Advertising Effectively

I’ve heard it three times in the 24 hours since returning from my vacation; “I’m spending a lot of money on marketing, but I don’t know how effective it is.”

The problem goes back for as long as there’s been paid advertising. John Wanamaker, the retail giant, said “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted. If I only knew which half.”

In New York City on vacation, my son and I decided to stand on line at the TKTS booth in Times Square for some last minute ducats to a show. Hawkers worked both sides of the long line, distributing handbills proclaiming one show or another to be the best objective for your discounted, but still substantial dollars. (Half price seats are now running close to $90.)

Now that’s effective advertising. Every recipient of the message is prequalified. They are going through considerable inconvenience (those lines are long) to buy tickets to something at least similar to your offering. Now all you have to do is put your information in their hands immediately prior to their final purchase decision.

The delivery method is cheap. I noticed that the distributors were largely young and attractive. Out-of-work actors? It seems likely.

The timing is completely flexible and customizable to your needs. Sold out tonight? No need for handbills. You don’t spend a penny unless you are seeking business at exactly that moment.

There was another fellow handing out flyers for a restaurant. They were simple, but well done. One side had the special pre-theatre prix fixe offers and pricing, with a hand-stamped offer for a free glass of wine. The other side had the Zagat rating and a glowing newspaper restaurant review.

Wonderfully done! The credibility of the third party rating and the media testimonial, the special offer, pricing, and the bonus for action (“But wait…there’s still more!”) all handed to a qualified buyer just before the purchase decisison.

The restaurant was mediocre, so I won’t go further by expanding the effect into word-of-mouth. I noticed, however, that the tables on both sides of me also had the flyer out when they paid the bill. How much of their business do they owe to that very inexpensive advertising?

Advertising is only a part of marketing, but it is the part that provides the final effect. Marketing, the messaging, branding, and positioning of your product or service, eventually leads to conveying your message to the public via some form of advertising.

The Internet has helped a lot with the “I don’t know what works” problem. You can track leads and customers like never before. The Web isn’t everything however, unless you have an Internet business. If you still work with brick and mortar, you need additional ways to reach out to your customers.

Advertising is only effective when it reaches your prospect at the time of his or her buying decision. You usually pay a premium for that timing. One client tells me; “People always say that they hear me on the radio, but when I run a commercial on Oprah, those phone lines light up. It’s just so damn expensive to advertise on Oprah.”

Duh. The phone lines light up.

People who sell media focus on their target audience. They will tell you the demographics you’ll be paying for. When you are advertising, however, it is far more important to know when you are reaching the audience. Timing is everything.

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