Category strategies

The Media Plan That Fell Apart

I had a client once that sold furniture. They had two stores in two different cities. They hired me to help them with their advertising soon after they opened their second store.

That second store had a slight problem. It was literally located on the wrong side of town. There was a freeway that ran through town, and most of the economic growth was west of that freeway. To the east of the freeway, businesses were shutting down and moving where the action was.

You know the first rule of real estate? Location, location, location! This store didn’t have it. Very few people drove by their location. That’s a problem. Because few people travelled east of the freeway, the people of that city didn’t know there was a new furniture store in town.

That’s where I came in.

I recommended a two-pronged approach: cable television to show people their product, and billboards to direct people to their store.

They sold really nice furniture, and people needed to see that. People also needed to know that they were not very far away even though they were on “the road less travelled.”

They didn’t have a huge budget, and I was an unknown element to them. So we started off lightly by going in with cable with the understanding that billboards would be added later if they saw results.

And results they got. After about a year, we added billboards to the mix. One billboard in particular was in a great location on the freeway south of town — the majority of residents worked and shopped south of town, so everyone saw that billboard when they drove home on a daily basis.

Then things really started to take off.  Sales were way up. Things were good. Then it happened.

The client was spending a lot on advertising. They needed to because there was no benefit from their lousy location. But still, their other store, located in a different city, didn’t have to spend as much on advertising. Never mind that the other store had a fantastic location.

Anyway, they decided to run a test to see which ads were working and which ads were not. That’s not a bad thing, but they never consulted with me and ended up going about it all wrong.

They decided to ask each customer at the time of purchase one question: “Which ad of ours brought you to our store?”

Note that they didn’t ask where the customer sees their ads.

The problem with their question is that the customer isn’t going to know which ad they responded to. The fact is that the customer is responding to all of the ads they’ve seen from that client. The cable ads convinced them that the quality and selection was worth looking into. The billboards reminded them that the client was close by, just a little east of the freeway.

So how did their customers answer the question? Which ad did they mention?

One billboard overwhelmingly led the poll. You got it: the billboard south of town that everyone had to drive past every single day.

So what did the client do? They cancelled all the rest of their advertising except for that one billboard.

I tried to tell them that their cable and their billboards worked together. They said that most everyone remembered that one billboard, but not their other ads. I reminded them that everyone drove past that billboard on their way to the store, so it was fresh on their minds. But they didn’t listen.

I warned them that their sales would decrease once people were no longer being shown the quality of their selection. The billboard only told people where the selection could be found. They didn’t believe me.

Several months later, the client informed me that their sales were down by an alarming amount. Interestingly, they didn’t want to re-implement their media strategy that had been working, they just wanted to change out their billboard artwork. “We must need something new up there, we don’t seem to be getting the same results we were before.”

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The Value of TOMA

You’ve heard people talk about a product’s or business’s position in the marketplace, haven’t you?  What is your business’s market position?

The holy grail of marketplace positions is “Top Of the Mind Awareness,” or TOMA for short.  What business do you think of when I say, “Hamburger?”  That business has TOMA.  When I say “furniture”, what business do you think of?  They have TOMA as well.  What is it that you sell?  Do people in your town think of you when they need what you sell?  I bet they think of someone, even if it isn’t you.

Small businesses often think that Top Of the Mind Awareness is impossible to attain for a business of their scale.  They think that they can’t compete with the big national chains.  If that is true, why bother going into business in the first place?

A small business has a unique advantage over a large regional or national chain. It doesn’t need to gain TOMA over a large geographic area, just the area it does business in.  This makes gaining Top Of the Mind Awareness in your field of business quite within reach.  Here are three easy steps to achieve TOMA in your area:

1.) Use your logo in everything — printing, publication, or advertisement.  You do have a logo, don’t you?

2.) Advertise.  Regularly. Come up with an advertising plan you can afford, a consistent message that is meaningful to your customers, and stick to it.

3.) Live up to your advertising. When a large portion of your customers do not experience what your advertising says they will experience, the word will get out fast.  People will remember you, but for all the wrong reasons.  If you say you have quality products, they’d better be.  The same goes for low prices.  If you can’t deliver it, don’t promise it in your advertising.

Do these three things on a consistent basis and the people in your area will think of you and not your competitor.  That, my friend, is an enviable market position.

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How do I advertise in a weak economy?

Times are tough, the economy uncertain.  You’re thinking of cutting costs and your advertising seems to be a logical place to start.  But is it?

It is always good to cut costs, but advertising isn’t simply a cost of doing business, it is an investment — an investment that generates a financial return in terms of sales and customers.  When less people are out buying, it is tempting to cut back on this particular investment.  However, that may not be the best move for your business.

Why, you ask?  Because even in the worst of economic times, people still purchase goods and services.  Granted, people may be more selective in what they buy, but they do not quit buying altogether.  Even during the Great Depression, our nation’s most dire economic crisis, economic activity did not cease.  People still purchased food, clothing, even cars, homes and furniture.  In fact, my grandparents bought a farm during the depression, and my grandfather wasn’t wealthy; he was a barber.

So if people are still making purchases during this time of economic uncertainty, how will they know to buy from you?  Through your advertising, of course.  Unless you’ve decided to stop advertising, then they will buy from your competitor.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t re-examine your advertising.  In fact, you may need to change your message to reflect the new buying criteria your customers may have adopted.  But when times are tough, competition for customers grows even tougher.  Your advertising is the main communication between your business and its potential customers.  Silence that communication and you will be out of sight and out of mind to those potential customers.  People out shopping will still make their purchase, however, and they will purchase from the business that is still communicating with them.  Make sure that business is you.

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Who Are You?

A common problem with small businesses, especially new ones, is that they have an identity problem.  Their business name is spelled out with a different font on every piece of print material that is printed.  Sometimes a logo is created, but it is only used when convenient.  Why is that a problem, you ask?

Imagine that you meet someone for the first time.  They are dressed rather nicely, perhaps in a suit and tie.  The next time you run into them, they are dressed as a cowboy complete with hat, boots, and spurs.  It takes you a minute to recognize them, if you recognize them at all.

A few days later, you run into this same person again, this time they are dressed as a sailor, and the next time you see them they are dressed like Napoleon.   If you manage to recognize and place this person each and every time, you would wonder what it is they do for a living.  That is not a big deal, unless this person wants to do business with you.  Would you buy something from this person?

This is the way many small businesses present themselves, with no thought to the image they project to potential customers.  By creating a different image with every piece of marketing or advertising, they never build any recognition in their marketplace.  Although this business has advertised many times to the same potential customer, that customer doesn’t recognize them.  It is sort of like signing your checks a different way every time.  You’ll have everyone wondering if you are legitimate.

The value of a logo is immeasurable.  It creates instant recognition in your marketplace.  When a potential customer sees your advertising, they immediately recognize who you are.  This consistent image or signature not only lends credibility to your business, but it creates a snowball effect in your marketing and advertising.  Every time that customer sees your ad, they become more familiar with you, and more likely to do business with you.

Have you given thought to your business’s identity?  If not, then you should.  Invest in a logo if you haven’t already.  Then use it in every sign, ad, or marketing piece.  That’s how the big boy’s grow their business, you should do the same.

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