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Martin Wales

Customer Catcherâ„¢


[September 5, 2000]

How You Can Advertise More Wisely

John the Plumber. Who is he? And what does he have to do with marketing communications technology?

Well, John reminded me of the large amounts of money that many companies waste on advertising and steal from their own bottom line profits. They don't think before they act, or they let others think for them. Hear me now: Advertising should be part of your marketing strategy at some time. Just make it work better. Plan more before you start a campaign.

Is your advertising bringing you the greatest return for your investment? Like real sales versus polite inquiries? Do you even know what kind of response it pulls? Do you know to whom you're really selling? Most companies don't. They just feel their way around and rationalize that their campaign was a success.

Back to John the Plumber. I was driving down the expressway thinking about the topic for my next article. Right beside me, doing about 60 mph, was an ordinary van. In large, blue, capital letters, "JOHN THE PLUMBER," was written on a clean, white background. His clear and boldly-written phone number followed the words.

I got it. The message was simple and razor sharp. The contact information was there. No cute slogans, messages or other writing to clutter my brain and eyes. No colorful graphics, beautiful models, cute babies, extreme sports athletes, or animal actors. Of course, John has the benefit of the free world generally knowing when and why to call a plumber.

Even though we have more complex products than plumbing services and therefore have to educate our potential customers more, let's use John the Plumber's van advertising to stimulate our brain cells. Here's what you should be asking prior to making your promotional decisions:

What's Your Past Experience?
If you haven't been smart in your prior advertising, then at least learn from the past. What media have you used? What didn't you like, and what about it made you fell dissatisfied? How much response did you get versus the awards your agency pulled in?

Do You State Clear, Definable Objectives?
What is the actual result you want? What should the ads accomplish? What challenge are you addressing? You may just want to let the market know you exist. You might want to strengthen your brand recognition. My favorite -- and it should be yours, too -- is to get buyers to contact you to actually buy your stuff (or at least take a sales call). Imagine that. So, make sure you have a quantitative objective like, "We want 10 new VARs to contact us within two months of the ad placement in this magazine, and we want to sign three of them."

Who's Going To Care?
What target audience would have an interest in your product or service? Don't spend your marketing budget on thousands of eyeballs that have little reason to pay attention to your pitch. In fact, you should focus the target segment as much as possible. Think of the one person you want to talk to who makes buying decisions.

Will That Be Cash Or Credit?
What is your budget? I can't resist reminding you that your marketing is an investment in -- not a cost of -- your business. The less money you have, the more targeted your efforts should be. Initiate more direct marketing efforts instead of general, broadcast-type marketing. Better yet (Warning: shameless plug ahead), call a guerilla marketing expert like the Customer Catcher.

What's So Special About You?
There are two parts to this. First, what problem will your product or service solve for the customer? Second, what is the primary benefit your product or service delivers? There may be a subtle difference between these two questions, but do not answer the second question before the first. You may miss out on thousands or millions of dollars in profits if you change this critical sequence.

So You Think You're Special?
You can express great things about your company, products, and services. Back it up with customer testimonials and case studies that prove it to your customers. This objective opinion is severely lacking in most advertising. There are many ways to get customers to willingly do this for you.

What Honey Can You Put On The Spoon?
Do your clients care about 4-color, black and white, coupons, 800 numbers, or response methods, like tear-away, postage-paid, response cards? Here's the secret on how to get this elusive information. Ask your customers. Ask them what kind of advertising gets their attention and what marketing brings some fun to their workday. No need for scientific stats. Get a feel during regular contact meetings or at trade shows.

What Time Is It?
When should you place advertising? Do your clients read more or less during trade show season? Is there a buying season within your market? You should also maximize your advertising investment by integrating your other market efforts. Add a two-inch square with your trade show schedule, or tell them your booth number for the next big show. Hello to those who haven't figured this out yet -- put your Web address everywhere.

Who's The Other Team?
How are your competitors getting their message out? What do they claim? Look for competitive weakness beyond comparing products specifications and features. How is their message weak? Your product may not be the best, but if you have a better message than your competitors that is seen and acted upon, you will win relationships and sales.

You and I may never meet John the Plumber. However, I do know that we can thank him for reminding us to keep our advertising messages simple and focused. I hope you review this list of questions before you start an ad campaign. Use the right tools to start. Then make sure you invest wisely on advertising that your prospects and customers will read or hear, that they understand your message, and, most importantly, that they act on your ad by calling you to buy your products and services now.

Martin Wales is the eFounder and Chief Catcher at Customer Catcher.com. He welcomes your e-mail at [email protected]. He is a technology-marketing specialist, speaker, and facilitator focused on maximum results with minimal risk using your existing resources.

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