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Advertising: Communicating How You Make Someone’s Life Better

May 10th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Advertising expense is always a tough nut to crack. What will provide the best value for our dollar? If I had a staff of analysts and a crystal ball, seek I could probably make an informed decision about how to advertise. At least, approved I would feel better about the decision I make. We’ve tried various ways of advertising, page with different methods of measuring results, but we’ve never gotten anything that provided demonstrable results other than search engine optimization, which – I’ll admit – is a mystery to me. We’ve refined our catalog distribution to the point that we believe we’re almost breaking even. One factor of all advertising is time – developing long-term relationships with customers that you’ve attracted via advertising. If you don’t take care of your customers, it doesn’t matter how much or where you advertise. If you do take care of your customers, you can turn a single phone call into a lifetime of bliss. Because of this, I don’t expect the advertising salesperson to be accountable for any claims they make. You can usually demonstrate how many people visit your website or subscribe to your magazine, but as a business, you have to take ownership of the exposure you purchase.

I recently received a call from the manufacturer of a towing accessory product. I’ve had a dialogue with this gentleman for a few months to determine if his product has a place in our product offerings. This guy is old school – he wants to talk, not email. Unfortunately for him, I prefer to reserve my phone time for customers. Today I humored him and we came to a decision on a first step, so it was a fruitful conversation but my question to him was what differentiates his product from other similar products in the marketplace? His answer: made in the USA and reliability. Well, the first is cut-and-dry, but how do I assess the second? Someone has to buy one and use it for a long time and not call me to complain about it breaking for me to test that assertion.

In this case, the gentleman was trying to sell me on his product. I do the same thing with our customers, although I generally don’t cold-call anyone, mostly because I’m not receptive to people cold-calling me. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I feel that most businesspeople are like me – busy – and that business relationships develop more naturally through referrals and what is known as the warm market. Even Internet explosions that happen nowadays are referral-based. Someone shares a video or a link, and it has value to others and it just takes off. But the originator isn’t just spamming people. Spam doesn’t work. Cold calling is first-generation spam.

In the case of advertising, I’m very wary of the value of advertising, so I don’t spend a lot of time researching it to see what my options are. If I do, it’s asking similar businesses what has worked for them. In other words, asking for a referral. In the case of new products and finding manufacturers to represent, I do research those types of things, reviewing trade publications and vendor materials for interesting product innovations, and reading materials sent to me via mail or email. I literally have a pile in my office to go through some Friday afternoon when the phones die down.

I’ve written this before: the only object of business is to make someone’s life better. That’s true whether you sell parts, sell advertising space or manufacture something. Advertising is communicating how you do that. But it’s the actual doing that creates value. If you make someone’s life better, there’s a good chance they tell someone about it. And then that person shares it with more people, and you’ve got a growing business. All the banner ads in the world aren’t going to keep you in business if you don’t consistently make lives better, because negative experiences are shared at a much higher rate than positive experiences (don’t think of it as focusing on the negative – think of it as protecting our neighbors).

So for advertising salespeople out there: Don’t call me to sell me space. Call me with a Referral Generation Program that utilizes our excellent customer service practices. For manufacturers: Don’t call me to tell me about your product. Explain to me how your product makes lives better. And if you really want my attention, call me and ask if you can email the info to me. If you do that, I guarantee I’ll read it.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper