Don’t under-estimate a dripping tap!

In this day and age it’s very easy to get caught up in the spectacular. That is, we focus so much on the outstanding that we overlook or under-value what is none-the-less good.

And so it is with some advertising. A lot of business advertisers only tend to advertise with big results in mind when there are great gains to be made with smaller initiatives as well.

Keep in mind what I’ve said repeatedly in one form or another, that is the name of the game is essentially to keep your existing customers happy and coming back while gradually adding new ones along the way. Determine to grow your overall customer base gradually and you’ll grow your business.

One cost effective and useful way to do this, for a lot of businesses at least, is to regularly use the classifieds in your local newspaper. I call it the dripping tap approach. If you leave a tap dripping for long enough, you’ll end up with a lot of water.

Classifieds are still a very effective and cheap way to advertise but best results are gained when you use them regularly. Often your local newspaper will negotiate very attractive low rates for a regular booking so don’t be afraid to negotiate hard for a good deal.

I’ll let you fill in the blanks but below I have included a series of different classified ads for a variety of business types that will give you some ideas. These are only examples of course but each is designed to interest your existing customers and at the same time snare some new customers. Like with all advertising, make sure you say something worth hearing about and don’t be afraid to try different things to determined what types of offers work best.


Dripping tap classified examples


Is television advertising right for you?

Earlier in my career I was a television sales rep for a regional station and as such I gained a lot of experience in the television industry.

Back in those days, television was considered a very glamorous industry and although it still is today, it’s certainly not as glamorous as it was back then.

From an advertising point of view too, back then there was only one station and it cost good money to be on television but you did have the benefit of a captive and total audience. Today, there are any number of stations, the technology lets you skip ad breaks, hiring movies is still a popular option, and we now have the internet to contend with as well. The result of all this is that when you buy a television ad package today, the cost may seem very attractive, even reasonable, but there are a lot of questions about how people respond to television ads today compared to when I was in the industry 20 odd years ago.

That said, many businesses are still attracted to advertising on television, particular smaller businesses who may not have been able to afford television advertising in the past. On face value and in view of where we are with the economy today, television advertising can look very appealing for some business owners. For me however, and purely as a general rule, although I think television has its place, I’d only place ads in programs that I know would have a very strong audience. To do this I’d have to pay premium rates but at least I’d be sure that I was reaching a maximum audience. For me anything less would be a compromise with audience numbers very much open to question.

Let me explain that a little further.

Once upon a time, ads were placed in particular time zones, this was in the days when there was only one commercial station and everyone was glued to their television for up to 30 hours a week.

Today, it’s far more sophisticated and ads in individual programs are priced according to their surveyed audience numbers. This makes sense of course because as I’ve said elsewhere, when you buy any ad, what you’re really buying is an audience. When all things are considered some programs, like the main news bulletin at night, are known to have a huge audience while say a program during the day or late at night may have only a fraction of the audience of the news. Obviously the cost of ads placed in each program should reflect this otherwise everyone would expect their ads to appear in the news bulletin.

So… getting back to my point about reaching the maximum audience, I’d be looking to place all my ads in the main national news bulletins on the most highly rated networks, pay the higher price and expect that the nightly National News would at least be less prone for people to be flicking channels, watching videos, recorded for viewing later and so on. Any other ad placement leaves your ads open to the whims of viewers and far more likely to be missed or flicked over. Not the sort of thing you want to happen if you’ve paid out good money believing people will see you ads.

Of course, what I’ve painted here is a very bleak picture but to be fair, there’s no doubt that television advertising is still a very effective way to advertise and all I’m trying to do here is encourage you to go in with your eyes open and to make sure you give yourself the best chance of success.

If you do take the plunge into television, here are few more things to consider –

In addition to the cost of the advertising space, television stations usually charge for the production of any ads you need as well. The cost of producing a television ad can vary greatly and in many cases the end result is a case of you get what you pay for and depends very much on the skills and dedication of the script writers or producers who work with you. A well thought out ad will serve you well but one that has not been well thought out won’t.

Television stations, particularly in regional areas, often have very big coverage areas. In Orange NSW where I live, the local commercial stations reach as far away as several hundred kilometres. If your business is looking to attract customers from that far away, television can be very helpful and cost effective but if realistically, people generally would come that far for what you sell or offer, you could find yourself paying for a big chunk of audience that is not appropriate for you. It can be false economy.

Television lends itself very well to visuals so if feel viewers would respond to your product(s), your business or your branding better if they could actually see these things through a television ad, that’s a plus. The trick here of course is to ensure that any pictures you put on television reflect very well on your business and will be an encouragement for people to deal with you. Put bluntly, if your TV ad looks or sounds like crap, you can hardly expect people to warm to your business. Make sure any television ad you do at least presents you in a favourable light. Better to have someone come in your door and say “gee it looked different on TV” than have them not come in at all. On this topic and on a slightly humorous note, has anyone ever bought a Subway sandwich that looks like those they show in their television ads? I think not!

It is said that people remember 80% of what they see and 20% of what they hear. If that be true, and in a very general sense, one television ad would compare very favourably against four radio ads.

Media reps from all outlets – newspapers, radio and television – are all trained to sell you packages of one sort or another. They will tell you repetition is important, particularly with radio ads.

In some cases I agree, but not in all cases. If you’re having a sale or short-term event, heavy concentrated ads may be appropriate but if you’re just looking at a branding campaign, fewer ads in good time slots over a longer period can be equally as effective. Repetition is good but sometimes it doesn’t have to occur over a few days or weeks. Think about the outcome you’re after and plan any campaign, TV or otherwise, accordingly.

Finally, if you’d like more specific advice on anything I’ve mentioned, or you have other feedback to offer, feel free to email me and I’ll do my best to help you.

Dazzle them with science!

Consumers have become pretty savvy with many of the advertising and marketing techniques that businesses have used over the years, but there’s still one that seems to work fairly well.

For the sake of a better name, let’s call it packaging.

Packaging is when you put together a number of products together and sell as a pack of some sort.

Typical examples are meal deals like 2 large pizza, garlic bread and 1.25ltr drink from a pizza shop for what appears to be a good price. Another could be a family dinner of a BBQ Chicken, large serve of chips and a salad, again for what appears to be a good price. In these two examples, the garlic bread and the chips provide shops with room to move. Some time back a pizza shop I helped sold garlic bread for $2.50, yet they purchased it ready to simply stick in a microwave or an oven for 40 cents. The cost of chips too is quite small compared to what they sell for. Basically what I’m saying here is, if you sell pizzas, rather than discount your pizzas, you can bundle them up in a pack with say garlic bread or soft drink and sell the pack for what appears a good discounted price. By doing this, you may discount or even include your garlic bread and/or drink at cost price but you still get full price for your pizzas. Your individual sale value also will be higher. It’s the same with the BBQ Chicken, instead of discounting your chickens, bundle them with chips and a salad or drink to give the illusion of a good saving and your overall sales turnover will go up. This method could be described as dazzling consumers with science but hey, much bigger and better businesses than yours have been doing this, in one form or another, for a long time.

Here’s a few brief examples of “packaging” that I’ve helped clients with over the years. Some of these go back a while but the principles used still apply. Read them think about them and then see if any of the methods could be used to advantage in your particular business. Although it appeared impossible at the time but they brought Apollo 13 back from space safely, simply by ‘working the problem’. It’s amazing what people can do when they actually sit down and “work the problem”.

Thrift Box
This was for a butcher who was trying to attract people on a budget. The idea was to use cheap cuts of meat but throw in something a bit special as well.

The Thrift Box contained 1kg Roast Beef, 1 Kg Forequarter chops, 1Kg mince, 1kg sausages and 500gms of tasty bacon. Back then it sold for $15 and the butcher made up a tray and stuck it on a turntable in his front window. He sold hundreds within a few weeks.

Package deals by butchers are quite common these days but when we did this one, no one else was doing them. The trick then and now is to package up something that sounds great but is also something a lot of people would want to buy.

You choos’em 3 pack

This concept was created for a Chinese restaurant who had earlier offered customers options of a couple of packs with set dishes in them. Many Asian restaurants still offer set packs today but more often than not, the lack of variety wears off. The You choos’em 3 pack gave them options and proved to be very successful.

Basically, customers were given two lists of about 8 different dishes. They could choose one dish from each list plus a large or boiled fried rice, all for the one set price. Both lists consisted of popular dishes but were split up depending on the profit potential for each dish. At the time chicken and pork dishes gave the shop the most profit, while beef and certainly seafood dishes offered less profit. Like garlic bread, chips and drink did in the packages mentioned early, rice too is very inexpensive to produce and enabled this shop to discount the rice while getting full price for the main dishes.

A big board was installed behind the counter and people could easily choose what they wanted. It proved to be a huge success and continued for several years. Interestingly, I have never seen another Asian Restaurant use this concept but maybe they have never had a marketing consultant like me help them.

Buy 3 albums for $20

Again, this goes back a long way but the strategy is worth noting.

A client owned a popular record shop back when record albums were all the go but one of the problems he faced was always ending up with a whole lot of the less popular albums among his stock. It wasn’t a case of him knowingly buying bad stock but rather him buying what appeared to be good stock only to discover that the albums didn’t reach the heights that they were meant to. Such was the record business in those days and no doubt it’s the same for music and video shops along with bookshops today.

When he spoke to me he had hundreds of these records and he couldn’t give them away. So what to do?

I came up with an idea which saw him successfully ‘give away’ hundreds of these dead stock albums while at the same time selling hundreds of more popular albums.

We called in Buy 3 Albums for $20 and at the time the latest albums sold for about $12.

We set up three stands and in the first stand we put a big selection of the latest albums. We put a blue sticker on all these.

In the second stand we put a selection of still popular albums, but mainly those that were on the way down sales-wise and in many cases would end up a more dead stock at some point. We put a blue sticker on all these.

In the third stand we put all the dead stock or albums that we couldn’t give away. We put a green sticker on all these.

We advertised the deal and people could choose 3 albums, one with a blue sticker, one with a red sticker and one with a green sticker.

The sale was a roaring success and turnover went through the roof.

Work the locals!

When you have a business like a coffee shop, cafe or food outlet, spending a lot of money on advertising may not be very practical. After all you’d have to sell a lot of coffee to new customers to justify a spend of even just a few hundred dollars. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be worth it but it would depend on what you’re trying to achieve and how you went about it.

Over the years a number of coffee shops have sought my advice and one simply idea that I have given them is to “work the locals”. That is, most coffee shops are generally located in a place where they have a ready-made clientele within walking distance of their shop. This could represent 200-300 businesses or offices with 1000 or more potential customers for the business. Of course, there could well be a number of other coffee shops in the same vicinity all vying for the same business.

Many of these people would likely be among your loyal customers but many may not and one of the purposes of advertising is to try and introduce new customers to your business or to put it more bluntly, to steal them away from your competitors.

One way to do this is to produce a small flyer and every so often, drop a flyer into all the businesses within walking distance of your business. Flyer don’t need to be fancy and 200 – 300 or so can be photo copied very cheaply. What you put on the flyer is up to you but my advice is to include an offer of some sort that will tease a number of people into taking up your offer. The main things to remember when doing this are –

The idea is not to just give your product(s) away. The main outcome you’re after is to introduce new customers and hopefully to keep them. Although in the short term it could be worth just breaking even or even absorbing a small cost, the long term benefits of introducing several new regular customers could be worth it.

Be creative and make sure that your flyer says something that people will want to respond to. On that note, people will generally be interested in either something new or something cheap.

There are any number of things you could do but here’s a typical example –

Work the locals FLYER

Try this once at least and then evaluate the outcome but remember, the offer is most important and will have a bearing on the outcome. A less than favourable response could well be the result of a making a wrong offer. Sometimes it requires a few tries to discover what hits people’s hot buttons. Apart from a bit of time and effort, this is a very cheap and worthwhile way to “work the locals”.

Think before you ‘Sale’

think-clipart Think before you SALE

At the time of writing this, many small business owners, particularly retailers, are struggling for sales or turnover. We are clearly going through a time where consumer confidence is quite low and this in turn is impacting negatively on business turnover. I think it’s fair to say that many operators, myself included, are caught up in the uncertainty of things at the moment and it’s difficult to know exactly what to do. Many businesses still have the expenses rolling in each week or month and with reduced sales or turnover, keeping cash flow under control can present a serious challenge.

When caught in a situation like this, generating cash can become a necessity and when this happens, businesses often resort to putting on a Sale of one sort or another. You only have to walk down a city main street or through a shopping centre to see that almost every shop has sale signs slashed across their windows.

Having a Sale is good, and not just at times when you need to generate some quick cash. For this item however, I want to concentrate on technique and suggest some strategies for those times when you may find yourself having to have a cash generating Sale. Using a Sale as a routine business builder we’ll discuss at another time.

By way of suggestion, let’s lay down some simple steps to follow –

Step 1 – Determine what outcome you’re trying to achieve.

Simple question I know but if your answer is simply to raise cash, I suggest you think that through a bit more. You need to also consider what other impacts the exercise may have on your business.

Ask yourself…..

How much cash do I need to raise?
What method will I use to get the word out?
How much advertising or publicity will I have to do and how much is that likely to cost?
Are my expectations realistic?
If I achieve my goal, how will this affect my overall profitability and how is it likely to impact on my sales after the ‘Sale’.

Step 2 – Consider alternative ways of raising the necessary cash you need.

The most common method most businesses use is to offer a huge discount, often across the store or on all stock, and then advertise it heavily on one or more media. Decisions like this are often made in what can best be described as a state of panic.

This method may well raise the required cash but often it can prove to be very expensive and in some cases, there may be no profit at all or even an overall loss when the end result is known.

Before committing to a strategy like this, consider this….

How much time do you have to achieve your goal? If you have time to manoeuvre, use it.
How can I make less sales but bring in more money? Instead of offering 50% off, would buy one get one free be better?
Do I need to offer one flat rate discount across all items? Up to 50% off storewide sounds better than 25% off storewide and will not stop customers from coming in and looking. The varied discounts will also let you discount items appropriately and according to their likelihood of selling. If you offer one discount across all stock, you can bet your booty that customers will buy all the good and easily sellable stock first. Why give them 25% off prized merchandise when they’ll still buy at 15% off?
Step 3 – Consider the time frame.

Customers generally respond better if a measure of urgency is involved. Two or three Sales during a given period could generate a better result than say one month long sale.

On the matter of time frame, consider this….

Most Sale activity happens within the first couple of days of a Sale starting. People know that the early bird catches the worm. I suggest a 3 -4 day Sale is best with Thursday to Saturday or Sunday best. For a short Sale, you can also crunch your advertising into a shorter time frame which will either save you money or allow you to create more impact with bigger press ads or more frequent radio/TV ads.
Planning an immediate follow up Sale can also be a good strategy but if you do, you need to plan for it and book any advertising you need ready to go. Eg. Your Sale is on Thursday to Sunday but on Monday, you run ads that say something like “Due to the outstanding response to our Sale, we’ve extended it for 3 more days, you still have time to get up to 50% off etc.”
Running consecutive Sales each weekend over 3 – 4 weeks can also be a good strategy. You just need to come up with different themes for each Sale. Eg. Up to 50% off Winter Clearance Sale, followed by a Stock Reduction Sale, followed by a Manager’s Superseded Stock Sale, followed by an End of Season Sale. If you think that’s overkill, think again. Customers are very gullible as Harvey Norman proves week in week out. They Sales tripping over Sales very week.

Step 4 – Think about how to and where to advertise.

Simply throwing money at advertising may seem a good idea but in my experience, with a little thought or by being a bit smarter, you can often achieve a better result for less money or at the very least, get more bang for your buck overall.

A few thoughts to consider….

Your existing customers will in all likelihood represent your best market. Do whatever you can to let them know about any Sale you’re having.
Make sure that any ads you do have a strong and clear message, that they’ll quickly get the reader’s, listener’s or viewer’s attention and that they say something well worth seeing or hearing.
Step back and imagine yourself in the potential target market’s shoes and ask yourself, “would I respond to this?” If the answer is no, change it to what you would respond to.
When you place or buy ads, the trick is to reach as many people as you can for as little as you can but to do so without jeopardising the level of impact. Keep in mind, it’s the audience that you’re buying so always go for the best value for money when placing ads and not what at first glance, appears to be the cheapest price. (See more on this in The Price is not always right -Advertising Know How April 15th).
Always negotiate strongly with your media rep., you’ll be surprised how much they’ll discount their prices if you play extra hard ball with them. Keep in mind they’re just like you and me much of the time and are desperate for the business. Push real hard, you never know where it will get you.
Make sure you fully utilise your front windows, in store signage and any other opportunities to both catch people’s attention and show people who respond to your sale that something BIG is happening.
If you have Facebook, an email contact list or some other social media or network connection, make sure you use that too.

Step 5 – Make sure respondents have a great experience.

It may be a Sale event but it’s also a chance for you to win and keep new customers. Make sure that everyone who comes into your business during this Sale or at any time, leaves after having a great experience. The real value of your Sale may over time, prove to be in the new customers you introduce. Don’t blow it!

Need more advice?

Feel free to email me if you have any questions or would like some advice more related to your specific type of business. Use the contact or feedback tabs to email me.