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The media mix: marketing magic that makes money.

The Media Mix: Marketing Magic That Makes Money

So you want to attract new customers to your store. Great idea! Now all you have to decide is: How?

The usual approach is through advertising. (Actually, that's not just the usual approach; it's the best approach.) Of course, for a shooting sports retailer without a lot of background in advertising and promotion, that can sometimes be a little sticky. Because in addition to deciding what and where to advertise, he also has to determine where and how to advertise. No matter how large the market area in which he conducts business, he probably has a lot of different advertising media from which to choose. And a lot of different media salesmen trying their level best to convince him that their respective station or publication is really his only logical choice for communicating his message to his prospective buyers.

But, holy cow, Harry! How does a guy know if newspaper, radio or television is going to be his best bet? Worse yet, if the guy's store is located in a metropolitan area of a few hundred thousand people or more, how's he supposed to choose between a couple of daily newspapers, eight or ten radio stations, and four or more television stations? Egad...maybe it would be simpler to just buy a gross or two of imprinted ballpoint pens and pass them out on a street corner!

Use A Good Media Mix

The truth of the matter is this: Rarely can any single media (or any single station or publication) do everything a retailer expects his advertising to do or reach everybody he needs his ads to reach. There are exceptions of course, but damned few. Some old-time retailers who cut their teeth on print advertising a couple of decades ago will swear that newspaper advertising is the only tried and true way to go. And a few bright young entrepreneurial types (hotshots to you and me) might hype television as the panacea to every retailer's advertising ills. But this old battle scarred veteran of the advertising wars is here to tell you that the most effective way to advertise, the best way to reach the greatest number of prospective buyers, and (believe it or not) the most cost efficient use of your advertising dollars is by using a good media mix.

By definition, a media mix is simply the use of multiple advertising media to achieve a marketing goal. That concept might seem a bit revolutionary to a retailer who already has a hard time justifying the cost of an occasional newspaper ad, never mind something as avant garde as radio or television commercials. But for a business owner with enough smarts to understand that aggressive promotion really is necessary in this day and age, it's pretty simple to comprehend.

Ever tried to hit a flying quail or dove with a single shot .22? If you're a Buffalo Bill reincarnate, maybe you can do it. And, if you do happen to hit your target, you'll kill it for sure. But for most folks, a 20-gauge autoloader filled with #7 1/2s works a whole lot better because of the wider pattern it throws and the opportunity it affords for follow-up shots. You can apply that same philosophy to media selection, because whether your target is a flying bird or a potential customer, it's not going to always stand still and wait to get hit. For a real advertising pro with a lot of experience and a good handle on the ins and outs of identifying target markets and analyzing media research, a one-media buy might work just fine. But for most average retailers who don't know a GRP or CPM from a HUT level (that's ad lingo, friends), it's mighty nice -- not to mention more productive -- to have the wider reach and increased frequency afforded by a thoughtful media mix.

But, wait a minute. I hear an angry voice of protest from the rear saying: "This *!#+ clown is telling me I gotta spend more money on advertising!" Oh, no, I'm not. At least, not necessarily. Although a beefed up advertising budget is certainly the easiest way to expand your media advertising, it's not the only way. There are options. Let me give you a few suggestions:

1) Rotate or alternate your advertising weekly or monthly between two or more different media. In the adgame we refer to that as running your advertising schedules in "flights". This technique is particularly effective for an extended promotion that runs three or more weeks, because you can do the first week in newspaper (for instance), the second week on radio or tv (as an example), and the third week back to newspaper again.

If you're absolutely convinced that you've really found the one and only media that works (not a specific station or publication, just a media, like newspaper or radio, etc.), the same plan of attack can apply, by using one publication or station the first week, a second one the third week, and so forth.

A similar approach can be equally effective for short term promotions that run just a week or two, or even a few days. If you're accustomed to blasting the market with two or three big newspaper ads every time you have a one-week sale, try cutting out one of those ads or even reducing the sizes of the ads a little if necessary and running a flight or two of broadcast commercials in between the ads. You'll reach a lot of people that way, and it's been pretty well proven through research that an advertising message is much more memorable if it's been seen or heard multiple times and from multiple sources than if it's just a one-shot flyer.

2) Try using a primary and a secondary media instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. For example: Instead of shooting your entire load in newspaper or direct mail, hedge your bets a little by picking a secondary media just to support your big boomer. Radio and television are great support for the printed media, and they don't have to be as expensive as you might think.

First of all, by learning to interpret the basic data available from radio station reps, you can select just the right station to reach your primary audience by evaluating the demographic groups who tend to listen to various stations at different times of the day. In other words, by using your head and a little common sense, you can pick not only the right station but also the right "day-part" during which to advertise. That translates into well directed advertising with very little waste.

If you don't think you can afford television, have I got a flash for you! You don't have to advertise in expensive prime time programs, you know. You can select less expensive "fringe" programs with strong male appeal. Or, you can advertise on an independent station that's unaffiliated with any of the major networks, or even on one of the stations carried on your local cable system (like ESPN, CNN, USA or Nashville Network). They're all much less expensive than the 10:00 p.m. news or "Monday Night Football" on a network affiliate.

Finally, remember that all broadcast stations offer commercials in different lengths. If you can't afford full length :30 second or:60 second commercials, try :10s. You can't say as much, and you certainly can't list all the junk you have on sale and the prices. But you can use :10 second commercials to get the message across that "...there's a big sale at Joe's Gun Shop", or that "...all shotguns at Pete's Pistol Place are priced for clearance." You can even use :10s to refer to your giant newspaper ad in the Sunday newspaper. Remember, in this particular scenario you're using broadcast as a support media. And with enough :10 second commercials, you can provide a lot of support.

3) There's a third way to make a media mix work for you, and it's probably the best way. But it takes a lot of advance planning. (Planning? there's a revolutionary concept!) First, plan your promotional activities for the next three, six or twelve months based on your seasonal sales curve. Then put together a promotional calendar based on those highs and lows you've charted, spending the bulk of your advertising budget (you do have a budget, don't you?) during your peak periods.

You can do that with the one media with which you are most comfortable or which has proven to be the most productive for you, or you can try one of the methods of mixing media I've suggested earlier. But the real mix comes during the in-between periods--those times of year when you don't feel too guilty about sneaking out of the shop for a round of golf or an afternoon in your bass boat. That's when you can experiment a little and try a different media or two and maybe even a completely different approach from your usual price/item advertising.

For instance: If you don't usually advertise in the newspaper, try those slow times to run some small, inexpensive newspaper ads pushing special manufacturers' promotions or new products, even if they are out of season. Chances are, you probably have a pile of co-op advertising money available to you from several manufacturers that you haven't been using. This is a great way to use that money that might otherwise slip right through your fingers. And co-op really stretches your advertising budget because, in essence, it gives you more money to spend on advertising.

If newspaper is already your primary vehicle during your hot seasons, try a little broadcast when the pickings are slim. But, rather than hard sell price/item spots, try some fairly generic commercials on a couple of stations pushing your full line of products and services, just to develop a little more identity and name recognition within the marketplace. Then when your big push hits, folks will recognize your name that much more readily because they've been hearing or seeing it regularly. Or, put together your own instore promotion, like a clinic or an open house, and push that via your experimental media.

The key here is consistency. You can't expect to run a half dozen commercials once and see results. Instead, keep at it for six months or a year, maybe with a different approach or a different media each month. Over a period of time, you'll be pleasantly surprised how much your off season promotion in your secondary media has improved the results from your major advertising in your peak seasons.

Want to try something really different? Contact the outdoor advertising company in your market. Tell them you're interested in contracting for one or more billboards for a year, all in high traffic areas with super high male demographics --like near race tracks, ball parks, golf courses, etc. Then make them really work to put together a spectacular deal for you with great prices and a super billboard design that really catches attention and keeps your name in front of the public for a whole year. Think that won't boost the selling power of your regular seasonal advertising? Brother, just oil the keys on your old cash register, limber up your fingers and get ready!

If all these "new wave" ideas sound prohibitively expensive, I can only suggest that you take a long, hard look at the ways you have been spending your advertising money until now. If you're cold, calculating and objective about it, you're sure to find places where you can cut your spending enough or re-allocate a few bucks to allow you to try some new approaches that might increase your effectiveness--and your profits. And, by making a serious effort to explore alternative financing for your advertising--like manufacturers' co-op plans--you might find that the cost isn't really that high after all. If you're one of those sad sack retailers who whines about lagging business but still resists trying any newfangled advertising ideas because they're too damned complicated and probably not worth the effort, I can only remind you that the graveyard for dead retail stores is full of stubborn gun dealers. And it's filling up more every day. Nobody ever said that being successful--particularly in the retail business--was going to be easy. Good thing, too, because I know about 12,000 guys who wouldn't hesitate to call him a liar. Fact is, to be successful, you've got to work at it. And sometimes you've even got to take a few chances, try something different, and take someone else's advice.

My dad was an old-time cattle buyer with some pretty dirt-simple philosophies about like in general and business in particular. He used to tell me: "The biggest difference between a good businessman and a bad businessman is that even though they both know they've done something wrong, only the good one knows he's got to do something about it."

I think my dad was right.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Grueskin, Robert
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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