When choosing the advertising vehicle or vehicles that will best serve your purposes, there are three factors you need to consider: 1) your target market, 2) your product, and 3) your advertising budget. Unfortunately, far too many decision makers find themselves seduced by marketing campaign presentations that are appealing to the business owner, yet they utterly fail to attract the attention of, much less impress, potential customers and drive sales. In some cases, such disappointing results leave the business owner cynical about the value of advertising as a whole; after all, if a campaign developed by seasoned professionals doesn’t work… In truth, however, the failure is not the fault of marketing as a whole, but rather of a lack of insight into the desires of that target market, and the failure to appeal to those desires. In order to develop and implement an effective ad campaign, both the message and the medium must maintain a clear and objective view of those three factors and concentrate their energies upon them. And no matter what advertising vehicle or vehicles you select, you will need to make certain that the cost doesn’t cut so deeply into your budget that your profitability is compromised.
- Know your target market, and the best (and cheapest) way to reach them If you can identify your ideal customer, it becomes much easier to figure out how to reach him or her. If your customer is a younger individual, say between the ages of 18 and 35, he or she has likely been heavily exposed to the Internet, and relies upon that medium for a great deal of information. This individual will be most likely to run a web search to find a service provider or product retailer, and to seek information and feedback on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin. Or customer review sites such as Yelp. Your most effective medium for reaching this customer would be by establishing an online presence, or increasing and more accurately focusing your existing presence. Beyond having your own professional-looking and information-rich website, you should consider establishing Facebook, Linkedin, Yelp, and Twitter accounts, and participating on (and promoting) them. You will also need to ensure that people searching for products and services like yours will actually be aware of your web presence. With the existence of literally billions of websites active on the Internet, a number that increases dramatically every day, a single website is a lot like a Yellow Pages ad, albeit a Yellow Pages that contains every listing on earth, and not in any discernable order or even alphabetized. To use yet another simile, finding a specific website isn’t so much like finding a needle in a haystack as it is like finding a specific grain of sand somewhere in the Sahara Desert. Thankfully, there are methods by which a specific website can be made easier to find, one of the most prominent being Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. There are many ways to approach SEO, from learning the basics and doing it yourself to retaining the services of one of the many SEO companies competing for your dollars. One common-sense criterion for sorting through the many companies would be (obviously) to run a search on multiple search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) for SEO services. It stands to reason that the ones that are most effective (or who had paid Google for a high ranking) would appear at or near the top of most searches. From those, you can seek out customer feedback, and test how effective they are by searching yourself for one of their clients’ sites, using common search terms and keywords. Naturally, when evaluating a SEO service, you will need to inquire into their fee structure, and determine whether their fees are within your budget. On the other hand, if your ideal customer is much older, he or she might not be as prone to seek information online. For such people, Yellow Pages listings, newspaper ads, and magazine ads and articles might be more effective. As with the web pages discussed above, the more information you provide your prospective customer, and the more you position your company as a valued resource rather than merely a purveyor of goods and services, the more likely the customer will come to you when ready to make a purchase. Broadcast media such as television and radio can reach a huge audience very quickly, and for companies that depend upon high volume/ high margin sales, these vehicles can be very effective at reaching the desired audience. Obviously, the high cost and temporary nature of broadcast media exposure does limit its viability somewhat, especially where a smaller company with a limited budget is concerned. Finally, there is the option of generating print and electronic mailout campaigns, whether to closely-targeted demographics or broader-scope mass mailings.
- Your product must be more than a product No matter what form of advertising is being considered, it is essential for the advertiser to remember that, while the final decision to purchase might be based in logic, the desire to purchase is emotionally, rather than intellectually driven. As such, the consumer looks not so much to have a pragmatic need fulfilled as to have an appetite sated. The prospective customer might not even be aware of the underlying emotional cravings that drive his or her purchases, but it is essential for the retailer or service provider to not only be aware of those cravings, but to consciously address them and offer what is necessary to satiate the hungers. You need look no further than the ongoing “burger wars” to realize that what is being sold is not merely a product, but an identity to which the customer can relate. Where McDonald’s™ focuses its marketing upon preadolescent teens and the hip younger adults, Jack in the Box™ gears its ads to appeal to the somewhat more sophisticated tastes of the “baby boomers.” Both serve similar products, yet their respective marketing campaigns are dramatically different, simply because they are intended to address something beyond the physical hungers their products satisfy.
- Your marketing efforts must be effective, while not eating too deeply into your profits Too many business owners rush into marketing campaigns that they really can’t afford, or that are so expensive that there is little profit left after the sales, even with improvements in the volume of those sales. It is usually best to start your marketing campaign rather conservatively, keeping close track of what is working and what isn’t, and tracking how much the cost of the campaign affects the per-sale profit, as well as the bottom line. When you find something that is affordable and successfully drives more sales, use it more. When a marketing effort ends up costing a lot, but doesn’t perform, don’t be afraid to switch to something else. And no matter what, keep close track of your marketing expenses, and the effect they’re having on your bottom line. Ultimately, the success of any advertising campaign is dependent upon many variables. By being as objective and well-informed about who your customers are, what they really want, and how what you offer can best appeal to them, you can greatly improve the chances that your advertising dollars will be returned via significant increase in your customer base and the resulting sales. Choose the right medium for the market and product, and deliver the right message, while still staying within your budgetary restraints, and your advertising efforts will be successful. Fall short in any of these areas, and you’ll only be wasting your money, and possibly turning potential customers away in the process. And those are the two things no business owner can afford to do.