ADVERTISING AND MARKETING TIPS

by Joelle Steele

PRESS RELEASES GET THE WORD OUT

Press releases are a great way to let people know what you're doing. Publicize anniversaries, new ownership, employee promotions, awards, events you sponsor, charitable donations you make, new products or services, special events you host, workshops or seminars you give or attend, professional designations you receive, classes or degrees you complete — you can probably think of more.

Keep press releases short, no more than two or three paragraphs. Stick to the facts. Mail, fax, and/or E-mail early enough to ensure publication prior to any event you want to promote. But beware, newspapers and magazines don't always have enough room to print every press release they receive.

ARE TV OR RADIO FOR YOU?

Radio and TV commercials reach large audiences, though not as closely targeted as print advertising. But, for maximum exposure, broadcast advertising can't be beat.

Radio is usually the least expensive. Your commercial can run more frequently or during prime hours. TV is more expensive, but you get the visual impact. TV also opens the door to an infomercial.

Radio and TV both require careful scripting and production. These are not do-it-yourself projects. Look at how tacky so many of our local TV ads are. Don't let that happen to you!

Radio and TV are not for everyone. Find out exactly how much creating, producing, and airing your ad will cost before you dive into either media. Doing your homework will help you make a sound decision.

If you're going to buy airtime, you'll need a "jingle," some words put to music that sing your particular advertising song. There are basically two kinds of jingles: 1) the entire ad is sung, or 2) a couple lines are sung. Some jingle basics:

Emphasize the product or business name in the lines that are sung. Put in a phone number and location if you can. Melodies can be brand new or re-makes of music in the public domain (no copyright infringement or paying royalties). Pick something catchy and easy to recall.

The recording should be crisp and bright, never flat or dull from over-mixing. The jingle must be sung clearly and with enthusiasm. Air time can be expensive, so do your jingle right and make each second count.

UPDATING YOUR IMAGE

When business is slow for any reason, don't waste time worrying about it. Put that "down time" to good use by evaluating your image. When did you last update your logo? Your advertising? Does it send the right message? Could your business cards, menus, brochures, rack cards, or other materials benefit from a facelift or rewrite?

Updating your image is a sure way to attract attention to your business and to get both new and return business. A more vibrant color or interesting typeface can breathe life into those old marketing materials, giving them greater eye appeal and making them appear fresh. Reworking old copy, creating smarter headlines, or writing brand new copy ensures that regular customers will see you in a whole new light.

Every business needs to update its image. When the economy is sagging, or when it's off-season for your company, make a new marketing plan. You might find a unique way to boost sales during even the slowest times!

MARKETING DURING A RECESSION

When a recession hits, it is inevitable that some businesses will not survive. Those that do usually come out stronger in the long run, because they tightened their belts and stuck it out, and because they learned that when the going gets tough, the tough get busy marketing!

It's normal to want to cut expenses and save money when business is slow. But cutting back on your marketing efforts is not the place to do it. Of all the things you need to do most in a slow economy, advertising and marketing are at the top of the list.

If you want to cut costs, cut back on waste: reduce your electrical use; reduce automobile expenses by scheduling appointments on the same day; reduce wasted manhours by finding more efficient ways to perform tasks; clear out old and overstocked inventory items; etc.

Your old ads and marketing efforts will probably need an overhaul during a recessive period. For example, if your ads weren't drawing that much business when the economy was thriving, they will certainly not help you at all during a recession.

Find out what's wrong with your ads and fix them. Hire a professional to help. You can't rely on word of mouth or reputation alone during a recession. You need to actively pursue customers and clients with innovative offers or new and different ways of selling your products or services.

REDUCING YOUR MARKETING COSTS

You can eliminate unnecessary fees you normally pay a creative services person when they have to spend hours trying to match a font or color, find the person who re-did your logo, or retype a lot of text. It's very easy: When you have any design work done, always get a copy of it on a CD. Label the CD clearly with the name of the designer; the date; the content; the names of fonts and PMS colors; and the color, type, and weight of the paper stock. Make notes of what you liked and didn't like, what worked and what didn't, and any factual changes (e.g., an outdated product or a new address).

Put a copy of the printed piece with the CD and all your notes, and keep everything together in one place. When you need it again, you will have it — and so will whoever is doing your next design project.

SHARING YOUR KNOW-HOW

Everybody has knowledge to share, and sometimes that knowledge can bring you new business or new business opportunities. By offering some classes, you can show what you know and what you sell. It's a great way to get new business in today's difficult economy.

For example, if you are a restaurant, offer cooking classes during your off hours. If you are an art gallery, teach some art history or art technique classes. Contractors can offer home repair or maintenance classes. Clothing stores can teach people how to plan a wardrobe or how to accessorize. Antique shops can provide tips on spotting authentic antiques versus look-alike new pieces. Jewelry stores can teach everything from selecting a diamond to buying a timepiece.

By making your business a place for people to come and learn about what you do and what you know, you will be helping people become better consumers, and who knows, someone you help might very well become your new best client or customer. And remember, the word travels fast!

ARE YOU OUT OF TOUCH?

How many times have you lost a customer because they couldn't get through your long-winded voice mail system, no one answers their E-mail, or your fax line is always busy?

It's great to be technologically savvy, but if it puts up a barrier between you and your prospective customers, maybe you need to rethink how you use that technology. Maybe it's time to hire someone to answer your phone and respond to all those E-mail inquiries. Maybe it's time to install an an additional line for the fax machine. When the economy is slow, you can't afford to miss out on any business opportunities. Be sure you are always in touch with your customers!

DISPLAY ADS THAT WORK

Most ads fall into two categories: image and promotional. Image ads are for the likes of Nike and IBM, household names that want to be kept in the public eye. They don't show pictures of what they sell; we already know. They don't run an address or phone number; we already know where to buy their products and services.

Promotional ads are used to promote sales. They feature products, sale items, new services, order forms, discount coupons, and contact information: phone, fax, website, E-mail, mailing and street addresses, and hours of operation. Promotional ads must be changed regularly and frequently to reflect what your business is doing.

WHAT ABOUT THE WORDS?

Color and images are pretty, but isn't something missing? You bet. It's the words, the ad copy. You can create a great ad, brochure, letter — even a Web page — that draws a lot of business without using a single photo or fancy logo. Carefully written ad copy is what really sells. Images are just the icing on the cake. The best thing you can learn to do is write a great headline. You just can't go wrong.

When writing a headline, remember to always think about what the reader wants and needs. Your headline can be a question, an announcement, a testimonial, a guarantee, a free offer, a demonstration, or a reward for using your product or service. The headline "Computer Services" won't turn heads. Try "Upgrade Your Computer Today" at the very least. Offer a special discount price for a particular service. Include these headlines in brochures or Web pages, as well as in your ads.

Once you have a good headline, describe your product or service. Tell the reader what they need to know in order to make a buying decision or to contact you. Select three to five good reasons why someone should eat at your restaurant, rent your trucks, wear your clothes, or use your paint. This is not the time to be vague. As that old 1970s saying goes, "Tell it like it is."

BENEFITS OF ADVERTORIALS

When most people think of advertising, they think of display ads. Advertorials are a kind of display ad. They use photos or graphics, but they rely on more text. Advertorials are less expensive to produce, and are good formats for businesses that require an explanation beyond a few brief lines.

For example, in an advertorial, an art gallery can profile an artist, describe techniques, and announce exhibits. A winery can detail its history, elaborate on the production of its wines, and invite visitors to its tasting room. A retail shop can describe its hand-crafted products, announce a sale or trunk show, or introduce a new product. A hotel or inn can relate its architectural significance, expound on its romantic accommodations, promote off-season rates, or outline group specials. A restaurant can characterize its decor, boast its exceptional menu, and give kudos to the chef. A realtor can talk about his/her personalized approach, the kinds of homes and neighborhoods represented, and any special assistance offered. You get the idea.

The most important thing about an advertorial is that it must be well-written. If writing is not your strength, hire this out. Advertorials give people enough information to make good buying decisions. That way, they just might turn into customers. If you want to make a real statement about your business, try an advertorial. New business could be just around the corner!

This article last updated: 09/18/2012.