How You Can Advertise More Wisely
John the Plumber. Who is he? And what does he have to do with marketing
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
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
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
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
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
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.