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ISM Article

Making Media Work For You

6 Mar, 2002 By: Wes Phillips imageSource

Making Media Work For You

In previous columns, we have examined important internal issues, which must be addressed to create the foundation for marketing leadership. These internal issues included correctly and completely defining your real product and ensuring your salesmarketing structure is working efficiently. Once these tasks have been accomplished, you are ready to explore and address your ad marketing questions.

This month we will begin a two-part look at how to make media work for your business. We will start by examining proper media selection. In next month’s issue, we will learn how to properly and effectively use the media that has been selected.

Media selection and media analysis are often viewed as the fun part of advertising. In addition, these two areas also seem to be the ones in which everyone is an expert! However, upon examination, you will discover that the media function requires the same methodical approach as every other business endeavor. Certainly, "gut feel" plays a role, as every entrepreneur knows, but instinct must take into consideration logical and proven rules.

The Key Essentials
Fundamental in selecting media that will work for your business is to precisely identify your target prospects. Knowing who your prospects are may not be as self-evident as you may believe. This occurs because your target groups may change as your products and marketing emphasis evolve. The place to begin is to break down your target prospect groups as follows: primary and secondary company prospects and primary and secondary individual decision makers and decision influencers. This homework is as essential in developing your ad marketing media program as it is in properly guiding your salesmarketing efforts.

Very often retail and direct response advertisers feel that "everyone" is a prospect. Yet, because you have limited budget to spend, there is a need to direct the budget towards reaching companies and individuals that possess certain factors, which predispose them to do business with you.

As you answer the following questions, you will discern certain factors that dovetail with specific media characteristics, which will be outlined later in this article:

1. Does the nature of your marketing require leads, store traffic, or an improved selling climate for your sales staff?

2. Are there geographic limitations as to how much area you can sell into, draw from, or properly service?

3. What, if any, are the limitations of your product line? For example, do you just sell digital copier/printers or do you also have the ability to design and install computer networks? On the other hand, do you have multiple product lines from a variety of manufacturers or vendors?

4. If the user is not the decision-maker, how much influence on the buying cycle does the user have? What percentage of your effort/resources should be directed to decision- makers and decision influencers? What are the age/gender/lifestyle characteristics of decision-makers and decision influencers?

5. What is the level of "awareness" within your prospective geographic market of your firm’s name as compared to your primary competitor?

6. What is your firm’s "Identity"? What does your prospects think of your company and how do prospects perceive what you do?

Answers to these questions are important because they help clarify the media that will be most effective. Very often, as the result of the demands of running a growth-oriented business, dealers become isolated and their understanding of how the company is perceived is somewhat different from reality.

Conducting Research: Primary Media
Therefore, it may be necessary to do some market research in order to have a full and accurate understanding of the perceptions of your prospects. Your own staff could conduct this research or you may chose to have an outside firm develop and implement a market research program with specific objectives.

Now, here is a brief overview of the primary media-compare their characteristics with the characteristics of your prospects.

Newspaper is the classic "right-product, right-price, right-time" medium. So, its most effective use is to give the reader something specific and tangible to respond to immediately. Therefore, newspaper works best for a classic retail (sale) or special event situation. In addition, the ads should be dramatic in both message and layout because they are so easy to miss as the reader flips through the paper and you only have one chance to capture the reader’s attention.

Newspapers are working hard to maintain circulation and build readership with more "lifestyle" features and the use of color, but the medium still tends to do better with men and older demographics. Many newspapers have readership broken down into demographic profiles for each section. You need to examine which section has your target readership and stay with that section. In larger metro areas, you may also be able to choose geographic sections.

The traditional advantage of direct mail, "bulls-eye" targeting, has been significantly offset by its heavy use. The more activities and responsibilities a prospect has, the more their mail is cluttered with offers and gimmicks. Immunity sets in. So, as with newspaper, direct mail needs to be dramatic in presentation and content, providing something for the reader to respond to immediately.

It is also wise to gear direct mail to clear objectives and to a more specifically defined target. This means it is vital to have an accurate and up-to-date mailing list. If your list lacks these characteristics, direct mail likely will produce poor results. Conversely, targeting a series of mailers to the same prospects and supporting this effort with telemarketing will likely produce good results.

Television has an incredible ability to build awareness and create identity simply because of the fact that "it’s television!" It can also be highly cost-effective when both the target market base and the geographic market are large. The broader your target, the more efficient TV can be. For office technology dealers, television only made sense for the largest dealers in the market. However, with cable television available almost everywhere, it is now possible to more specifically target your message, thereby making cable television viable for many office technology dealers.

Cost, however, becomes a real factor in achieving frequency and consistency and in producing quality commercials. Historically, it was only with caution that an office technology dealer would use manufacturer-supplied commercials. This was because the dealer identity was significantly overshadowed by the manufacturer message. However, enlightened manufacturers, which include Kyocera Mita and Sharp, have for years, been making available to their dealers high quality, dealer oriented commercials with extensive customization flexibility for a very modest cost.

The strength of radio lies in its ability to effectively convey an emotional message, over and above the factual information. In addition, with radio, there is the ability to specifically target the message to a greater extent than with television. Yet, like television, radio must be used with tremendous frequency and consistency and with a dealer message rather than a manufacturer message. Carefully choose the appropriate radio stations, since radio provides the opportunity to reach younger decision influencers and older decision-makers in tandem.

The traditional advantages of magazines are strong credibility and more time spent in readership. There are methods available, which allow local office technology dealers to use national magazines on a local basis. The difficulty is the ads get cluttered in the same part of the magazine as the other local advertisers. Also, local business-to-business magazines/journals have emerged. Exercise caution, because circulation figures can be inflated and readership statistics can be sketchy.

The power of outdoor advertising is in its bigger-than-life presentation. Its use has an immediate positive impact on an office technology dealer’s employees and an immediate negative impact on the competitor’s employees. The ideal use of billboards is to use them to support and reinforce a core message that is being presented in print and/or broadcast advertising.

The most difficult factor in selecting the media or medium most appropriate for your dealership is the tendency to do what "the other guy does." An ideal strategy is to play your own ball game in advertising just as you do in salesmarketing programs. If you do your homework, match the media with your target prospect’s characteristics, prepare an effective creative message and then (as will be discussed in more detail next month) utilize media frequency and consistency, your advertising program will be effective regardless of what your competition does and you will be positioning your company as the marketplace leader.

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