Fortunately, right then I woke up. As I awakened, I remembered that I had spent the previous day working on my advertising budget for this year. The irony of the Super Bowl ad hit me. In my dream I hadn’t bothered to determine who really is my audience.
The point is that with the start of a new year, it is time to take a complete look at your entire advertising strategy. The idea of advertising is to get your message to your potential buyers. The same things that worked a few years ago, or maybe even last year, may not work right now. The reason is that people are not receiving messages the same ways that they did years, or even months ago. The new social media items like Facebook and Twitter are so new, no one really yet knows their impact. So how do you, as a contractor, sort through all of the possibilities?
The first step is to analyze who it is that you want to reach. This requires an internal analysis of your customers and their demographics.
It’s important to take the time to put down in writing the important factors that identify your customers. This includes age, general income level, male or female, geographic location, and anything else you know that helps identify and segment those that make up your existing and potential customer base. The more you can pinpoint the type of individuals you want to reach, the better value you will be able to obtain from your advertising dollars.
This requires accepting the fact that the entire population out there is not your potential market. The acceptance of this fact was a step I obviously had not taken in my dream when placing my Super Bowl ad. I was paying to reach millions and millions of people who were not potential customers. You can be very successful serving a relatively small portion of the entire population.
STAYING IN TOUCHAnother important reason to analyze your current customers is to determine how you might best stay in touch with them. Most experts in our industry say you will get more return on money spent by keeping in touch with your own customer base.
Direct mail is probably the best way to target your own customers. Unfortunately, because it can be targeted, many industries use direct mail and your message can easily be lost in the clutter. Many companies must find direct mail to be a successful approach because so many use it extensively. Direct mail is one good way to encourage referrals by including in your direct mail piece an incentive for someone to make a referral.
Speaking of referrals, since a high percentage of our leads come from our own customers and referrals from those customers, I am questioned by our employees as to whether or not we really need to advertise at all. My response is that, if I am looking to purchase something, and a friend refers me to a company, if I am familiar with the company name, have heard it advertised, or seen their trucks, I am a lot more likely to follow up and contact that company. If I have never heard of the company referred, I am less likely to call that company. For that reason, I feel it is important that we keep our name out there in front of our potential customers.
Thus, as you plan your advertising program, your first step is to analyze your current customer base. This will give you the information as to where to best spend your advertising dollars to reach potential new customers. It will also help you determine the best ways to reach your existing customers. With that background information regarding the type of individual around whom you want to target your advertising dollars, it is now time to determine how to best go about reaching that audience.
In our next column, we will look at the pros and cons of the many advertising options available.
Publication date: 01/25/2010