The best place to start is at the beginning. Duh.
But what may not be so obvious is knowing where the beginning is. Unfortunately, many advertisers are guilty of false starts and don’t even realize it. It is evident by their attempts that they think a good campaign starts with producing a commercial (insert ugly, gameshow buzzer sound). A good campaign begins with knowing and understanding who you should be talking to. Your target demographic is that well-defined group of people who are anxious to get what you have to offer — even if they don’t know it yet.
Many advertisers are fooling themselves by thinking they have their demographic down cold if they stop with an age description, such as adults 25 to 54. There is a huge diversity of interests among any group defined only by age. And in trying to influence everyone in a broadly defined group, an advertiser will end up paying to reach a lot of people who will never respond. We call this wasted circulation and it is a waste of money.
The ticket around overspending on advertising is to know your audience as intimately as possible. Their age just scratches the surface. What are they really like? What do they like to do in their spare time? How much money do they have or don’t have? Are they with children or without? Where do they stand on general issues and current trends? Know their psychographics — get into their head.
This information may not be readily available, but if it is going to save money and improve the results of the campaign, find a way to get it.
The good news is the luxury of qualitative information isn’t just reserved for big spenders who can afford expensive research. Smaller businesses can create their own research with a little ingenuity. Give your customers a compelling reason to share this information with you. For example, if you have a retail establishment, set up a point-of-purchase contest where the entry form can serve to gather client data. With a computer and some database programming, the information can be managed easily.
After you have obtained this information, absorb as much as you can and put it into some meaningful form that creates familiarity. My favorite method is to draw a picture. Design a composite of each identified customer group and give them names. Try to inject as much information into the picture as possible — clothes, hairstyle, hobbies, kids tugging at the skirt. Not only does this exercise make you aware of your audience, but it forces you to take your own personality out of the profile. Advertising to yourself and not your true audience is another big money drain. It is not uncommon for a client to dictate a station or publication because it is THEIR favorite. HellOOoo! Remember, this is not about reaching you. If you want to hear your commercial, get a tape.
Now that you have made your target audience your new best friend, the next step is to figure out how to reach them. It is of the utmost importance to always remember who you are talking to and to judge your communications by its relevance to that person. Make your media selection fit your audience’s lifestyle as well. Would this person be an avid newspaper reader, or is their lifestyle so hectic that they get their news from the car radio? Making the logical fit between consumer and media is where you save the big bucks.
And, as a living, breathing advertiser, you are in luck. There are more targeted media choices now than ever before. It is called fragmentation. Which, by the way, is a great word to use when you want to sound like a media guru. Use it in a sentence like, “With the ever-increasing fragmentation of today’s media sources, we can reach our target audience more efficiently and effectively than ever before.”
You won’t be lying. Cable stations, publications and radio stations are becoming increasingly more audience-specific making it easier for advertisers to marry the target audience to the right, targeted vehicle.
That cuts out wasted circulation and, as we learned in paragraph two, will save money.
You cannot judge a campaign by results alone. To be truly successful, advertising must show a strong return at the lowest possible cost. The key is starting at square one and building from there. Afterall, the best place to start is at the beginning.
Betsy Tabor is VP/media director for The Ramey Agency, a full-service agency with offices in Jackson and Memphis. Questions or comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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