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West Point Bugle Notes Advertising

What may seem like a fairly basic component of doing business, advertising can be an enormous source of financial waste if not done effectively.

What are the requirements of effective advertising?

First, choosing the right medium to reach the market you are targeting is an important goal.
If your business serves a large region and virtually anyone in need of your products or services, choose a medium that has the power to reach large numbers of people. That could include newspapers, magazines, radio, television, strategically placed outdoor billboards on heavily traveled routes, and the Internet.

On the other hand, if you are very specialized or hope to reach a very specific area, you may have to set your sights on smaller newspapers, magazines with a special editorial slant, or consider direct mail marketing to reach a targeted segment of the population. There are many areas of crossover, however. For instance, billboards can serve to reach a smaller market, as can the Internet when targeted by regional searches. And, there are some businesses, professional practices and organizations that prefer to advertise in cultural programs, professional journals and other community-oriented publications because they believe that to be a way to show regional support for issues people care deeply about.

Any of the above strategies of advertising can be effective if done consistently and with intelligent planning.

Institutional advertising vs. Informational Advertising...which is better?

Institutional advertising or image advertising is usually done by established businesses who believe they will benefit by projecting a strong, simple, positive image about their company. This can be effective if done consistently over the long term. This is brand-building, like the Marlboro® cowboy or the Budweiser® Clydesdales. But for newer or smaller businesses, informational advertising is more effective because it is designed to elicit an immediate response as opposed to slowly building a long-term impression. There can also be a blend of both types of advertising which can be image-building while communicating specific information to elicit response. Mid-Hudson Marketing's advertising samples would fall into this category.

What are the drawbacks of certain choices of advertising?

One of the most important goals of advertising is for people to receive your message. If your printed ad is placed on a cluttered page of visually competitive distractions, and your ad has little visual strength or eye-drawing command of its own, your ad may never be read at all. Unfortunately, advertisers usually have little control over where their ads are placed, so it is extremely important to make sure that the ad you run has intrinsic strength regardless of the visual competition. This also holds true in other media if your ad is inappropriately placed within the wrong editorial sector, time slot or cultural genre. It is important to ask questions and make requests concerning your placement regardless of which medium you have chosen.

What about Yellow Page Directory advertising?

Traditionally, the big printed Yellow Page directories were a prime source of reference for any business on any geographic level. If a customer had a need, he looked it up in the yellow pages. Today, things have changed a bit. As baby boomers have aged, so has their ability to read the "fine print" in such books. As a result, many have turned to the Internet where you can look up anything by just typing a few words in Google or Yahoo search windows and enlarging it to your preferred size of legibility. Younger people as a whole already choose the Internet over most other forms of informational access. So, who now uses the yellow page directories? Not as many people as in the past, that's for sure. And, whether it pays to advertise in the online yellow page directories depends on a number of factors. For new businesses without any history, it is probably a very good idea. For businesses with popular websites and a long history, the probability of the search engines already indexing their existence is fairly high. This means that if you simply type the name of the business in the search line, it will pop up with contact information easily accessible. Of course, if you do not know the name of the business and need to find a product or service, yellow page advertising continues to be an effective source of reference. The question is whether you need to buy both print and Internet versions.

What makes an ad strong?

There are several components of advertising strength: size, visual appeal, message and ability to elicit a response. Size will be dependent on budget available so sometimes a small ad is all you can afford. That becomes even more of a challenge. Visual appeal is the sum of all the various components of your ad: your main message, your supportive text, your contact information, your logo and any photo or graphics you use to illustrate your message. It is not uncommon to see ads with so many competitive elements that the message, if one is in fact included, is missed altogether. A message should be simple to identify, simple to receive, simple to comprehend and simple to respond to.


A magazine ad appealing to
an affluent market seeking high end construction services
to satisfy strict architectural restoration parameters

Tracking responses is an important component of successful marketing.

So, you've embarked on an ad campaign, invested in a repetitive schedule to guarantee effective reach, and your expectations are high. Should you receive any responses, since that is not a given, you should make sure you know where they've come from, so you can utilize that information for any future strategies. In fact, if the opportunity presents itself, it is an excellent idea to find out as much as possible about why the respondent chose to contact you. Usually, respondents are happy to share that information with you, since people are generally flattered when someone asks what motivated them to respond. This is a very personal decision and obviously makes them feel important.

A newspaper ad appealing to
an affluent market seeking specialized landscaping services

Does Advertising Pay During a Recession?

That's the question of the hour. It really depends on many circumstances. If you are advertising something people desperately want or need even though their financial situation has been compromised, perhaps the answer is yes. Historically, the accepted advice has been to continue advertising during good times and bad because when the economy turns around, those who continued their advertising will be the first to reap the rewards. "Only the strong survive" and "survival of the fittest" are familiar axioms. However, common sense tells us that when people are "cutting back," most businesses will feel the pinch and will in turn cut back on their own advertising. We are fortunate to live in an age when most businesses have web sites which can be referenced at any time, whether the times are good or bad, and most businesses don't hurry to cancel their web sites in a recession. So, for anyone on the fence about whether to invest in aggressive advertising during a recession, it would seem good advice to only do so if you are so well capitalized that doing so will not break the bank. Otherwise, it would seem prudent to advertise carefully if at all during this period.

Budweiser is a registered trademark of Anheuser-Busch, Inc. and Marlboro is a registered trademark of Philip Morris USA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Altria Group.

Are Advertising Specialties Beneficial?

We are often asked whether a client should invest in some of the many choices of advertising specialties, promotional giveaways, corporate gifts or premiums, as they are also called. Since this usually involves applying your business logo to a wide variety of items which include inexpensive choices like pens, mugs, t-shirts and letter openers, to pricier items like electronic products or expensive apparel, we rarely find justification for such an expenditure. While having a trade show booth is a perfect setting for handing out corporate gifts, such a gesture is not often appreciated by the many haphazard attendees who just want something for nothing. A better strategy to lure interest to your booth without wasting corporate funds on unproven business suspects is to have them sign up for a raffle, for example. Then you also gain a name for a mailing or emailing list of people with an interest in your industry.

If your organization or firm has a small number of very highly valued clients or customers and you have money to burn, a corporate gift such as a leather-bound annual planning calendar, a calculator, a clock or even a set of golf balls with your logo may serve to warm the relationship. However, it would be a stretch of the imagination to expect new business as a result of your logo on any corporate gift. In fact, in some cases, the gift recipient ironically would prefer the absence of the logo which in their mind may represent your attempt to capitalize on the relationship. In recent years, some more creative clients have chosen to make donations to some worthy cause in honor of their clients which serves to warm hearts on all ends. From a marketing point of view, if you are anxious to give something away, why not offer customers an opportunity to try your product or service at no charge when they enroll in your program, for example? Creativity can be the difference between wasting corporate funds and return on investment.


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