Succeed at advertising

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Volume 26/Number 21; March 4/11, 2013

by Jim Armstrong

(First of three parts)

When surveying flooring dealers across North America, I always ask:

• How are you promoting your business? The answer I virtually always get: Internet, newspaper, radio, TV, direct mail.

• What are your results? The answer I almost always get: Lousy, hit-and-miss, unpredictable, disappointing.

In spite of poor results, dealers stubbornly cling to outdated advertising methods that do not work even after admitting they know they don’t work.

I spoke with a dealer who was spending $20,000 per year on his Yellow Pages ad. When I asked about his results he replied, “Lousy.” Or, more simply, $20,000 down the drain.

This frightful level of waste is not uncommon and I’ve discovered it happens mainly for three reasons: 1) There is a misunderstanding among retailers about advertising; 2) They are unaware of alternatives to “brand building” types of advertising, and 3) Dealers wind up copying each other.

In this series we will explore each of these reasons in detail and exactly what to do about it.


Reason #1

Advertising falls into two broad categories: image advertising and direct response marketing. If you are a flooring dealer, it is absolutely critical that you understand the difference between the two or your advertising efforts are doomed to mediocrity or, worse, complete failure.

Image advertising is when a company attempts to gain customers by building name recognition. This is done by putting the business name out there over and over again via mass advertising. Just Google “flooring,” or look in the Yellow Pages, newspaper, billboards, etc., you will mostly see are image or branding ads.

Generally these ads all say the same thing: The floor store’s business name, bullet points about it and a phone number. These kinds of ads virtually never give compelling reasons for a prospective consumer to buy from one company vs. another.

Dealers experience four serious problems when they attempt image advertising:

1. It encourages price shopping. Image ads usually offer no reason to choose one dealer over the others. So, by default, the consumer winds up making a decision based on price.

2. Image ads are difficult to track. Dealers have no idea whether an ad is working.

3. It can take a very long time to see results. The theory behind image ads is that you keep putting your business name out there and eventually, on the strength of name recognition, people will buy from you. This can work, but it’s an extremely slow method of gaining customers.

4. It’s very expensive. Major corporations like Home Depot and Lowe’s can afford to saturate market regions with advertising to build name recognition. But the average dealer simply cannot afford this.

Because of these four serious problems, most dealers succeed in spite of image advertising rather than because of it.

Direct response marketing is the second method for promoting your flooring business, and what I teach my Inner Circle members to use. Direct response has the following critical elements:

•A compelling offer

•A strong call to action

•A deadline

•Unique benefits of your product/service

•It’s trackable

Most importantly, a good direct response ad answers the unspoken question on your prospect’s mind: “Why should I choose your flooring business verses each and every competitive option available to me?”

In part 2 we will discuss effective alternatives to image advertising.

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