Tag frequency

Have you considered cable?

When a small business owner thinks of advertising, they often think of the newspaper. That’s understandable. The local paper traditionally has been the best place to find out what’s happening in your local area. And despite its decline, it’s still probably the best place to find local news in a small town.

But there’s another advertising venue that deserves a look: cable television. Local cable television advertising is often a very effective way to advertise. Advertising rates are typically lower than a broadcast television station and often cable is the least expensive advertising in the area, yet you have the same advantages in communicating your message as you would if you advertised on broadcast television. So let’s take a closer look.

One of the biggest advantages of television advertising is that all the ads are the same size. Your ad will be the same size as the big national chains. You can show your product or demonstrate your service, show your store or office, and really let the people in your area get to know you even if they are not currently doing business with you. Since video involves sight and sound, the viewer is more engaged with your ad, which is why television commercials are typically remembered more than other forms of advertising.

You’ll still need to say your message in a way that strikes a chord with the viewer, which is true for all your advertising. But once you have your message, the effective engagement of video can create a powerful delivery.

The second advantage of cable is the cost. While it is true that broadcast TV reaches more people than cable, it is also true that broadcast TV costs a lot more. You pay less for cable precisely because it reaches less people than broadcast TV. And you should not be basing your advertising on whether you can reach more people somewhere else, but on how much it costs to reach the people who will be seeing your advertising. The lower cost of cable means that you can build the necessary frequency at a rate you can afford.

While the cost of cable varies market to market, often it is even less expensive than newspaper or radio and carries the potential to be far more effective. Don’t rule out advertising on cable television until you’ve given it a thorough look.

Put your eggs in one basket

We’ve all heard the phrase, “don’t put your eggs in one basket.” The gist of this saying is that if all your goodies are in one place and something happens to that one place, you’ve lost everything. Its usually good advice. If all of your 401K is in one particular stock, then that stock had better do pretty well. If it tanks, then you’re through.

Diversification is almost always a good thing, except when you’re spread so thin that you don’t get much of a return anywhere.

This happens with a lot of small business advertising. They think they need to be seen and heard by everyone, so they divide their advertising budget up among a bunch of different venues. Now if your budget is pretty hefty, then there’s nothing wrong with this strategy as long as your reach and frequency are in good shape. But if you’re like a lot of small businesses and you don’t have the budget to sustain a lot of advertising, then you’re probably are going to be disappointed with the results.

It is always better to reach a fewer number of people multiple times than it is to reach a huge number of people only once. As much as you’d like to think that your product is so fabulous that every person who hears of it will immediately beat a path to your door, the truth is people need to warm up to the idea of purchasing it. During this warm up period, you need to be telling them the unique benefits of your product because they’ll need to hear it several times before they say, “You’re right, I need it!” That’s what we call frequency.

So what’s the easiest way to increase your advertising frequency without busting your small business budget? Don’t advertise everywhere, instead put all your advertising eggs in one basket. Pick one venue and advertise there regularly. You’ll reach those same readers or viewers many times, making them more familiar with your product, and hopefully making them more willing to make a purchase from you.

As long as the medium you choose has an audience, you’ll see soon see results. Assuming, of course, that your message is relevant to your customers.

You Can’t Reach Everybody

When planning your advertising, one thing that paralyzes many small businesses is that they can’t decide on where they should put their advertising dollars. There are so many places that will gladly take their money while claiming to be “#1!” in their niche, so this is understandable. Most small businesses don’t have a huge ad budget, if they have one at all, so there can’t be any waste, which causes them to hesitate and delay. They are stuck, still asking the question, “where should I advertise?”

I get asked that question all the time. I do a little research into their market, and try my best to give them an honest answer based on my experience and research. It is interesting how often I am met with the same response.

But first, the back-story

Before we get to that response, let’s set up an example. Your business sells a product that would greatly benefit if potential customers could see the product selection. If you sell jewelry or furniture, this would apply to you.

Slightly off-topic, free strategy lesson:

Everyone knows what a Ford F-150 pick-up looks like, so you can talk about it without showing it.  Everyone knows what a couch looks like, but what does your couch look like?  Same for jewelry.  One-carat diamond rings look vastly different from ring to ring.  Hmm, maybe you should show your product in your advertising.

Now back to our topic.

Your hypothetical business sells a product that could benefit from showing the product selection in your advertising. Based on your budget and your area, I recommend to you cable television.

I very often get at least one of three responses:

“But doesn’t broadcast TV reach a lot more people?”

“But not everybody has cable.”

“But a lot of people have satellite TV instead of cable in my area.”

What I would like to say is, “So?” But instead I answer a polite, “Yes, that is true, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t advertise on cable.” Why is that? Because your goal isn’t to reach everybody — no one can afford that. Your goal is to simply to reach people in a way that is affordable, effective, and productive.

Here’s an illustration

Back when I was a kid, everyone read the newspaper. However, there was usually two competing newspapers in a town, so unless you had a large enough budget to advertise in both newspapers, you had to choose one. Most people chose the newspaper with the largest subscription base, because it reached the most people. They never gave a thought to the people that read the other newspaper, whom they were not reaching with their ads.

There were businesses advertising in that smaller paper. They did it because they wanted to reach those readers. They understood that the larger paper charged more for its advertising because ads in that paper reached more people. Because the smaller paper reached a smaller number of people, the ad rates were less.

Now let me ask you something. You have one advertisement. You run that ad in both newspapers.  Which ad is more effective? If the ad is the same, then it should have the same effect on the reader regardless of which newspaper they see it in, right? So then, the businesses that only ran in the smaller paper saved money by targeting a smaller group of people.

That was back then, now newspapers are declining and are in danger of disappearing altogether.  But you still have this same situation with radio, TV, and the internet.

So where should I advertise?

There is usually more than one radio station in your area, more than one television station, and a whole world of web sites. You can’t reach everybody, but you do have to reach somebody. It is silly to base where you will advertise on how many people you won’t reach. Instead, base where you will advertise on how many people it reaches and what it costs to reach those particular people.

Here’s some truth in advertising for you: the fact is that reach, the number of people who see your ad, is seldom the problem with a business’s advertising.  More often than not, the problem is the message or the frequency (the number of times a particular person sees your ad). It really doesn’t matter if you choose TV, radio, newspaper, or the internet, as long as your message and frequency are right.

So craft a great message and run it multiple times over a period of time. You’ll see results.

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.”

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.

The Art of the Billboard

Billboards are great venues for advertising your small business.  Billboards come with built in frequency, one of the three pillars of successful advertising.  People tend to drive the same routes over and over, whether they’re going to work or to the grocery store.  A well-placed billboard will be seen multiple times by a person driving that particular route.  That’s what we call frequency, and it is one of the reasons people usually recall billboard advertising better than other forms of print advertising.

Billboard artwork can be a little tricky to pull off successfully.  You see, in order for any advertisement to be effective, it must be noticed and understood, and this is where many billboards fail.

A billboard is typically seen while driving a car.  You are literally flying past the advertisement at 70 mph, or whatever the speed limit is where a particular billboard is located.  The billboard industry likes to say a person has 8 seconds to read a billboard, but I think it is more like 5 seconds, and even that is under ideal circumstances.  In order for a billboard to be effective, it must be seen and understood in 5 seconds or less!

There are lots of ways to effectively communicate with a billboard in 5 seconds, but there are many more ways to sink that effort.  The three most common ways to make an ineffective billboard are small type, too much information, and low-contrast color schemes.

You’d think that it would be a no-brainer that you need to make the words on a billboard big enough to be seen at a distance, but I commonly see national brands putting up billboards that are difficult to read while driving past them in a car.

Small businesses are usually guilty of the trying to cram too much information onto the billboard.  A lot of times this is some sort of contact information but not always.  When was the last time you wrote down a telephone number you saw on a billboard?  There may be a few who have done it once or twice, but most people have never done it.  Not even once.  And in 5 seconds, you’re certainly not going to memorize that phone number as you drive by in your car.

Any advertisement should only have one message. If the purpose of your billboard is to remind people where you are at, then only put your location and leave out your phone number altogether.  And when you put your location, don’t put your address.  Put something readily identifiable, like the closest street intersection.  Which is a better locator:  “2378 Elm”, or “Near Elm and Polk St.”?

Low-contrast color schemes are the other big billboard killer.  What works for a newspaper or magazine ad, or even a business card, may not work for a billboard.

Billboards are seen at a distance.  It’s not unusual for a billboard to be elevated up 20 feet or more, so even if you are standing right next to the billboard structure, you will still be 20 feet or more away from the ad copy.  The road usually will be even further away.  If the text, pictures and background are not clearly distinguishable from each other, then you won’t be able to read the billboard at a distance, and it will certainly not be understandable in 5 seconds or less.

So if your going to advertise on a billboard, make sure the print is large enough to be read at a distance, there’s not too much information and clutter, and it has a high-contrast color design.  Then you’ll have a good start on having an effective billboard.

The Secret Formula for Successful Advertising

Here is the question most clients ask me: “What is the formula for advertising?  For each dollar spent on advertising, what percentage increase will I see in revenue?”

Unfortunately, there is no such formula.  If there was, believe me, it would not be a secret.  Every business school in the world would teach it, just like they teach other business theories.  If it were something that was recently discovered, the guy who discovered it would write a book and be making a mint off of it right now.  Sorry, such a formula does not exist.

But that doesn’t mean advertising is some sort of voodoo that has no basis in science or human nature.  In fact, there are three aspects to any form of advertising, and when all three are strongly in place, your advertising works.  Lets look at them.

The 3 Pillars of Advertising

These three “pillars” of advertising are 1.) the message you are giving, 2.) the number of people that are given the message, and 3.) the number of times those same people are given that same message.  All three pillars play an integral role in the success of your advertising and the success of your business, and if any one of three is weak or missing, then your advertising will be a costly disappointment.

Most of the ad sales people you will deal with will refer to #2 and #3 as “reach and frequency,” and will provide those numbers to you when they submit a proposal.  Notice that they only give you two of the three pillars; that’s because those two pillars, reach and frequency, are the only two they can control.  Media — TV, cable, radio, newspaper, billboards, even the internet — gives you people, specifically the people watching, reading, or engaging in that media.  The number of people watching or reading that media is your reach.  The number of ads you place with that media helps determine your frequency, or how many times those same people will get your message.

Those three elements or pillars — message, reach, and frequency — are the three things that make or break your advertising.  We will go more into each one of these Pillars of Advertising in future posts, but lets briefly look at what each pillar does and how they interact.

The Message

Your message is the first pillar.  No one will listen to your message unless it strikes some chord within them and they say, “yeah, I get that.”  Your message is very important.  If the message is true, and the message matters to the person hearing it, then you’re off to a good start.

Reach

The second pillar is reach, or the number of people that are given your message.   What is the right number? Well, that depends on your business.  A custom home builder who only needs to build 10 homes a year to be profitable only needs ten people to respond to his message each year.  Of course, not everyone whom he gives his message to will enlist his services, so he needs to reach more than that, but you get the picture.  A coffee shop or a hardware store needs to sell a whole lot more items to be profitable, so they will need to reach a lot more people.

Frequency

The third pillar is frequency, or the number of times the same set of people receive your message.  Have you ever found yourself having to repeat something that you have already said to someone?  You said it to them once, but then they forgot so you had to tell them again.  Advertising is like that.  People will forget you and your message if you don’t repeat it to them.  That is why frequency is important.  How often do you have to repeat it ?  Well, that depends on the person you are giving the message to.  Some personality types respond immediately the first time they see or hear something, but most personality types have to see or hear something several times before they make a decision.  Experienced sales people expect to talk to a person 5 or 6 times before they make a sale.  You should expect the same.

So there’s a quick overview of what I call the Three Pillars of Advertising.  You get these three things right, you’ll have a successful ad campaign and higher sales revenue.  We’ll talk more about these pillars in future posts so you can better understand how to put together effective advertising.

Oh, and one other thing:  notice that we didn’t mention a budget even once.  That’s because advertising doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.

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