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Five Secrets to Advertising

1 Dec, 2001 By: Wes Phillips imageSource

Five Secrets to Advertising

Recently, on a one-hour flight to Phoenix, I ended up in a middle seat next to the western regional sales manager for a software company. Like many marketing professionals, he was friendly and talkative. After about ten minutes, I realized he was going to talk the entire flight, so I decided to ask a few market research questions to at least guide the conversation towards a topic we would both find interesting. What I learned provides valuable insight for any office technology company whose goal is to produce powerful marketing results and become a market leader.

I asked this individual how long he had lived in Phoenix. He responded, "Six years." I then mentioned that our firm has an office technology client in Phoenix, which was founded about six years ago. Then I shared with him their corporate name. His response was a marketer’s dream.

He said, "I know that company. I hear them all the time on the radio. They are the company that sells copiers, printers and fax machines." After a pause, he added, "You know, the thing I remember about their advertising is that they honestly care about servicing their customers."

I then asked if he knew of any competitors besides Xerox. He responded "Oh sure there is another big competitor, just give me a couple of minutes to remember their name." He was never able to recall the competitor’s name or describe their marketing message.

So, what is the secret to our client’s advertising success? What is it that their competitors are missing? I believe the answer lies in the commitment to build a company, which will be the market leader. Clearly, this means developing a superior sales force, nurturing effective manufacturer relationships and ensuring that there is sufficient working capital. However, one of the secrets to securing market leadership is to design and implement an advertising strategy with five secret components.

SECRET ONE: Think And Behave Long-Term
From day one, our client chose to view developing their corporate identity and awareness as an ongoing endeavor. Essentially, they chose to condition their prospects to "automatically" think of them when they had a need for document imaging technology.

To generate an "automatic" response from prospects requires proper media selection to communicate the marketing message. This means selecting media that helps win the minds and hearts of prospects before they want a product. To achieve this outcome, our client chose radio broadcast as the foundation of their media strategy. They understood that broadcast advertising is very intrusive and it has the ability to deliver an ever-evolving message. To supplement their radio strategy, billboards were also used to trigger the "memory units" created by the radio ads.

Fundamental to the success of using radio and billboards was how often to use these two mediums. Many advertisers select the correct media mix and then use the media sporadically. In other words, they only advertise if they have co-op dollars or if they have a certain level of profitability. Our client chose to invest in an ongoing, long-term strategy. For six-years the only adjustment to the advertising budget has been to increase the dollars spent as revenue increased.

SECRET TWO: Consistency
Related to embracing a long-term perspective is implementing the advertising strategy with consistency. Consistency is one of the keys to convincing the prospect of your value before they require what you sell. Our client has used consistency to position themselves as a market leader in the following ways.

First, they view their advertising budget as an investment to be made year in and year out. The budget is determined prior to the beginning of each fiscal year. Co-op helps to fund the advertising budget, yet since the inception of the company, the advertising budget has not been reduced or eliminated if co-op funds are unavailable.

Secondly, consistency is also manifested in how the media is used. Many office technology dealers will use one medium for a short period of time and then switch to another medium. This approach may be exciting for the dealer principal, yet it prevents the prospects from becoming familiar with what should be an ever-evolving marketing message. Our Phoenix client has not only maintained consistency with the use of radio (supported by billboards), but they have also consistently used many of the same radio stations and the same day parts.

Finally, our client has been consistent with their method of creative execution. A common complaint of many advertisers is that they are bored with their advertising. Unfortunately, many of these advertisers react to their boredom and constantly change the method of creative execution. This action is counter-productive and costly. The reality is that prospects rarely get tired of any particular method of creative execution, as long as the marketing message is kept current and relevant. Therefore, constantly changing the way the message is communicated just confuses the prospects.

SECRET THREE: Message Content
One of the most fundamental decisions an advertiser must make is how to structure the appeal of their ads. Should the marketing messages primarily appeal to the mind or heart of the prospect?

Our firm’s experience is that many office technology dealers chose to appeal to the minds of their prospects. Their ads focus on specifics. Some of their ads highlight the features and advantages of technology. Other ads focus on features and advantages of their dealership. All of this information is useful, yet it lacks the ongoing power to persuade and move prospects to action.

Our client in Phoenix chose to structure their ads to appeal to the hearts of the prospects. This was accomplished by infusing emotion into each ad. Consequently, over time prospects developed unique feelings attached to our client’s products and service. When the time arrives for these prospects to acquire new or additional document imaging technology, they just "feel" it is right that they contact our client.

One of the cornerstones of marketing leadership is for sales reps to receive ongoing support from a great sales manager. The sales manager acts as a mentor and coach, encouraging and nurturing better and stronger performance. We even see this same phenomenon occur in sports world-class athletes all have coaches to guide and direct them to peak performance and success.

However, when it comes to advertising, many companies do not see the benefit of an outside resource or coach to help them design and implement a long-term advertising strategy, which will produce meaningful results and marketplace leadership. As a result, some companies never exploit their market potential. Our Phoenix client has worked with an outside firm since their inception. This influence has helped then not only to leverage their marketing investment, but also move into the top tier of their marketing niche.

On my flight to Phoenix the software sales manager had one more interesting comment. He related, “Our product is actually unique and only one other firm has anything remotely similar." I responded that he must be making a fortune. He said, "Not really, nobody seems to know about us. I can’t seem to get the corporate office to make the investment in advertising."

As you examine the attitudes toward advertising of the software firm and the Phoenix office technology dealer, which one do you think will produce powerful marketing results and sustain marketplace leadership? My feeling is that the Phoenix office technology dealership will be the market leader. This is based on advertising leadership Secret Number Five. They have the courage to behave like a leader.

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