Without referring to statistics (assuming that such statistics exist) it’s safe to say that most marketing campaigns, advertising promotions, and small business marketing ideas produce disappointing results and a smaller-than-expected ROI. The reasons for this include the following: advertising in the wrong medium, misidentifying your target market, selling a product or service for which there is little demand or too much competition, noncompetitive pricing, bad location, poor customer service, a weak sales strategy; or the absence of a compelling marketing message, a distinctive company identity, or unique selling proposition. In other words, the act of simply taking out newspaper ads, buying radio spots, making sales calls, and distributing brochures is not, in and of itself, going to make your phone ring off the hook or cause your cash register to overheat. The foundation of your marketing strategy must be rock solid, first!
Remember, your target market is constantly being inundated with advertising messages, commercials, sales pitches, and an endless parade of business signs, billboards, empty promises, special sales, shouting announcers, and dubious advertiser claims. The burning question for you, the small business owner, is: how do you reach the right people, stand out in the crowd, inspire believability, and get people to respond to your offer (preferably in droves)?
Successful Advertising Campaigns Begin with a Captivating Advertising Message
Perhaps the most effective way to become attuned to what works and what doesn’t is by getting in the habit of noticing and evaluating the hundreds of marketing messages and strategies that you’re bombarded with every day. Constantly ask yourself what messages, advertising techniques, and images cause you to stop what you’re doing and pay attention, whether it’s a radio spot, billboard, a TV commercial, or a magazine ad? Chances are, the messages that do the best job of attracting your attention are the ones that focus on how a product or service will make you feel better, provide you with comfort, pleasure, solve a problem, infuse your marriage with romance, attract the opposite sex, bring your family closer together, make your life easier, healthier, safer, more secure, prosperous, exciting, or more fun. The list goes on and on; but the point is that the ads and marketing strategies that focus on the benefits, the good feelings, and the positive emotions that a product or service can evoke are the ones that typically generate the most response and sales. In your ads, brochures, and sales presentations, emphasize the desirable outcomes, results, and benefits that your prospect will enjoy as the result of using your product or service. Features are important, too; but are generally secondary when talking about the powers of persuasion and sales success.
As you begin to pay attention to and notice all the advertising messages that capture your attention and arouse your interest, give some thought to something else: how can you reach your target audience most effectively, without spending more marketing dollars than necessary. By paying attention to what other businesses and entrepreneurs are doing, and by thinking creatively, you will start formulating innovative and sometimes unconventional ideas that you can apply to profitably marketing your own products or services.
Identifying Opportunities for Effective Target Marketing
A successful marketing strategy often begins with looking for and identifying opportunities to cost-effectively reach your target market when they’re in a receptive frame of mind. I observed a good example of this kind of opportunistic marketing while attending a crowded toy festival and parade over the summer. This festival was so popular that nearly every available parking spot on all the side streets was filled. When my family and I returned to our car after the parade, I immediately noticed that a bright yellow flyer (on card stock) was lodged under my windshield wiper. My first thought was that it was a parking ticket; but upon closer examination, I saw that it was a promotional flyer for a children’s party planning service. I looked up and down the street and noticed that every car had this same targeted advertisement in its window. As we drove through town, it was apparent that block after block of parked cars had this same advertising flyer inserted in their windows. The point is that some enterprising business owner realized that thousands of parents of young children are going to be in the same place at the same time, that they’ll have just spent a fun day with their children, and they’ll be in a receptive mood to learn about ways to make their children happier and to look good as parents. The owner of this children’s party planning service figured out a way to inexpensively reach hundreds, maybe thousands of targeted prospects who, most likely, were very receptive to the service being marketed. I wouldn’t be surprised if that flyer resulted in a lot of phone calls.
It could have generated an even greater response if the copy-writing and headlines were more captivating, if it used a couple of graphics to reinforce the message (rather than consisting of 100% text, with almost no margins), if it directed prospects to a website with more details and testimonials, plus photos of enthusiastic customers and successful parties… but that’s a topic for another article!
Successful advertising and marketing takes imagination, experimentation, and observation; but if the advertising message you develop doesn’t paint an irresistible picture, create anticipation, and reach a targeted audience with the greatest tendency to respond to your offer, then your campaign will be ordinary and your results unremarkable. The principles in this article are not new, but they’re probably ignored by the vast majority of those in the small business community. Commit these ideas to memory so that you’re among the successful minority!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
R.J. Reiterman, of Optimal Marketing Communications, has been a creative force in public relations, corporate communications, and journalism for over 18 years. You can find more of his articles, as well as those of other consultants and writers in the field of marketing and advertising, at http://www.marketingsurvivalkit.com.