Advertising, Part 2: Wheres & Hows

April 2002 Marketing

My last article clarified the economics and effectiveness of advertising in raising brand awareness and familiarity. Because small businesses often initially limit their experimentation with advertising to magazines, newsletters, and sometimes web advertising, this article will focus on executing a marketing effort with these specific media.

An old mantra of the advertising business is that 50% of the advertising dollars are wasted, but no one can tell which 50%. To alleviate this problem, many consumer oriented magazines solicit advertising dollars along with indices that describe the demographics, psychographics, and activities of their readership. For B2B businesses, psychographics are somewhat irrelevant. However, even for B2B offerings, it is possible to be intelligently selective in the medium choice. The selection criterion is the same regardless of the actual market being served. That is, media should be chosen based upon its cost efficiency in packaging the Relevant Audience for communicating a marketing message.

Selecting to advertise in general business magazines, such as Business Week or The Economist, is unlikely to be cost efficient unless your product or service meets the needs of a very broad set of businesses. For most B2B businesses, trade magazines are the best media for broadcasting a marketing message. For broadband infrastructure providers, businesses might use Lightwave. For utilities, it might be EL&P. Likewise, there is Governing for the government market. Regardless of the market to be served, it is likely that some media provider has taken the time to package this audience for sale.

One method to select possible media for advertising is to take notice of the magazines in the office of your prospects. After visiting the offices of 50 prospects, you should be able to create meaningful statistics concerning your market’s magazines of choice. Alternatively, media providers will share with you their target market and some statistics about their distribution list.

With a selected handful of media in which to advertise, the next step is to quantify the cost effectiveness of advertising in the varying mediums. Cost effectiveness is determined by the cost per relevant audience member. The count of relevant audience is the product of the total distribution of the medium and the percentage of the audience that is relevant to your market. Estimating the percent relevance is somewhat of an art, but the exact number is less important than the ranking of percent relevance between the media. Using similar criteria for determining percent relevance across your marketing mix would yield consistency in determining cost effectiveness of various communication tools. The actual percent relevance of a medium is less important than its relative percent relevance to other media.

After choosing the lowest cost medium for packaging your Relevant Audience, the final decision to make is in regards to copy and graphics. I will leave the question of graphics to graphics designers. For text though, recall that magazine advertising is somewhat of a shallow and static communication medium. The depth of interaction is often limited. Moreover, a major purpose of advertising is simply to increase brand awareness and familiarity. Hence, the message that can and should be communicated through magazines is brief. At a minimum, ads should hold the corporate name, brand position, and a contact website & phone number. If, however, your firm is using advertising to directly stimulate purchasing, longer copy will be required.

When your business chooses to invest in brand awareness, selective advertising of high quality copy and graphic design should prove a cost effective solution for communicating high level marketing messages.

The May Report, TECH BUSINESS BRIEFS, April 25, 2002

About the author

Tim J. Smith, PhD is the Managing Principal of Wiglaf Pricing, and an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University of Marketing and Economics. His most recent book is Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures.

Tim J. Smith, PhD
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