Five Steps to Retail Advertising

September 21, 2009
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Bob Kowynia

In tough times we have to work harder for every sale, but it’s hard to get a sale if we’re not generating a manageable stream of prospects for our products and services. Prospect or lead generation is an important part of advertising and I’ll use this column to suggest five ways you can get better results from your advertising investments.

Advertising has been defined as reaching the right party, with the right message, at the right time, with sufficient frequency, in the right media, to create awareness, stimulate interest, and move to action.

Let’s use this definition to help you do a better job of planning and executing your next retail ad campaign.

REACH THE RIGHT PARTY

To whom are you targeting your message? If you’re looking at consumer replacement, they have to be homeowners. Now you have to ask how old the homes are because HVAC equipment typically lasts 15-20 years. That’s a good start, but we need more than home ownership and age of home to craft a relevant sales message. A great place to start your research is your database of current customers and prospects.

A simple analysis of the zip codes you serve can be very enlightening and beneficial. Ask your agency, consultant or media reps to provide a PRIZM Cluster Analysis of your database to gain important insights into your customers’ lifestyle, interests and needs, media usage habits and more. Any and all research on consumer buying habits or trends is useful. Trade publications like The NEWS often include the latest consumer and industry research as part of their ongoing editorial coverage.

WITH THE RIGHT MESSAGE

Are you telling your prospects what they want to hear or what you want to tell them? It’s much more effective to tell them what they want to hear. By understanding your target’s interests and needs, you can create a message to which they will be receptive.

If you’re not making direct sales calls, you may have to make some personal visits to get at the unfiltered truth. While you may be hearing it’s all about low-ball prices, what you may actually find from your personal visits is your customers and prospects are concerned about doing business with a company they trust to provide them with great service, and viable solutions at competitive prices while offering a number of convenient payment options.

Yes, price is important but with this insight you can fashion a message that positions your company as the logical choice because you understand your customers’ needs, and are addressing them with desirable solutions.

AT THE RIGHT TIME

Are you investing enough in advertising to be successful? Factors to consider that are tied to spending levels are advertising reach and frequency.

Are your media dollars committed to reaching your target audience enough times to have an impact? Do you know what media your target is using, when they are using it and what influence it has during the purchase process?

Based on recent consumer research, you will probably have to run in two to three media for optimum impact. Knowing the right combination is crucial. Monitoring response is essential to continue to make better advertising decisions.

... MOVE TO ACTION

Consistency in your imagery and messaging tone contributes to awareness building. Do you stand out from the competition and offer relevant solutions? If your advertising is consistent in imagery and tone in all media, your results will be better. Better because you won’t be confusing customers and prospects about who you are and what you stand for. Be sure your direct mail, TV, print, online advertising and Website convey a similar look and tone for maximum effectiveness.

Advertising is an ongoing process of experimentation - continuously tracking, tweaking and improving. You’ll never get it right and be able to set it on auto-pilot because too many things are changing all the time. So have a plan, be flexible, learn from your mistakes, invest in what is working and repeat the process.

While there are no fool-proof solutions to advertising, just taking a systematic approach to advertising will give you an advantage over less disciplined competitors.

Good luck and good selling.

Publication date: 09/21/2009

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