Advertise or die, says marketing whiz By Chris Woodall "Advertising is something you gotta do," was the main message Western Businesswomen's Association members got from Shauna Hardy, last night (March 6). The owner of Waterstone Advertising & Design Works was the key speaker for the association's evening meeting, doling out a series of tips on how to make the best use of your advertising dollar. "Whether it's your business card, a brochure, sign on a vehicle, or so on, you have to create awareness of your product and get inside the mind of your client," Hardy says. "Get them to want your stuff." Effective advertising is an art and not a science because the human factor in each of us says we all react differently, Hardy says. A good ad campaign has to feature repetition and consistency in the message, and good use of graphics, photos or headings to grab the target market's attention. One of the first things a businessperson must do is to recognize who the market is and where they are. "Who are your buyers?" asks Hardy, saying that in order to create a desire for your services or products, you have first to reach the right market for them. "You can't sell mountain bike trail riding to people interested in kayak waterways," Hardy says. "Do some research, get statistics, get some data on your market: the sex, age, occupations, incomes and frequency of use of your product," Hardy says. And in a village where several retailers offer similar goods, you have to be sure you're positioned to get customers coming to you for a particular reason. "You should have one central message you want your potential customers to know about," says Hardy, citing famous one-liners like "don't leave home without it," for American Express, or "Where the local's shop" for Nesters Market. "We as customers don't buy a product, we buy positioning," she advises, noting that we don't buy skis so much as we buy the fastest ski, the most colourful ski, the ski used by professionals, etc. Be focused, she says. "There may be all kinds of benefits you offer, but you can't put all that in one ad, so you have to choose one thing." Choosing the kind of media that will carry your message is very important. Grocery stores, for example, use a lot of newspaper ads, backed by radio spots. Another business may find a brochure in the mail works best. In any case you have to allocate money to your advertising plan that will be an investment in awareness of your product. And you can't stop advertising once you get customers coming to you. "Just because you're successful one year won't mean you'll be successful the next year," Hardy says. Look at companies like Coca-Cola that spend millions every year to maintain a market presence. Some retailers think that if the one ad they buy doesn't bring immediate results, then they’ve wasted their money. "You can't do a one-off ad," Hardy says. "It can take up to 17 times to get people to actually decide to purchase something from you, and you may have to change your ad during that 17-insert period." But this doesn't mean 17 insertions in one newspaper, but a total mix of efforts. Keeping your ad alive also tells people you're still open for business. "If you pull your ad, people will think you've gone out of business," Hardy says. But if you're not getting reaction from your advertising — in whatever medium you use — something is wrong. Is it the product? The message? The design? The size or format? The target audience? You can't blame the messenger if you don't examine all the possibilities. Do your own surveying by asking questions of your customers while they're in your store to find out how they heard of you, what they like of you, what they want to see more of, and what their background is. Know your competition. "Competition can be a very healthy thing because it forces you to be committed to your position and know your product," Hardy says. That's all very fine, but how much is it going to cost? A professional office — doctors, lawyers — may not have to spend much on advertising, but for the rest, a general rule is to spend an amount equal to 10 per cent of gross revenues, more if the situation warrants it, Hardy says.