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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Advertising in hard times

Mike Finlay of Rocky Mountain Bathrooms is based in Littleton, Colorado. He is one of the most consistent and effective posters on the forums.

Mike Finlay, a Colorado-based contractor, posts this reference on a thread started by an anxious contractor thinking about boosting his Yellow Pages advertising to combat the recessionary decline:

A wise man once said... (not sure what his name was) During a down turn you must maintain your advertising.

Consider:There will be less calls for the same money spent, but the quality of the callers should be better.

The first two things your less savvy competitors will do is #1 Cut their prices and #2 is cut their advertising. What more could you ask for? As your less savvy competitors stop advertising, your advertisements will stand out even more with less clutter and competition. As your competitors cut their prices and get less leads they get closer and closer to calling you and asking if you are hiring.

When things get better it takes a lot of time for your competitors to finally figure it out and start advertising again. Since you never stopped you will benefit from your competitors lag in getting back in the game, your continuous advertising will pop even more and return even better results as you ignore trying to time the market on when to advertise again. You will know automatically that things have turned by your call volume increasing.

You will benefit from branding in your customers mind as things turn around, your
competitors will be starting over or at a disadvantage.You can benefit from cheaper advertising in some circumstances as the medias you use feel the pinch and move to lock in their loyal advertisers and scramble to give better deals to keep you from leaving.

Finlay is right, of course, but I need to point out some additional points here.
  • Many times, near the start of a recession, publishers like me see a modest surge in new business -- from companies, somewhat desperate for business, who haven't advertised before.

  • Generally the ads don't work because the advertiser has unrealistic expectations or, perhaps more painfully, the ad or media are not appropriate. So the advertiser quits.

  • There is an argument that the best time to advertise is near the end of a recession -- when prices are low, competition is weak, and clients are starting to come out of the woodwork. Of course knowing when the end is about to occur is rather hard to predict.

  • Thoughtful, planned, and tested advertising makes a lot of sense. Desperate, rash, and 'quick fix' advertising rarely does.
So, take your time, plan your budget, and build in testing and evaluation processes into your models. I strongly recommend you connect with non-competitive successful peers in other communities as close as possible demographically to yours to learn their models, advertising language, and practices. Then you can approach your local media with a clear idea of what you wish to accomplish, and a benchmark of reliable information on which you can build your campaign.

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