Category strategies

Put your best foot forward

You might remember this billboard that featured a very unappetizing burger as the main focal point. To show how it should be done, here is a video from McDonald’s that shows how they make their food look so appetizing. A small business probably won’t go to such measures, but the same care should be taken for your marketing’s product shots, even if it is on a much smaller scale. It might take more time and add a bit more cost than simply slapping it on a table and taking a snapshot, but your product will be shown in its best light. And that will result in a far more effective advertisement.


In all your seeking, get wisdom

Ship sailing on oceanYou might remember the time I told you about the small business that ruined its advertising. I recently found out that the company is closing the doors on the store in question.

It could be the economy, because the economy is tough right now. But if that small business had followed through on its advertising strategy, they would have been in a stronger position to weather this economic environment. They could not be dissuaded from the naive assumption that they didn’t need to communicate with their potential customers.

Treat your advertising as an investment. Start out conservatively and branch out slowly as you build your advertising presence. And don’t be afraid to consult with an advertising professional to get sound advice.

I bet you have an accountant and some sort of financial advisor. Treat your advertising and marketing investment the same way.


A little help for the upcoming year

Rising ProfitsAs a small business owner, you know that you need to sit down at some point and think long term about your business and its advertising. While I can’t help you set goals for your business, I can offer a little guidance on your advertising and marketing. Here are six past articles from this blog that might help you as you think through and strategize your marketing and advertising for the upcoming year. Click on the title heading and the article will open in a new window.

What do you really sell?

All good strategy’s start by getting down to the basics. You might think you sell furniture, but your customer may be looking for a lot more than that.

How do your customers identify you?

Does your logo, business cards and other advertising and marketing truly reflect the work that you do?

Are you living up to your advertising?

You can say all the good things you want, but if those things aren’t true then you’re going to lose customers instead of gain them.

Make your message strike a chord.

What makes an ad stand out? Its message sticks with you long after you’ve moved on to other things.

The Secret Formula for Successful Advertising.

This was the first post ever published on this blog. It gives a simple explanation of how advertising works.

What are you saying?

Here’s two simple rules to making an effective advertisement.

There’s a lot of food for thought there. I hope this will help you and your small business get off to a good start this upcoming year.


spam irony

No Spam!I get lots of comment spam. As readers, you don’t see it because it gets filtered and eventually deleted. But every now and then one catches my eye because of the complete idiocy of the attempt at advertising. Here’s one such example:

Hi, i simply needed to come here to inform you of a super inexpensive service that posts comments like this on millions of WordPress blogs. Exactly why you might ask, well you may wish to sell something and target webmasters or merely just increase the quantity of backlinks your website has which will improve your Google rankins which will then bring your website much more visitors and cash. Take a quick take a look at this website for much more info. <*link removed*>

So… a spam comment that tells me how I can post comment spam on other people’s blogs. Oh, the irony!

It’s stuff like this that gives advertising a bad name. How you advertise says a lot about who you are.


What’s out of place in your advertising?

Seth Godin has a great article on hiring an architect. Only he’s not talking about architects for buildings, he’s talking about an architect for your business. Here’s my favorite quote:

I’m talking about intentionally building a structure and a strategy and a position, not focusing your energy on the mechanics, because mechanics alone are insufficient. Just as you can’t build a class A office building with nothing but a skilled carpenter, you can’t build a business for the ages that merely puts widgets into boxes.

My friend Jerry calls these people corporate chiropractors. They don’t do surgery, they realign and recognize what’s out of place.

It’s an excellent read. Go take a look and ask yourself, “does my advertising or marketing need an architect?”


Doing it right

Since the last post showcased an ad that didn’t quite send the right message, I thought I’d show and example of a local business that seems to be on the right track as far as their advertising goes.

A few months ago I started noticing some billboards going up for a local chiropractic clinic. (Full disclosure: they are not a client, and I have never talked with them about their advertising.)

SandStone Chiropractic Billboard

It’s a nice bulletin and you can clearly read it from a distance. Other than the phone number and location, it’s is almost as if they followed The Art of the Billboard to a tee. I like it when someone does something right, so even though they are not a client I got a feeling of satisfaction from knowing that someone else “got it.”

I was even more pleased when I drove past their location one Sunday and saw their sign out front.

SandStone exterior sign

They actually use their logo on their storefront sign! You would be surprised at how many small businesses don’t do that. This practitioner’s identity is further reinforced by the use of color; the color of the storefront lettering is similar to the billboard’s background color. Maybe they’ve read Who Are You?

Then one day I am thumbing through a magazine to verify that a client’s ad had ran correctly, and what do I find? You guessed it, an ad for SandStone Chiropractic.

SandStone Magazine Ad

I was thrilled. Not only does the ad look good, I immediately recognized it as being SandStone Chiropractic and mentally connected it with the billboards and the storefront. That’s one of the things you want to accomplish with your advertising, a coherent identity.

I am a little disappointed with the lettering for the business’s name; it is not the same font used in the billboards or the storefront sign. The art-deco look of the magazine lettering is not nearly as professional looking as the serif font used in the other ads. However, because the visuals are almost identical to the billboards (color scheme, practitioner’s photo), the connection is still made and the ad works.

Interestingly, the lettering appears to be the same font used for the logo icon, which is a stylized SSC. Perhaps this was the original logo and it was changed either for ease of reading or to perhaps give a more professional appearance? It might be interesting to learn how this logo was developed.

Despite the logo/lettering issue with the magazine ad, this appears to be a strong advertising campaign for a local business. I wish them great success!


Why now is the time to start your marketing strategy

If you taken the advice found here in this blog, you’re probably already pretty far into the process of planning and implementing your marketing and advertising strategies. If you haven’t started, I’d like to give you one good reason why you should start today. The reason is this: the sooner you start, the less it will cost. Let’s take a look at why that is.

Controlling Costs

Planning and preparation are the key to containing the cost of any project. The same holds true for advertising and marketing.

Marketing and advertising are collaborative endeavors. You’ll need to collaborate with someone else to fulfill your advertising and marketing. That someone else may be a graphic designer, a web expert, a copywriter, a production company, or it may be the newspaper or radio station that is running your ad, but you will be enlisting someone else’s help at some point in order to implement and fulfill your marketing or advertising.

What does this collaboration have to do with planning, preparation, and controlling costs? Glad you asked! What this means is that you will need to give your collaborators, the people you are working with to implement your promotional strategies, time to to plan and prepare your ads, web sites, or media plans. The less time you give them, the higher your costs will be. Let me illustrate.

Three Things

Whenever you are buying something, be it shoes, furniture or whatever, there are three features you that you want: you want it to be of high quality, you want it quickly, and you want it to be as inexpensive as possible. Now if you are dealing with a commodity, all three of those things may be possible. But marketing and advertising are not a commodity, they are custom-created for your product or service. You can’t pick an ad off the rack and run it, you must have something custom-tailored to your specific needs. Since marketing and advertising are essentially custom items, it means that you can’t have all three of our desired features. Looking at the three features, high quality, quick, and inexpensive, you can only have two.

Why only two?

You can have fantastic quality and get it quick, but it won’t be inexpensive. The reason is that all the planning, preparation and effort that your custom solution requires must be compressed into a short time frame. For your collaborator, that means long hours with few breaks, overtime charges, and giving other client’s projects a push to accommodate your project. Those other clients won’t like the delay in their schedules, and the only thing that makes risking their displeasure worthwhile is the higher rate you’ll be paying to expedite your project. High quality, quick turnaround, but expensive.

If you wait until Thanksgiving to plan your Christmas advertising and you want great results, this is where you’ll find yourself.

Or, you can have your marketing or advertising implemented quickly and inexpensively, but it won’t be of high quality. All products or services take a certain amount of time to complete, and custom items that cannot be mass produced take even more time. Your ads or media plans will take time to put together. The only way to push it out the door quickly without added expense is to cut corners on the quality. Fast and inexpensive, but it will be neither fantastic nor effective.

This is what most small businesses settle for in their advertising and marketing. They wait until the last minute, then rush through a half-thought out media buy, create a half-baked ad, and come away wondering why their advertising didn’t give them the results they were expecting. The money they spent on advertising ends up being a complete and expensive loss.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Better Choice

You can get high quality and have it relatively inexpensive. The key is to give your collaborators the time to do their thing. When your ad executive, graphic designer, or copywriter are given the time it takes to put together a high-quality, fantastic campaign, you won’t incur overtime charges and rush fees. You’ll get to hear the reasons for their choices and the justifications for their recommendations, and you’ll have the time to think those things over to see if they truly accomplish the goals you have set for your advertising and marketing. Fantastic and inexpensive, but it won’t be quick.

Start now, so you and your marketing and advertising partners will have the necessary time to plan and implement your creative and media planning. You’ll be far better pleased with the results.


Apple: a lesson in branding

We’ve talked about branding a lot on these pages. Here’s a video of Steve Jobs introducing Apple’s “Think Different” advertising campaign which launched in 1997. He gives one of the best explanations of what a brand is that I’ve ever heard.

Notice that although he talks about their product and how he believes it’s the best available, he recognizes that a brand is more than what you sell, it’s what you stand for. So they set out to define what they stand for and distill it down to a simple message. Jobs gives a well thought out look at branding a business, and the result is a great example of how a fresh message that resonates with its audience can reinvigorate a business.

And, it’s something that you can do for your small business. Simply ask yourself what you really sell and begin to tell people in a way that’s easy to understand.

(Hat-tip to Jason Kottke)


The small-store vibe of the neighborhood grocer

Fortune has an interesting article about Trader Joe’s, and it has a lot of food for thought for local small businesses. A lot of times small businesses try to make themselves look big. I think this is a mistake. For one thing, it’s deceptive, and if you are willing to mislead people on that point, then they’ll assume you’ll mislead them in other areas as well.

But it is a mistake for another reason as well: There are a lot of consumers who want to do business with small businesses and retailers. If you are pretending to be a large company when you’re not, then you’re sending the wrong message to these potential customers.

Trader Joe’s is fueling its growth by looking small. Here’s a quote from the Fortune article:

[I]t must find a way to maintain its small-store vibe with customers. ‘They see themselves as a national chain of neighborhood specialty grocery stores,’ says Mark Mallinger, a Pepperdine University professor who has done research for the company. ‘It means you want to create an image of mom and pop as you grow.’

If you’re a small business, embrace that fact and let your advertising and marketing speak the truth.


Advertising Gone Wild

I’ve been getting a lot of spam in the comments lately. Fortunately I use Akismet on this site and it catches the spam quite nicely so you all don’t have to be subjected to it. Being in advertising, I especially hate spam. You see, spam is advertising. Bad advertising. It’s every bad advertising practice pressed into one slimy mass.

How you advertise says a whole lot about how you do business and what you think of your customer. Spam isn’t limited to the internet. It’s served up in every ad that screams for attention but offers no real information. It’s in every ad that promises something that the business owner has no intention of delivering. Any time a business wants your money but doesn’t really care about delivering something of value, then its advertising is spam.

Advertising is not about who can speak the loudest or the longest, it’s about getting useful information to people who would benefit from your product or service. Ideally, advertising is the introduction that develops into a long lasting business relationship.

What does your advertising say about you?


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