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Advertising With a Pencil

Changing your advertising plan

Through the many years of owning a shop, we learned several important rules of advertising. The first is to make an annual budget and an anticipated schedule of our advertising activities. Another, is to write out these directions, and do so with a pencil. The third lesson is to always observe the cause and effect of our advertising, while remaining open to new avenues of getting our message to existing and prospective customers.

Depending on which financial or advertising guru that you listen to, advertising budgets have shown a wide range for shops. We have seen dealers with a 0.75% of annual sales for a budget, and in cases, we have seen a temporary need for a 5.0% budget.

After determining the dollars that we will spend for a calendar year, we begin by listing this number at the top of our ledger sheet. Our first listed expenses are for annual commitments such as yellow page advertising. We then set aside a part of our total budget for expenses that are unknown to us at this time. Frequently, these expenses are items such as college and high school annuals, as well as programs for area organizations and our participation in community events. This amount also includes the door prizes we give for fund raisers for local organizations. Our favorite has been to give a gift certificate. Using this method, we are sure to have the customer in our shop as compared to their simply picking up a gift at the prize table for some event. We allowed our staff to commit our store to provide these gift certificates at their discretion. Our criteria to the staff is that the individual making the solicitation must be a customer that they recognize for shopping in our store.

With the amount of money now left in our budget, we then break it down into the months of the year according to our sales of the previous year. Since May and December were our two biggest sales months each year, those two months received the biggest portion of our advertising budget. We always had direct mail as a mainstay of our advertising program. There were years when we created our own, but we also used those created by vendors.

The second lesson that we mentioned was to make our plan with a pencil. Even when we experienced a great response to a sale or event, we continued to attempt to fine tune the event.

Some of the changes that we implemented over the years included: Holding preview days for the weekend before the distribution of our flyer. We told our hard core customers, via our monthly newsletter that was mailed to their home or business, what the days of our sales will be for the following month, and invited them to shop during the preview days. These days allowed our customers to shop when our stock was at the best selection, as well as giving us a couple of extra days to make sure that we had sufficient inventory on hand when the flyer was distributed.

We have also tried sending half of our flyers one weekend, and the second half of our flyers seven days later. Again the theory of restocking our store comes into play, as well as providing us with an additional amount of insurance against having a bad weather weekend wipe out an otherwise productive sale. We have experimented with our flyers being distributed through direct mail, newspaper, marriage mail, and even door hangers. Every couple of years we make a point to reconsider our decision to assure ourselves that we are using the best and most economical method. Pin map studies performed every couple of years help us determine where to distribute our flyers.

Noticeably absent from our advertising has been newsprint, radio, and television. In our market, print can exceed $50.00 per column inch in regional editions of our newspapers, while there are more than three dozen radio stations and a half dozen television stations in addition to the fifty plus cable television stations. We feel that our message would be lost in the masses.

Our community advertising is the area that we are trying to increase. Another area of effort has been to address our customers through our monthly newsletter. What started as a simple, one page article, quickly grew to four pages. The newsletter, was sent on the 26th of each month containing photos of our upcoming specials of the month. Some of our newsletters featured an article about one of our team members. Each month we also had a coupon for a free item. Our experience showed that the price of the coupon item did not matter. We saw the same percentage of redemption, about 15%, whether we offered a 50 cent item or a $7.99 item. One part of our coupon that we tried to maintain was to feature a product that was not stocked in our competitors.

Once our budget and our plan was implemented, the first thing we did was to use our pencil to make our notes so that the next year's advertising could be a little bit better.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

Copyright Notice

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179