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[March 13, 2003]

Customer Catcher™

By Martin Wales

Is Your Advertising Making You Money?

Advertising is an investment. Like your financial investments, there is risk. It can be a way for you to make more money or just to BURN it. Think of your company’s last ad, or campaign, and ask yourself honestly what happened to your investment -- your cash? Sadly, many don’t even ask the question and most don’t have a clue.

Advertising is risky for several reasons. Some companies:

  • Invest a relatively large amount of money in a single marketing tactic;
  • Focus on the product instead of the problem it solves for the prospect;
  • Put out a “branding” campaign when they’re unknown, really too small and don’t have a Fortune 50 budget to sustain it;
  • Target too small a segment of their intended market with a specific message;
  • Reach too broad a population with a general or weak message;
  • Trust the audience size to the pull of the media where it’s placed, i.e. magazine, Web site, radio (and the media company’s claims);
  • Don’t run the ad campaign long enough or in enough places to make it work;
  • Give up too much responsibility to the ad creators; and
  • Get caught up in the “process” rather than focusing on major objectives.

Advertising is an integral part of the marketing process. However, it is seemingly separated from the whole point of marketing in the first place. It is often forgotten that the ultimate objective of marketing is to SELL.

How can you reduce your risk and invest more wisely in ads that are winners and avoid the losers? The first step is really just to be aware.

For your advertising to work, a few simple strategic concepts are required. They are appropriate for any campaign in order to reduce your risk and maximize your return. After all, it’s one thing to put out a loser that just doesn’t seem to work versus an absolute “dog” that borders on embarrassment.

These universal concepts apply for display ads right down to the simplest, classified ad:

1. Have a powerful visual
You want to win the attention of your prospect so they stop for those precious few seconds to get your message. This is the most critical point. If you can’t even get their attention, then the rest of your effort is pointless.

This is especially relevant for a display ad and possibly easier with this ad type because you can use beautiful four-color ads and have the advantage of visual images. For a classified ad you might utilize bold fonts or all caps.

In technology marketing, it is a crime to see photos in a magazine ad that belong on a black and white, OEM spec sheet. They’re lucky to get any attention and maybe only by their contrast to the color or creativity that surrounds them.

2. Use an attention-getting headline
“The headline is 80 percent of the ad,” is possibly a marketing cliché but never more true. It stimulates your desire to read on. The best headlines offer a benefit, either in a bold manner or with creativity. Attention-getting headlines also help you stand out from all the other advertising noise.

A powerful headline adds to the visual efforts to hook a suspect but the words chosen are key in having them identify themselves as a prospect. Big difference. I’ve written in the past about using your marketing to disqualify (July and August of 2001) and save yourself time and money by avoiding non-buyers.

3. Offer a clear selling proposition
Creativity may attract more interest but might also dull or hide your sales message or offer. Your offer, or intention to sell, and the benefit for the prospect must be clear, evident and recognized. This happens when the ad is too vague, relies on shock value or gets too artsy or too cute. Any of the former cause the message to be missed or lost by your audience. This is when you may as well set the match to your money.

4. Include your “call to action”
Having made your selling intention and message clear, you want to get the reader to take action. Get beyond having them just call or go to a Web site. You have to motivate or entice them with something that saves them time or gives them immediate value. Encourage anything that makes them identify themselves to you and gets them into your sales funnel, e.g. going to a landing page on your Web site and entering their e-mail for your Special Report on industry trends.

5. Start small and test
When creating advertising, you have a personal bias towards what you like and not what your intended audience might like. Just because an ad appeals to you, or your company team, doesn’t mean it clicks with your target audience. This is why large corporations spend a lot of money on focus groups.

Before you spend big bucks, test your ad ideas affordably by getting reactions to your draft concepts. Ask your current clients, your suppliers, and business associates at other companies, or better, outside of your industry. Heck, a favorable response from your accountant means you’re on the right track -- but he’ll still have an issue with you incurring an expense. There are numerous ways to test your ad concepts using the Internet, from free tools and market research to your Web site and innovative e-mail survey strategies. (Too many for this article, but you’re welcome to contact me.)

There are no guarantees in the stock market or the ad game. You can increase your chances of success dramatically by not taking foolish risks and avoiding typical errors in judgment or ad development. A little homework can save you lots of money and grief.

Compare your current efforts to these suggestions and revisit your creative process. Then, take a more methodical and educated approach to the risk associated with your ad budget. Make sales with your ads. Take your money to the bank and not to a bonfire.

At www.CustomerCatcher.com, Martin Wales is a business development and lead generation specialist. For a FREE preview of his new audio program, How to Get The Mindset of A Customer Catcher for Maximum Leverage & Profit, send an e-mail to [email protected].

Like what you've read? Go to past Customer Catcher columns.

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