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February 2009
Choose Your Weapon - Shotgun of Riffle?
By John Paul Galles
    Let’s face it. Times are tough! The economic outlook tells us we are in the depth of a recession. In fact, we have been in this recession for over a year. Even the most optimistic forecasts suggest that we will not begin to come out of this recession until the third quarter of this year, that the recovery is likely to take longer than normal, and it will more likely require two to three years to show real growth.

     When times are tough, businesses become more wary, watchful and careful about where they spend their money. That is appr­opriate and good.

     What is not good is the wholesale slashing of budgetary allocations without any consideration for return on investment. In particular, slashing advertising dollars is exactly the wrong thing to do.

     Why do you advertise in the first place? You advertise to increase sales. When times are tough and you expect sales to decline, you should be increasing your advertising spending. In fact, if you decrease advertising, your sales will probably go down even further than they might have otherwise. That is, if you cut back, but your competition continues or expands their advertising, they stand to gain the customers that you will lose!

     Instead of taking a shotgun approach to advertising that reaches many who will never buy from you, choose a rifle approach that targets your prospects and is more likely to provide a return on your investment.

1. Reduce spending any way you can so you can save for advertising! Obviously, cut out extraneous spending. Second, trim a small percentage off all budgetary categories so you do not cut advertising. Eliminate spending that does not directly contribute to the bottom line.

2. Do more with less! We are all going to work longer hours for less income, but we must do more with less so we can keep doing business with our customers and prospects and grow our way out of this recession.

3. Know your target customer! How well do you know your customers and the prospects that you want to be your customers? You don’t have time or money to chase prospects who will never buy from you. Take the time to listen to your customers and learn as much as you can.

4. Target your message! What do you do better than your competitors? Learn why people do business with you that will help you get more customers and clients. Match your message to your customer with the right media vehicles that reach those customers.

5. Negotiate your media buys! Call the advertising vehicles that reach your target customers. Ask what specials they are offering. Tell them you want a special advertising package. Be clear about what you have to spend and how you want to spend it. Seek extra insertions, better placements, reduced rates, sponsorships, Web site advertising, and added value.

6. Push your targeted customer to your Web site! You have an investment in your Web site. You should have all the pertinent information about your company, your products and your services on it. Your Web site is of no value if no one ever visits it. Include your Web site on all your advertising.

7. Use broadcast e-mail! Keep your customers informed about your products and services. Tell them about specials. Be careful, be courteous and don’t overdo it.

8. Look for joint advertising opportunities! Find ways to work with other companies. Take advantage of coop advertising dollars.

     Ultimately, you need to advertise more discriminately in a recession. Don’t waste your advertising dollars. Use them wisely to reach your targeted customers and prospects. Educate them about all that you do. Show them how you can save them money. They are in this recession with you and they need to be smart, too.

     When you advertise more wisely than your competitors, you stand to grow as the economy recovers. Sure this is a struggle; but this is also a huge opportunity. Take advantage of this critical time and pick up that rifle!

John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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