Entries in Advertising (6)


Tricky Advertising and Marketing

*Do not misconstrue any of the following as legal advice.  Always consult with a licensed attorney when you have specific questions regarding statements made in your business advertising.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, and non-profit public interest group, has brought a lawsuit against Coca-Cola, claiming that the company's vitaminwater products make unwarranted health claims.  (Read about the details here.)

The really interesting part is that Coca-Cola's defense is this: "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage."  Uh, really, Coca-Cola?  I don't know if it's the word "vitamin" or the word "water" that is more misleading, but nevertheless, there you have it.  Coca-Cola doesn't even try to deny the claims that the beverage is unhealthy (in truth, the drink has 33 grams of sugar in it.)

So the question becomes: where you should you, a small business owner, draw the line in your marketing?

While you may never be as large as Coca-Cola, small business owners get themselves in hot water every day by making false or misleading claims in their advertising.  There can be some stiff consequences, not the least of which is some possible nasty publicity. 

Often forgotten is something as simple as coupons, commonly used by businesses large and small.  If you take a look at a large corporation coupons, you'll notice something common among every one of them -- fine print.  That's the lawyers keeping the corporations out of a hot mess.  So why wouldn't you, a small business owner, take the same precautions?  No, it's not silly.  The reason that you see statements such as "Cannot be used in combination with any other offer" and "One per customer" and "Expires XX/ XX/ XXXX" and "Only applies to basic service, not super-duper deluxe service" is because someone has tried to pull any and all of these shenanigans before.  The basic rule is that if a restriction is not stated clearly and simply on your coupon, then you will need to comply with any customer requests in regards to the coupon.

The same goes with your advertising.  If you are offering a special promotion, you can very simply state on all print advertising "Rules and restrictions can be found on our website at www.ourwebsite.com."  Then, add a page to your site with borderplate regulations, with specifications made to fit your promotion.  It's an extra step that you should take, because as soon as you don't, you'll get burned.

The thing is, people don't like to be tricked.  As soon as you appear deceitful, people will get ticked.  In Coca-Cola's situation, understandably, some people believed that they were being healthy by partaking in vitaminwater.  (It's not a huge stretch, based on the product name, even though I personally think people need to read labels!)

Be as honest as you can when it comes to your marketing.  This can be difficult because, after all, most advertising could be labeled as "slick" and "tricky".  But at the end of the day, if you're honest with your clients and customers, they'll thank you for it, and you'll be more likely to earn their repeat business.


Radio as an Advertsing Medium


Before you proceed reading this post, stop and think about some ads you may have recently heard on the radio. 



Got some thoughts???

Take a look at this graph:

Chances are that the advertisers and ads you thought of are somewhere on this list.  This list is for the most recent week ended (Week of 10/5/09), and if you listened to the radio at all last week, you assuredly heard one of these advertiser's ads. 

Here's the thing- you probably heard that ad more than three times.  You may not specifically recall hearing a certain ad more than once, but in order for that ad to make an impression that you're able to recall- and therefore act upon- studies show that you most likely heard the advertisement around three times.

It's called frequency, and actually, the principle applies not just with radio advertising, but with other advertising mediums as well.  Our goal when we advertise should not be to get a potential customer to hear or see our ads just once, but rather as many times as possible.  Again, studies show that if a potential customer sees your advertisement less than three times, it will not make a memorable impression.  

I had a lady call me the other day and ask how much it would cost her to purchase radio to advertise her product.  I did a little research and gave her some estimates.  She almost passed out when I told her a rough estimate for advertising on her target station would be about $8K for a short campaign.  She asked me "It costs $8,000 to put ONE AD on this radio station??!!?"  

I immediately explained that, no, this cost was for a short two week campaign, which was the amount of time she'd probably need in order to make a decent, memorable impression.  She scoffed, and insisted that she only wanted to run one ad.  I gave her the name of the radio rep I'd spoken with and told her to go directly to the rep because I would not place an ad for her that I did not believe would be successful.

I followed up with the radio rep a few weeks later.  I asked her if the lady had placed her ad, and what her results were.  Apparently, the lady was currently harassing the station manager, trying to get the money for her ONE AD back because she'd received NO CALLS.

Advertising is tricky business.  There's no magic formula.  However, if you don't have enough budget to make sure your target station audience (or TV audience, or newspaper audience, etc.) will see your ad at least THREE TIMES, then don't waste your money.  Because listeners have heard the gecko from the Geico commercial at least 5 times in the last hour.  They're thinking about Geico- not your business.  


Web Advertising Overtakes TV in UK

Long gone are the days when savvy entrepreneurs yearn to be able to afford TV advertising... well, maybe not quite- TV will always have it's place in our market, as long as the good 'ole boob tube is around.  (Although, Tivo and DVR is making the TV ad medium much less desireable...)  However, this article announces that in the UK, Web spending has overtaken TV in advertising spending.

If you're still stuck in the dark ages, thinking TV advertising is the way to go for your business, hop onboard the 21st century express!  All of the following are great ways to start using the web to advertise your business:

- Pay-per-Click advertising

- Search Engine Optimization

- Twitter

- LinkedIn

- Facebook

- Digg

- YouTube

- Blogging

These are just a few folks!!  Most of what I mentioned above has a free or DIY aspect, making web marketing not only essential, but inexpensive in comparison to TV!  You can get in trouble online if you don't know what you're doing- just yesterday, I had a client who managed to delete his entire blog without realizing what he was doing!  If you need help, we're just one of many experts out there who can advise you on a simple web marketing plan.  Welcome to the 21st centuty!



Test Your Market

My clients often have great ideas.  A lot of people, in fact, have great ideas.  But a good idea isn't all you need to make a million bucks.  In addition to several other factors, you must test and prove your idea is feasible with your target market.

This fundamental necessity becomes a road block for a lot of folks.  Take my condom manufacturer client.  Yes, one of my client's manufactures condoms.  The product is very important to him- a good friend of his had been infected with HIV by a person who knew they were carrying the virus, but continued to have unprotected relationships with uninformed partners.

So, my client came up with the idea to create a brand of condoms that uses "safety" as its #1 marketing message.  The target market was minority teenagers.  After hearing about his plight, we were curious.  Did teens actually CARE about the safety message?  After all, who doesn't know that you should wear a condom, every time you engage in intimate relationships?  Aren't we just really dealing with teens with 'I'm invincible' complexes, who know they should protect themselves and choose not to?

What we needed was some good old fashioned research.  My client was based in Alabama, so we decided to initiate a grassroots research/ marketing campaign starting there.  Here's exactly what we did, with minimum investment on the client's part:

  1. Recruit good-looking young ladies via Craigslist to pass out survey cards at local teen hang outs.  We equipped these gals with a uniform of a branded t-shirt and jeans, and handfuls of business card-sized cards reading:  "Help us learn more about how to protect teens from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases!  Go online and complete a quick 5-minute ANONYMOUS survey, and receive a $5 gift card for your help."
  2. We'd approached local similarly targeted businesses and had them donate the $5 gift cards, and once a survey was completed by a teen, they could print the survey.
  3. The surveys were collected by an online data-management system and data was easy to read and understand.
  4. We collected over 1,000 surveys online to aid in understanding the market we were dealing with.

We determined that the safety aspect was not one that teens bought into, unfortunately.  The client was able to spend a pretty minimal amount of money to determine that the much larger investment he was about to make in marketing was not going to pay off. 

We re-grouped, and went in a different direction. 

Testing your market is a thousand times easier these days than it was years ago when the Internet wasn't around.  Today, you can execute a simple research plan by locating a concentrated group of your target market, and simply asking them what they think of your product or service- most of the time, they're happy to tell you.




Direct Mail

Did you just get chills up your spine??  Wait, don't stop reading yet!!  The marketing method of direct mail has become synonymous with high expense and low return on investment.  So I don't blame you for wanting to click away, but hear me out, just for a second.

If you've done any advertising for your business at all, you probably know that the national average response rate for direct mail is 1%.  So, what can you do to make this advertising method actually WORK for your business?

1) Know what you're selling.  If you're selling widgits at $10/ widgit, direct mail is probably not for you...  Here's why: You spend $3K total on your project (design, printing, list, processing & postage).  Your mailing list has 2,000 people.  So a 1% response would be 20 people.  Say your conversion ratio is 1 in 5, so you would sell 4 widgits for a grand total of $40.  You spent $3K to make $40.  Not a good deal.  If your average sale is $100+, it takes a lot lower response rate to make this equation work out for your business.

2) Target your market.  I don't know HOW MANY times I've asked a client "Who are your customers?", only to receive a response of "Everybody!"  If every person who breathes is your target market, you've essentially got NO target market.  With a recent client, we were able to narrow down the target to people within a certain zip code with household incomes of $100K+, and home values of $200K+, with children in the home between the ages of 2 and 10.  Our list became more and more specific, giving us a better chance that the people we send the mail to will actually respond.

3) Make 'em a deal!  Let's face it- we all love free stuff.  When a GOOD offer is made on a direct mail piece, your response rate doubles- to a whopping 2%.

Which brings me to the point: What constitutes a GOOD offer for direct mail??

Perception is everything.  So while 10% off your good or service may equal $100 off, I don't know that just by looking at your mailer, knowing nothing about your pricing structure.  So, this essentially means NOTHING to me!!  Sorry- but you have to make it very simple, clear and concise for a potential customer.

1) Give me a dollar value.  A $25 Starbucks gift card means a lot more to me than 10% off. 

2) Use a related offer for a different business.  I don't really know why this works, but people tend to assign more value to a $50 Home Depot gift card versus $50 off your house painting service (get it? Related business, not directly associated with your organization.)

3) Don't be a jerk about it.  If there are stipulations to your offer, make sure to include those on the physical card, but don't give 10 different exceptions to your offer.  It will just tick people off to see that your offer for a free margarita with purchase of a buffet meal is only good every 4th Tuesday of the month when Jupiter is aligned with Mars.

Here's a very clean, simple example:


-See clearly-stated offer, expiration date printed in large font

Direct mail can be a beating, expensive and complicated, but with the right design and target list, it can also be a homerun.  Thanks to Eagle's Wings Athletics! (http://EWAGym.com)