Is Advertising Viable?
At the turn of the 20th century, department store magnate J.C. Penney acknowledged, “Fifty percent of my advertising doesn’t work.” When questioned why he continued to do it all, he replied, “Because I don’t know which half isn’t working.”
Over the course of the last century, most traditional advertisers accepted this situation as a reality that had to be put up with. The result has been that many organisations now develop marketing strategies based on the objective of “branding,” with the hope that brand recognition will attract customers.
Today it is only really viable for large organisations with huge advertising budgets to use this style of marketing, which is dependent of two factors; frequency and reach. Both these factors are directly proportional to the amount of money you spend. The more money you pour in, the greater you can extend your frequency and reach. Unfortunately for smaller businesses, the cost required to develop the level of frequency and reach to make an impact on the market are almost prohibitive.
Communicating With Our Market
Our success in marketing comes down to the quality of our communication with our customers. There are three elements of our communication that we need to address; our message, the media we use and the market we serve.
Gary Halbert, a well known direct marketing copywriter, likes to ask his students what advantage they think would help them sell the most hamburgers. He typically receives answers such as “better grade of beef,” “better sauce,” “better location,” “lower price,” and other similar suggestions. After the students finish he will say that he will allow the students to have all those advantages if they will allow him only one, and that if they allow him that advantage, he will win hands down. What is the advantage Gary Halbert wants? To have a starving crowd.
How simple yet insightful. The most significant factor in marketing success is to find a market that is starving and desperate to have your product. The first question you need to ask is; who are the people that desperately want my product and how do I find them? Then you need to ask; how do I get my message through to them?
In his book, Permission Marketing, Seth Godin claims that, on average, we are subjected to around 3,000 marketing messages each day. The message we need to understand from this situation, as marketers, is that it is becoming far more difficult to get our message through to our market, because the clutter of marketing messages makes it almost impossible to attract attention. We are now so adept at screening out advertising and marketing messages that it takes something significant to get through the filters.
One lesson we can learn about what gets through is the way we tend to deal with SPAM, the irritating unsolicited email ads that somehow still seem to get through the filters we have established. When dealing with spam, most of us tend to click “delete” almost automatically when we don’t recognize the sender of the email. We do this even when the subject line sounds interesting or enticing. We have learned to turn off to interesting headlines and to be sceptical of promises that sound almost too good to be true. We have become hardened by repeated disappointment in the past. Our experience with email has taught us to be efficiently ruthless with communication that we don’t deem necessary or is not from friends or colleagues. We just delete anything we don’t care about without even reading it or without even glancing at what it is about. The messages that do get through are the ones that come from a trusted source.
This habit is an indicator to us as marketers of how to get our messages through to our market and presents a real dilemma for small and medium size businesses in developing effective marketing strategies. The key is to work more on developing a trust relationship with your customer rather than developing an approach that resembles spamming.
Aim For The Target
With the effectiveness of mass marketing methods having deteriorated over the years to the point of relative ineffectiveness that they have now reached, the most important strategy for us in marketing has become identifying and targeting our “starving crowd.” Marketing now needs to be up close and personal to be effective. It doesn’t matter how good our message is and what media we use, if we are not directing our communication to someone who is desperately hungry for our product we stand little chance of success. Even if they are starving but don’t know us, the level of skepticism is such that they still may not trust us enough to buy our product, even if it is by far the best solution to their desperate need. What we need to do is identify specifically who are the members of our starving crowd and then woo them sensitively and relentlessly to gain their trust. Once we have their trust, we must continue to woo them to establish and deepen a relationship that makes them feel like they are important to us and that we are intent on looking after their needs as fully as possible.
Can you describe your ideal customer? To effectively target your customers you need to be able to describe the ideal customer in intimate detail. What is their average age, sex, income, job type, etc? Are they single or in a committed relationship? Where do they live? How many children do they have? What type of car do they drive? What are their hobbies or sporting interests? What do they read or watch on TV? What are their favourite movies? How often do they use your product? How often do they buy it and in what quantities? If they are businesses; what industries are they in, how many employees do they have, are they stable or fast growing? These factors are known as demographics and psychographics. To more effectively communicate with your target market, you need to know the physical and geographic elements that describe your ideal customer, what makes them tick and why they like your product.
Get Personal If You Want Results
Rather than spending a lot of money in mass market advertising, in which we try to sell our product to everyone, we would be much better off by first spending some money trying to identify who are the likely people in our market to buy our products and then target those people with more intense efforts to develop a relationship, build trust and persuade them to buy. I can do a better job of delivering a higher quality message to a select, targeted group that fits the profile of my starving crowd because I can focus most of my resources on that smaller group. Mass marketing is very wasteful and inefficient. If I try to sell to everyone in the market, I will deplete my resources very quickly. We can no longer appeal to the masses; our marketing message needs to personally address the needs of our ideal customer and we need to communicate that message on a one to one basis.