Radio, TV & Print Advertising for Landscape ProfessionalsTomChilders
You want your business to be well known in Ashburn. How do you get your message out there?
In case you are wondering if people really still consider traditional off line channels, let’s start with some numbers.
Ninety one percent of people in the U.S. listen to radio weekly (age 12 and older – Nielsen Audio). As for newspaper, sixty percent of adults read a print version of a newspaper at least once a week and at age 55 and up, it increases to seventy two percent. (Source: 2013 Survey by NAA.org).
As for TV, Nielsen’s Total Audience Report for 2015 Q15 reports, “with 36 hours of Traditional TV weekly viewing inclusive of four hours of time shifted viewing, Adults 18+ are using almost three times as much television each week as the second most used medium, Radio and seven times more than third ranked PC usage.” TV, Radio and print are alive and well, but our industry just does not use them much. The real reluctance is probably more of a cost and return on investment (ROI) concern. While the cost of all these options is market dependent and too varied for now, some representative numbers can be seen in the suggested resource links below.
First things first, think about your target market. Is this the right approach for them? If you do all builder or commercial work, stop, save your money and spend it marketing to builder and architects. Maybe even target some big corporate accounts or landscape architect firms. Use your resources there!
Now, if John Q. Public is your target market, primarily existing residential, you are on the right track. Not to say you won’t be talking to some renters, moochers and people outside your target because you will. That is just the way radio, TV and newspaper work. The flip side is you could also pickup a builder, general contractor, or landscape architect, but the mass, the target, is retail.
Initially, you want to learn all about your target’s media consumption and a great place to start is by surveying your customers. It doesn’t have to be anything formal, conversational is fine, but keep track of responses and feedback. Your questions should be what do you read, what do you watch on TV? When? Is it dish, satellite, cable? What radio do you listen to? When? Obviously you are looking for patterns and must have enough responses to feel comfortable. If you don’t have enough responses and you are out of customers, find others that are representative of your target.
As you analyze the data, you are obviously looking for media consumption patterns that indicate your target can be reached here. Once found, evaluate that particular media and give it the common sense test. If all your customers read the Wall Street Journal or USA Today, sorry, probably not a wise investment as a local company.
If they all listen the local AM radio talk show to and from work, you have something potentially. Once you have identified real possibilities, start researching them. Call people that have used them. As long as you are not a competitor, they are usually happy to share their experience. Another source is the medium sales person. Call them and get the pitch. They will have all the statistics, data, and pricing info you want. Separate the hyperbole from the good stuff. For example, most numbers include people that rent their residences and it is highly unlikely they will invest in landscaping. Beware of averages and typical statements, dig in and ask for any independent media audits or independent research they might have supporting claims. And yes, you should expect rates to be negotiable.
As you evaluate the options, you will learn you still have to come up with the ad itself. Some stations and papers will offer to help for a fee or free while some will say you are on your own. The production cost of these ads will vary. As a general rule, TV will be more complex and costly. Regardless, you need to be well aware going in and this is one of the reasons people say TV and radio are expensive. In today’s outsource and internet world, production costs are more competitive and reasonable than ever.
As you evaluate, remember advertising expenses should not be something that break the bank. Don’t go out on limb here. Start with a small trial, and see how it goes and remember, as frequency and continuity increase so does advertising’s effectiveness. Plan on multiple runs or perhaps skip it. Remember the old sales adage, 80% of the sales are made after the fifth contact.
FitSmallBusiness.com has a great series on each medium from 2013 and if you really want to dig in, it’s a great next step: TV, Radio, and Newspaper. It gives you some costs figures but it’s dated. All you have to do is make a quick call for current costs.
Direct Mail – Special Section
Let’s start with does direct mail work? Ninety eight percent of consumers bring in the mail the day it’s delivered and 77% sort through it immediately (US Postal Study). Forty percent of consumers try new businesses after receiving direct mail (Marketing Profs) from them. The statistics go on and on and they really are impressive. Fact is – mail still receives a level of attention and interest that is hard to match.
Our industry probably uses direct mail more than TV, radio, and newspaper combined for many reasons. Contractors like the targeting capability, perceived effectiveness, cost, and simplicity. Further, with direct mail you can target prospects that are in a specific industry if you are a business to business marketing (B2B) or a specific demographic for business to consumer (B2C).
Our industry still likes to use co-ops as well as solo mail. Solo mail is when you send a stand-alone piece so you have a higher probability of making an impression. Co-ops are those packages and envelopes you receive with many different inserts, fliers and mailers inside. With co-ops, you lower your cost, but you also lower your chance of an impression.
One approach to direct mail is to start with your objective clearly stated. What do I want to do? Are you nurturing an existing relationship and attempting to gain a commitment or are attempting to gain a new relationship. Be realistic, customers know you and trust you, so asking to call now to get on the schedule is ok. Not so much with prospects. Your attempt should be more of a rapport builder with a call to action geared to get to the next stage in the selling cycle. The stronger, clearer, and more compelling your call to action the greater your chances of success. Try and always make it time sensitive too!
What are your goals? Is it sales, phone calls, leads, new customers. Be specific. In turn, this should help you arrive at your budget. If I am just testing a new offering with some customers, don’t go crazy. If it works you can adjust and scale at full roll out. Same holds true if prospecting. Remember, you can always make adjustments and try again. Also, you can always test different approaches, offers and more, but you start to get in some technicalities that can get tricky if you’re not careful.
Once you have your goals and budgets, think about the mailing list (targets.) Who are you specifically targeting and where will the list come from? Customers will come from your database, while prospects should come from a compiler or list broker. Some typical list selection attributes for homeowners are geography (zip codes), income, home value, length in residence and for businesses, many use industry classification code, employee count, and revenue.
After the list is developed and you know size, think about your offer. This can be anything from a give away, free sample to a dollars off offer. Free irrigation audit with an X, free plant palette review with X, $150 off on any contracts signed in August. The offer needs to be of real value to the target so put some thought in it. Tying the call to action to the offer and creating a sense of urgency is a best practice. Good offers with expirations and clear call to action do this naturally.
Once you have your list and know what you want your copy to say, it is time to design and create the mailer. Remember, pretty is as pretty does. Don’t get too cute here. The simpler and clearer the better. Sure dimensional mail, lumpy mail, is all the buzz but for now start simple and test. Stick to the power of one…one message, one offer, one call to action, one theme, and one mailer. Once you have a mock draft you think you like, get input from others and especially those in your target market.
Before the final drop, make sure all response systems are a go. Are response methods and mechanisms in good working order and well attended? A meeting with your first line of response managers is a good idea. Let them see the piece and maybe even discuss likely response scenarios or even role play so they will be versed enough to handle responses to a degree you desire.
At drop time, be ready and make sure schedules can accommodate a rush. Yes, expect the best here. The last thing you want is a load of leads when no one is free to follow up. This is a real issue with many contractors today. If you can’t follow up, don’t spend the money to advertise and damage your brand.
Once things settle down, start your analyses. Some leads may still be in the sales process, so be aware of that but at the most elementary level look at response and conversion rates. Response rate will tell how many leads raised their hands. If you did well this can be an indication good targeting and good mailer, but it’s not that easy. Next, look at conversions, the number of hand raisers that bought. A good number can indicate good targeting and good mailer as well. Whoever handles the leads should also give input into lead quality. Not all leads will be equal. A good sales person will know the difference and can provide real insight on both list and mailer. Also, lots of leads from a good direct mail campaign followed up by a bad salesperson is a double waste of money. Getting to the bottom of all this is never easy, but that is what separates those that continue to invest in marketing from those that don’t.