(By Bob McCurdy) This past week I engaged a local advertiser on the phone who’s been struggling. She said she had previously tried some print advertising but found it ineffective. After having her discuss her business and challenges, I touched on a few marketing tenets to assist her in guiding any future marketing decisions. It was a good, wide-ranging give-and-take that I believe will pay off for both of us. What follows summarizes some of the marketing tenets I touched upon with her:
– Keep in mind, most advertising serves to neutralize the impact of the competition’s advertising and to protect a business from ongoing competitive marketing assaults. Advertising ensures the “worst case” will be a “draw,” with the opportunity to win and win big with the proper creative.
– Advertising needs to be viewed as a cost of doing business the same way paying the electric bill is. Your challenge is to keep as many of your current customers, while poaching the competition’s. You don’t compete in a vacuum.
– As crazy as it might sound, advertising can even have done its job when your sales are flat. “Flat” sales doesn’t mean that advertising had no impact. It could well have insulated your business from competitive poaching, as well as poached new customers. So it is entirely likely that without advertising and the purchases of poached and retained customers, your sales would have declined.
– It’s the law of the jungle. Never lose sight of the fact that your competition has to steal your customers to grow. Business is generally a zero sum game — a limited number of consumers in need of what you are selling at any given time. You need to effectively and consistently communicate why you are the better alternative.
– Advertising builds up “mental availability” which nudges a consumer toward your business. A business that’s difficult to remember or never been heard of, stays forgotten or lost.
– If you don’t “invite them in,” the chances of them visiting are slim. You have to give them a reason to visit. Do you do anything for no reason? The first place to look for growth barriers is your marketing strategy or, in your case, the lack thereof.
– Advertising’s impact doesn’t end immediately when the flight ends. Advertising does have “carryover” impact that will last beyond your next campaign. Also remember, it takes time. When you’ve been “dark” as you’ve been, it will take time to generate results. It’s not like turning on the lights.
– Your larger, more established competition two miles away currently enjoys a threefold advantage over you:
a) “Legacy” advertising advantage (years of accrued ad spend);
b) “Penetration” advantage (many customers over the years);
c) “Loyalty” advantage (likely many satisfied customers — otherwise they would not still be in business).
This requires you, the “challenger,” to be more aggressive and nimble, commanding a greater share-of-voice, at least initially, to stand apart. Keep this in mind when developing an ad budget.
– Whatever marketing you choose to do, figure out a way to do it consistently. Advertising is like building a large snowball. When you stop building it, it soon begins to melt. When you stop advertising, sales too begin to eventually melt away, melting even faster when your competition two miles down the street is advertising more aggressively.
– The future is not an automatic extension of the past. Your current customer’s lives and needs will change. To grow, you need to build upon your current customer base, which requires exposing new consumers to your business. Focusing only current customers via your current loyalty program will hem yourself into a shrinking customer base. The key is to broaden your “reach” to include all current “category” buyers and even non-category buyers, as the “double jeopardy” law of marketing states that most growth depends on reaching light and non-customers.
– Don’t over-target. A certain amount of targeting is good but targeting more tightly than all existing customers and category buyers is risky.
– When choosing media be careful. Projecting your own media habits upon your customers is what psychologists term a “false consensus” effect. It’s the idea that we over-estimate how much others share our beliefs and behaviors. This projection bias is dangerous to the health of any ad campaign as it leads to designing campaigns that appeals to you or your family and not the customer.
– Choose your target — inclusively. A heavy reliance on gender-based stereotypes is causing missed connections with potential customers. A recent example of an advertiser understanding this and acting on it is Jim Beam whiskey, which is currently and counter-intuitively targeting women.
It was a productive topline marketing conversation with a receptive retailer. Our dialogue and sales process have begun and been enhanced by hopefully providing some initial marketing insights/value, while differentiating ourselves from the competition. This individual clearly needs guidance and I will be doing our best to provide her with sound marketing coaching.
Good selling is never wasted.
Bob McCurdy is Vice President of Sales for the Beasley Media Group and can be reached at [email protected]