Medium & message

Developing advertising plan critical for success

You’ve got your business loan, you’ve got your storefront, you’ve lined up your suppliers and you’ve even hired your employees. What more do you need?
You need to let your future customers or clients know you’re open and what services you provide. But how do you do it – without panicking? Do you buy advertising space from every ad rep who comes knocking? Do you splurge and go with a couple of billboards in addition to TV, radio and newspaper ads? Do you run with a couple of full-page ads and hope word of mouth carries you from there?
What to do, what to do.
What you should do – if you haven’t already – is spend some time developing an advertising plan, say three Northern Colorado experts in the fields of advertising and marketing.
“The first thing you need to do is set up objectives for what the advertising should achieve,´ said Bob Harris, co-owner of Bob Harris & Associates in Greeley and associate professor of marketing at the University of Northern Colorado. “There are a whole lot of people out there who are advertising without specific objectives.”
What you want your ads to do, he says, includes the following: Communicate a message, build an image and create awareness. You also want to have consumers think of you first when they’re ready to buy goods and services. This is called Top of Mind Awareness.
You, the business owner, however, need to determine the tone of advertising that best suits your image and product.
“Advertising is a reflection of the image of the business,” Harris said.
Clean and classy portrays a positive image, he said, while an ad filled to the brim with copy and graphics often comes off looking more junky than informational. Putting too much copy in an ad, the ad execs agreed, is one of the biggest mistakes businesses make.
Harris also advises clients not to tie sales goals in with advertising.
“It’s real important that advertisers not say, ‘If I advertise $1,000, I need to be sure I get $1,000 (in sales) back,'” he said.
Your advertising plan, said Sara Hilzer, owner of Media Masters in Loveland, also needs to address your customer base or target audience. This is instrumental in determining in which medium to place ads. Carpet cleaners and pizzerias, for example, do best in coupon books.
“There are so many vehicles, people think they have to be in all of them,´ said Linda Roesener, an account executive with Advertising Development Specialists Inc. in Fort Collins. Many business owners, she said, err when they place a large percentage of their advertising dollars at the beginning of a campaign and then slack off. “If people don’t see your name on a regular basis, they forget about you. I recommend consistent and steady advertising rather than doing it all up front.”
Hilzer said it’s difficult, for example, to gauge the effectiveness of cable advertising after just one month.
“Three months is a good gauge for any medium. Be consistent,” she said. “If after that time, you’re not seeing the results you expected – increased store traffic, for example – then you might want to look at switching mediums.”
In general, Roesener said, print is the ideal medium for “business to business.”
“When people look for another business to deal with, they tend to go to something they’ve seen in print,” she said.
For the consumer market, she added, television and radio are excellent places to advertise.
“We’re seeing a resurgence of support for local radio, much more than we have seen in a long time. We’re finding more people go to radio and TV for local information,” she said.
Media Masters’ Hilzer agrees. “If you’re just getting open, I would suggest a combination of newspaper and radio and do a live remote,” she said.
A live remote – in the $900 to $1,200 range – creates excitement for people already out and about in their cars who on a whim are either in need of a free lunch or would like to meet the disc jockey. Of course, this type of campaign only works if you have something to entice the people into your store as well.
ADS’ Roesener said billboards are a strong medium for events and destinations. The key is to keep your message brief enough that it can be absorbed in the two seconds it takes to drive by it. Bench ads, she added, also can be a relatively inexpensive way to keep your name in the public’s eye.
Direct mail is another advertising medium that, although expensive upfront, is capable of being more productive because a business can generate its own list, according to Harris.
The next to the bottom line, however, is money. Advertising is not cheap. And the variables at arriving at a price are almost infinite, depending on the size or length of ad, one or more colors, duration, time frame, type of business, etc.
In Northern Colorado, magazines can charge from $500 on up for a one-time quarter-page ad. Newspapers average $10 to $12 per column inch. Billboards go for $200 to $700 per month depending on location. Radio time starts at about $8 to $25 for one 30-second spot, with cable TV coming in at comparable costs but with an added fee ($150 on up) for production.
Harris recommends that his clients first decide upon their advertising plan – the objectives and types of advertising they want to do – and then work with it until they arrive at an acceptable budget.
Hilzer and Roesener, however, prefer to take a percentage of gross sales, 2 percent to 4 percent being the average.
“If you have a bad location or you’re just opening or something requires that you spend more than that, I wouldn’t let it limit you,” Hilzer said, adding, “And if you have a great established business, you might be able to fall back to 1 percent.”
And, the absolute bottom line is, after all is said and done, is the advertising you’ve chosen working for you? If not, go back to square one and take another look at your advertising objectives. Or, hire a professional. Some charge by the hour, starting at about $45. Others charge a percentage of your total ad campaign, with 20 percent to 22 percent being average.
Hiring a professional, Harris said, is a plus.
“It’s no different from hiring an accountant or lawyer, and most businesses don’t operate without one of those,” he said. “Advertising is the same thing, and it’s more important in terms of the long-term investment in that company.”ÿ