Read an Excerpt
The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising
By Michael Corbett
SummitView PublishingCopyright © 2015 Michael Corbett
All rights reserved.
Setting Up To Win
Advertising Is Neither A Necessary Evil Nor A Cure-all
Many businesses stop advertising in slow times because they consider advertising little more than a necessary evil that may or may not be useful. Other businesses think all they have to do to increase business is to advertise. Neither of these viewpoints is productive.
Effective advertising can produce and maintain steady growth in any economic circumstances. That growth is relative. By "relative", we mean between 10 and 30 percent more growth than a non-advertising, similarly sized competitor, or 10 to 30 percent more than a competitor who is advertising ineffectively.
A restaurant owner we worked with was experiencing a flat sales curve from the previous year. After some research — it's surprising what you can learn from vendors — we found out that his primary competitors were down about 20% from the same period in the previous year. In essence, our client was holding a steady sales curve in an economy that was down 20%.
That's what we mean by relative growth. It's all relative to (primarily) economic conditions.
Build A Rock-solid Marketing Bridge
People will perceive your business the way your marketing represents your business.
The marketing bridge is made up of whatever links you to your customers and potential customers. That means everything, from the way you answer your phone, to the clothes you wear, to the color of your building. And even the simplicity of navigating your web site. Everything you do or have done to attract and keep customers is part of the marketing bridge. Given that definition, almost every recommendation in this book is in some way connected to the marketing bridge, but the specific parts or "elements" of the marketing bridge will be referring to in the first five sections have a direct, though not exclusive, connection to local advertising.
The marketing bridge comprises many elements, all of which must be strong and solid before you advertise or advertise any more. Spending money on advertising before you address your marketing bridge needs is very risky. It's risky because you might be unknowingly sabotaging your own advertising efforts. A weak marketing bridge element can turn away a potential customer, and sometimes the potential customer doesn't even know why he or she is uneasy about doing business with you.
Here are a few internal and external marketing bridge elements to consider:
Assuming you still have a human answering your phone, you might be wise to take note of the following:
Too many companies never put themselves in the consumer's shoes. If they did, they wouldn't allow their phone receptionist to make it so difficult for consumers to do business with them!
Does your receptionist or whoever answers your phone have the same commitment to your customers that you do?
Can the person answering your phone make a compelling response to the caller's requests?
Have you told your phone receptionist, or anyone who answers your phone, that 83 percent of effective phone communication occurs in the tone of voice?
Does he or she answer your phone no later than the third ring?
How much training has the person(s) answering your phone had in taking care of people who call your business?
Do they like talking to people? Are they smiling when they communicate on the phone?
Do they consider people who phone with questions or complaints a bother, an interruption, a pain?
How is your receptionist perceived by your customers?
Don't take for granted that you already know the answers to these questions. Investigate. If you find that you have people who aren't or who can't be superb on the phone, don't let them answer it. They're doing serious damage to your business that you may not even be aware of.
The actions of your employees are essential to high repeat and referral business percentages. Good employees, therefore, are an integral part of your marketing bridge, and the success of your advertising results will, in large part, depend on them.
How well trained are your salespeople? How much time have you spent with them preparing exchanges, phrases, questions, alternatives, and advice to offer or ask your shoppers? How willing are you and your people to answer questions or offer important advice to the consumer, even advise that may not even benefit you at the moment?
Do your employees get the sense that they count, that they're important to you, that they make a difference?
Are your employees enthusiastic about what they do or are they just going through the motions, waiting for the clock to move?
Are your employees authentically acknowledged by you or your managers regularly?
What's usually missing in businesses with morale problems is a sense of purpose, accomplishment, counting, importance, contribution, or of making a difference. These are all basic human needs, and if you're an employer who can fulfill them, people will want to work hard to please you.
Does your name say what you do? Does it connect in any way to your product/service? See if you can tell what these (real) businesses sell:
Surf and Turf
Hoof and Paw
K-9 Corral is a jeans shop.
Surf and Turf is a bedding store.
(They sell waterbeds and conventional beds. "Surf" for the waterbeds they sell and "Turf" for the conventional beds they sell. Plus, as the owners explained, they give away a steak and lobster dinner with each purchase! It seemed to make perfect sense to them.)
Hoof and Paw is a boutique.
If your name is as confusing to people as these are, make fun of it, try to make sense of it, but don't ignore it. Either change your name or make a direct issue of it in your ad copy.
Years ago we worked with a store named Eclectic International when the word "eclectic" was anything but familiar to most people. It was obvious that unless the problem with the name was addressed, no amount of advertising would be effective.
My associate and I took a tape recorder to a busy, local mall and asked passersby, "What is Eclectic International?" We wanted to use the answers we got in a radio campaign designed to introduce Eclectic International to local consumers and to handle the name problem as well.
The copy went something like this:
Announcer: Welcome to What's That Business. I'm asking people the question: "What's Eclectic International?" How about you ma'am?
Woman: Don't they make zippers?
Announcer: And you sir?
Man: I think they're underwear manufacturers, aren't they?
Announcer: You sir?
Man: That's where I pay my light bill, right?
These were real answers from real people! Eventually, we had to put a ringer in the crowd who'd give us the right answer ("it's a furniture store, right?") and bells would ring and sirens would wail, and we'd give a "prize" of incredible selection and value to anyone who'd remember that Eclectic International was a furniture store. We then explained the meaning of "eclectic" and how the name fit the multinational inventory, and so forth.
This approach went on for a few months, and the ads were so successful that they not only introduced a furniture store to the market in a way that made the store memorable, they also introduced a word to the market. The results were dramatic, but they wouldn't have been without first addressing the obvious problem with the name.
If you have an undesirable location or you're difficult to find, address that in copy. Again, don't ever ignore this or any obvious marketing bridge problem. "We're not easy to find. We did that on purpose so you'd have something to talk about besides all those great values we're gonna give you when you get here."
Are you easily seen from the street? If you aren't you'll have to address it in copy. Don't make it even harder for consumers who may not know that you're tucked away in the corner of a mall or off the beaten track. Let them know, head on.
This is a made-up word but not a made-up problem.
Municipal codes and other circumstances may limit the size or location of your exterior signs. If it's a real problem, don't ignore it — "If you can find us with our tiny sign, you've got better eyes than most humans and a lot better chance at getting some of the best service in the solar system."
What about interior signs? More than 70% of all purchase decisions are made right on the premises! Point of purchase signs can be creatively designed to get the attention of the buyer at a low cost to you.
Do you carry what's hot or what's not? Are your inventory levels adequate? Is your inventory well displayed and easily found?
Is it adequate, convenient, accessible, well marked? If not, are you addressing it in copy?
Are they higher than, lower than, or competitive with your primary competitors.
Providing your customers with excellent service is simple. Not easy, but simple. It's also cost efficient. It will cost you six times more to get a new customer than it will to keep one. If you aren't a service maniac, you had better be prepared to spend a lot more for the same results than someone who is serious about service. A service maniac will have a very high repeat and referral percentage while a business offering average service will be turning over customers continually.
Become paranoid about service!
Is the quality of your goods/services as good as, better than, or the same as your primary competitors?
Is it excellent, good, fair, poor? Why?
Is it high, average, low, nonexistent? If you asked a hundred people in your target market "who do you think of when you think of (your type of product/service)," how many would say your name?
General Customer Perception
Repeat and referral business will be decided by the way your customers perceive your ability to satisfactorily fulfill their needs. How do your customers or prospects perceive your business?
Are the materials you use to represent your business doing their job? Are your brochures professional and easy to read? What about your inventory displays? Is your store clean and neat always? Do your stationery and business cards look great? Is your web site informative, attractive, easy to navigate?
While advertising is only one element in the marketing bridge, it is certainly one of the most critical, because advertising is the most conspicuous connection you have with the consumer community.
Effective advertising will influence perception and attract consumers to your business, but only a rock-solid marketing bridge will produce the growth that comes from repeat and referral business. That is to say, if there are elements in your marketing bridge that are weak, those same customers you attracted with your advertising could be lost forever.
The Next Step
There are three actions you can take right now to begin strengthening your marketing bridge:
1. From the following list of marketing bridge elements, select those that pertain specifically to your business:
General customer perception
Employees as responsible "partners"
2. Grade the elements that pertain to your business on a scale of 1-10 (1 meaning fatally weak, 10 meaning rock-solid).
3. Capitalize on the marketing bridge elements that grade the highest, and begin to fix those elements that grade poorly. If those that grade the weakest are not fixable, don't ignore them, address them head-on in your advertising copy.
Compile An Accurate Profile Of Your Customers
If you don't do so already, you must find a way to obtain and record accurate and updated information about your existing customers. The information you gather should include:
Majority between ____ and ____, most others between ____ and ____
Male ____ Female ____ Couples ____
Majority between $_______ and $_______, most others between $_______ and $________
Employment Category (%):
Blue Collar ____ White Collar ____ Professional ____ Ethic ____ Urban ____ Suburban ____
Proximity to business (%):
Under 5 mi. ____ 5-10 mi. ____ 10-20 mi. ____ Farther ____
If you need help in compiling an accurate customer profile, ask for the market research conducted by your vendors for their products, or do some in-store research with the cooperation of your employees. Except for "income," where the best you can do is take an educated guess, you can gather all of the other information called for in your customer profile..
Identify Your Target Market
Who do you want to reach with your message?
Usually, a business will want to reach prospects with the same profile as its existing customers. A dress shop that attracts younger women between the ages of 18 and 25 will normally want to advertise to women of that same age range. So the first step is to get an accurate profile of your existing customers. Once you've done that, it's just a matter of targeting prospects who fit that profile.
An exception to this would be if you were a new business and didn't have an existing customer profile. Another exception might be if you were introducing a new product or service that would not be applicable to your pre-sent customer base. In both those instances, you will have to conduct some industry sponsored research on formulating a target market, or you'll have to get some input from some-one who has the experience to target your advertising, like the owner of a similar business in another market.
Warning: resist the temptation to be all things to all people. If you're a jewelry store that has found a niche in your market by being known as a specialist in diamond engagement rings, stay strong in your niche. In other words, don't decide that the success you have built in your niche will naturally allow success in another niche, like gold watches. It's expensive enough trying to advertise to one target market, let alone two. Businesses that have tried this fragmentation targeting almost never succeed.
If you don't have a niche in your market among your competitors, find one, and then build on it (See Rule 9).
Excerpted from The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising by Michael Corbett. Copyright © 2015 Michael Corbett. Excerpted by permission of SummitView Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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