The toughest and hardest part about marketing - making choices.

The toughest and hardest part about marketing - making choices.

There are a lot of difficulties in marketing, but generally nothing insurmountable. But one of the most prevalent struggles is deciding on what to say and how to deliver your message. That is, determining your messaging and choosing your media.

There are so many options today

In the Mad Men heyday you really only had TV, Radio, Newspapers, and Magazines. And even within each of those categories your choices were limited - hey I’m just old enough to remember having only three major networks. But today there are so many choices of media and marketing solutions – it’s mind boggling.

Recently, we were asked to create an ad campaign that would be featured in three to four regional “metro” publications. I’ll sidestep the discussion of whether this is the right medium to advertise in for now. Instead, what struck me when we received the media kits for each was just how little of it actually dealt with print. The one media kit was 36 pages of which only 2-3 pages dealt with print and provided the demographics, an editorial calendar, and the ad sizes and rates. Everything else was alternative marketing opportunities.

The other options included: event marketing, banner advertising, targeted web sponsor ads, local online “network ads”, email newsletters, mobile ads or mobile apps, mobile website creation, local daily deal specials, belly bands (on the pub), Facebook, Twitter, etc, SMS messaging, Street Marketing, and web or email coupon marketing. Oh, yeah, and the print ad options. All this for one publication. It made me so happy that I’m not a media buyer today.

Bringing me back to making smart choices

This one publication provides 8-10 media outlet choices. And of course they all offer their own demographic information that needs to be reviewed and distilled. The two or three other publications offered similar options and choices. The client is sticking with the printed ads for now. But as we’ve gotten involved we’re reviewing the other opportunities as well - to see if any would target their audience better. But it’s a mind boggling task to parse through the options, pricing, etc. especially when you’re budget conscious. Which is probably why they’re sticking with the printed ads - they’re comfortable with this media, and I can’t fault them (currently).

So how do you decide?

Sometimes you can parse the demographics sufficiently to allow confidence that selected media will provide worthwhile returns. But on occasion, I’ll admit it, you have to take a chance and monitor and measure the results closely. But only if you have the option and budget to take chances.

Invest mostly in known media but try some new too

Even when our clients are risk adverse, we’ll suggest forays into new media opportunities if we feel they’ll work to reach the target audience. We generally start small, with small buys or low spends to test the waters. This can be tough since the duration, results, or impressions can be too low to effectively prognosticate. But you have to try new options or you’ll never know.

It’s toughest when the demographic is fairly wide open. If your target audience is 18-44 there are huge differences in what appeals to them depending on their ages. So you’ll need to break things down into smaller and smaller segments and target them based on the emotional and psychological triggers that are appropriate. But this introduces a new round of “choices”.

What messaging will appeal to them?

While generally easier to nail down, it can still require making choices. Are they motivated by price? Results? Influencers? Branding? So even here you’re making choices on how to present your brand through headlines and offers. Then changing your approach towards what works best.

Marketing - a science with trial and error too

While marketing is a science, just like real science it can only provide most of the answers. Demographics can categorize your audience and options, but there are still large unknowns. The result is you must make choices, then just like scientists, monitor the test and record the results. Through trial and error you can then determine what works effectively. But even when you know what works you’re always testing new approaches, new media, new offers.

Experience helps

Of course you don’t have to discover everything on your own. You can rely on the experiments of others and learn from their wisdom. Marketing professionals can use their knowledge and savvy to limit the trial and error process. Whether the marketer is internal or external it’s generally their job to evaluate the statistics and business landscape in order to make smart choices - avoiding wasted effort and dollars. But of course, this means you have to choose the right marketing partner.

Nov 08, 2013

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