Brian, this site is a treasure trove of marketing and advertising ideas. Bite it off in small chunks. Do a search on specific topics, such as "val-pak", or "newsletters" or "discounting" or "coupons" or "direct mail" etc, etc, etc...
Yes, this will take some time, but most "lessons" do. It has been said that "experience is learning from your mistakes, wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others."
One of the best things about living in a small town (approx. 10,000 people), my best advertising (other than happy customers in the new subdivisions) are the framed pieces I've donated to: Schools- for principal's office, Chamber of Commerce, Town Hall, Woman's Club Bldg., Library, Police Dept., and our Auditorium. Each of the framed donations, have a brass plate near the artwork, Compliments of Janet Lowry, Right Angles Picture Framing.
We've had pretty good luck with two sided book marks. The local librarians are usually thrilled to have them from a local contributing establishment rather than the freebies they get from book dealers.
We make them oversized (2-1/2" x 7") with plenty of "white space" so that they stand out from the others and give the librarians and patrons room to make notes.
We believe that they target our demographics i.e. upscale people who read books that come without crayons.
Advertising is one of those areas where we simply don't have the resources to make a meaningful impact. This is especially true in larger areas where the return from cost is inversely proportional. The media costs are so much higher and the areas of coverage extends way beyond your primary or even secondary markets.
The old adage you hear from advertising sales people is that something terrible happens when you don't advertise. The real something terrible is that they don't get a commission.
My suggestion is to look at the cost devoted to advertising and see what impact those same dollars would have if put into rent in a better location.
Most advertising, to make any impact, has to be promotion driven-that means additional expense-either through mark downs or event planning(as two typical venues).
Before anyone sets up a meaningful budget to attract retail traffic, determine if that dollar expenditure will really create the desired results. Simply stated, most small or single store operations simply can't make a dent into the market when competing with the big advertisers for the attention of the consumer.
If you feel compelled to spend those dollars on advertising, try a very specific and measurable Direct Mail campaign. Devote the couple of thousand dollars monthly needed (in time and expense), do it consistently and measure the results.
Or take the same $2000 a month and put it into a better location. The results, I'm sure, will be much more predictable and at margins of your choosing.
Adverstising is just another area where we have little expertise, little budgets and little expectations. I really think there are more wasted dollars spent in advertising in this trade than any other waste we incur.
I will say ideas like Janet's and Bill's are much better uses of monies. The results are probably difficult to quantify and they really fit more into Business Promotion, but they are "feel good" tools. And the expense is insignificant.
[ 03-27-2003, 10:30 AM: Message edited by: Bob Carter ]
This is where my colleague, Bob Carter and I dissagree slightly. I have committed a steady 5-7% of our gross sales to an advertising budget for a number of years, and I believe that it's the consistency over time that has made it effective.
I'm sure that many involved in the framing and art inventory have indeed had ineffective advertising efforts because as Bob pointed out, they're small businesses but perhaps more significantly, their efforts are not consistent/sustained. You need to have your advertising become part of your marketing plan. That plan may include such excellent business promotional ideas as Bill Henry's bookmarks (which I'm considering pilfering).
Bob Carter is correct in identifying a business promotion and an advertising expense as unique items. We've always had a different accounting code for each of these.
Over the years, I've used Radio, Newspaper, Direct Mail, Coupons, Television, Billboards, Welcome Wagon and Yellow pages. They all have a place. They all can be effective, if used in ways to maximize their strengths and tied to a plan. Currently we have budgeted our 6% for 2003-2004 to be split in this manner: 40% Direct Mail, 35% Television (cable), 15% Yellow Pages, 5% Web Site Promotion, 5% Misc.
My good friend, John, has some very valid points. As a successful merchant, he can speak with some authority to most framers. He is dead on with his rules, if you do have a dedicated advertising budget.
I think our perspectives are skewed by our markets, as they should be.
John is in a small, dare I say rural, market-We are in a large metropolitan market. His suggestions probably are very wise for his market and those in a mirrored demographic woud be wise to examine his suggestions.
Let's look at the numbers: 6% of a typical volume store is $12,000 annually or $1000 a month to be spent on advertising. You can't begin to talk advertisng in a market like this for a budget like that, but it works for John well.
So, my next point would be, while John has a well-crafted promotional program for his $1000 a month, for most others, what would be the benefit of applying that same $1000 a month to a better location in terms of more sales(all with relatively no effort)
In reality, you should have a mix of carefully crafted promotional activities supported by a reasonable media mix based in a killer location. But unless you have the ability to work a great program like John has, the simpler (and dare I say easier) avenue might be a better location that automatically drives more people to your doorstep?
If you are as gifted as John, use his approach-it'll work. If you are advertising-challenged as I am, consider the "investment" in a better location when that option becomes available.
But your market and your abilities might need to be considered, also
When it comes to advertising the one thing that you need to make sure you do is be consistant with all of your advertising messages and the ways that you advertise.
If you are doing Val Pak for instance, if it does not work in the first month don't quit. You will have to do at least 3-4 mailings before you can determine your response.
Same with TV, Newspaper, Radio, ect. In order to be effective people have to see your name over and over. We run TV commercials every month on cable (TLC- Trading Spaces and Human Beings, Lifetime and USA Network), 21 spots a month plus fill ins on these plus other networks and also run ads on the local FOX network including a home decorating show. We have an ad for collectable giftware every week in the local newspaper in the Home section where they always have an article about collectables, we also run an ad everyweek in the business section for Successories products.
We also use Val Pak and some Direct Mail postcards.
The key is to find out who your target market is and make sure to get in frot of them as often as you can. Once you know your target market then ask your TV and radio sales reps for demographic information, and get it in writing from an independant source like Nielsen ratings.
You think advertising is too expensive, ask for better rates, business is bad for these people as well, they will budge. Advertise in down times when your competition isn't, if you are the only place that people see then they will go to you.
Don't look at advertising as a cost, look at it as an investment into your business.
Also, to Bob's point, make sure that you have a good location. All the advertising in the world isn't going to get people to shop in a bad location.