As business owners or marketing directors, we all know about the need to advertise effectively. We also know the need to be cautious and avoid wasting time, money and resources. When it comes to advertising, the question of whether your strategy is effective or a waste is often unclear.
Finding out whether you’re building your business or helping throw it away isn’t always easy to figure out. In fact, most small business owners will tell you that they either spent far too long and far too much on certain methods of advertising and not nearly enough on others that never had a chance to get off the ground. Without pretending to be Miss Cleo, here are some tips that can help you decide whether your hard earned dollars are being invested in growth or are simply being buried in the rarest form of manure, the unfertile variety.
(You’d be surprised how many try and still, no one’s biting).
One most obvious example of what not to do, this principle doesn’t stop day care center after day care center from advertising in papers primarily distributed and read in senior communities. Now sure, do many seniors enjoy tremendous influence on their children, the parents of their grandkids? Certainly! And don’t many younger people read these papers as well? Yes. And aren’t many grandparents regular care givers of their toddler grandchildren? Most definitely, but the day care center would be much better off using these advertising dollars to directly target those who will most likely need their services. You see, in spite of all the above, it remains obvious that the greatest number of decision makers with regard to the day care placement of a two year old are young adult parents and it’s equally obvious that these people are generally not being hit when advertising in papers that are largely read by seniors. At the same time, these papers are a treasure waiting to be uncovered for people in the medical equipment field, those offering home care and other services needed by the largest part of their readership.
But, no one would do something like advertise a day care in a seniors’ newspaper, right? Not so. Open up any paper and you will see tons of misplaced ads, ads that show that no demographic analysis was done. Restaurants are often advertised in papers with little circulation in their immediate area or target market and store sales are advertised in papers far removed from their area. Even when the right newspaper to advertise in is chosen, business owners often choose the wrong section to save on advertising costs. In the end, they throw out $500 instead of investing a bit more.
Sometimes business owners choose the right paper and section to advertise in. They do it once and then never again. If their children copied their method when learning to ride a bike, or later when driving a car, we’d have a nation of lifelong pedestrians. On average it takes seven times for a potential customer to react to advertising. Chances are that your prospect won’t see your ad each time, but after 7 placements you should have a good idea as to whether the venue you chose to advertise in has any potential.
Conventional advertising should net you customers who need or are interested in your products or services, so long as you target them appropriately. But people without an earlier interest in what you offer would be less inclined to respond to standard ads. On the other hand, a compelling slogan or even an original design may attract the attention of new prospects whose interest in your business was previously very limited. Originality, when tasteful, can’t hurt and will often help.
• Analyze your core demographics. - Who are most likely to need your services? This can be broken down by age, profession, geographic area or income level, depending on your type of business. Knowing how to break this down is crucial and can be done by answering two simple questions: a) Who are my current customers (ex. teachers, seniors, teens, middle aged elephants with bad hairdos, etc.)? b) What other market might I be able to attract? Knowing the answers to these will show you who to target.
• Now, find out how to target them – Figure out where your target prospects may most likely see your ad. For example, if your prospects are seniors in the a certain city find out what papers they are most likely to read, see if you can leave ads in their buildings or other places they may visit regularly. Frequently visited websites that cater to a niche audience that fit your target demographic are also excellent resources.
• Discard ineffective methods, but not effective ones. - Know the difference between the two. If your ideal newspaper yields no results, wait 7 weeks before deciding whether to end it.
• Analyze and reanalyze your strategy – Have your demographics changed? Are there new venues with which to target demographics? Are there services or products you can offer that will either be a natural fit with your existing customer and prospect base (the demographics you currently target) or can serve to expand your base and demographics?
Lastly, here are some general tips:
• Postcards are inexpensive ways of targeting a geographic region or select clients, especially with a mass mailing permit, available at any post office. Larger than normal sizes work best. Make sure they are mailed to the demographics that best fit your needs.
• Networking groups are often great sources for leads. Go once to make sure it’s a good group for you. If it is, continue going. Even if the leads don’t come automatically if you see potential there, give it time.
• Cable TV is often much more cost effective to advertise with than Network TV.
• Ask friends, family and current clients/customers for referrals. Offer incentives for them to refer business (see last week’s article on turning your customer base into a referral network).
• If the demographic is right for you, look into cost effective ways of advertising on public transit. Thousands of people pass by your ad each day. If the demographic is right, do it.
Postelnik also sits on the Board of Advisors of the United Autism Foundation, where he took the lead role in formulating plans for the first US dental center for special needs children and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Entrepreneurs in South Florida. He more needed advice and updates to small business owners see his business site, www.BusinessGrowthTrends.com.
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