The Four Questions That Can Help You Focus Your Advertising

Kenny Miller

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Jack Mitchell was my first boss advertising boss. He was a funny adventurous sportsman. His idea of a vacation was getting lost in the high mountains of Peru. He could spend the rest of the year holding the interest of all of us in the palm of his hand as he told his latest adventure stories.

Jack was the Director of Advertising and Sales Promotion at Remington Arms Company and his four questions have helped me get my ideas focused in every advertising challenge I have ever faced.

After all, some say 85% of all advertising does not work. But when it does, it is pure magic. Let’s see if his four questions are your magic wand.

The Mitchell Four Questions.

Question 1: Who is your best or prime prospect?

The surest way to put your new business in the bankruptcy court is to think everyone is going to beat a path to your door. They will not. You will have a small group of customers who will account for most of your bread and butter business. That is what is meant by the 80/20 principle. Eight percent of your business will most likely come from twenty percent of your customers. Start to think and plan with that key fact in mind. If you do not, you will not have a clue who is buying from you and the media folks will be all over you like buzzards on a dead water buffalo. Get to know that prime prospect like you know your best friend. Develop a mental picture of that prime prospect. When you do, you will focus your efforts at those folks most likely to keep you in business rather than making large donations to the ad of the week club.

To paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln, you can reach all of the people some of the time; some of the people all of the time; but you cannot reach all of the people, all of the time.

Not even the giant Wal-Mart attracts everyone but you can bet they know who their prime prospects are and aim most their approach, right at them.

So where do you start? How do you find out who is going to be that best or prime prospect?

Start at the same place your business idea started. Why in the world did you want to start your business in the first place? Who encouraged you to take that giant step? What did you plan to do different that would attract customers in the first place?

If you have competition, go shop them. Get copies of their advertising. See who they are trying to persuade to come use their products and services. Go to your local community college and university and offer to let their marketing students do a research project on your business. Do online surveys.

Here’s another way to gather information. Create a drawing with a significant prize. Money. A trip. An I-pod. Something cool. If you have a store, do the contest in the store. Encourage everyone who comes through the door to fill out an entry. Do the survey twice a year.

We are looking for demographics in the survey. Demographics are numbers we can measure. How old is your prime prospect? Is the prime prospect female or male? Married or single? Does your prime prospect have a family? How much education? White collar or blue collar? White or minority? How wealthy? Is fitness important? Do they like pets? Member of a church? What is their favorite type of transportation? (Yes pickup drivers and different that Lexus drivers. ) Do they drink? Smoke? Play sports? Choose questions that apply to your business and what you offer.

If you haven’t opened your doors, head for the chamber of commerce office and in some cities, your local newspaper. Both can and often do have lots of demographic information on your prime prospect group.

The federal government can be a big help, too. Check out your local Small Business Administration office or check their internet site, http://www.sba. gov for documents that can be very valuable. Census track information is a good place to stick your nose for an afternoon, too. And, be sure to use your nose. Learjets have to be licensed. Learjet pilots have to take check rides. Learjet owners have to register their planes. All have the FAA in common. Do not forget those government agencies. You helped pay for them and in some cases, they are indeed willing and ready to help.

When you apply the answers to how many times the person needs your services-every day, once a week, once a month, once-in-a-lifetime-we start to get a picture of the size of the market. Clearly a small convenience store has a much different market than someone who plans to sell Learjets. The convenience stores my have 90% of its business coming from a radius of five miles while the jet company may have a market which is world-wide.

As you can see, all soon can be some. We are looking for focused marketing. Rather than take a shotgun approach to the marketplace, our aim is to take a rifle shot. We want to take a rifle shot and hit the bulls-eye rather than take a shotgun blast and blow the target away. Each time you can refine some information, you make it possible to define the prime prospect group. Yes, you will discover sub groups of prime prospects with special needs as you move along and that is GREAT! You can target those special prospect groups with targeted custom message aimed just at them using your PC. That is almost free advertising.

When you have good demographics, you can ask the media folks how many of those specific prospects the media rep has in their audience. If they do not have any, you do not buy. It’s that simple. So much for the donation part of your advertising budget.

Question 2: What is their problem?

People buy for a reason. It’s important you discover the reason why they are “willing” to trade their hard earned money for what you have to sell. Here are my ten reasons why people buy something:

1. The nag factor.

If something needs to be fixed in a household it will go unfixed only as long as the fixer is willing to tolerate the nagging of the person demanding the fixing. If you offer the solution to the nagee or a suggestion to the nagger, chances are you will increase your business. An easy solution is more saleable than a pretty product. Sell the solution. Saturday mornings are filled with fix-it shows. Listen to them and see who is calling. You’ll soon get the idea.

2. Acceptance and Entertainment.

If you are in the business of selling something interesting, and that can include the teaching of same, you are in a position to market relief from boredom. Promote what you have that is interesting and different and the information on how to do it and your response will improve. Make a trip to your business an entertaining event and you will profit handsomely. Get your prospect’s hands on something and you will have the upper hand on the sale. And do not forget to offer very high quality, cool, well done Tshirts. That is free advertising and a trendy solution. Just ask the Hard Rock Cafe.

3. Health.

No one wants to be sick, bald, fat, or look bad in Wranglers. In fashion or in the business of promoting health related products and services, the key thing to remember is the result. It’s how you look and feel after you buy that counts. If you are in the business of selling health, sell the end result. Help your prime prospect get there. Also, set up a means of reward for your prime prospect.

If it is nothing more than a card that says “We noticed how well you are doing. . . ” it will go a long way in reinforcing what your prime prospect is doing. And, if you include a coupon in the card, chances are very good it will be used.

4. Security.

A promise of how to make more money is a good way to get anyone’s attention. That also includes such things as “creating value by using your product or service. ”

You can sell a product such as art or jewelry and make people look and feel good but you can be their top choice if you also have a good eye for value. That means you not only appeal to their taste but also to their pocket book. Build a reputation for helping folks create value with their purchase from you. If you sell paintings or collectable, and if your data base is up to snuff, you should be able to create mini newsletters to keep your clients informed what their favorite artist is doing. . . and selling. Each time you remind them that they have purchased something very special from you, you have reinforced their decision to buy from you and that will make it easier for them to buy more!

4. Adventure.

Life is an adventure, right? Are you in the business of selling one? People who offer tents should “sell” camping. People who offer campers should sell life on the road. People who offer back woods or outfitter trips should sell the outdoors. If you offer things to the adventurous, sell the adventure. Get good pictures and use them everywhere. Promote your expertise and share your expertise. Use teaching seminars to expand your market base. Teach the how to and your prime prospect will bring along the want to.

5. Security.

We all want to be safe and warm, even when dangling off the side of a mountain. We want to keep all of our money. We want safe transportation for our family. We want to make good investments that we can show off and enjoy. We all want to live healthy until one second before we die at 150. Anything that helps us do those things is likely to get attention. That is security. If you are in the business of offering products or services that focus on security, make sure you focus on security and how you do a better job of offering that than your competitors do. Do lie. Do.

6. Learning.

If you sell books, adventure, new technology, sports equipment, art, you are in the teaching business. A very important part of your ability to succeed is your ability to convince others that you are indeed an expert in your field and worthy of attention. Create mini seminars for the new-bees in your field and teach them about the sizzle of your business and show them the variety of steaks.

When you teach people about what you offer, you are actually creating customers and a brag factor-that can create word of mouth advertising for you.

7. Clothing.

Clothing is worthy of special mention. We spend tons of money on it not because we need it so much as how we think we will look in it. If you are in the clothing business always remember it is the look. Sell the look and reinforce the look. Develop your public eye and when you see a customer you know in public and notice how good they look, send them a note. They will look at you as a result.

Use local models. No, they do not have to be skinny New York types to get attention. Pick models in groups. Use high school kids in a group shot. Use seniors in a group shot. Use working moms in a group shot. Use small kids in a group shot. The groups will soon get noticed. Nothing attracts attention like a picture-especially if it is a picture of people you may know. Reinforce your customer’s decision to buy from you. Use the faces of local or famous folks who have!

8. Food & Water.

It must be fresher, healthier, or cheaper to get attention. Sometimes just being there is also a big factor. If you cannot compete with the price places, you will have to offer more service. Share expertise. Create event marketing. What if the small grocer brought in a gourmet cook, partnered with a gourmet cookware outlet down the street, and offered cooking classes for free or a nominal fee? What if clips from those classes turned into commercials and print ads? Think attendance and sales would go up?

Do not be a bump on the log of complaint that the big guys are winning. Be the branch that bends in the wind but is always getting stronger. Look for opportunity!

9. Love, companionship, sex.

No one wants to be alone. Not one wants to live by themselves. We all want to laugh. We all want close friends. We all want a good lover. Package what you sell and take advantage of the opportunity to make people happier and your advertising will be more successful. Sell the solution. Take another look at what you sell. Is it something that will help someone expand their horizon? Is it something that will lead to involvement? Position it. Show the situation. Sell the solution.

10. Social involvement.

Back to the sizzle. Marketers use to say anything red will sell in Nebraska. That is because the Nebraska football team is a state religion. It brings people together for parties of all kind and creates the third largest city in the state when the football stadium fills. There are people in Nebraska who make all of their money in just the few short weeks around a college football season.

They sell sizzle. They sell being part of the big red. Can you be part of something big? Can you create something social? Can you create an event? Event marketing takes time but it can also involve some of your very best customers. Invite them to be part of your event. It will help your word of mouth advertising.

As you can see, when you approach advertising as an opportunity to solve a basic need, the opportunity has a different dimension. Different is often the key. Different creates interest. Interest creates customers. Develop your profiles, both demographic and psychographic, and then study what needs you can solve. Solve those problems with solutions that address some of the things we have just covered. Become the expert who offers an honest, valuable, fun solution and you’ll become rich.

3. What is your product or service?

Now that we have covered the 10 top needs list, what is your product or service. What are you really selling? Your product or service MUST solve a basic need o get your prospect to ACT!

Paint the success picture. Teach people how to use what you have to sell. Show them how their lives will improve. Make your idea logical and reasonable. Make it fun.

Solve a basic need and you will get attention. Make your solution an easy and fun one and you will get attention. Remember to be friendly in everything you do. Three of the most powerful words in marketing today are, after all…Welcome to Wal-Mart.

4. How do you break the boredom barrier?

Before the Internet, the average American is exposed to 2,400 commercial messages a day. That total is growing because we are expanding our access to information and anytime that happens we expand our ability to advertise. That is capitalism and that is good.

The problem is mud. Too many messages turn into forgettable mud. In fact, 85 cents of every advertising dollar is wasted. That is a lot of money. You job is to improve those odds. If you do, the rewards are tremendous. So, you have to…

Put the right message. . . .

in front of the right audience. . .

at the right time.

Message. Timing. Audience. Always consider those three factors when you plan your advertising program. Never spend a dime until you have considered the opportunity when measured against message, timing, and audience. Demand information on the audience from anyone selling opportunity to you. If the media cannot tell you about their audience, they are the ones with the problem, not you.

Now, thanks to Jack Mitchell, you have the basics of a good advertising program.

1. Who is your best or prime prospect?

2. What is your their problem?

3. What is your product or service?

4. How do you break the boredom barrier?

It will not be long before Mr. Mitchell’s questions will turn you into an idea factory! Good luck!

Kenny Miller has been in the creative business for over 30 years. He has created two advertising agencies and is the author of two books: The Last Flight of Kilo Mike; and A Visit to Hartington. Kenny is also a highly experienced professional pilot; a published photographer; and a top-notch storm chaser. If it interests him, Kenny does it You should, too! His site is


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