No ball player, no team ever won a championship without considerable investment in time, effort, and planning. All done with a single objective in mind.

If today’s computer dealer or integrator applies these same principles to his or her advertising, they would never again wonder if their advertising paid. The results would be reflected in sales. Advertising requires more than occasional splurges. It requires a consistent, planned effort, with every move designed to achieve a definable and defined objective.

This is easy to understand when the importance, and functions, of advertising are is put into their proper perspective. These functions are:

l. Advertising establishes the dealers name in the public’s mind quickly.

2. Advertising tells people where to buy the systems, peripherals, and software they already know about from other types of advertising and/or exposure.

3. Advertising brings customers and prospects to your store as opposed to the competition.

4. Advertising can move merchandise, if it is the right merchandise and the right price for the marketplace.

Advertising Pays

One of the most common series of things that we hear from dealers regarding their lack of consistent advertising is, “We’re already well known,” “We’re selling more than we can handle right now,” “We’re too busy closing sales and/or installing systems to worry about advertising.”

People who say their advertising really doesn’t pay usually advertise spuratically, and then only when a media salesperson comes into the store to discuss advertising. Or, they advertise “specials” (which you can find at the same price anywhere in town).

None of the above is really advertising. Advertising should be planned annually, just like you plan your store layout and inventory. It should be one of the basic sales tools you need to achieve your sales objectives. If this is the case, then it should be budgeted.

Dealers who are very successful will generally plan their advertising at least three months in advance specifically, and loosely for the remainder of the year. In addition, the schedule has some “contingency” funds which can be used if sales begin to slip, competition steps up their activities, or some changes in the marketplace occur.

According to industry averages, the good dealers figure 3.5 percent of their gross sales for advertising. Dealers or integrators who are starting up or attempting to establish themselves in new market areas spend as high as 5 percent, since advertising must help establish the firm’s name.

We should also note that this figure is based on the coming year’s projected sales or objective, not on last year’s sales. It is one thing to say that sales are going to go from $2 million to $3 million. But, to achieve it you have to take the steps that will cause it to happen. One important step is advertising.

Media Selection

Once you have determined your advertising budget and planned some type of schedule of advertising activities, you have to determine which media you will be using.

Except in the smallest of communities, you’ll have a choice of newspapers, radio, television , yellow pages, outdoor billboards, and direct mail. In addition, other media is available including cable TV, regional and local editions of national publications, shoppers, envelope stuffers, and similar advertising vehicles.

You have to weigh the strengths of the various media in your area to determine what should be the backbone of your advertising campaign, as well as your supplemental media.

If your suburban location doesn’t have a suburban paper, and your business can’t justify the cost of the total metropolitan circulation, see if the metro paper has area buys which can be made.

Or, direct mail may be more cost-effective. Some dealers have used such simple items as mimeographed letters or cards to contact targeted business or home prospects. To acquire the mailing lists, you can use reverse phone directories, mailing list services, business directories, chamber membership lists, and other sources.

Remember, direct mail is also an excellent vehicle for maintaining contact with present or past customers. We must assume that these people or firms were satisfied with their initial or last encounter with your store. If so, they should be your best prospects for future sales. Far too few dealers actually use their present and past customer lists to the optimum.

While both radio and TV have many strengths, they share a common weakness…they don’t permit you the opportunity to turn back to reread something. If you are aiming at businesses, the best use of radio is in prime drive time. For television, you have the early and evening news hours. Mid-day use of these media are fine if you are selling systems and software for home usage.

If you do use television, spend the extra dollars to have a quality job done in producing your spots. You’re selling a quality system and can’t afford to look cheap in the eyes of the viewer, because the impression you present on the screen is the one people will come away with when they decide wither or not they should patronize your store.

One of your best, continual ads, though, should be a well-lighted, well-laid-out showroom.

Regardless of the media, make certain that the message is consistent with the image you are projecting for your store or your organization.

Doing It Right

How do you measure whether or not your advertising was “good”? Regardless of the medium used, the results should almost be the same. Bottom line is that the advertising should leave the reader, viewer, or listener with a definite, positive impression of your store or operation. The objective of any and all of your advertising is to move product. To get people to visit your store and discuss their systems or software problems and needs.

For good advertising, some dealers are flamboyant…others cute…others dignified…others factual…the variations can go on and on. But, generally, it is somewhat like the “Good Samaritan” rule. Treat the reader, listener, or prospect as you would like to be treated. Treat them as though they are intelligent and talk about their wants and needs.

First, you need something in the ad that catches the reader’s eye. Generally, this is the headline and central purpose of the ad, followed by an illustration that supports the headline, and copy that amplifies on it.

The sign-off, or pay-off, is your signature and address, days and hours of service, financing that is available, as well as support, service, and training that is provided. Remember these latter points are key elements of interest in a purchase such as this, especially if you are selling systems to businesses. In fact, they can be ads unto themselves.

The “formula” described works whether the ad is for print media, radio, or television. The same ingredients need to be included, and generally in the same order.

Regardless of the media and methods used to reach your prospective customers and your present customers, keep in mind that it is vital that you maintain a consistent, planned effort. An effort that is planned around clearly defined and measurable objectives. Then, continually monitor your progress and modify the program as needed to keep or surpass your objectives.


Credit to:  Andy Marken

G. A. “Andy” Marken President Marken Communications, Inc. Santa Clara, CA Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. He has been a marketing and communications consultant for more than 30 years involved in the wild early days of the Internet/Web, heyday of the videogame industry and the maturing professional and consumer video industries. His experience includes years with Internet pioneer CERFnet, TCG and AT&T. Andy has worked in the software, Web 2.0, video and storage industry with Panasonic, Philips, Dazzle, Atari, NTI, ADS Tech, Pinnacle Systems, CyberLink, InterVideo, Ulead and Verbatim.

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