There's only one choice for the business owner
By Emily Refermat
With the economy in a lull and a slow, unpredictable aviation market, you, the small business owner, may think it's time to cut back, to pull in the reins on cost. You may be right, as long as you don't cut your advertising. There is a saying in the marketing business: "in good times you should advertise, but in bad times you must."
During the slow times in the market advertising is your main weapon. According to the Strategic Planning Institute (SPI) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, many companies cut back advertising erroneously believing their competitors are being hit as hard and will do the same. Research, instead, shows that companies who advertise during times of recession gain even more, since many competitors back off. Don't close the door on advertising because right now is your time to shine.
The American Business Press (ABP) says there are seven steps to making a sale.
- Establish contact
- Generate awareness
- Arouse interest
- Build preference
- Make specific proposals
- Close the sale
- Keep customers sold
Advertising is the key to unlocking the first four.
Establishing contact means getting to the consumer. You might sell a world-shaking product or provide a once-in-a-lifetime service, but if nobody knows about it, then they can't purchase it. You need to get your name out there. The price of personal sales calls or even long distance telephone sales calls to reach as large a range of consumers as an advertisement in print could reach would be astronomical, as well as nearly impossible. Advertising allows you to get your message out in front of lots of people with one cost, instead of a cost per consumer. Definitely a better bargain.
Once you've gotten the word out, next you need to develop a sense of awareness, also known as "branding." Do people recognize the name of your company and know what it offers? Do they think of you when they are looking for solutions to their problems? Branding is a key advertising strategy. If consumers see your logo, sales pitch, or name on lots and lots of things, it is more likely to come forth in their mind when it comes to searching for a product or service. Your name will pop off the page to them and seem familiar.
In mainstream culture today, five major companies, once brand innovators, have lost their forward looking beliefs and advertising outlooks resulting in lowered stock, low customer loyalty, and slimming margins, says Glenn T. Marrichi, a national expert on brand innovation and president/CEO of The Marketing Identity Inc. These companies include McDonalds, United Airlines, Oldsmobile, Kmart, and National Car Rental. They just stopped marketing themselves and things are going downhill. The ABP found that for various products in the chemical industry, those that had been advertised had a 250 percent greater awareness, than those products not advertised. Summing up, you have a much greater opportunity to "brand" yourself when you advertise.
Janet Attard, a small business expert, featured on AOL and also published on Bplans.com gives a few more ways to get your name out.
- Place even small ads in newspapers and magazines. Look where your competitors are advertising and get printed there.
- Work with companies that are not competitors, but who serve the same type of clients.
- Create a web site and list it with several search engines since lots of people use the internet to find information.
- Join groups and meet people in the industry to get your name out - network.
Does your advertisement provide enough information about your product or service? No one is going to waste their time trying to decode a cryptic ad. Give customers enough information so they're not guessing, but not so much that it bores or overwhelms them. You want them to call or email you, so you have a chance to talk to them one-on-one and sell your product or service.
Building preferences can include branding as well. This is basically telling your customers why they should come to you rather than your competitor. Make sure to include your top-notch customer service, your above-average safety rating, the extra services you provide, the superiority of your product, or whatever makes you better. Strong, aggressive advertisement about your positives can make this happen.
The where and how
You're probably thinking, "great, but how can I get the most for my money." Milton Zlotnick, a SCORE counselor, CPA, consultant, and AOL forum leader, dissects the cheap ways to advertise in an article on Bplans.com. Some highlights of his article include writing and distributing press releases to newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio. Make sure the information is newsworthy and remember, even if it's only published in one place that's still thousands of people who will see or hear it.
Trade shows are another of Zlotnick's suggestions. Although a bit pricey, the contacts at a good trade show can be invaluable (so be prepared, the next big industry trade show is the AS3/GSE Expo going on May 13-15, 2003 in Las Vegas, Nevada). Make sure you have plenty of informational materials to hand out to interested attendees and follow up within seven days to the people you talked to at the show.
Zlotnick also mentions joining an internet newsgroup, which can raise awareness of your web site and use direct mailings, not spam, since they target a specific market and are a better buy (even if a bit more expensive).
Target markets are another key ingredient to getting the most out of your advertising budget, according to Doug Wilson, an author, professor, marketing expert, and one of the authors of the software package Marketing Plan Pro on Bplans.com. He illustrates how targeting a specific population in the market is more efficient and makes better use of resources than a cheap, broad list which won't generate as much revenue as a specific group of consumers who are more likely to use and buy your products and services.
To discover a target market, Wilson uses four categories: geographics (location, size, etc.), demographics (age, gender, income, etc.), psychographics (life-style, personality, loyalty, need of repeat business, etc.), and behaviors (where they get information, attitudes, level of knowledge, etc.).
After gathering this information you can come up with a target market profile and use this to drive your advertising strategy. Wilson stresses that target marketing gives you the ability to reach and influence the people most likely to buy and use your products and services. These are your ideal customers.
Advertising is the way to advance in the current economy. The market is sitting there, an entity waiting for products and services to present themselves. By aggressively advertising, you can gain more of a market share (percent of the market that buys from you), not only bringing you larger revenues, but also taking consumers away from your competitors. The SPI's PIMS program shows that businesses with aggressive advertising gain more market share in times of recession, than in times of market growth. Why? Because everyone advertises in good times, but it's those companies that advertise in the downturns that really come out ahead.