Remember that funny Super Bowl ad, with the quirky, likeable spokesperson? Remember what it was for? No? Well, okay, how about this? That car dealership that advertises on your favorite radio station. The one whose name is seared into your brain because they scream it at you 20 times in 30 seconds. You remember that name for sure, and your hatred for it burns with the fury of a thousand suns. If you ever go to that car dealership, it will be to smash its windows. Those ads use opposite tactics, but they are both equally ineffective, according to marketing expert Christopher Spaulding. A good commercial, says Spaulding, uses old school marketing methods, developed in the 1920s, that work to this day.
Spaulding will be part of a business-to-business roundtable panel at the CoffeeTalk group on Friday, August 14, at 9:30 a.m. at the Princeton Public Library. The free meeting will also include Debbie Schaeffer of Mrs. G’s, Georgianne Vinicombe of Monday Morning Flowers, and Hilary Morris of Coffeetalk. For more information, visit www.coffeetalknj.com.
“Most businesses don’t know, or don’t understand, the purpose of marketing,” Spaulding says. “They’re always looking for the next big thing.” Instead, Spaulding recommends using media to effectively reach a target audience, using strategies and tactics that were invented in the early 20th century. The methods work whether the medium is Facebook, Linkedin, or a billboard.
“You still need to get attention, articulate an irresistible offer that will resonate with the target audience, give them a reason to take action now, and be very specific about what action you want to take,” Spaulding says. “You also need to reverse the risk, so they feel there’s no risk for moving forward, but there is a risk for not doing so.”
Spaulding grew up in North Brunswick, where his father ran a consulting firm that supports the finance industry and his mother was an administrative assistant at Rutgers. Spaulding began his career in 2000 as an agent for Century 21 real estate. Two years later, he founded his own consultancy. Today he is founder and CEO of Business Marketing Solutions, based in Belle Mead, where he lives with his wife and three children. He also teaches a “mini MBA” program on marketing at Rutgers.
“I have always sort of been selling,” he says. “I really believe it is the most valuable skill there is. Your ability to sell affects your ability to succeed, whether you are selling a product or service or trying to sell yourself. I started trying to consume as much information as I could about it. I really liked the marketing side of it, and I love the psychology of figuring out what it takes to sell.”
Headlines Important, Says Expert: No matter what media you are advertising in, a good sales pitch must have a good headline to get the attention of the customer. “When you are crafting any type of message, you need a headline that is going to resonate with the target audience. It must scream out to them, ‘This is for you.’” If the headline doesn’t get attention, the prospect is never going to read on.
It’s easy to make mistakes when it comes to headlines. “Many don’t even use headlines, or use really weak headlines,” Spaulding says. “What’s really rampant now on social media is ‘clickbait’ headlines just used to get somebody’s attention, but which are misleading.”
Know Your Prospect. Targeting advertising is impossible unless you know exactly whom you want to sell to. “Another big mistake businesses and marketers make is when they try to speak to everybody at once. You need to know who your ideal prospect is, and of course, your business can have multiple categories of ideal prospects, but you need to know who the person is.” Spaulding says you need demographic traits, such as age, sex, whether or not they are married, and how much money they make, as well as psychographic traits such as their wants and desires, and what pain they are feeling that your business can solve, such as what actions they are taking because they don’t have your product or service.
Don’t Clown Around. Spaulding says businesses often lose sight of the fact that the goal of an advertisement is to get customers, not to be funny or clever. “People think the purpose is to act like a clown, trying to be funny or to be loud and obnoxious.” Spaulding says Super Bowl commercials are often aimed at entertaining rather than selling, and therefore probably don’t work very well. He views “brand building” skeptically because a small business needs an immediate return on its investment of advertising dollars, and cannot wait for “brand awareness” to translate into new customers.
Name recognition advertising serves to pump up the ego of the business running it, for a very large sum of money, he says, which is fine for a very large company with multimillion dollar advertising budgets. “But Joe’s Landscaping, a one-man shop, can’t afford to waste a dime,” Spaulding says. “If he creates any type of marketing or advertising, he needs to get a return on it, or see whether or not it’s working.”
Don’t Be Annoying. On the other end of the spectrum from ads designed to please viewers are ads seemingly designed to enrage them. Catchy jingles and screaming salespeople can make an ad memorable, but not in a good way. “When I see those ads where you have the obnoxious car salesman jumping up and down and shouting the same slogan over and over again, I immediately decide I will never buy a car from that dealership,” Spaulding says. “That’s not an ad. That’s just obnoxious. An add is offering something, catching my attention, building desire, and making some type of offer. You don’t need to be loud and obnoxious to do it. My guess is they could do a much better investment by creating more effective, much less obnoxious advertising.”
Spaulding likes to note when advertisements work on him. When he had his first child, he received a letter in the mail from a company offering cord blood banking — saving cord blood containing stem cells for future medical use by the child. Spaulding liked the idea, and has done it for all three of his children. It was an exceptionally well targeted offer.
He’s also saved a few ads from dentists, specifically the ones that offer discounted services such as a $99 cleaning and X-ray, or whitening for $149. Those, he says, are likely to get clients coming in the door. Others, such as the ones touting the credentials of the dentist, are not as good.
Spaulding says any business can use marketing to improve its sales, even those that rely on word-of-mouth. “For any business to succeed, it’s important to understand marketing,” he says. “I see way too many businesses that think marketing won’t work for them. Too many businesses rely on referrals or word of mouth as a sole source. While referrals are great, if they dry up, and you don’t know how to generate leads through marketing or advertising, you’re going to be in trouble. It’s critical for businesses to learn how to market effectively, and that comes down to fundamental old school marketing techniques.”