Five Rules For Effective Advertising

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Five Rules For Effective Advertising
from The Dynamic Manager’s Guide To Marketing & Advertising

“You must know what matters to your customer
before you can produce advertising that appeals to them.”

Effective, results-producing small business advertising isn’t impossible, it’s just hard. It’s hard to make good ads, it’s hard to buy efficient media, it’s hard to judge results. But it’s not impossible. All you need to do is follow these five simple rules.

Rule One - Know your customer
Who do you sell to most of the time? Let’s say you operate a garden center. Are your best customers apartment dwellers or home owners? Are their homes on small lots or big acreages? Are they do-it-yourselfers or do-it-with-helpers? Obviously, each of these customers needs different things from your nursery. They also need different advertising strategies for everything from copy points to media selection. You simply can’t be all things to all customers and neither can your advertising, so the first step in good marketing is to define the customer who puts the most money in your till every month.

You’ll want to know their age, sex, and income, for starters. Even more important, of course, is their housing situation, lifestyle, and family mode. You can commission expensive market research to find out these things, but you probably know much of it already from your daily dealings with them. The key is to focus your advertising on those best customers—and only them—instead of trying to be all things to all people.

Rule Two - Get their attention
We’re assaulted by literally thousands of advertising messages every day. On TV, radio, and the newspapers, to be sure. But also on every package in the supermarket, bumper stickers on almost every vehicle, and logos on a remarkable amount of clothing. They all blend together and become background noise in the life of today’s over-stimulated consumer. If your ads blend into the background, they don’t do you any good.

You’ll go a long way toward grabbing the consumer’s attention if they know you’re talking only to them, hence the emphasis on Rule One. It also helps if you have an attention-getting device, whether it be a ringing telephone that begins your radio spots or a screaming headline at the top of your newspaper ads. You have to do something to make your tree stand out from the forest.

Rule Three - Sell a benefit
The only thing most retail ads tell the customer is what the store has to sell. And the only reason they give the customer to buy it is because it’s on sale that week. If the customer doesn’t want, say, a bag of weed killer, the ad is meaningless to them. Or, if they do happen to be in the market for some lawn chemicals that week, the ad gives them no reason to buy it from that particular store other than price.

To break out of that trap, make sure your ads emphasize the benefits of buying from you. Don’t tell the customer what you have; tell them what you’re going to do for them. Talk about how buying a tree from you will lower their home’s heating or cooling bill, increase their home’s value, and give their kids a shady place to play in the summer. Offer to add value to their purchase by teaching them how to plant that tree or how to care for it. When you tell the consumer what’s in it for them when they shop at your garden center, you greatly increase the likelihood that they’ll respond to your ads.

This goes back to Rule One, of course. You must know what matters to your customer before you can produce advertising that appeals to them. If your best customers are empty-nesters without kids, for example, that picture of little girls having a tea party under the tree you’re trying to sell won’t work.

Rule Four - Leave a reminder
The best advertising works in the future. Since the customer doesn’t necessarily need a garden hose the day he or she sees you ad, you want them to remember you when they do. That’s the function of a memory trigger in your advertising—so the customer will think of your store first when they have a need to be satisfied. A memory trigger is a element that links the benefits the customer wants to receive to the ones you offer. It can be a logo, a jingle, or even a slogan that sticks in the customer’s mind long after they see or hear your ad and pops back up when they need what you have to sell.

The perfect memory trigger means something to your best customer. Let’s say that your best customers are suburbanites with kids. A logo featuring a little girl holding a flower might well resonate with them. If the memory trigger also echoes the benefit featured in your ad copy—in this case, perhaps it would be the family values inherent in gardening—it will work even better.

Rule Five - Buy media right
There are two basic elements in the practice of advertising, the message and the media. Newspapers, direct mail, radio, television, the Internet, and the yellow pages are just a few of the media you can choose to put your message in front of the customer. You can spend buckets of money on advertising space and time and you can invest countless hours analyzing the arcane data that supposedly tells you how to do it. Or, you can simplify the process—and improve your results—by going back yet again to Rule One.
If the medium you’re considering doesn’t reach your best customer, there’s no point in buying it. If the medium you’re considering reaches your best customer but a whole bunch of other people as well, make sure you don’t pay for all those extra ones. When comparing media cost efficiencies, the only number that counts is the number of best customers you reach for each dollar you spend.

Finally, when it comes to scheduling your media exposure, keep in mind that customers tend to respond to the most recent ad they’ve seen. Memory triggers notwithstanding, the freshest impression is the strongest one, so you want it to be yours. Since it’s tough to predict exactly when the customer is going to be in the market for something, it’s advisable to run your ads as constantly as possible. Budget so you can heavy-up during peak seasons, of course, but don’t make the mistake of advertising only at those times.

Like any set of rules, any one of these five can be parsed, bent, or even broken, but it’s hard to say what will happen if you do. Also, like any rules, they’re not necessarily easy to follow. If you observe them, though, it’s a safe bet that your ads will draw more customers with more money in their pockets into your store. And doesn’t that make it worth the effort?


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