Successful marketing is like planning a road trip and the key to a successful road trip is to determine your destination in advance.
Let’s say you’re planning to drive from Detroit to Miami. On your way, you’ll pass hundreds of intersecting highways that can take you east or west. You might think you’d only take roads that go south, but if you consult a trip planner or map, you’ll see that it’s necessary to take a few of these east/west highways to reach your final destination.
Without a destination in mind, any intersecting road will take you to interesting places, but few of those roads will take you to Miami. Similarly, the key to successful advertising is to use a marketing strategy to map your route to wherever you want your business to go. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself taking unproductive detours that can not only waste your precious operating capital, but also have the potential to do damage to your company’s reputation along the way.
A plastic surgeon recently made one such unwanted detour. His series of full-page, four-color ads featured some truly impressive “before and after” photos of patients. From a technical standpoint, the ad was superbly put together. It was a design success! The problem was that he placed this ad in a freely distributed “junk” advertising mailer. Advertising was the only content of this low cost publication delivered via the US Post Office to tens of thousands of homes. In each issue, the plastic surgeon’s ad was positioned directly across from a page filled with various coupons, ranging from oil change specials and “free” real estate market appraisals to “buy one, get one free” coupons from local sub shops. The surgeon, as if inspired to join in the coupon madness, actually included his own coupon – $100 off your initial consultation.
How do you want to choose your plastic surgeon? If you’re like most, it wouldn’t be from a coupon in a piece of junk mail. As a matter of fact, the appearance of that ad alone might be enough to cross that surgeon off your list all together. Talk about poor positioning!
The use of the coupon mailer by the plastic surgeon for his advertising can immediately cause readers to question this doctor’s credibility. Even if he is as gifted as the before and after photos indicate, the plastic surgeon will have to work long and hard to overcome his coupon-wielding image. Sans the coupons, the superbly designed ad should have appeared in a publication that would not only reach the clients he hopes to attract, but would also enhance his image as a skilled and practiced professional. Nearly every major metro area has at least one upscale magazine which would be a better fit for this surgeon than the coupon magazine.
This is not to say that the coupon magazine mailer has no place in a successful advertising campaign. It does, just for other businesses wishing to reach this market. The furniture dealer who proclaims he is the “DISCOUNT FURNITURE KING” should have his message delivered via this medium, rather than via a high-end Style and Living magazine.
A coupon mailer is a perfectly good “highway.” It just doesn’t go in the direction that a highly skilled plastic surgeon should have wanted to go. The discount furniture king’s final marketing destination is not the same as the final marketing destination for a plastic surgeon.
Your marketing destination or strategy should be to let the right people know about your business and what your product and services can do for them. Developing a marketing strategy will then help you determine who the right people are and how you will deliver your message to these people. In marketing lingo, the right people are defined as your target market or target customers. Quite simply, these are the people who need or want whatever it is you are selling. You’ve already reached some of these people; they’re already customers of your business. You just need to find more of these kinds of people, the ones who are the most likely to be receptive to your marketing message.
As you begin mapping out your own marketing journey, it is important to remember that no form of advertising ever forced anyone to buy something s/he did not need or want. Many authors and “marketing experts” seem to overlook this important detail. They preach, and their followers seem to believe, that if they pummel a message long enough and hard enough, they’ll eventually get results. That’s not to say that it’s not your advertising’s job to persuade people, it’s just that you need to remember that brute force is rarely effective when it come to advertising.