Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Rae of Insight

Steve and I wound up being published in the same book together before we ever had a chance to meet face-to-face.

But that's another story, or "People Stories", to be more precise as we both followed a hunch that neither had any idea where it would take us.

Since meeting Steve in person in April of 2006, it has become evident this folksinging husband to Carolyn, and father to Kelsey and Graham, has plenty to offer anyone who is serious about taking their business to another level.

Steve Rae is a veteran Wizard of Ads partner, a Troubadour for Truth in Advertising and today he makes the first of what we hope will be many more guest appearances on TSB. Steve, who also owns two radio stations in Ontario, is a gifted writer and speaker who passed along these insights we are delighted to share with you today.

(and oft’ times old ones too!)
By: Steve Rae

When you came in to work today, did you just about die when you had to make a decision on your advertising? If you didn’t recoil into a fetal position and your brain’s neurons actually fired up, on what did you base your decision? Gut feel?

Here are the most common advertising mistakes made by new businesses everywhere. I hope you don’t find yourself making these when you are launching your business and I especially hope you’re not making them if you’re one of the old dogs. I don’t mean to belittle your decision-making, but I see it every day and it causes me pain every time.

1. Expecting to open the door and have everybody beat a path to it

When you start a new business you are totally consumed with it. You can think of nothing else, and that feeling of total absorption rules how you think about your business and how you think others feel about it too. It is natural for you to think that everyone interested in what you offer will flock to your store like sheep being herded by a border collie. Sorry to break it to you, but that won’t happen. The sooner you understand this, the better off you will be. I deal with many well-known, well-established companies who still are amazed by the number of people in their trading area who don’t even know they exist let alone have ever shopped there. Hard to believe, but true.

2. Not making any room in your budget for advertising.

“I’ll advertise when I get more established and get some money coming in.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that. What usually happens is the money NEVER comes in and the business is always behind, so they never get to any promotion until they advertise their closing-out sale. One prime form of advertising is your location. Sometimes, an outstanding geographic location of your shop doesn’t even need much more advertising than eye-popping signage. However the less appealing your business’s location, the more you need to spend on alternate forms of advertising. Budget for it.

3. Not fully utilizing your available signage.

Your easiest and cheapest form of advertising will almost always be your signage. Nothing stimulates the purchasing power of the shopping public more than windows covered with a big sign saying “Opening Soon.” Capitalize on your location and the traffic (pedestrian and vehicular) with a sign or signs that stand out from the rest of the business signs around you. Don’t allow a graphic designer to create just another sign that fits in with all the rest; be bold, creative, different - but above all, make sure you do it right. The number of new businesses that skimp on signage is almost endless. A cheap, ill-conceived sign tells the world you really aren’t ready to play on the same turf as your competitors. Who intuitively knows that? Your potential customers. And guess who won’t shop your store because of it? Those same potential customers. They write you off without even giving you a chance.

4. Expecting instant results.

Think of advertising your new business much like a farmer thinks of a seed. You plant it in the minds of your potential customers and like a farmer, nurture it and allow it to grow. Farmers do not expect seeds to germinate and grow to a mature crop instantly, why do you with your advertising? The deeper the commitment to allow the advertising seed to grow, the better you will fare in the long run. Advertising takes a long time to grow, give yourself time to reap the harvest.

5. Not having a strategy for advertising.

You should know exactly why you are advertising, what the core value of your business is and how to communicate it. If you allow an advertising rep to convince you that some goofy, wacky, far-out ad is the way to attract the attention of the consumer, then your ad campaign will never truly reflect your business unless you are goofy, wacky and far-out. Plan your ad strategy with the attention to detail that you used when you planned your business.

6. Using Hype instead of Truth.

Today’s consumer is so sick of hype that they immediately discount it and often ignore it. Think of your own case, when you see SALE - UP TO 75% OFF, what is your immediate reaction? Are you like most of us who say, “Oh sure, they’ll have a few items at 75% off, but not many”? You have discounted the hype in your mind. Instead, truth will set you free, but it must be delivered in a manner that peels back the layers of truth like layers of skin on an onion, exposed for all to see.

7. Not fully utilizing your website.

Many new businesses think of a website as an add-on to come later, but for many, a website creates an initial link to the customer who wants to do some research before visiting your store or service. The business owner who says, “If I can just talk to a prospect, then I can convince them to buy my product” misses the fact that there are a variety of personality types among prospects. Many would rather die than subject themselves to a sales pitch. They want to do their homework before they open your door - and open their wallets! Give these methodical types the option of learning about your business from your well-constructed website and watch your sales climb.

Create a website for those who like to be prepared before they make a decision, tell one story, and make it uniquely yours.

8. Trying to be all things to all people.

It depends on what your business is, but more often than not, a new business tries to be all things to all people and ends up not being anything to anyone. Make the choice of what your business stands for and put all of your weight behind it. Think of your business as the horn of a rhinoceros; with the full weight of the beast behind it, it can crash through walls. Plan your ads accordingly; tell the one story that is uniquely yours and tell it over and over again.

9. Settling for advertising that looks and sounds like others.

How can people be interested and excited about your advertising if it sounds and/or looks the same as most others - read: boring? The saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is absolute hogwash when it comes to advertising. Your goal is to be fresh, new and exciting. Lead the way with something non-conformist and gauge the reaction. Even when reaction is strong, you must remember there will most likely be negative as well as positive reactions...and that’s a good thing. Roy H. Williams says in his book The Wizard of Ads, “ The risk of insult is the price of clarity.” There can be no strong positive reaction unless there is a strong negative reaction. Be prepared for it and rejoice when it happens.

10. Not using a business mentor.

You’ve just opened your new business or are just about to. Get ready to make a blunder of some sort. You are going to make some bone-headed decisions in the next little while that you will look back on in the years to come and say, “What was I thinking?” We all do it, it’s inevitable, get over it. A wise person once said, “Anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first until you get it right.”

But…one way to navigate through this numbskull period is to find a wise person who has already made those mistakes. A smart person (you) then learns from these mentors how to avoid making those mistakes altogether.

If you are embarking on a new enterprise, congratulations! You are joining a business sector that generates a significant portion of the Gross Domestic Product of this country – the small business. I encourage you to be one of the entrepreneurs that does it right. Get the answers before you begin, not after you’ve launched and wasted your precious time and money.


Steve Rae

Thanks for today's insight Steve!

Is there anything in the TEN COMMON MISTAKES that apply to some of the challenges you face with your brand? 2009 promises to be a business year like no other in terms of its mix of unpredictability, uncertainty and potential opportunity.

What kind of ride do you plan on taking?

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming..."F*ck, what a trip!" (AUTHOR UNKNOWN)

p.s ... This contribution from the Leo Burnett Agency was too good to pass up.

No comments: