At this very moment, there must be at least nine other companies competing for your
customers. Some are in your line of business, while others may be in an entirely
different industry. But all are trying to convince your customers to buy their goods
or services instead of yours.
How can you win sales in this competitive environment? One way is with advertising.
And to understand how advertising works and how to obtain the best results, begin
by refreshing your knowledge of the marketing basics.
* Take another look at the marketing texts on your bookshelf or in a library or
bookstore -- standards such as the Guerrilla Marketing series and others listed
in the Resource Directory on page 77. Review the fundamentals of targeting a buyer
segment and marketing strategically to that particular niche.
* Determine who your existing customers are, and define the target market you want
* Know what you're truly selling, which is probably not only your product or service
per se, but also an intangible such as status, self-enhancement or peace of mind.
These have been called the "secret motivators" of sales. Once you determine the
intangible benefit of your product or service, you'll have a clearer sense of who
else offers that intangible and what advertising approach and image you need in
order to compete successfully.
Taking into account target market, sales message, image and competitive environment,
determine your underlying objectives in running an advertising campaign -- objectives
such as expanding the wholesale side of your business or developing a more affluent
Equally important, establish a realistic advertising budget. By rule of thumb, it
should amount to three to five percent of your annual revenues, although you'll
need to consider adjusting up or down depending on the extent and spending levels
of your competition. This budget should cover any community sponsorships you may
provide, as well as your advertising in newspapers, magazines, Yellow Pages, newsletters,
on radio and television, by direct mail, and any other promotional avenues you choose.
Think Like A Buyer
If you're like most small businesses, you receive frequent calls and visits from
advertising representatives, all with convincing stories. It can be confusing to
try to compare and weigh the advantages they cite. So to decide if a particular
advertising option is right for you, think the way a buyer does.
Think like a buyer, or potential buyer, to assess which media or publications connect
you with the greatest concentration of people you're trying to reach. Examine not
only demographics and geographics, but also programming or editorial style. Is your
target market likely to watch this TV channel, listen to this radio station, or
read this magazine or newspaper? Are they likely to trust and respond to the advertising
they find there? Does the medium or publication cover the geographic area where
your likely customers are located, without including so broad a region that you're
paying mostly for exposure you don't need? Take the time to watch, listen and read
for yourself. Know your media firsthand, and get a feel for who their audiences
Likewise, think like a buyer to figure out what would make people buy from you,
rather than from companies selling either the same products and services, or different
ones that provide the same psychological benefit as yours. In short, arrive at what's
called your "Unique Selling Proposition," or U.S.P. -- the unique or special benefit
to customers that sets you apart from the competition. Your U.S.P. tells people
the specific advantage they receive if they buy from you. So instead of saying you
have the largest inventory in the country, put it in customers' terms: they get
the unbeatable convenience of 500 models to choose from and next-day delivery. That's
Six Essentials Of A Successful Ad Program
If you are new to advertising, or if you're using media or publications you haven't
tried before, it's important to assign your ads to outside specialists rather than
try to create them yourself. These specialists may be the creative group at an advertising
agency, a freelance writer and designer, or the ad department of the newspaper,
magazine, TV channel or radio station where you plan to advertise. Such people are
experienced in translating information about a product or service, target market,
U.S.P. and advertising goals into advertising that suits each medium and conveys
an effective image and sales message. Moreover, it's extremely helpful to work with
and learn from specialists for several years before you consider doing advertising
Whether you work with specialists or create advertising on your own, here are six
guidelines to follow in developing an ad program:
1. Do your homework. Start compiling your own ad file. Collect ads you like, to
give you ideas, as well as ads run by your competitors, so you can monitor what
they're doing. Read books on advertising, including anthologies of the best ads
of the year, how-to's by advertising greats.
2. "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." The old rule about selling products based on
the benefits and excitement they provide has proved true time and time again. So
focus on your U.S.P. -- and on those intangibles that motivate human behavior and
generate sales. This rule does not apply to Yellow Pages ads, which do sell steak,
but it remains the essence of all other advertising you do.
3. Stick to your own image and personality. Stay with the basics of who you are.
Make sure that the personality and image projected in all your advertising ring
4. Work as a team with your ad rep or ad agency. The best advertising results from
a synergy of your expertise in your business and your ad specialists' expertise
in advertising. Carefully explain your product, market and goals, and let the ad
people go from there to develop their ideas. Advertising is a give-and-take process,
and both sides need to communicate and work together, without dictating, until the
outcome feels right.
5. Give each advertising medium you choose a fair test. Advertising rarely brings
sales overnight. Run your ad at least five times -- or at least two months in weekly
publications -- to test out the market properly. Often, consumers need to get used
to seeing your ad before they'll act on it. Results take time.
6. Don't overlook current customers. Nobody sells you better than a satisfied customer.
So in your efforts to gain sales from new prospects, remember that you can build
sales equally well through the customer referrals and repeat purchases of existing
clientele. Maintain a mailing list and, at your earliest opportunity, start producing
sale notices, newsletters, catalogues, or other goodwill and sales-generating materials
for the customers you already have. Some of these items lend themselves to a direct
mail campaign targeted at new prospects as well.
What's In An Ad
Print ads generally have four written parts -- headline, support copy, call to action,
and company name -- plus a visual. Visuals are usually more important than copy
because they're more effective in attracting readers' attention and can instantly
present your product or service in a dramatic and motivating way. Unless you're
commissioning your own original artwork or photography, the visuals you'll use will
probably be either drawings and photographs from your suppliers, or non-copyrighted
artwork (clip art) found in clip-art books and scrap-art computer programs. So choose
the strongest visual among them -- the one that best draws the eye and explains
what you're selling -- and move on to copy.
The most prominent piece of copy -- your headline -- must not only work with your
visual, amplifying its meaning, but also attract attention with a word, phrase or
sentence announcing a benefit that appeals to your target market. One expert wrote
that a headline is that final, mind-changing, sales-clinching comment you'd make
when leaving the office of a prospect who, until then, had responded with nothing
but negatives. Others point to the enduring effectiveness of the standard headlines
"Sale," "Free" and "Buy now and save." Collect ideas that are right for you from
your salespeople, from the ads in your file, and from advertising books. And remember
it is not so much the words, but the ideas they express, that sell; determine your
message, then find words to convey it.
Below the headline, support copy explains the headline premise and adds secondary
benefits or any assurance readers might need to dispel suspicions raised by the
headline, such as the assurance of "same great quality" when you're offering a "new
low price." Following this copy, as a sign-off, is a call to action urging the reader
to respond ("Call for an appointment today," or "Remember, sale ends March 21").
Your company name, traditionally at the bottom of the ad, should include your address
and phone number. Make your phone number larger to help stimulate response by phone.
Add a cross street to your address (e.g., "5730 Sheridan, at La Monte") if you're
a new business or if, for other reasons, people might have difficulty finding you.
The next step is to combine all these visual and copy elements into an eye-catching,
easy-to-read ad formatted to the dimensions stipulated by the publication. It's
best to study the ads in that publication in advance, and consider what your ad
might look like in order to stand out on the page. Experiment with different layout
ideas rendered in thumbnail sketches, and then fine-tune your ad to fit the layout
you prefer. Obviously, it's highly advisable if not imperative, when you're doing
ads in-house, that the person composing your ad has design experience. Not only
is skill required to make an ad look right, but the quality of your ad must compete
favorably with others appearing in the publication.
It's also a good idea to prepare your ad well ahead of the deadline. This way, you
can put it aside for a few days and then review the ad with a fresh perspective
while there's still time to make revisions.
As a final check, lay your ad on a page of the publication where it will appear
and make sure it stands out from the articles and other ads on the page.
Avoid These Pitfalls
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to good advertising is excess. Ads can end up so crammed
with ideas and features that they appear dense and uninviting. If over-designed,
they can be more artistic than motivational, obscuring the sales message. If over-written,
they can become over-subtle or over-cute. Certainly, some of the best ads ever created
are clever and visually arresting; but good ads must also sell.
Similarly, selling points may over-promise. Use "largest," "best" and other superlatives
only if you can back them up. Avoid any claim that could be construed as deceptive.
In addition, make sure the overall tone of your ad is upbeat and appealing. Emphasize
the solutions you provide, not the problems you address. And get outside opinions
on your new advertising concepts to be certain they carry the personality and message
Tracking Your Results
Establish a method to determine how customers found you, and keep track of the results.
Some companies routinely ask "How did you hear about us?" of every new customer
who phones or visits. Others have a "Referred by" box filled in on each invoice.
Whatever system you use, unless you've done a coupon promotion and can simply count
the number of coupons redeemed, tracking is the only way you can assess how effectively
your advertising is working. Tracking tells you which ads or media bring inquiries
and which bring sales -- a key distinction. If you track by invoice, you can also
determine how much revenue each ad dollar is producing.
Most important, tracking helps you decide how to readjust your advertising program
periodically to make your budget work its hardest. You'll know when to discontinue
certain media and publications and when to pump more money into others. You'll be
able to see which Yellow Pages directories and headings pull hardest for you. And
you'll know when results are dropping off from previously good sources, signaling
that it's time to give them a rest.
In the end, advertising is a trial-and-error process. You may need to spend several
years trying out various advertising options and assessing results to know the target
markets and media mix that work best for you.
How To Create An Effective Yellow Pages Ad
Yellow Pages ads resemble no other kind of advertising. They're not aimed at motivating
consumers to buy a product, but rather at convincing them to buy a desired product
from a particular company. Because companies attract business by showing they've
got whatever consumers may want, Yellow Pages ads also tend to be full of brand
names and information.
The first thing your ad must do is get itself read. Here, your success depends in
part on which Yellow Pages directory (or directories) you choose to place your ad.
The bottom line is to get the greatest amount of exposure. So compare competing
directories on the basis of their usage figures -- not their distribution figures,
but the number of actual consumer uses per year. If you then divide directories'
uses-per-year figures by their charge for the same size ad, you'll see which directory
provides the highest number of uses per dollar. That's the directory that delivers
the best value for your money.
Another key factor determining whether your ad will be read is the size of ad you
decide to buy. Obviously, the larger the ad, the more attention it gets. Once you
select the heading or headings under which your ad will appear -- and they should
be headings for the products and services that give you the greatest profitability
-- open to those headings and see what ad sizes your competitors have. You can then
choose ad sizes larger than theirs, on par with theirs, or smaller than theirs --
depending on budget constraints and the competitive stance you want to take.
Once you've decided on directories, headings and ad sizes, concentrate on creating
an ad that both attracts attention and stimulates customer response. Experts such
as Jeffrey Price, author of Yellow Pages Advertising: How to Get the Greatest Return
on Your Investment, say you can achieve those results by including the following
in your ad:
* Attention-getting artwork. Artwork is the greatest eye-catcher for an ad, after
size. You can use visuals from your suppliers or even non-copyrighted artwork you
locate in out-of-town or out-of-state Yellow Pages. Stick with illustrations whenever
possible, since photographs may reproduce poorly. And keep areas of blank space
around your artwork, and throughout your ad as well, so your ad is uncluttered-looking
and easy to read.
* A headline that says what makes you special. Identify the special or unique characteristic
that, for your target customer, puts you ahead of the competition. Write a short,
to-the-point headline stating that advantage. If your headline must focus on just
one of your products or services, choose the one that is most profitable.
* Complete information buyers need to make a purchase decision. Your ad must convince
buyers that you're the best source for what they need. So support your headline
with information, usually presented in list form, about your:
- Reliability (e.g., years in business).
- Authorized products and services.
- Full range of product line.
- Location (with maps, when helpful).
- Business hours.
- Special features such as parking, credit cards honored, discounts, licenses, guarantees,
delivery policy and emergency services.
Lastly, try to get your ad placed in the most prominent position possible under
each heading. Since positions are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, it's
advantageous to finalize your contracts with Yellow Pages publishers as rapidly