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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Advertising -- what really works

The front page of our original publication, Ottawa Construction News, published since 1989. A lot has changed, but some of the advertisers here have been doing business with us from OCN's early days. They of course are thinking with a long-term perspective, which you need as well when considering your advertising strategies. But equally, you need to think with imagination and flexibility -- and generate the leads you need by seeing things in the larger context.

Advertiseing (spelling as on original posting)
What works for you guys ,
I have never really had to advertise. But now I want to get my name out there more. So what really works?

As the thread progresses, the initial poster expresses exasperation about the lack of response to his question, until someone else pipes in -- essentially saying, you get what you give, and another says, a little more information about who you are and what you wish to accomplish will help you a lot.

These answers reflect the hard reality of advertising expense: It is really easy to blow large amounts of money for minimum results here -- but if you get it right, you can effectively manage your leads volume and achieve truly satisfactory results. But you need to know your business, your market, and select the right media for the work.

Here are my general thoughts about advertising. These may appear to be blunt observations, and my salespeople may not like everything I have to say here.

Advertising can serve several purposes, but if your goal is to achieve immediate actionable leads, be wary and careful about your expenses.

This means, I would be extremely cautious about signing any long-term contracts requiring you to pay for future results -- ie, conventional Yellow Pages advertising. In the old days -- that is just a few years ago -- these approaches may have been worthy of the risk, but your ability to measure and respond to Internet publicity, keywords and responses, mean you are likely to have the best results with advertising that can turned on or off, changed, and modified quickly.

You need to set a budget for advertising, and not be afraid to stick to it, even if the resuts (initially) are less than perfect.

Frankly, you are likely to make many mistakes at the beginning -- and you will need to test and experiment with the ideal media and results. The one thing you must not do is turn off the budget because it isn't working right away. Advertising can take time to be effective -- though you should be wary if your objective is to obtain immediate leads and the advertising doesn't generate any right away -- it may be time to explore other media.

Advertising is MORE than what media people 'sell' you.

You need to understand your own business and what you wish to achieve; you also need to take the media reps' bias into account in listening to their marketing presentations.

Remember, you are advertising to your market demographic, not to yourself (unless you reflect truthfully your market demographics).

If you like the opera, or wish to support your kid's junior team with a program ad, feel free -- you'll feel good, and maybe friends and acquaintances will do business with you. But if you are serious about reaching clients, remember that the readership of the intended publication/website/media outlet should match your clients' interests more than your own.

Advertising is only part of the picture

I've repeated over and over, how you treat your current clients is the most vital issue. In the b to b area, this means you may find the best advertising is to spend your money to support your own clients' marketing -- in other words, you buy ads to promote your customers' interests. But all the advertising in the world won't help you if you don't return calls, provide exemplary service, and create enough 'wow' and client satisfaction t hat your current customers return for more and suggest the same for their friends.

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