How To Choose the Right Traditional Media For Your Business
Television is a great way to get your message out a large audience and is an excellent medium for creating brand awareness. Of course, network TV is generally expensive - but if you can afford it, it should be part of your marketing mix.
When choosing your TV advertising slots, you must remember to ask your account rep about the share figures (number of viewers) per show so that you choose the most effective slots.
(Remember - don't just choose shows you like to watch - choose the shows that your target audience is watching.)
- Large reach
- Broad exposure
- Brand development opportunity
In general, radio is about frequency rather than reach. Although there are some large metropolitan stations, in most cases the value of radio is that you can buy a lot of ads at a relatively small price. This lets you repeat your message over and over again to make sure people hear it.
Radio advertising often comes in packages that rotate around various time slots and programs. It may be possible, however, to negotiate with your radio representative to purchase ads in the higher-rated time slots and programs only. Buy quality slots in as much quantity as you can afford.
Remember - with radio, like TV, choose the times/programs that appeal not to you, but to your target audience.
- High frequency at low investment cost
- Can be coordinated well with events (i.e. sports)
- Cost per thousand is relatively high
- Can't be sure that your target audience is listening
- Can't communicate directly with your prospects
Cable has many advantages over network television.
Cable stations tend to be more specialized in their appeal. This leads to smaller audiences for each channel, which makes advertising less expensive. The specialization of cable channels also means that advertising messages can be focused for individual target audiences by choosing particular channels for your advertising.
As with all broadcast media, make sure to do your homework before you buy. Cable advertising is often sold as a package, with ads rotating around all time slots. Instead, find out which shows have the highest ratings and purchase as many slots as you can afford during those shows. (You may have to press your advertising rep to get the detailed numbers you need.) One strategy may be to choose a single high-rated show (a newscast, for example), and "own it".
- When correctly used, can provide high frequency at low investment cost
- Extremely targeted audience demographics
- Low reach on most shows, though not all
Newspaper advertising is a tricky medium. Its effectiveness varies greatly depending on the circulation and audience demographics of each newspaper, and the lifestyle of the community in general (i.e. some communities tend to rely on local newspapers for information more than others do).
Generally, newspaper advertising is sold by the column inch, with deals given for buying in bulk for a longer time period (i.e. once a week for a year). There are also different prices for mid-week advertising and weekend advertising. Weekend/mid-week combination packages are frequently offered.
Newspaper can be very effective, but it can also be a poor performer. The performance of your ad depends upon many factors, including:
- Circulation of the newspaper
- Quality of your ad (design, message)
- Placement of your ad within the newspaper
- Day(s) of the week on which your ad runs
- Competition from major retailers around holidays
Consistency - but not predictability - is the key to success. It is often effective to rotate your ad in a cycle, for example: 3 weeks in, 1 week out, 3 weeks in, 1 week out, 3 weeks in, etc. This is known as a 9 over 11 - nine ads placed over eleven weeks. This prevents readers from getting so used to your ad that they ignore it. You can enhance the effect of a 9 over 11 by varying the placement, look, and message of your ad each week, or for each three week segment. Your ads should always be simple and uncluttered, and have an attention-grabbing headline, a clear call to action, and a definite deadline on the promotion.
- High frequency is affordable
- Opportunity to gain greater reach on weekends
- High cost per thousand
- Expensive in major markets
- Requires great, attention-grabbing design and message - hiring professionals to do this may be an additional expense
Most service businesses rely too heavily on Yellow Pages advertising. Recent statistics indicate that almost 80% of contractors spend over 50% of their total marketing budget on Yellow Pages advertising, but get only 10% of their overall sales dollars from the leads.
You shouldn't ignore the Yellow Pages, because it gives your potential and existing customers a place to find you when they need you. It is a research and crisis medium for service and repairs.
But there are a number of reasons to rethink your current Yellow Pages strategy:
- It is extremely expensive to place any kind of display ad in the Yellow Pages, and in a company with limited resources, Yellow Pages advertising can eat up too much of the overall advertising budget.
- The leads typically generated by the Yellow Pages tend to be transitional buyers in "bargain mode" who are price shopping. These leads are not necessarily of high value to higher-end boutique businesses whose primary business is new product sales.
- Yellow Pages leads tend to be consumers in crisis, which will force your company to rely too much on the demand or failure pattern of your industry (seasonal changes, bad weather, etc.)
- Sales leads that come from the Yellow Pages tend to close at a very low rate compared to sales leads from other media such as referrals, service-created leads, and other forms of promotions and advertising. This is because Yellow Pages consumers are typically doing price-shopping and get more bids than most other consumers.
It's common for contractors to spend too much on Yellow Pages advertising and not enough on other media, leaving their marketing budgets out-of-balance. You can change this - and probably get more leads at a lower cost-per-lead - by carefully tracking your leads and determining which media are the most effective for you. Once you have this information, you can reduce your Yellow Pages spending to a level that makes more sense for your company. And, you can focus your efforts on improving the value of your Yellow Pages spending.
Here's how you can make your Yellow Pages advertising more effective:
- The Yellow Pages are better for creating service leads than sales leads. However, leads from service calls can become possible sales opportunities after service is completed. Train your technicians to capitalize on lead opportunities and create accessory sales from Yellow Pages service calls.
- We know from consumer research that consumers value the following attributes when choosing a contractor from the Yellow Pages: punctuality and respect for their time; financing or credit options; trustworthiness. To make the most of your Yellow Pages leads, work on these aspects of your company.
- Remember that you have about half a second to get the consumer's attention in the Yellow Pages. Minimize the amount of copy in your ad - focus on a memorable headline or graphic that snares a potential customer's attention, then stick to a very basic marketing message with a clear call to action. Don't let your ad be cramped or busy.
- Make sure your ad is in an optimum position on the page. The top right corner of the first page of the section is the best. This holds true even if the section begins on a left-hand page.
- It's rarely a good idea to pay extra for color. You can get just as much attention through your ad's design. Position and overall size are much more important, and that's where your dollars should go.
- Don't even bother paying for a White Pages listing - it's worthless. Negotiate a free listing or ignore the White Pages altogether.
- Track the leads that come from all your advertising media to determine how effective and important your Yellow Pages advertising really is.
- Don't be bullied by Yellow Pages reps into a spending war with your competition. If your company has a well-organized marketing and lead generation plan that utilizes other media effectively, you can reduce your Yellow Pages spending and actually improve your overall lead generation.
- Provides a place for people to find you when they need you
- Good for generating service leads
- It's expensive to get optimum ad placement and position
- Most sales leads are price shopping
- Service leads are seasonal and crisis-driven
- Difficult to trust sales representatives' statistics about ad effectiveness
- With the increasing number of other Yellow Pages-type books in most markets, your ad purchase is becoming diluted
Magazines are a very targeted medium that reach niche audiences with specific lifestyle interests. Magazine advertising is not typically a first-choice medium for contractors because of the expense and the difficulty in generating leads.
On the plus side, magazines have a long shelf life. Prospects may read and make decisions based on a very old ad or article.
Magazine articles that enhance your public image and give your company exposure are excellent. The most cost-effective way to get magazine coverage is to persuade your local magazine to run a feature story about your company. You may be able to spark such an article by sending out a press release to local media when you begin to offer a new product or service - especially green or high-tech products.
Because magazines are typically better for brand enhancement than lead generation, we recommend focusing on other, lead-generating, media first, only purchasing magazine advertising when other avenues have been covered.
Remember to choose magazines that will appeal to your target audience.
- Long shelf life
- Feature articles can be excellent for brand building
- Low reach in most cases
- Cost per thousand is high
Direct Marketing Media
In direct marketing you make direct contact with the consumer, and provide a way for the consumer to respond directly back to you.
Direct mail is one of the most common, and most effective, forms of lead-generation advertising for smaller businesses. In particular, direct mail is an excellent way to communicate with existing customers. You can target your advertising extremely effectively (i.e. you spend money only on reaching people you know have some interest in your company) and it is therefore relatively inexpensive. This makes it possible for you to try different promotions over time and appeal to your customers' various needs.
You have probably read various statistics about response rates for direct mail campaigns - usually between one-half and two percent. While it is true that these are the averages (and one-half a percent is a useful figure for determining a conservative ROI for your campaigns), it is not necessarily true that this will be the case for you. Many factors can improve the response rates for direct mail, including:
- The type of direct mail piece
- The creative quality of the piece
- The timing of the mailing
- The follow-up after the mailing (such as telemarketing follow-up)
- The type of products and services you are selling
- The offer
- The call to action
There are many types of direct mail media - here are some examples:
- Letters and newsletters
- Flyers, newspaper inserts, and mailbox stuffers
- Coupons and gift certificates
- Door hangers
- Thank you cards (for after the service/sale follow-up)
There are also services that offer direct mail turnkey programs. Their packages usually include buying the mailing list, creating the piece, and mailing or otherwise distributing the piece.
- Cost-per-lead is low
- The better the list, the better the results
- Though initial costs can be higher, cost-per-lead and cost-per-sale are lower
- Great flexibility to change message to increase appeal to target audiences
- Easy to measure results
- Not very environmentally-friendly
- If you don't already have a good customer list, you will need to buy a mailing list, which can be expensive for high-quality lists
Direct Mail Examples:
Letters and Newsletters
Direct mail targeted letters and newsletters are the most common form of direct mail. They are used to create homeowner awareness of a specific offer or offers.
Targeted letters and newsletters generate response rates from half a percent up to as high as 10-12% depending on the timing, the offer, and the product or service you are marketing.
Direct mail response rates typically improve with passive telemarketing follow-up.
- Ability to adapt offers quickly
- Targeted focus
- Easy to measure results
- Can be expensive
- Need to buy quality lists
Postcards are dynamite forms of direct mail if they are done well. Most, however, are not. They are not nearly aggressive enough about getting people's attention.
To succeed, you should treat the front of your postcard like a billboard: have a short (seven words max!) message and attention-getting graphics that will entice people to actually read your offer on the other side.
Postcards are particularly cost-effective for reminding existing consumers of service milestones.
- Response rates vary
- Can be very cost-effective if done well
- Builds brand awareness
- Postage is cheaper than for letters/newsletters
- Can be expensive to create
- Cost of postage for postcards is rising
Flyers, newspaper inserts, and mailbox stuffers can all be effective if done well. However, attention-getting graphics and headlines are key, and most flyers are not well-constructed from a creative point of view. In order to succeed with these media, you will need to invest in good creative work.
Also, you should make sure to time newspaper inserts carefully so that they doesn't get overshadowed by other retail flyers.
- Inexpensive to print
- Blow away
- Need strong creative work - which should be done by professionals
- Can be expensive to deliver
- Not targeted
Coupons are an excellent way to create leads, as long as you have an attention-getting graphic and offer to draw the homeowner's attention. Coupons can be used as inserts in newspapers or in other direct mail pieces. They can even be stuffed into door hangers.
- Quick and easy to use
- Good lead generator
- Postage costs if sent first class
The "friends and family gift certificate" is an excellent direct mail piece for creating referrals and potential new customers. Gift certificates can even be placed into door hangers as inserts.
- Low cost
- Easy to create and use
- Must be priced into service labor
Door hangers are great delivery mechanisms for specific offers.
Inserts can be placed into door hangers.
A terrific way to generate leads.
There are two types of telemarketing:
- Active - outbound to create a lead or a sale
- Passive - outbound as a means to contact customers for follow-up
Telemarketing is getting bad rap these days. Telemarketing does create a difficult situation with some homeowners, but many actually do purchase products and services from a telemarketing lead source system.
The do-not-call list is in effect, but is little understood. The state and federal do-not-call lists exclude your existing customers who have given you their phone number. So yes, you can call your existing customers, and any new customers who give you their phone numbers.
And, yes, you can still conduct outbound telemarketing using say a predictive dialer system. You just have to adhere to the rules and the state laws that apply.
We believe that telemarketing is best used as a follow-up mechanism for after-the-sale service, and for market research "happy calls".
In order to succeed at telemarketing, you should:
- Develop a script with a flowchart
- Train your employees on the scripts
- Target your existing customer base with a promotion
- Generates leads
- Telemarketing support increases leads and response rates for promotions via other media
- Needs good organization
- Can be time-consuming
Outdoor Advertising Media
Billboards are a great way to get attention and develop brand awareness. They are not lead generators per se, but they reinforce your local marketing message.
Billboards are great if you have all other marketing bases covered and want to create top-of-mind awareness in the community.
The more you create leads with the other forms of marketing, advertising, and promotion, the more billboards will be beneficial to you.
In order to use billboards successfully, you should:
- Limit your message to seven words or fewer - no exceptions
- Have an attention-getting picture or graphic image
- Remember that you have only one second to make an impression, so make it good!
- Develop top-of-mind brand awareness in the community
- Great for support of other media in a plan that has leads covered
- Not a lead generator
- Difficult to measure results
- Drivers have 1-2 seconds of time to view entire message
Trucks are moving billboards. We have all heard it, so why do so many trucks break the rules of billboards?
Trucks create or convey a company image and reinforce your brand - good or bad! You must pay attention to the image you project - every day. Your trucks should always be neat, clean, and well identified to the consumer.
Considerations for your trucks: it's all about image and memorability!
- Use bold colors - they should stand out at a quarter-mile range of sight
- Use reflective paint/decals so your branding can be seen even at night
- In major cities, paint the tops of your trucks as well
- Adhere to major image rules: main image, company name, phone number, website
- Unique selling proposition/theme if you have one
- Build brand awareness
- Only cost is initial branding of trucks and normal truck upkeep that you do anyway
- Must follow billboard rules to be effective
Yard or Job Site Signs
Get permission to use them, then use them. No exceptions!
A yard sign is a free billboard that advertises that you are in the neighborhood - right now! Combine the posting the sign with distributing friends and family coupons, door hangers, or flyers in the neighborhood, and you have a nice coordinated strategy for creating brand awareness about your company in the local area.
Remember to follow the rules for billboards when designing your yard signs. Keep the graphics exciting and the message short. Less clutter, more memorability!
- Low cost
- Easy to create and use
- Creates good brand awareness/image
- Need permission to post them
Public relations is so underutilized that it may be THE single greatest opportunity to create brand and company awareness about your company - for FREE!
The great part about public relations is that doesn't cost anything. The hard part about public relations is building your contacts and relationships with the media. Your goal should be to become the go-to person when the media are looking for an expert opinion about something related to your industry.
Consider these PR ideas:
- Create a media press release kit with detailed information about you and your company, and explaining why you are the go-to person for issues related to your areas of expertise
- Develop a network of media contact people, and "touch" them regularly
- Being a guest - or host! - of a local home improvement show is one of the very best ways to gain free exposure, leads, and positive community recognition.
All companies should have a PR plan as a part of their company's overall marketing plan.
- Wide reach
- Great brand awareness for your company
- Tough to get into the old boy club
- Requires some time to maintain media contact network
Special Events Marketing
Home Shows/Mall Shows/Exhibits
Special event marketing and sponsorship is an excellent tool for creating awareness about your company.
However, special events are expensive, time consuming, and require significant planning. Any event, no matter how small, requires planning, and should have its own marketing plan written out so all the special details do not get forgotten!
Some of the things you'll need to plan for are:
- Follow-up cards
- Booth set-up
- Ways to draw attention to booth
- Booth location (just like in real estate - location, location, location)
- Great traffic - lots of leads
- Builds company brand/image
- Increases consumer awareness of new products
- Requires forms, organization, premium items
- Lead quality is suspect
- Can be expensive
- Time consuming
Other Forms of Marketing
Acquisition of Company Customer Lists/Phone Numbers/Assets
One of the least understood marketing methods, but the one with perhaps the greatest ROI, is the acquisition of affiliate companies and their customer database. Acquiring a company frightens some, but it should not. If it is not an area of your expertise, you should limit yourself to acquiring the company's list of customers. At the very minimum, you should contact the phone companies in your area and arrange to acquire the phone numbers of struggling companies should they run into trouble.
You can feed the newly-acquired customer list directly into your marketing machine! And your technician selling and lead generation process is a huge marketing weapon for making the most of a customer list acquired from a troubled company.
When buying a customer list, make sure to:
- Do a customer audit for quality
- Pay only for active customers
- Always buy the company's phone number as well as its customer lists
Building leads is about building a network. The more involved in the community an owner or manager becomes, the more your network of referrals will build.
Examples of community networks that can help your marketing efforts include:
- Local networking peer groups
- Rotary clubs
- Chambers of Commerce
- Religious groups
- Charitable organizations and events
Sales Collateral Materials
All sales collateral materials should follow the company marketing approach and should have the following items clearly presented:
- Website address
- Unique selling proposition
- Easy contact data - service businesses are often contacted in a crisis!
Sales materials reflect your company image - the good and the bad - so make sure that you clean up your logo, tag line, and any other part of your branding before you create your line of sales collateral. Otherwise, you'll be stuck for a long time with a look you don't like.
- Organized marketing breeds awareness and brand building
- Sales materials reflect your company image - the good and the bad!
Examples of Sales Collateral:
Print business cards with an offer on the back. Hand your cards to people with the offer side up so they see it.
Technician Sales Book
Every technician on every truck should have a sales book with predetermined installation prices for the accessories carried in the truck. When a customer is ready to buy, they are emotional and want to buy immediately. You should focus the technician sales materials on what you have and what you can install...now!
The book should also include flat rate pricing for upgrade services such as whole-house inspections.
The technician selling and service process is a critical step in the evolution of lead generation for the company. Accessory sales only happen when technicians are happy and feeling comfortable about talking to homeowners about the accessory products being marketed by the company. Very few technicians possess this gift of "customer speak" and will be more successful when they are given assistance in creating leads, accessory sales, and whole house inspection sales.
The demand service pricing system of flat rate is a great mechanism for introducing the homeowner to the items, by offering discounts for the pricing system for the day's work if they purchase a once-a-year inspection.
- Great tool for presenting options
- Very sexy look and feel if done well
- Sell more accessories
- Sell more inspections
- Technician change - For best results, technician sales training is needed
- Need to stay on top of flat rate tasks
Company Presentation Folder
Support your technicians with a company brochure and sales materials.
The simple fact is: you need a company presentation folder. If you do not have one, get one!
Your message is not carried by the folder, but by the materials that will go into the folder. The folder is a way to reinforce the image, your brand, and your message.
Consumer Educational Inserts
Educational materials give consumers the factual information they need to make good buying decisions. Without materials, your verbal sales pitch will not be sufficient.
When service technicians communicate the options, more sales occur.
Service invoices should be geared toward marketing as well as operations.
Having all your forms and materials tied to marketing plan makes for easy sales by technicians.
Having your customers give you direct feedback on the service invoice is crucial to market research.
The service invoice is also a great place to get referrals.
Whole-house inspections are necessary. Anyone who says otherwise has not done their homework. Consumers will pay and do want them because they value piece of mind. Like anything, value must be established.
After the Sale Follow-Up Operational Processes - "Happy Calls"
After the sale we need to talk to our customer. How did we do?
Good marketing includes market research. Follow-up calls are a great way to insure whatever standard you have as a company. Also, all technicians will know that you know what happens with the homeowners they serve. You can post the results and tie operational contests to sales contests and satisfaction results, and tie pay-raises to performance.
- Customers get extra attention
- Additional leads/referrals generated
- Creates market research data
- Improves operational accountability
- Service performance improves
- Takes admin time
- May add some costs of admin
Consumer Premium and Promotional Items
These are after-the-sale promotional items a company can utilize to improve the sales process, and remind customers about your company and brand.
There are two basic types of refrigerator magnets:
- A magnet that advertises your services and products with a contact number for reference.
- A larger magnet that contains not only information about your company, but other information for the homeowner as well, such as the local emergency and hospital numbers. This magnet is more likely to stay on a refrigerator to reinforce your company image and brand.
Thank You Cards
A thank you card should be sent after each service and sale.
Including friends and family discount for service as part of the referral process, is also a very good idea.
Designing a thank-you card is not difficult and can be done in Microsoft Publisher or Word.
It is an excellent follow-up form of direct mail.
- Enhances customers' positive feelings
- Improves referrals
- Can include other items as well - such as a refrigerator magnet
- Slight administrative costs
Here's what people say:
I have a heating and air conditioning company, The Clean Air Act Inc. of Beavercreek, Oregon. We are small by choice (I like to do real work, not babysit a crew of techs as my friends in the industry say). As the economy started to shrink I saw the need to change. Our HVAC distributor asked me to take a class about web sites. I was game--I (had) a web site, but OK, I knew it sucked and needed help BAD. I sat in this class and within 15 minutes I got real focused. I knew I was missing the boat and I needed to get aboard. The class was great. I was going (to sign up) the next day. I worked with Nadia and Wendy on the (website), and now Martina is now managing it and it is going great. We sold three systems in the first two months and got a hand full of service calls--they told us it would be slow growing. I am very happy so far. The more information you get them, the faster and better your project will go. Thank you so much iMarket Solutions.
Your friend Rodger A. Brown
Clean Air Act, Inc.