Six ad mistakes to avoid

Date Published: 
February, 2006
Original Author: 
Tim Thompson
Mount Royal Commemorative Services, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, February 2006

Are you spending money on advertising and not getting the results you hoped for? Is your funeral home or cemetery Exhibit A for the statistics indicating that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of advertising is wasted? Are you looking for a bigger bang for your buck?

Let's take a close look at the six advertising mistakes you should avoid in order to turn your advertising budget from an expense into an investment.

1. Lacking patience. Any advertising campaign will take time to deliver results. As marketers, we tend to be impatient and look for immediate gratification. When you are developing brand awareness for your cemetery or funeral home, there is no sense of immediacy in most cases.

The objective is to be constantly present so that consumers will think of you when the time of need arises or when they have a personal experience that gets them thinking about preplanning. We call this "top of mind awareness."

The ad that creates enough urgency to cause people to respond immediately is the ad most likely to be forgotten immediately once the offer expires. It is of little use in establishing the advertiser's identity in the mind of the consumer.

The essence of branding is simply the perception or idea that the consumer has in their mind when they think about your business. For example, when we mention Volvo, we immediately think about safety; BMW, the ultimate driving machine.

A long term plan in any media generally involves a commitment for a one-year period. On radio, for example, it's a minimum of three commercials per day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

2. Spreading your budget too thin. Advertising success is dependent on two things, the message and the frequency. For a media mix to be effective, each element in the mix must have enough repetition to establish retention in the mind of the prospect.

Too often, advertisers put their dollars in too many places. Instead of advertising on three radio stations and three newspapers with limited frequency, select one or two radio stations and newspapers and make an impact.

Would you prefer to reach 100 percent of the population and convince them 10 percent of the way or reach 10 percent of the people and convince them 100 percent of the way?

Reach and frequency combine to make a campaign effective, but frequency is the more important part of the formula. Media outlets such as television deliver huge reach, but can you afford to impact the audience without investing a fortune?

In our market, there are some powerful FM radio stations that deliver huge, targeted audiences, but the cost is prohibitive if we want to talk to their listeners with any reasonable level of frequency.

3. Selecting the wrong media. Every advertising vehicle has a different purpose. Nonintrusive media, such as newspapers and yellow pages, tend to reach only buyers who are looking for the product. They are poor at reaching prospects before their need arises, so they are not much use for creating a predisposition toward your company.

The patient, consistent use of intrusive media, such as radio and television, will win the hearts of relational customers long before they are in the market for your product.

When marketing preplanning, the combination of radio and TV is ideal. If TV is too expensive in your market or for your budget, radio is probably the most cost-effective media choice available. By educating consumers about the benefits of preplanning, you can ensure that they will ultimately be served by your company.

4. Placing too much emphasis on targeting. Although different media choices offer different qualitative audiences, we tend to spend far too much time on where we are investing our dollars as opposed to what we are saying in our advertising.

Many advertisers and media professionals grossly overestimate the importance of audience quality. In reality, saying the wrong thing has killed far more ad campaigns than reaching the wrong people. It's amazing how many people become "the right people" when you're saying the right thing.

Most advertisers insist on repetitiously cramming the name of their company, the name of their product, their business hours and their street address into every ad they buy. Such ads do a great job in answering the who, where, what and when while failing to answer the all-important question: Why?

Bad advertising is about the advertiser; good advertising is about the customer. Avoid generic-sounding ads that talk about "our family serving your family" and focus on educating consumers and demystifying the death care profession.

5. Confusing response with results. The goal of advertising is to create a clear awareness of your company and its unique selling proposition. Unfortunately, most advertisers evaluate their ads by the comments they hear from the people around them.

The slickest, cleverest, funniest, most creative and most distinctive ads are the ones most likely to generate these comments. See the problem? When we confuse response with results, we create attention-getting ads that say absolutely nothing.

Also, the purpose of advertising is to deliver response that is ultimately up to us to capitalize on. Our two-step marketing program at Mount Royal Commemorative Services simply asks consumers to call for a free information kit with no obligation. Once that step is completed, it is up to us to follow up and convince the prospect to buy our services.

6. Making unproven claims. Remember, there are two worlds of marketing: the world outside your door, which is advertising, and the world inside your door, which is your people fulfilling the advertised claims.

Advertisers often claim to have what the customer wants, such as "the highest quality at the lowest price," but fail to offer any evidence to back up the claim. An unsubstantiated claim is nothing more than a cliché the prospect is tired of hearing.

Have you ever walked into a retail store whose ad campaign touts the ultimate in customer service only to receive the opposite? I once walked into a store owned by a large national retail chain to buy a product and was surprised when the cashier neither spoke nor looked me in the eye during the entire transaction.

You must prove what you say in every ad. Do your ads give prospects new information? Do they provide a new perspective? If not, prepare to be disappointed with the results.