person is reading your ad, it is because they choose to. At that time you have their full and focused attention. And the working life of your newspaper ad is enormous because it is physical and static. Your potential customer can refer back to it anytime they wish, or even cut it out.

You may have heard on TV or radio that newspaper subscriptions and readership are dropping. This is true. But it is not to the degree they would like you to believe.

What they do not tell you is newspaper on line versions are growing much faster than the 7% or so losses in subscriptions. In fact, you will find newspaper web sites are usually the busiest web sites in any community. Be sure you take advantage of this.

Now you can see why today's trend among business people who are in-the-know is away from broadcast and back into the old, reliable newspaper. Most all the major stores are getting back to the basics and finding the print advertising to be the best return on investment. So will you.

Newspapers, of course, should not be your only advertising medium, but it is the solid foundation on which you build an effective marketing plan in today's environment.

Marketing - Back to the Basics

Too many entrepreneurs and small businesses dive right into the thick of operations without following basic marketing principles. In business, as in most things, it pays to occasionally take a step back and evaluate the bigger picture. Drafting a very basic marketing plan can help you focus on the right activities, target the right customers and set the best prices.

The STP Process

STP is an acronym for Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. It represents the highest level of your marketing plan. Ideally, you should start this process before your product or service is ever brought to market. It can still be a worthwhile exercise for and existing product though.


Segmentation is simply a fancy way of saying that you need to identify your customer. Think of every possible customer. Now, start slicing that population into smaller, more defined segments (thus the name segmentation). It's best to start big here - for example: split individuals from businesses. Now, go into each segment and divide it further. You could split individuals further by sex, age, socio-economic status, geographic location, interests and hobbies and so on. At this point, try not to pigeon-hole yourself by prematurely selecting segments. Remember, you're trying to find meaningful groups of potential buyers that will exhibit similar buying behavior.

Your goal is to identify opportunities. Once you feel that you have subdivided the market finely enough, then you need to evaluate those segments. Try to quantify how large those segments are, how reachable they are and how unique they are from one another (i.e. is there considerable overlap from one to the next?).


The next step in the process is to look at the segments you've created and make some decisions about which segments of the market you are going to go after. One of the first decisions you will have to make is whether to target a "mass" market or instead whether your marketing efforts will be more focused. That is to say, are you going for a larger, less defined segment or a smaller more defined segment. The general trend over the last decade has been to go after more defined segments. The extreme here would be to go after a "niche" market which is just a fancy term for a highly defined, fairly small segment. The reasoning being that there will be less competition for those segments.

The segment you choose will have a profound effect on everything else you do. You need to carefully evaluate the most appropriate route for you business. When deciding between different market segments, you will want to try and identify the competition for that segment, the potential value of the segment (i.e. how large is it, how expensive will it be to reach it with advertising, etc.).


You've segmented the market and you've chosen the segment that you are going to go after. The last part of your marketing plan will help you define how you are going to "position" your product or service to your selected target market. This is where you will invoke another handy acronym called the 4P's - Product, Price, Promotion, and Place.


You need to focus your product towards your selected target. What do the people/firms in your segment want or need? If you are working with an existing product, you need to make sure it fits your intended target market. If it doesn't, can it be altered so that it does? It's critical to match the right product with the right customer.


Pricing your offering is an art. You must consider many factors, such as the stigma different price points carry - for example, being too inexpensive sends a message that your product may be junk. It's also critical to consider the competition here. It makes little sense to target the same market with a similar product at the same price as your competitors. Entire books have been written on the subject of pricing. The important thing to keep in mind is that you can't lock yourself into a cost plus profit margin way of thinking. Instead, consider the price independently at first in terms of your competition and the value your offering brings to the customer.


This is what most people think of when they hear the word marketing. As you can see though, it takes a fair amount of work before you get to this point. Promotion is simply how you intend to get the message to your customers about your offering. Will you use commercials, magazine advertisements, radio, the internet, mass mailings?


Lastly, you need to think about how you will bring your product to market. This is sometimes referred to as marketing channels. That is to say, will you sell directly to the customer or will you sell to distributors or retailers who will then sell it to customers? Where geographically will you sell your product? Will you sell entirely on-line or in a traditional brick-and-mortar location?

Bringing it all together

You probably already have some or most of your marketing plan in your head. However, following this tried-and-true process can help you formalize your marketing strategy and can help you to identify holes in your business and it sometimes can help you identify opportunities that you might not have thought to exploit.