When I was working on my MBA, I took a very insightful class called Marketing Strategy that drilled the concept of the 3C’s and 4P’s into my brain. If you have not heard of this marketing concept, briefly reviewed, it is understanding your Customer and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your Competition and your Company, then taking this knowledge and adjusting your Price, Product, Place of distribution and type of Promotion to maximize your sales and profitability.
When I started my own company, I sought to take this concept a step further and applying its principles to Outdoor Marketing.
Applying this principle to outdoor marketing requires different thought than developing a TV or radio spot then deciding on which stations to play it. For instance, you must understand where does your customers travel, shop, work, eat and enjoy life outside of the home? Moreover, what are their likes and dislikes? You must truly get to know your customers because this information will be crucial in your outdoor marketing efforts and specifically in determining exactly where to place your ads.
You are not the only one who wants your potential customers. Undoubtedly, you have competition. To effectively communicate to those customers, you will need to differentiate your company from your competition and focus on your strengths and on their weaknesses. Furthermore, be sure to expand your idea of competition. You not only have direct competitors (i.e. Ford dealership vs. Toyota dealership), but you also have indirect competitors (i.e. Ford dealership vs. Mass Transit). Broaden your horizon and give adequate thought as to their strengths and weaknesses.
Think like a consumer. If you understand your customers, you will know where to advertise to reach them and your competition may not. Don’t be afraid to directly compare your strengths to their weaknesses in your outdoor advertising. Make your competitors defend themselves. The business arena is not the place to play nice guy.
First and foremost list what your company can do well and, more importantly, what it cannot. It is quite painful to admit that you do not excel in all areas of your business but it is better to understand it now and not misstep and let your customers down by promoting something that you can’t delivery on.
Once you have this list, can you effectively communicate what your company does utilizing outdoor media? Can you get across your primary focus and your main strengths? Can you make it simple enough? Focus on your top two strengths that intersect with the top wants of your target customers and place your ads where they frequent. Furthermore, depending on what you want to communicate, you will need to choose the appropriate outdoor media of which there are many.
If your company cannot afford to advertise on traditional billboards, which can average $2,000 per month for a major highway billboard, then you should look into other forms of outdoor and out-of-home media. You can advertise at bus stops, in malls, on diner placemats, and of course my favorite, on receptacles. The price for this media can range anywhere from $50 to $500 per month depending on which you choose and where they are located.
If you are a smaller company with a small budget for advertising, alternative out-of-home media, as opposed to the traditional highway billboard, will be most effective for you. You will not be able to take the shotgun approach and advertise everywhere. You will have to be more like a sniper and target your customers (not literally, of course) using the information you’ve gathered when analyzing your customers.
Where you advertise will be dictated by how you analyzed your target customer. Thus it is vitally important to truly understand your customer otherwise you could develop a fantastic message that falls on deaf ears. If your target customers are college students, you should place your message around bookstores, coffee shops, bars, and late night eateries. If your target customers are professionals, then you should place your ads on mass transit, highways into town, bus stops, and lunch-time eateries. If your target customers are stay-at-home moms, you should place your ads in malls, shopping centers, and grocery stores. Take note of your best customers and you’ll know exactly where to place your ads.
Your product will most likely have many features. Depending on where you are advertising and which segments of your customer base will see your message, you will want to showcase different features of your product or service. If your message is in an upscale part of town, you will want to focus on your service and how you are customer-oriented. If you are placing your message in a lower-scale section of town, then you’ll want to focus on value and your guarantee.
In promoting or advertising your product or service, you can choose many avenues. The most common form that is most prominent is, of course, the television commercial. However, internet advertising has become extremely popular since most people now have access to it.
While both have the advantage of wide reach, television advertising is very expensive and internet ads can get lost in the thousands of ads that are there. The best scenario is a complete marketing campaign that includes out-of-home media. Why? Because out-of-home media can help to reinforce your existing message and you can also talk to consumers when they are out trying to make their purchase decision. With a properly placed message, you can directly influence that decision. You can place your ad near the place of business of your largest competitor. You can also place your ad near a synergistic business (i.e. if you are a tailor, you could place an ad near a fabric store). Out-of-home media provides much latitude to what you want to say to whom and when.
And do not limit yourself to thinking that out-of-home media, and more specifically outdoor media, is only billboards. There are a myriad of alternative outdoor mediums that target pedestrian traffic. Through such media, you can have a more robust outdoor ad because pedestrian foot traffic is slow and unlike a moving vehicle on the highway, if a pedestrian wants to read your ad, he or she can simply stop walking and take notice. You can also better target your message to consumers who will be most receptive to it because everyone goes somewhere at sometime. Your job is to learn this information about your customers and place your ad there through ubiquitous advertising tools such as the AshCan.
In summary, following the above steps will aid you in better understanding your business, its strengths and weaknesses and how to sell your strengths to the appropriate consumers at the right place with the right message.
Always consider out-of-home media as you can narrowly target your best potential customers and not spend a fortune doing it.
Remember, think like the big guys and perform with the nimbleness and friendliness of a little guy and you cannot go wrong.