My dad always told me, “If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.” To me, that means setting yourself up for success from the onset. It’s a good rule to follow in life and in business. There are strategies that, when followed, will make sure your advertising is set up for success from the very beginning.
Statistics tell us that over 4 Million new businesses are started each year, and of those, the Small Business Association estimates that only 50% will last 5 years. Those are horrible odds. For that reason, it’s important to make sure that your advertising, a crucial component for a business’s ability to survive and thrive. Give yourself every chance to succeed by following these 12 rules. Following these rules makes advertising more successful, more enjoyable, and a better experience for both your business and your marketing partner.
Advertising is a long game built on strategy and consistency. Your ultimate goal is to build a brand name that will be around for years to come. It isn’t something you can start and stop, and expect to generate results. Much like a fitness program, begin at the level that your budget allows and be consistent. Then, build slowly over time as your business grows. Know that you can’t “test it” for 30 days or cancel the campaign in 3 months and expect to see results.
Advertising is a competition...you’re competing with all the other distractions in a consumer's life and fighting to get their attention, with the ultimate goal of them remembering you at decision time. The way that’s accomplished is with frequency. Different levels of frequency are useful for achieving different results. Know the difference between action and awareness campaigns and the results you can expect with each.
It will be super tempting to do a little of this and a little of that, but that is only a recipe for disaster. Budget 5-10% of your previous year’s sales, make the allocations annually with perhaps some left aside for contingency purposes (you want to do a Fall Clearance Sale or beef up right before the holidays, for example)...then stick to it. Unfortunately, our experience tells us that most business owners wing it when it comes to advertising. That practice is just as frustrating for us as it is ultimately for you.
Many business owners come to us and say that they want to “be Steve’s Pest Control” (or another business that they hear/see everywhere.) But what they don’t realize is that it took years for Steve’s Pest Control to get to where he’s at with business/marketing success. The reason many businesses fail to make it to that level is that they don’t want to do what it takes to get there, year after year. It’s okay to set your sights on owning the market, but then also expect to implement the same level of relentless consistency for the next 5-10 years.
Frankly, we wouldn’t recommend working with anyone who will shoot a price your way without an in-depth conversation to gather this information first. Reps that do that aren’t in it for your goals, they are in it for theirs.
So, if you are serious about advertising results, find a marketing partner that asks questions - lots of them. Advertising campaigns are never a one-size-fits-all solution. It's not that they don't want to give you helpful information. It's that literally, they can't. There are unlimited possibilities for marketing campaigns on each individual medium...each designed for a specific purpose. For that reason, to give you the information you want...you have to share information first so that they can then come back with completely customized solutions based on your goals and your budget.
Just because you have money to spend on advertising doesn’t mean you should buy everything available. Scattered spending only generates scattered results. Use the “cup” philosophy of Brandsformation - pick one marketing “cup” and fill it before adding another. In short, pick one thing and do it well - own that audience. Then, when your results and your budget allow, move to a 2nd “cup.” Your account manager can help you narrow down the best recommendation for which cups to fill when, based on your business profile, goals, and objectives.
The rule of thumb with target audience selection is to remember that you are not the audience. Don’t choose a station or advertising medium simply because you like it. At the end of the day, what YOU want matters less than where your future customers are. Understand your target consumer (may we suggest a Target Persona?) and go where you can find them. Avoid stereotypes. For example, you don’t have to only be on a country station to target construction workers. Note, you also don’t need to be on the biggest or best station for your advertising to work. It may be more strategic for you to start small and grow as your business grows.
Successful advertising is about proper execution of the 3 M’s of marketing: Medium, Market, and Message. Too often, business owners are super picky about the first two...and then relax standards with Messaging. Make sure you pay attention to the creative writing and production of your ad. Good marketing companies will present a campaign creative strategy alongside a schedule of ads. They know how to make an ad campaign that will deliver. Let your marketing partner go to work for you, and dare we say...resist with conviction the urge to write your ads yourself.
Set SMART goals and track them, sharing them specifically with your marketing partner. Set short-term and long-term goals. Your marketing team cannot recommend a campaign unless they know what results they will be held accountable for accomplishing. Don’t go into your marketing campaign without a clearly defined outcome. To share a quote attributed to James Cameron, “Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.”
Yes, you CAN measure advertising results. The specific metrics you track may be different depending on the medium that you employ, but all will have some data in common: things like profit margin, sales growth, average sale size, year-over-year comparisons, etc. Track...and then share them with your marketing partner. They have a vested interest in your success and will make modifications to your campaign to keep it on track as long as they are in the know.
Plan for your account manager to ask you in-depth questions about your goals. They are doing their job by asking these questions, not being nosey. Meet monthly to review the campaign, talk about what’s coming up, and share your sales and revenue numbers. Good marketing reps keep track, making sure you are getting the results you want and expect. This information is crucial to them recommending changes to your campaign. They are just as invested in accomplishing your goals as you are. They are not sharing this information with your competition or posting it on social media. They are trying to help you succeed. Be transparent. Be specific.
If you had a bad experience with a certain medium, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Just because you don’t use or like a specific medium...doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Just because you had a bad experience with a sales rep or a different marketing company doesn’t mean all of them are bad. Companies, people, and resources are not the same. Skills, tools, experience, and motivations are different. It may mean you need to keep looking until you find a partner and a strategy that you trust and who has your best interest in mind.
Marketing success is important - to you AND to your marketing partner. Make the commitment now to get started on the right foot and set your business up for long-term success.