Ask an Expert Questions and Answers

What do I tell people who say “Advertising doesn’t work”?

Question– Our folks in this town always want to run an ad for one week and expect people to beat their door down. Also, I hear "advertising doesn't work" all the time from many businesses. I am armed with some counter responses, but can you could briefly give me a few extra ideas I could use?

Answer: Before I answer your question, allow me to reiterate some points that will frame my answer for you. As you may know, many of these points I have discussed and outlined in depth during my past TCCJ visits and workshops.

When business is tough to get, it’s very easy for small businesses to look for a quick fix to their sales slowdown. In responding to their anxieties (and fears?), don’t forget that part of your selling job is also educational in nature. It’s important to remind and teach your advertisers and potential advertisers some key marketing and advertising strategies to be successful, particularly in these challenging economic times.

First and foremost, teach your small retailer/service provider/business that they need to maintain a constant awareness in their marketplace (e.g., your community) of “who they are” and “what they do.” This can NOT be achieved with a one-time ad or coupon. A consistent marketing strategy is the only strategy to achieve long-term success and growth.

When you are meeting with your client, carefully outline the strategy and benefits of an advertising campaign (e.g. a series of ads, within a timeframe, with a fixed or allocated budget, to meet an identified need, problem or opportunity, with a desired outcome).

Remind your client that an advertising campaign is an investment in their business. To drive home this point, you should no longer accept one-time ads.  Tell your client that one-time ads are an unproven expense (e.g., your clients are correct.  One-time advertising does not work!), but an advertising campaign is a long-term investment that will generate results for their business.

Once your client understands and accepts this advertising and marketing strategy, you should clarify two points before the campaign begins:  Clients should have a clear understanding of how their business will support the campaign and what are their expectations of the advertising campaign.

Encourage your clients to explore a number of options they can do to support the campaign. Suggest they prominently display signs, brochures and reminders throughout their store or office that ties into their print and online advertising campaign.

Recommend they consider ordering more of the advertised merchandise (sizes, colors, styles), strategize with them about relocating a merchandise display to a prime location in their store, and last but not least, be sure you coach them about the importance of telling and teaching their employees about the campaign and the best way to maximize selling opportunities when they are face to face with a potential customer.

In regard to expectations, your client may take 1 percent of your newspaper’s audience (print and outline) or readership figures (Remember it’s all about audience, not circulation numbers. Numbers buy nothing!) and tell you that’s what they expect in their place of business the day of and a few days after their advertising campaign.

It’s at this time, when they are outlining their expectations, that you will have a teachable moment! Acknowledge that you heard your client’s expectations and share with them that they may be a little optimistic for immediate results for a long term advertising investment.

Begin your teachable moment by reminding your client that there are a very small number of buyers in the market at any one time. Buyers come in and go out of the marketplace when they plan purchases, make unplanned purchases or postpone purchases.

When your clients begin their advertising campaign, reinforce again and again that the campaign is accomplishing a number of benefits to their business that may not be readily noticeable or produce immediate sales.

Yes, advertising offers a service or product for sale to buyers in the marketplace at that time. But that same advertising also builds “top-of-mind awareness” for their business or service. When an individual becomes a buyer in the future, this “top-of-mind awareness” will be recalled by the potential buyer because of that ad campaign.  That potential buyer then has a higher likelihood a becoming a customer of your client’s business.

In addition to immediate sales and building top-of-mind awareness, the same advertising campaign reinforces past purchases and buyer decisions of current and past customers, encouraging them to visit your client’s business or service again.

Two more benefits of the same advertising campaign should be discussed with your client. Review other ads in your paper or on your newspaper’s web site and show that other businesses’ advertising campaigns talk to the community, show their support of the community, and demonstrate their commitment to the community. Your clients will accomplish the same with their advertising campaign.

Their campaign also allows your client to talk to her current employees, who see the advertising campaign and share it with others (“I work there, it’s a great place!”) and future employees (“I see their ads all the time, they have some great merchandise. I would love to work there!”).

Late next week on my TCCJ blog I will post some methods you can utilize to teach your advertisers, retailers, service providers and small business to track their advertising and measure its results.

In closing, remember that when business is tough to get, anxieties build. They build for your advertisers and potential advertisers (e.g., sales) and they build for you (e.g., revenue for you and your newspaper).

Minimize those anxieties of both parties by acknowledging that a major component of your selling experience is educating your existing and potential clients. The more they know about the strategic opportunities your newspaper products offer for their business or service, the more successful they can be in their print and online advertising.

The more you know about an advertiser’s or potential advertiser’s business or service, the more you can assist them in being successful.

Be patient.  Ask for their business when the best opportunity presents itself. But remember that you must present yourself as a business consultant to them, not an ad salesperson for your newspaper.  Your job is to make them successful – to make money for your clients by helping them implement a well-thought-out, clearly defined advertising campaign.

You can do this … you know you can! Good luck and have fun!

By Chuck Nau

Chuck Nau, of Murray & Nau, Inc., is a publishing consultant with more than 25 years of experience, having served the Seattle Times, Knight-Ridder Newspapers and the Chicago Tribune in a number of management, marketing, media and sales capacities.

Nau’s work as a publishing consultant includes clients who are newspapers, publishing associations and niche publications. His practice enables him to put his wide range of publishing experience to work for publishers, sales management teams and senior managers on both a day to day and special project basis. He has assisted clients as a management consultant, sales trainer, facilitator and coach/mentor in advertising, circulation and marketing areas.

In addition to his consulting practice, Nau has spoken to and conducted workshops for a number of national publishing groups, state press associations, and newspaper organizations throughout North America. He has written a series of columns covering topics in advertising, management, marketing, and sales which have appeared in various newspaper industry and press association publications.