Tag reach

Will people ignore your ad?

TechCrunch has a new article on internet advertising. It states that 43% of internet users ignore banner ads. Interestingly, other media have a much lower “ignore” rate: 14% of surveyed people say they ignore television ads, 7% for radio, and 6% ignore newspaper ads.

Much is made about how many people ignore advertising. In fact, a lot of business owners I’ve talked to use this as an excuse to cut their advertising. What surprises me is how many people don’t ignore advertising. 86% of viewers do not tune out television commercials! 57% of internet users take notice of banner ads! Now that doesn’t mean that a particular viewer or user will respond to your ad, but it does mean that they at least give you a chance to tell your story, to let them know what your small business is all about.

You’d do well to make the most of it.

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.

The Strength and Weakness of Direct Mail

A lot of the information on this site is geared to retail businesses, but what if you’re not in retail? Perhaps you offer some sort of service and your clients are other businesses. When you start thinking about how to promote your business, you’ll eventually consider direct mail.

The proponents of direct mail talk as if it is a 100% sure thing. And it sure sounds good. You buy the names and addresses of business owners who could use your product or service, and then send them a card or letter that sells them your services. Sounds great.

In fact, for a lot of business to business clients, or B2B as it’s called by some marketers*, direct mail is a good fit. But like I’ve said before, almost any medium can be effective if you combine it with a strong message and a sufficient frequency. So lets look at the strengths and weaknesses of a direct mail campaign.

The Upside

We’ve already mentioned the greatest strength of direct mail: it goes to the exact person who you want to reach. If you are targeting other businesses, it doesn’t make sense to advertise in media that goes out to just anybody. If the person who hears your message doesn’t run a business or holds a decision-making position in a business, the money spent to reach that person is wasted. You can have the best message in the world and reach that person over and over again, but it won’t matter if the person you are talking to cannot use your product or service.

Direct mail, for the most part, solves that problem. By sending your message directly to the person who can use your product (that’s why its called it direct mail, by the way), you spend your advertising dollars more efficiently. That’s a big bonus, and it is the greatest strength of direct mail.

This is where direct mail proponents begin the hard sell. You’ll hear about cost efficiencies, how inexpensive their printing services are, how each mailer can be personalized, and so forth.

So what’s the down-side?

The downside is summed up in one word: clutter. How many times have you asked your spouse, “Anything in the mail today?” I bet a lot of the times they answer, “Nothing today, just junk.”

What is “junk” mail?

Advertisements and solicitations.

Who sent it?

Businesses that decided that the most efficient way to promote their business was to buy the names and addresses of people who could use their product or service, and then send them a card or letter that sells them their product or service. In other words, your mailer.

Now do you see the problem? We get so much junk mail that we ignore it. Occasionally you’ll receive something unsolicited and you’ll say, “Hey, that’s kinda cool,” but not usually. This is why the typical direct mail campaign only has a 1% or 2% response rate. Now the savvy direct mail guru will say that problem is a result of a poor message, and they are mostly right. A strong message will get you more attention — most of the time.

You see, in a business, the person who the mail is addressed to is not always the same person who opens the mail. Often a secretary or assistant sorts through the mail, eliminates the “junk” — the stuff sent by people like you  — and the business owner or whoever only receives “the important stuff.”

If you are going to use direct mail, make sure your mailer is “the important stuff” and not the “junk.” That takes effort and homework, but if you don’t put in the effort, it’s simply waste.

(*I hate marketing-speak. Marketers and ad guys are supposed to be communicators, so why do we talk a different language than everybody else? When I see “B2B,”, I think of the B2 Bomber or I think that someone is too lazy to type. But that’s another subject.)

Quick and Inexpensive Advertising

Last week, a commenter responded to a post asking, “what are some simple ways or advertising medium that a business owner could turn to if they had to cut back [on their advertising].” Here are some concrete things you can do to promote and advertise your business at very little cost. In the long run, you’ll want to do more than this to grow your business, but if things are tight this will keep you in the game.

1. List your business with Google Places and Bing Local Listing.

According to Alexa, Google is the most visited web site in the world. Bing is Microsoft’s new search engine that launched last year and is becoming one of Google’s biggest competitors in search.

Both search engines allow you to list your business for free, although you do need to sign up for a free account with each one. If you have gmail, then you already have a Google account. If you have a Hotmail address, or a Windows Live ID, then you already have an account with Bing.

Once you’ve added your company’s information, anyone who searches for your business name and city on that site will find you at top of all the other search results.

If you have a web site, be sure to include that in your Google Places and Bing Local Listing information.

2. Start a blog and tell people about your business.

There’s lots of free blogging solutions on the web. Some of the more popular ones are WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and Posterous. You don’t need a web domain name or anything, just sign up and start writing about your business — what you do and why you are different from you competition. Don’t just write one entry. Write something at least twice a week.

If you have a web site, link to it in your blog posts and “about” page. And be sure to include your blog’s web address in your Google Places and Bing Local Listing entries.

3. Let your friends, colleagues, current and past clients know about your blog.

Don’t blast them all in a single email. Take a few minutes each day and send out a half-dozen or so emails letting those people know about your blog. If you have a Facebook account, tell about the blog in your status update. But be nice, and don’t annoy anyone as you tell them.

Everything I’ve suggested here is free — there is no cost to your business other than the time it takes to do it. You’ll want to move on to other forms of advertising as your business picks up, but in the meantime you are still promoting your business.

Oh, I almost forgot. All the other things I’ve said about advertising still apply.

You’re looking at today’s yellowpages

When was the last time you picked up the phone book?

Now when was the last time you googled a business name to find their phone number?

Last year, I scaled back one of my client’s YellowPages spending. We dropped all of their ads in every category, opting for bold listings instead. The client told me yesterday that they haven’t noticed any change in traffic. Earlier this year, we launched their web site. Business is picking up.

It used to be that if you weren’t in the YellowPages, no one would find you. Now, if you don’t have some sort of web presence, no one will find you.

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.

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 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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