I was asked recently to evaluate a so-called
“marketing opportunity” for a client. It concerned a proposal from a company
that sells billboard signage. The client wanted to know if the price structure
was within the range of what I’ve seen for similar outdoor units. They also
wanted my opinion on the effectiveness of rotational electronic outdoor
One of the billboards they were considering
carried full-motion graphics but was extremely expensive at 100 percent
rotation, so the signage company recommended it be shared with other
So … what did I
My answer was a litany of questions designed
to put my client’s rush to buy on hold (temporarily).
I began by asking whether this was a cold call
from the marketing company. Yes, it was. I asked if the station had been looking
to buy outdoor advertising. They hadn’t. I asked if they had a budget and an
annual marketing plan. They didn’t. I asked if I could come in for a visit to
discuss strategy. Sure!
I was glad they called. Not just because I
needed another client, though that’s always nice, but because they had realized
that it’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive. When stations
spend time reacting to incoming marketing pitches instead of determining what
they need to do to accomplish real goals first (i.e., setting a marketing plan),
they are less likely to succeed.
Since we’ve got a bright new year ahead of us,
let’s look at the key elements to starting your marketing plan for 2013.
The marketing plan starts with a budget. Even if
your company is unwilling to allocate any marketing funds, at least you’re
admitting you’ve got zero dollars to work with. And you still want a plan. It
will be a different plan, to be sure, but even a station without a marketing
budget must put one in place.
Next you need a marketing goal. Perhaps you’d
like to raise your target demo ratings by 20 percent, or maybe grow unique
visitors to your website by 40 percent or boost your Twitter followers by 80
Timeframe is important and goals become more
realistic when calculated by quarter rather than by year. It’s fine to have
both; but if you wait until the end of the year to measure against your goal,
you have no way of adjusting your tactics.
The tactical discussion is the most complicated
and time-consuming part of the annual marketing process. The budget often determines
what media you’ll utilize.
For example, if you’d like to do television
advertising but can’t afford the frequency needed to reach the majority of your
target audience effectively, you will waste what little funds you do have
without even driving a result. It may be much more cost-effective to be on
every outdoor billboard and bus in town to reach the largest possible
after me: Creative needs to be tested.
Whether these are billboard ads, TV spots, Web
banners, direct mail pieces, facebook ads, SMS text messages — you name it, they
need to be tested. Don’t spend $100,000 on media placement, $20,000 on creative
and nothing on testing!
If you’re operating on the cheap, at least have
a panel of outsiders view the creative and ask them simply to tell you what it
means. It’s astounding, for example, just how many poorly designed bus ads
there are on the streets. Unfortunately, decision-makers typically view these
on a computer screen, so every little detail is easy to read.
Take that same
creative, blow it up on the side of a bus and very often you’ll find the ad can’t
be seen from further away than five feet. And then there’s so much text that
when the bus blows by a viewer at 20 mph, the message is too complex to process.
If possible, allow your test panel to visualize the ad the way it will manifest
in real life.
Without an in-house expert, large stations often
need a media agency to help with placement and rate negotiation. Your sales
manager likely will advocate using an agency that spends a lot of money with
your station. While I have had great success in hiring a suggested favorite, that
move does come with a certain degree of politics and compromise.
So what about the “no-budget” plan? This
requires the most effort and creativity, and relies on strong, close
relationships. Whether TV stations, outdoor companies or websites, there are
outlets in every market that will work with you. With today’s smaller staffs,
the challenge is finding the right person at your station or cluster who can
drive this effort. It may be a sales person who is paid a commission on trades.
Once in place, a “no-budget” plan still requires
great care in terms of developing goals, timeframe and testing. Next time you
find yourself excited by an unsolicited marketing proposal, consider: While
your heart is in the right place, you must now commit to developing and sticking
to an annual marketing plan.
The author is president of Lapidus Media and a
longtime contributor to Radio World. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.