The question I’m asked most often is “What advertising mediums should I use, and what percentage of my total ad spend should they be?” Unfortunately, there is no easy ‘one size fits all’ answer. We’ve had more media additions, deletions and corrections in the past 20 years, than in the first 4000 years when the first rock wall paintings were made in caves.
When I was in high school car dealers spent most of their money in the newspaper. Some spent a small percentage on radio and a little on TV. Of course there were the display ads in the yellow pages too that dealers advertised in. Back in the ‘70s, local network television chewed into printed mediums share. In the ‘80s, cable TV took a bite of both network TV and print. Then, in the ‘90s this thing call the Internet came along to really throw a monkey wrench into the mix. Now, in 2000s the digital revolution changed the advertising landscape forever.
Where you should be directing your media ad spend depends on a number of factors including location, market size, product line, and media availability. But most importantly, what the research says. Not doing research on a local level in the year 2011 will all but guarantee a substantial portion of your ad spending as wasted.
Here are some helpful suggestions when doing your local research:
Yellow Pages (printed): Nothing. In fact, I just read where Yellow pages will stop printing paper editions. No one under the age of 70 looks for anything in the paper yellow pages anymore. As to whether you want to spend in the electronic editions, see below E-Spend.
Newspaper: There is still some room for print budget, but not a lot. Newspaper readership continues to decline as readers are getting older by the day. Decreased circulation and increased hard costs drive up CPM and drive down efficiency. The newspaper folks see the writing on the wall and are desperately trying to establish a profitable online model. Two questions of importance on your local research: “Do you read any newspaper on a regular basis?” and “Did you refer to any newspaper advertising just prior to your purchase?” On average newspaper might be 20% of your budget.
Television: Ad expenditures on network TV continue to decline. It all depends on the rates and ratings in your market. Buying around local news, both early morning and late at the right price can have reasonable value. Sports programming is stronger is some markets, particularly college sports. But again, it all comes down to rate. Cable television continues to be a great buy if you know what you’re doing. Buying all networks in all time slots is a total waste of money. Cherry picking the top five or six networks with relevance to your product line in narrow day parts is a better buy. You can’t do it without research.
Questions on your local research: “Do you watch morning news programs? Which channel? Do you subscribe to cable? Satellite? Of the cable channels (list) which four do you watch most often? (History, A&E, Fox News, CNN, ESPN, etc.)” If you can find a production company that can produce half-hour infomercials at a reasonable cost, you’ll be amazed at how little it costs to buy full half-hour programs in the middle of the day on weekends.
With network channels, I’m not in the camp that believes in all infomercials all the time with an endless stream of discounted vehicles, but well placed infomercials telling ‘your story’ at strategic times throughout the year can often build your brand and level of trust with viewers. One dealer I have a lot of respect for buys half-hour programs where he (the dealer) interviews various community organizations. He says the return on investment is more than anyone can imagine. Television might be 40% of your buy, and cable networks could be half of that.
Radio: Still a star in our world. Yes radio has gotten expensive in some markets, and yes it is difficult to figure out (unless you’re doing research), but radio still packs the power of urgency, and reach of those folks spending the most time behind the wheel wearing out vehicles and trading more often. Conservative talk radio has brought AM radio back to life. Here is something you may not be aware of – radio listenership has grown dramatically during the mid-day, often equaling morning audience numbers. After 7:00 pm, the radio audience drops like a rock. You might be better off to buy a rotator from 5:00 am to 7:00 pm than paying higher prices for AM/PM drive times.
Do the research, List to both the call sign and frequency of stations. Some stations only promote their frequency (Lucky101). Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate. Long-term consistent business (from a dealer that pays bills on time) is worth a rate break. You might spend 20% on radio. You might spend even more if you’re in an expensive TV market or you are in a larger market where folks spend more time in vehicles driving to and from work.
E-Spend: I could write three books (in addition to the 3,000 that have already been written) on E-spend opportunities. You should be spending at least 15% of this year’s ad budget on E-Spend. Some dealers will spend 30%, but I think that’s too much for most. Some will spend only 10%, though they’re missing the E-Boat. E-Spend includes your web site, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, banner ads, text messaging, e-mail programs, and mobile marketing.
In the early ‘90s, you had to have an (expensive and hard to find) IT guy who spent most of his time fixing stuff. That need has diminished dramatically. A lot of the new computer systems out there today are amazingly self-healing and there are plenty of services that allow on-line techs to diagnose and repair 24/7.
What you do need is an e-marketeer who can help you find your way through the efficiency forest to implement the best digital opportunities for your particular situation. But good old-fashioned research is still needed to determine your best communication avenues with both existing and potential customers. Simply collecting e-mails is not enough. You need to tag that process with the supreme modifier: ‘relevancy’. Customers who ‘let you in’ can slam the door shut in a nano-second if you abuse the privilege.
Your research should include questions relating to customer communication preferences such as phone, e-mail, texting, and for what purposes. Texting is making huge leaps and bounds in the service department. Customers can be updated and notified with texts and respond, either with a text or phone call if necessary.
Your web site might need to be optimized for the rapidly increasing world of mobile browsers. Last week I chatted with a salesperson who has been the number one used vehicle star for over a year at his dealership. He sells at least 10 vehicles a month electronically. He interfaces with his growing network of customers with a variety of tools including e-mail, texting and video. He snaps pictures and short videos of available vehicles with his mobile device, sending to customers and answering questions via the phone or text. He e-mails links to the dealership website credit app page which is optimized for mobile applications. He chats with customers while at dinner, watching a game or traveling on business.
If you haven’t broken with ‘tradition’ yet, this is the year to do it. Consider the value, effectiveness and efficiency of everything. Listen to more presentations. Do your research. Then make reasonable, rational choices while spirally integrating those options to complement each other, and develop a plan of attack.
Above all, have a plan. Don’t try to manage media by the seat of the pants. And don’t let anyone in your organization say: “We’ll do it this way, because that’s how we’ve always done it.”