Commentary

Don't Increase Ad Spending -- Optimize

When I joined Ogilvy & Mather as a freshly-minted MBA way back in the disco era, a key maxim addressed to our clients was "increase spending during tough times to grow market share."  Good advice, actually.  And often effective.  However, it's not very practical for most clients -- particularly publicly traded ones.

Since then, better data, segmentation strategies and targeted media have changed the advice.  The tough times advice now goes something like this: "Optimize spending to grow your market share among your best potential customers."  Smart marketers are cost-effectively finding these ideal customers and building rapport with them.   Maybe it sounds difficult, but following a few simple steps can make it work for your business.

The first step in optimization is to build a list of attributes that would best describe your ideal new customers.  Do you simply want volume buyers? Or do you want premium customers who will build your margins? Are you looking to expand your category -- or to take share from key competition?

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Next -- determine how your service or product offering best aligns with that ideal target.  Do product features warrant a premium buyer's attention?  How can you best educate new customers about your key points of difference?

The third step is finding the offer and messages that will bring your differentiators to life and attract the right new customers to begin a dialogue.  Offers shouldn't be marketing material or simple cash incentives.  They should be educational, informative and as objective as possible.  Tough times tend to be practical times, and winning a new customer means stressing benefit over image.  But, why not just emphasize pricing or discount offers?  Too often, they'll attract the transient customers you don't want, and those customers will not stay around for long.

After this, you obviously need efficient ways to find those ideal customers.  For this, you need to partner with media that will enable you to capture information on the prospect.  This means screening for the attributes you care about and following up appropriately with those who pass through that screen.  Cost per lead media companies make this process possible - find the right partner firm and you'll only pay for prospects who match your screening criteria.

And this is where CRM comes in.  Once you've identified those target prospects and started a dialogue, it is vitally important to build a relationship with them.  Call them, email them, write them -- just nurture them and stay in touch.  Show how much you want their business while continually asking them to become your customer.  You'll build that share and reap the rewards, even before the economy bounces back.

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