Marketing Plan: An Ad a Day keeps the Business in Play

POSTED: June 18, 2010 BY: CATEGORY:

The deadline for this column was approaching and I had writer’s block.  I guess I shouldn’t be trying to write something meaningful on a Friday afternoon.  After receiving a phone call, which created a diversion, however, the column began to unfold.

The call was from an advertising sales representative, which I thought was unusual because it was a Friday afternoon.  As the introduction continued I began to realise what the call was in relation to.  By way of background, one of my clients, who does a significant amount of advertising in niche magazines, receives a large number of cold calls in regard to advertising opportunities.  I guess all reps buy competitors’ magazines and contact the companies that advertise, trying to win new business.  This client will refer the rep to me if he initially considers that the opportunity is worth some further investigation.

While speaking to the rep, I Googled them to check out who they are.  Within a few seconds I have them sussed.  I could sense through the leading questions that they wanted to close the deal, so I decided to step in and start asking some measurement and ROI questions.  The tone in the rep’s voice changed – it wasn’t going to be such an easy sell after all.

I began to wonder how many small- and medium-sized business owners don’t ask the serious questions and are easy targets for savvy sales reps and therefore get ripped off?  It was making me angry.  This story was starting to unfold and I was getting motivated to take a stand – I wanted to protest.  Instead, I decided to overview some tips to help small business owners make a significant ROI on their marketing and advertising spend.

It’s In The Numbers

One of the first questions to ask (and I always ask) any potential advertiser is, “Are your figures audited?”  This always raises an interesting response and usually produces some home truths about the advertising in question.  (When I refer to audited figures, I mean the Audit Bureaux of Australia).

To be fair, not all the advertising I have bought in the past has been audited.  There are many sources of advertising that are relevant and can deliver on ROI without the audit figures.

It is, however, just a good place to start.  Interestingly enough, a few years ago I became friends with an advertising rep from a niche magazine.  One night when we were at the pub having some drinks, she admitted to me that she had no idea how many copies of the magazine she represented were sold, let alone printed, despite making a publisher’s claim about its circulation in client proposals.  I never forgot that conversation.

Watch Your Back

Have you ever been taken advantage of by an advertising rep in some way?  If so, you are not alone.  In my first week of business, a small-business person I know, Kylie Watson, the owner of a niche online boutique, was ripped off by a national magazine for a full-page ad.

Watson used that experience to do better deals with various advertisers and now has a six-month package with a magazine that has worked really well.  So, it’s not all bad news.

Get A Little Bit More

If you believe you are in a position to invest in advertising, I would always suggest getting some extra mileage for your spend by asking for added value.  Don’t be shy in doing this – have a list of what you want and let the advertising rep respond.  The common things to ask for are:

  • Product placements in editorial space
  • Extra exposure through competitions, and
  • The option of a special gift with a purchase or coupon code for that advertising mechanism.

I would also suggest that you think outside the box and look for opportunities to meet the editorial staff to discuss your product, the industry and what else is likely to be available in the future.  This will place you in an ideal position to be quoted in editorial space.  Be as creative as possible – often the advertisers are open to new ways of presenting information to their audience.  It is also worth considering partnering with them for events and being involved in their social media strategy or email marketing program.  The list goes on.

Measure The Results

The next step is to determine if the advertising being considered will reach your potential customers and be an influence to drive sales to your business.  If you consider it is a good match for your target audience, then the next consideration is measurement.

Here are some practical tips to help you measure your advertising spend:

  • Ask new customers how they heard about you – this is a simple and obvious question, but it really gives you some good insight
  • Create specific coupon codes
  • Create specific phone numbers
  • Create specific website URLs
  • Create a gift with purchase only available through one channel, and
  • Promote products in one advertising mechanism only.

Keep An Eye On Your Spend

It is worth noting that not all advertising is placed to drive direct sales and this applies to both large and small companies.  A good example of brand advertising in the SME market is Australian niche snowboard brand FreestyleMax.  This company sells to many international markets, including the US, and has invested in brand awareness to raise the profile of the brand and convince some large wholesalers to take on the product.  Stephen Leong, owner of FreestyleMax, notes that not only did the wholesale clients want to see his brand in the market, they also wanted to be listed as a stockist in the advertisement.  FreestyleMax paid for these ads and this investment has assisted in the growth of the business.

I recommend you keep your advertising spend updated in your marketing plan to ensure you are fully aware of how much you spend on advertising each year.  Paul Benson from Guidance Financial Services makes a good point when he suggests that it’s easy to spend $300 here, $400 there and, without realising it, there are several thousands of dollars being spent.

I too have seen this with a number of small business owners I have met.  You need to be disciplined in your record keeping and this will help you make a more informed decision.

Don’t Forget Your Strategy

Advertising does not replace a long-term marketing strategy.  The small business owners that I work with, who have invested in the long-term value of marketing, are doing really well as a result of this practice.

Getting back to the original phone call mentioned earlier on the Friday afternoon, I sent the advertising rep a list of questions to present back to us in a formal proposal.  They didn’t respond.

Instead they phoned the client again and offered the advertising at 50 percent less than what they originally quoted, and here was the rationale: ‘At the end of the day, we can talk forever about how good the site can serve you [sic], and what type of hit rates/enquiries we have received recently, but the only real way you will ever know the effectiveness of the site is to come with us just once and see for yourself the exposure we can generate for the business.’

I’ll let you be the judge.

Publication: Marketing Magazine

Issue: 6

Month: June 2010

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#Jo Macdermott - turning good businesses into great businesses is all in a day’s work for marketing consultant, Jo Macdermott. Jo leads Next Marketing, a multiple award winning business, which she has grown from scratch. Jo is commercial, empathetic and always has her eye on the end game.