The two schools of thought that advertising is marketing, or that advertising just doesn't work anymore, are both flat wrong. The problem is that most advertising is simply junk. Yes - even the stuff you get when you pay a million bucks to an agency.
Advertising has three jobs:
- Get your attention
- Inform you while building interest
- Persuade you to take action
Most advertising today does #1 poorly and forgets about the rest.
Advertising companies like to measure stuff to justify their jobs so they measure "awareness". They can tell you that after 6 exposures to the ad where a monkey wears a suit and tap dances that 33% of viewers know the company they advertise exists.
On a lark I picked up the Boston Yellow Pages (one of the worst offenders) and turned to the limousine section. I don't know what you're looking for when you hire a limousine, but here a few of the ad slogans from the display ads:
- "The Smoothest Ride In New England"
- "You've Gone With The Rest Now Go With Our Best"
- "One of the Lowest Rates Around"
Well, perhaps they want to be compelling by compelling you to take a nap. These slogans mean absolutely nothing. Can you imagine them getting your attention, or compelling you to call. And if you think these slogans are atrocious, you should read the rest of the ads. They are all just identical laundry lists of features. I can not tell the difference between any of the 32 limo companies with display ads, not to mention the hundreds of companies with listings.
Wake up call: Nobody cares, or even wants to believe you, when you say any of the following:
- We're the best...
- One of the oldest...
- The largest...
- We care about service...
This is just plain lazy advertising, but then again it's par for the advertising course.
One of the other problems that small businesses encounter with advertising involves doing "concept" or "branding" ads. Sure Nike and Coke can afford to slap their logo on a million billboards across the country to build brand recognition - you can't so don't do it.
After you get your customer's attention in a meaningful way - you now need to educate them why they need to business with you. Why should a person give you their money over your competitor? What should they care about reading, or listening to, or seeing your ad?
If your answer is anything like, "because we are the greatest, biggest, whatever." think again. You need to tell the customer what you are going to do for them, advertising is not about how great you are, it's about the great things you will do for the customer that nobody else can.
If your advertising is just like everybody else's the only thing you have to compete on is price. You had better hope that a WalMart like competitor doesn't move in or your business is gone. Competing on price is a dangerous activity.
Frequently you'll see companies offering basic features as benefits. It's just ridiculous to see an airline offering "on time flights" or any business saying "service is important to us." They're saying to us that they are most proud of meeting our lowest expectations. Don't you just want to open your wallet and give them all your money now?
Most advertising betrays a very basic flaw in how many people do business. They don't take the time to find out what's important to their customers. They don't offer to solve our problems or fix our pain. They don't answer the nagging questions we have that would prevent us from using them.
So let's say that you and I are starting the Comet Limousine Service. We have decided to focus on the very lucrative airport runs. We start talking to potential customers and we find out that the biggest concern is being late and missing a flight, particularly early morning flights. A ha!
So, we invest a few thousand bucks in GPS systems that are tied to traffic reporting systems. We also incorporate a system where we call our customers in advance to make sure they are awake and ready to go. We can create a great attention getting offer:
Never Worry About Missing A Flight Again
When you hire Comet Limousine Service we'll call you in plenty of time before the flight to make sure you're ready to go. Our state of the art system predicts traffic patterns to make sure you're not stuck in traffic while your flight leaves without you. We guarantee you'll make your flight on time or the ride and return trip is free.
This is quick and dirty, but you get the point. This would stand out from all other limo ads in the book, or the local paper. I can virtually guarantee that the response rate from this would be high enough that we could dominate the airport limo market until the competition caught on and imitated it.
Take a look at your ads, brochures, and web site. If any of it is an empty slogan followed by a laundry list scrap it and start over - you're wasting your money.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet