Monday, April 27, 2009

I’ll take “Sand Art” for $9.86 please.

A few months ago we launched a new campaign for an agency client. We bought TV spots in Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, ad space in the local newspapers, strategically located billboards, in-theatre ads at the local Muvico and a handful of Google AdWords.

The costs looked something like this:
One 30 second spot in Jeopardy $600
One ¼ page ad in daily newspaper $1,400
One month on billboard $1,200
One week in theatre ad $525
One week Google AdWords $77.16

No, that last one is not a typo. And yes, that is a decimal point, not a comma. In a world where even the smallest ad campaign can quickly run into comma territory, it’s nice to see the decimal point making a comeback.

Through keyword campaigns with companies like Google, businesses can now attract qualified prospects online without spending a fortune. You simply determine what keywords make sense for your business. You might pick “Sixties Dresses” if you own a vintage clothing store or “Birthday Parties” if you’re a professional clown.

Then you set a budget of how much you are willing to pay for someone to click on your ad. Is a mom surfing the web for “Birthday Parties” worth $3.25 if she clicks on your ad? Or would you be willing to pay closer to $6.50 for every desperate mom you can convert to a clown customer?

Once you’re up and running, you can track the results online. You’ll know how many people are seeing your ad, how many are clicking on it, and what you are paying for each one. If only every advertising medium had this kind of tracking.

And, if you don’t think anyone’s out there looking for your services, you can find that out too. One to three people in West Palm Beach click on ads related to Cat Sunglasses, Harmonica Music or Sand Art. Your customers are bound to be out there too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What’s everyone Twittering about?

Everyone’s abuzz about social networking lately. Last year I got LinkedIn and now my 132 contacts and I are all part of the human daisy chain of “who do you know who knows someone who knows somebody I want to meet?” I figure if I add enough contacts eventually I will indeed find that Kevin Bacon is just six degrees away.

I joined Facebook and last month a friend from elementary school dropped in to chat online. She’s a physicist now. No wonder she always beat me at Parchesi.

Once of my colleagues recommended Jigsaw last week. The service is aptly named. If you can put the pieces together and figure out what they do, you’ve earned the right to be on Jigsaw.

Even the bars are getting into the game. Harry’s Banana Farm in Lake Worth has someone on staff who should be in the copywriting business. Last week their sign read “You Twitter My Space and I’ll Google your Yahoo.”

Signing up for social networking sites is easy enough, but once you’re there, then what? Can social networking really benefit your business?

The answer is yes. To be successful at it, though, you’re going to have to change the way you think.

The best example of a successful marketing effort using social networking came from a colleague in another market. His firm had been hired by a company that was launching a new product. This product was purported to age wine through the use of magnets embedded in a round base surrounding the bottle of wine. Skeptical? So were a lot of potential customers.

My colleague, an avid Twitter user, put a Tweet out to his network talking about the product and questioning whether or not it really worked. Before long, he was receiving lots of Tweets telling him how wonderful the product really was. He rebroadcast the positive responses and news of this new product has now spread far and wide in the Twitter community and beyond. The product is getting huge publicity and it all started with one little Tweet.

That’s just one example of how social networking can be a powerful tool in promoting your business. You just have to figure out how to best use it. Keep trying. Kevin Bacon is closer than you think.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Try it, you might like it... or not.

Our agency recently received a referral from an existing client. The new client, a retail store, is next door to our existing client. The new client, Jane had seen the success our marketing efforts had achieved for her neighbor. She wanted what he was having.

After an initial meeting of fact-finding, we returned with a strategic marketing proposal in hand. In it, were the keys to her success: goals, challenges, target markets, competitive research, and a marketing strategy with specific initiatives.

Jane was impressed and, after we fielded several questions, she nodded her head. We were sure Jane was sold. Then, just as we were getting ready to present her with our contract, she delivered those deflating words every agency dreads.

"We'll give it a try," she said with a smile. Back into the briefcase went the contract.

With the possible exception of "fine," I doubt you can find a word packed with more underlying connotations than "try."

Let's face it, when a friend says, "I'll try to swing by your party later," he knows right then he's not coming. Or, when a co-worker says "I'll try to get to that paperwork today," you can bet your job is being shuffled to the bottom of her inbox without a second thought.

"Try" provides the universal excuse for failing to do something without incurring any personal responsibility for whatever is left undone. "I tried to make it to work on time, but all the inconsiderate drivers on I-95 wouldn't let me by." Who can blame me?

Giving advertising a "try" is sort of like giving marriage a "try." Promising to "try to love, honor and cherish 'til death do us part" isn't quite the same as committing to it. Either you're in it for the long haul, or you might as well get off at the next exit.

Jane's neighbor, a client of 12 years, is in it for the long haul. For 12 years we have been consistently marketing his business through local radio advertising and it has paid off. New customers regularly come into his store saying they heard him on the radio. People who have never shopped there know the name nonetheless. The success that Jane was seeing next door was the result of a long-term commitment to advertising. She wasn't going to achieve the same success by giving advertising a "try."

Jane did sign the contract and we're moving forward, albeit tentatively. She's trying hard to keep the word"try" from sneaking its way into our marketing strategies. The honeymoon stage is going well. With any luck, we won't be serving divorce papers before our first anniversary.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is your media rep seeing your clients behind your back?

I called a client the other day about some updates on his website and he casually mentioned that he just signed an annual deal to advertise on a local television station.

"Really?" I say, thinking it was only a couple months ago that I proposed TV advertising to this very client only to be shot down by the budget torpedo.

"Yeah," he says happily. "The station gave me a really good deal. There's even free production."

"Why didn't you ask me about it?" I inquired, trying hard to keep the petulance out of my voice.

He pauses, then reluctantly says,"They told me it would cost more if I went through an agency."

I don't recall exactly how the rest of the conversation went although I did successfully convey the fact that a) free production is normally part of an annual deal, b) the fact that the station says it is "#1" doesn't mean it is "#1" among the people you want to reach, and c) a prime rotator usually means your spot will rotate into a show that gets fewer rating points than daytime soaps.

I must confess that I feel a bit a jilted. I just had lunch with my rep from this station and over arugula and penne pasta she told me how much she loved working with my agency. How could she? I thought our relationship meant something.

In the past, I have tried to cut media reps some slack. After all, I was one of them for five years so I know the importance sales managers place on direct business. But, lately I've begun to question the cost this "sell direct" mentality has on agency relationships with the media.

No doubt the media would rather keep their 15% instead of doling it out to agencies, but they more than make up for it by cutting their reps' commissions on agency business. No harm, no foul (unless you're the media rep with the puny paycheck).

I just can't figure the rationale for this system. Let's see... the media pays their reps bigger commissions on direct business. This encourages them to sell more direct business. By and large, direct business represents substantially fewer dollars than the business that comes through agencies. So, by focusing on direct business rather than agency business, media reps can actually make more money by selling less.


Economics was never my strong subject, but you don't have to be Warren Buffet to figure out that this is probably not the best plan. It's the only plan they've got though and darned it they're not going to keep using it.

As for my adulterous media rep, I'm completely over her now. Next time, I'll know better. I'll order dessert with my penne pasta. She can pay for it with all those direct commissions she's earned.