When you run a retail business you have no choice but to market. There are a million ways to spend money but most of them seem to have little value. Many of the successes that I’ve had in the land based world has also helped me on the Internet. Here are a few of my observations. None of them may be correct and there could be data to prove otherwise but it’s my experience and that’s what I’m going on.
1. Advertising prices are cheaper when the buyer takes the lead. When I have an idea or want I go to the media and say, “here’s what I want, how much?” It then becomes a bid. A “tell me what you can do this for” approach. A media salesman’s job is to fill spots. All spots. They spend most of their time trying to push the spots that are empty, the undesirable. I skip all that and just ask for prices. The only package deal I want is the one I create based on pricing. When you lead they also know you’re serious and the prices seem to reflect it. There is a saying in negotiation that the first person to name a price loses. Unlike the domain world, they have to give a price. That’s why I laugh when I ask the price of a domain and they say make an offer. Can you imagine a tv station responding in the same manner when you ask them how much a 10 o’clock 30 second spot cost? I know, not apples to apples.
2. People quickly become blind. If you run the same ad in print or billboard too long it becomes a landmark, not an advertisement. Some call it building a brand, but in today’s short attention span world it is more important than ever to be fresh. Online, unless pointed out and mentioned, or incredibly well designed, a banner ad, IMO, is not effective after a week or two. A mention or push will bring back the recognition but after that I think you need change the graphics. Ads in “the read down”, my term for slowly reading down the page, force you to see it. Getting attention to your peripheral ads takes more work. Ads like DNC.ca up top will be lost if we don’t stay on top of it. The escrow.com and the three 125s are in the read down and I think they are more likely to be seen. My hotspot checks over the last years prove this.
3. Tracking ads for brick and mortar campaigns is difficult. I find myself only advertising on one radio station, one tv station, and one newspaper just because I find it easier to track. If they said they heard it on the radio I know where. This is a problem if you want to target other stations. To keep the tracking but still expand to other stations, I have to get creative. I try and target different markets most of the time. Some times I will do a blitz and do all the same but most of the time I break it up. For instance, people have become so accustomed to my voice on the radio that everywhere I go people look at me strange when I start talking. I have a unique voice but they can’t place it. Eventually they realize it’s from the radio. But now that I know is working how do I know what station they heard it on. I fixed that initially by just choosing one station to judge if radio even worked. It does, now I want to expand. To track I’m going to use another person from the shop. A girl with a friendly voice that is an actual working person. So now when they come and say radio brought them, and believe it or not they usually do say they heard the ad, I can ask them which person they heard. You might say just ask them what station. I find that people flip so often they don’t even know. Before when I’d ask they often would say a station I don’t even advertise on. I realize this would never work on a large advertising campaign but I had to get down to basics on what was working and build back up.
4. Newspaper is easy to track, difficult to find something that draws and makes money. There is a real art to what draws a customer into the store. A great deal is a good start but it also has to be something they want. Anybody can give away half price gift certificates, I need to come up with something that draws AND I can make money on. “You’ll make money on something else, just get them in” Wrong. You wouldn’t believe how many people come in just for the great deal and leave. It’s simple math if you make the counter people track, and we do. We write on the coupon how many they bought and how many dollars they spend in addition to the coupon. We’ve figured out an ad cost to expected gains and come up with a profitable approach but its taken years. The ad used to cost $500 so that mean $1000 in EXTRA sales to break even if we use a loss leader or break even coupon. We found that a $100 ad in a less costly spot but the same exact spot every single week was just as effective, cheaper, and gave us a easier break even point.
5. Don’t give free or discounted stuff to people that were already going to shop there. Huge lesson for us. While I’m sure the customers appreciate it, there are some customers that are going to shop at your place because you have a nice business. The prices are fair, the quality and selection are the best in town. Once you’ve reached that point, the discounts aren’t as necessary and really only hurt your profits, not improve them. We had a perfect example. We decided to offer 10% to all Farm Bureau members. They are an important part of our community and the kind of people that like plants. And we were right. We soon realized that this was already our customer base. All our regulars now started flashing their memberships for 10% off. It actually dropped our sales 3% just on that coupon alone. The result was they were no happier that they were before the discount. You may think that word of mouth would have brought more people in for the discount but that word of mouth had brought them out years ago but not for the discount, because they liked our store and people.
That’s all I have time for now. I have plenty more “thoughts” if anyone is interested in hearing more opinionated, non fact based, marketing tips.