Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Before you spend any money on Advertising...

Along with the paid work I do, I also consult a couple of non-profits in the area of marketing and advertising. I've discovered that there is a tendency to look at the advertising options being offered without having a strategy in place.

By a strategy, I mean things like, determine where your future growth is going to come from, picking a target market that needs what you have to offer, and also decide what makes you unique in the eyes of your customers and clients.

(On that last one, it must be stronger than, "we care and we provide good prices and service".)

Then, once you are armed with a direction to go in, you can look at the advertising options that you have been presented and see which ones fit.

Anything else is like hopping on the highway without having a clue as to where you are going. You can drive real fast (spend lots of money), but never reach your destination. If you need help, contact me at

Monday, November 24, 2008

One of the Worst Forms of Advertising

Simply put, the Phone Book.

The church I belong to has 2400 members. Plus a school. And they were completely left out of the phone book a couple of years ago. Two years in a row. Not a single listing in the white pages, yellow pages, any pages.

It's not a new church, it's over 40 years old. We did not move, change phone numbers, nothing. But according to the publisher of our local phone book, we did not exist.

Since it is published once every 12 months, we were stuck.

The phone book people are trying to get us to try their online service. Is it any better? One of the features of the internet is that it is easy to update and keep current.

So today I tried it. I put in Radio Stations. The results are a joke. Except it isn't funny. It's stupid. The information is so outdated and incorrect. It's worthless. It cannot be trusted.

Here's what ended up with when I entered Radio Stations in the search box on for Fort Wayne, Indiana (Click here):

  • 45 listings
  • Page 1: Listing for WHWD. Station has been gone for 10 years.
  • Page 2: Listing for Sunny 106. Station has been gone for over 4 years.
  • Page 3: 2 listings for WFCV, one with the wrong street address.
  • Page 3: Listing for WFJZ. Station has been gone for at least 3 years.
  • Page 3: Listing for WJFX. Wrong Address.
  • Page 4: 2 Listings for WSHI. Station has been gone for over 4 years.
  • Page 4: Listing for Allen County Public Library?
  • Page 4: Listing for Comcast Spotlight?
  • Page 4: Listing for WANE-TV
  • Page 4: 2 listings for WFFT-TV
  • Page 4: Listing for WFWA-PBS 39 (Another Television Station)
  • Page 5: All 5 listings are for WISE-TV, WPTA-TV.
That's 17 incorrect out of 45.

Also important is what is missing: No listing for WGL, WKJG, WBTU, WNUY, WLYV, WNHT, WVBB. These missing stations have nearly 40% of the audience according to the Arbitron Audience Survey for Spring 2008.

I do not trust the phone book and now you know why.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Much Advertising is Too Much?

Every once in a while, someone would tell me that the advertising schedule I wanted to run for a client was too much. Not too much money, but too many ads.

To which I would point out that in the radio business, most of our commercials are 60 seconds long and if I want to schedule one or two minutes an hour, that leaves 58 minutes that our listeners are not hearing my clients advertising message.

Face it, we are living in an age of commercialization that has never been seen before. From Football Stadiums, to Concert Tickets to, well you name it, and someone will try and sell it.

This discussion however goes beyond scheduling radio commercials, it is a broader discussion on how much advertising is needed to accomplish the objective. And the answer is as individual as the specific objective of each campaign. There is no one right answer.

But there is a better question. It is the right question you should ask before placing any advertising anywhere.

The question:
What is the best message possible to connect with the people who are going to want or need to buy my product or service?

Too many times, the message doesn't connect with the buyer. You have to step into the shoes of your buyer and design your marketing from their perspective. Because they don't care that you are family owned, or have been in business for 8 years, etc. They need to know that you can help them, and how and why.

So start by asking the right question and go from there.

Oh, one more pet peeve. Please stop putting your street address in your radio commercials. Nobody knows where 4211 Harrison Street is. Instead use landmarks, such as on Harrison across from the Post Office. Thanks.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Your REAL Competition

Most business owners have a limited view of who their competition is.

Take a dentist for example. Is a grocery store competition? Could be.

See your competition when money is tight, is any and everything your clients, customers, and patients are spending their money on that they could be spending with you and your business.

So, do you want some ideas on how to make your competition, your ally?

Partner with a non-competing business and offer a deal for people that do business with both of you. For example, the dentist partners with a grocery store.

  1. Spend $50 on groceries, bring your reciept to the dentist and get $25 off your bill, (or the co-pay).
  2. Get your teeth cleaned at the dentist and get $25 off selected dental care items at the grocery.
It's that simple. (And this kind of alliance sets the dentist apart from other dentists, and the grocer apart from other grocers.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Advertising Stepping Stones

Recently I met with a client and noticed on his desk a list of 7 individual advertising efforts that he had paid for and been involved with. Most of them were one-shot deals and he was wondering what to do.

The truth is almost anything can work if you do it correctly, but to try and maintain seven advertising outreach programs, you can either go broke, or toss up your hands in frustration and conclude that nothing works.

I have a more sensible solution that I have seen work repeatedly over the past 20 years.

Focus on building relationships with your advertising and marketing.

Instead of seven paid forms of advertising, pick one or two and work with them. Invest in them, develop a relationship with the people that see or hear your advertising message.

Let's start with radio. Where I live there are about 15 local radio stations and all of them have loyal listeners. The ones with the most listeners usually charge the most to air advertising.

But you don't need the "biggest audience", you need to form a relationship with the listeners of a radio station that you can afford to advertise with consistently for the next 52 weeks or more.

Who buys what you have to sell?
Do you know your customers?
What type of radio station do they listen to?
There are often more than one or two, but you only need one (or two if you can afford it.)

The first advertising step is to reach the same group of listeners every day or every week.
Run your commercials in a specific "day-part", say 10 am to 3pm, every day on one radio station.
Air between 10 to 15, up to 25 commercials a week during the same time every day.

This builds a relationship, name awareness, branding, top-of-mind awareness with those listeners and over time, you will get business directly from those listeners and their friends and family, because you have formed an advertising relationship with them.

In most cases, I advice my clients to expand when they can afford to grow more, but do not stop or move the original schedule to another time of day, or worse yet another radio station or advertising venue.

Take the next step when you can, but add to what you are doing, or else you risk losing the relationship with those potential customers that may want to buy from you in the near and distant future.

Take it one step at a time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


It's been the buzz word of the 2008 Election.

It started a couple years ago with the beginning of the Presidential campaign and made its way down to the state level, here in Indiana where our Governor won by a huge margin (as a Republican).

His re-election campaign focused on pointing out the changes he implemented the past 4 years.

What about your advertising and marketing?

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

What will you change in 2009 and what will remain?

To help you out, here's a brief look at media, advertising and consumer habits:

  • Traditional Media will still gather the masses. (Television, Radio, Billboards, and Print)
  • The Internet is a form of mass media, except it's like having a television with 10 thousand channels, so it needs to partner with traditional mass media to promote an individual website.
  • Some forms of Traditional Media, like some forms of Internet media will not survive due to their business model and the fact that they need to earn money to stay alive. (For more on this concept, click here and read this.)
Now instead of rewriting what I wrote a few months ago, I'll reprint it here since it is just as relevant as it was 9 months ago:

Predictions for Future Advertising Options

  1. Daily Newspapers have seen a steep decline over the past 10 years and staffing cuts will continue in the newsrooms as they adjust financially to a loss of subscribers to their print editions. Communities that had two papers will be lucky to have one. The smart ones are looking for alternative sources of revenue.
  2. Specialty Newspapers, such as the free shoppers guides, or weekly news alternatives won't be hit as hard as their big brothers, since they already have smaller staffs and their readers are looking for information that the advertisements provide.
  3. Magazines. Depends on their overhead and structure of their publication. The strong specialty magazines can survive, but look for the news magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and the like to be propped up by their parent companies, and then reduced or eliminated within 20 years. Specialty Mags have a chance to survive, if they are loyal to their readers.
  4. Radio stations that offer unique programming that includes local content will survive even though the competition for listeners will continue to heat up when internet accessibility is available in the vehicles we drive. This is why it is so important that stations have what is known as "on-line streaming" via their websites NOW, to train listeners to listen over the internet. Those that don't offer local content and internet listenability, will fail.
  5. Television. The broadcast outlets are in the midst of a government imposed transformation as the deadline to switch to digital broadcasting is less than a year away. The writers strike lead to innovative programming from the networks and viewers also looked to other forms of entertainment from other sources.
  6. Yellow Pages. I'd be surprised if they are around in 5 years in this country. Most of the businesses I've talked to over the years complain that they "have to" be in the book. Now, the Yellow Pages are being replaced by Google and other local search engines. I would never recommend a new business advertise in the Yellow Pages, and those that still do, start reducing and phasing out your YP advertising and move the money to where the people are looking for you.
And that is the key to all of this. You need to re-think:
  1. Where are my customers?
  2. What advertising mediums reach my customers and potential customers now?
  3. What can I do to be there when they are looking for me?
What about the future? There is one Advertising Option that I did not mention in the list above:
  1. Outdoor Billboards. Yep. This is one form of advertising that is not being replaced by the internet. But you have to understand what the pro's and con's of a Billboard campaign are.
And then there is the one form of advertising that it seems everyone is talking about, The Internet. We are still learning how to use the Internet to effectively reach customers, and it will be a trial and error process as technology improves.

Spam email is not the way to use the internet for advertising. But just because you have a website, that's not enough. You also need to direct people to your place on the web. And that's where all the traditional media can help.

I mentioned smart newspaper publishers are looking for alternatives to generate revenue. So are smart broadcast outlets, smart magazines, etc. They have websites that you can advertise on to drive your potential customers to you and your website.

Despite these predictions many of the traditional advertising options can still work for you today and some may work for the rest of your life, but the next 10 years will be nothing like the previous 50 years. Keep your eyes and ears open!

Time to put away my crystal ball. Your comments are always welcome.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Making Connections

With the rise of Internet Social Media sites such as and, the world has changed some relationship definitions. Toss in Twitter and Linkedin and there are plenty of ways to stay connected via the Internet.

But what about the quality of those connections?

Do people recognize you on the street? (I was in a parade a few years ago and an old friend of mind from 30 years ago recognized me and called out my name. I zoomed into the crowd in the direction that I heard the voice and saw an old scouting buddy, we have since reconnected.)

Do people refer others to you? A few times a month, I will get a call from someone refering a business lead to me, based on the relationship that we have.

Do people from your past want to stay connected with you? Some people I see every week, others every year. But for those that matter the most, time isn't an issue.

Do you help others make connections? In this world of knowing the right person, I enjoy referring leads and connections to others. The only way to do this is to know others and have others know you.

Here's some pointers and examples of what I have done:

  • Join a bonafide networking group. These range from very organized such as B.N.I. that charges annual and monthly dues in return for exclusivity; to less formal, open networking groups that meet at least once or twice a month.
  • Join a special interest group that is not linked to your occupation. I serve on a couple of non-profit organizations boards and committees along with a marketing advisory board for a financial firm.
  • Join a trade organization. I am on the board of directors for the Advertising Federation of Fort Wayne. This year I am involved on the programs committee and serve as the V-P of Communications.
  • Attend mixers. Our local Chamber of Commerce has a monthly morning mix, and a monthly meet me at 5. I'll attend some of these on occasion.
  • Get out and knock on some doors. It's called cold calling. One of my financial advisers I met by simply walking into his office and scheduling an appointment. Many of my clients are acquired by beating the bushes.
Now here's how I use some of the above to make connections:
  • When I'm in a networking meeting or mixer, I almost never try and sell anything. I am there to make contacts. I am there to meet others and find out what they do. I am there to make a positive impression.
  • When I'm in a networking meeting or mixer, I look to meet at least one or two people that I did not know before. This is better than working the room and trying to meet everyone. Because I commit to attending and connecting, I will eventually meet with everyone I should meet with over time, or they will seek me out.
  • When I'm in a networking meeting or mixer, I check in with those folks that I know, and introduce them to others at the event that I know.
  • When I am cold calling in person, I simply carry an appointment book and some of my cards. I am on a mission to schedule appointments. Even if they want to talk right then and there, I limit myself to 10 minutes at the most, and schedule a regular appointment, even if it is for 2 hours later that same day.
See, it may look impressive to have 120 connections on Linked In, or 30 followers on Twitter, but the real value is in the value of the people you are connected to.

It comes down to, "To make a friend, be a friend".

Your comments are always welcome.