We avoid people who try to sell us something, don’t we? In this group are door-to-door salespeople, phone solicitors,
or anyone with a multi-level marketing scheme. We want to avoid all such activities and advertising until a subtle
change happens in our brains.
This change can happen suddenly. It happens for this simple reason: once in a while we want to buy
something. When we have already made up our mind to buy a certain product or service, advertising
becomes information. We want to know everything we can about the options available on the different
We pick up this data where we can. We watch commercials, read brochures and even talk to salespeople in order
to glean any knowledge that will help us.
Most people dislike advertising, but many of these same people will seek out information when they need it.
When you advertise your business, your information will reach many people; those who need your service will be
grateful. The rest will throw your material in the trash with the rest of the junk mail. Advertising to people who have
absolutely no need for your service is like trying to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
We have explored the methods of finding your target market in other columns. Your target market is made up of
businesses or individuals who want to pay for your service. Finding them is half the work. The other half is getting
them to buy from you rather than one of your competitors.
Ask yourself some questions before you consider advertising.
- What am I trying to tell my potential clients? Is your message, “I can create a video for you for less
money than anyone else in town” or is your message more complex? Can you tell a potential customer everything
they need to know to buy your services in a two-line Yellow Pages ad, or do you need several pages of copy to get
your message across?
- Who is my target audience? It’s a simple concept. You have to identify who the people are who want or
need to do a video with you. Is the bulk of your business capturing legal depositions on videotape for lawyers? Then
you probably won’t have much luck advertising in Harley Rider magazine (although anything is
possible). You might consider an ad in the county Bar Association Membership Directory instead.
- How much money can I spend on advertising? You might like to run a commercial during the
Super Bowl, but do you have the million bucks that it would cost? Check out the rates in your local newspaper, TV
station or magazines that interest you. That way you can plan your ads around who you need to reach and what you
- What’s my lead time? Are you having a big sale? (25 percent off all video services, Friday, 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. ONLY!) Many publications and cable companies want your advertisement one week before you plan to run it.
Newspapers generally only need to get your ad two or three days in advance.
The Information Game
Okay, so we’ve established that you have to advertise your video business if you want to attract clients. You can’t sit
in your office and expect people to find you by themselves. They need your help. They need information.
But what form will this information take? You can travel to the potential clients’ offices and tell them about the
exceptional programs you have produced in the past. You can write a letter. You can take an ad out in the
newspaper. Every method takes time or money or both.
Regardless of method, we can divide advertising into two categories: institutional advertising and
product advertising. With institutional advertising you promote your image–“We’ve created videos as a public
service for the Orphans and Widows Home, which helped them raise $2 million.” Product advertising is more
specific–“We can produce a video featuring the house you want to sell, and guarantee that you will then sell it for
$2 million.” Actually, this last example illustrates a third category–false advertising. You’ll want to avoid
What’s in a Name?
You should begin your advertising strategy even before you open your doors for business. What’s the first piece of
information most prospective customers are likely to learn about you? Probably the name of your business.
If you have a narrow target market you can create a descriptive business name to let them know what you do. Do
you produce wedding videos? I’m Getting Married In The Morning Video Productions is a possibility
(although I would hate to answer the phone with that company name every time it rang). Is your main business
capturing legal depositions on videotape? How about something catchy like Video Depositions?
If your business name says what you do, then you are advertising every time anyone sees it. You meet a
prospective client at a business breakfast and hand her a business card; that’s the first hit. You send her a follow-up
letter; second hit. You send her a series of direct mail pieces that each tell about an important aspect of your
company: hit, hit, hit, hit. When the client finally has some work for you she can’t find your card or any of the other
information about you, so she looks in the Yellow Pages. Your ad is there, hit. You get the contract. Home run.
You should give some thought to how these important advertising vehicles will appear. They should reflect the
same level of professionalism that you bring to your video work. If you have carelessly designed business cards or
letterhead, you can expect your potential clients to be a little wary about your commitment to quality.
All of your materials should have a consistent look. This is one of the reasons that companies invest money in
logos. A logo can be a graphic element (Prudential Insurance’s rock, for example) or the company’s name in a
distinctive type style (Coca Cola).
Unless you have experience in graphic arts, you should not attempt to create your own logo. Even if you have a
great idea for a logo, it’s well worth the cost to have a artist clean it up and put a professional “finish” on it. After all,
this is the one element that will appear everywhere your company appears–from the label on a dub to the sign above
What kind of ad you do depends on who you are trying to reach. You work in video, so your first thought
might be, “Hey, I’ll do a TV commercial.” This could work if your target market is the general population.
But be aware that television time, especially broadcast TV (as opposed to cable) can be expensive. Showing your
work on television might make sense, but it could be more cost effective to send a VHS dub to every targeted
individual. You may reach someone who needs your service by running a 30 minute commercial on a broadcast
station, but you have to also pay for thousands of others who clearly don’t need a video.
As a bare minimum, you should think about buying some space in the Yellow Pages. This business section of the
phone book is often the first place people look when they have a need for a service. But even if you never land one
new client solely through the strength of your Yellow Pages ad (and I don’t think my business ever has), the expense
is still worth it. Here’s why: legitimacy.
You’re asking a client to shell out money and to trust you enough to believe they are not doing so foolishly. They
want to know you are “for real” and aren’t going to take off for Mexico as soon as you get their first prepayment. If
your company appears in the Yellow Pages (along with the other legitimate businesses), your new customer will at
least know that your company did not appear overnight. This will give the customer a sense of security that you
won’t disappear the same way.
If you run an ad in your local newspaper, you will probably pay by the column inch, which merely means you
are paying by the inch for a standard-width column. Standard newspaper column widths are 2 1/16 inches,
but local or odd-size publications have other sizes.
You also have to produce the ad itself, and present it to the newspaper in a camera-ready form. The
production department at the paper might create an ad for you, if you wish. Newspaper ads are here today and gone
tomorrow, so don’t expect them to be useful for any length of time.
Magazines (and most other publications) last longer than newspapers and reach a more select target audience. If
you know of a periodical that your target audience is likely to read, taking out an ad there might be worth the cost.
Such ads increase in price with the size of the ad; color, too, will cost you more than black and white.
Television, cable TV and radio all sell air time. You can usually buy 10 second, 30 second or 60 second
chunks of time for your message. You can hire a media buyer through an advertising agency or rely on the station’s
sales representatives to help you select good programs to reach your target audience. Have them explain rating
points and market shares.
If you have a production-based video business, you might want to try direct mail to reach your market. Direct mail
could be a letter from you, a brochure, a postcard or any other advertisement that you mail directly to your potential
customer. This is an effective way of reaching only those people who are in your target market.
The first step is to put together a mailing list. There are companies that compile and sell lists that you can break
down thousands of different ways–by location, type of business, age, household income, etc. These companies can
also sell you the names and addresses already printed on peel-and-stick labels.
You may want or need to put together your own list. You can get quite a bit of information at your local library
using telephone, professional, trade and business directories. Newspaper announcements (weddings, births,
graduation or new business) are also an excellent way to drum up business.
Be aware that preparing a mass mailing is a lot more work than you might guess. But remember, too, these are all
legitimate targets–people who might truly want your services. In the words of an advertiser, this is a
Kenneth, What’s the Frequency?
Don’t expect to put one ad in the newspaper or run one commercial and get results. A potential customer might see
your ad five or six times before even stopping to read it. Your target might have to read it three or four times before
realizing you are talking to them. After seeing it a few more times, they might get around to calling you.
Even with direct mail, you have to hit the potential client a few times to get them interested. A strategy that has
worked for my business in the past is to create a series of postcards that each talk about a different aspect of the
business. The postcards relate to each other in approach, style and design elements, but are obviously different,
highlighting various skills. We also use humor and wild design to pull the potential client in and get them to read.
We mail the postcards out periodically (two weeks apart) so each message can sink in before we hit the reader with
the next one.
The sad and disheartening fact about creating an ad is that sometimes a brilliant and wonderfully creative idea
won’t sell a thing. On the other hand, a really stupid and hideous ad can pull in orders like nobody’s business. So
experiment. Try the high road and make intelligent ads that appeal to your customer’s better instincts. And if that
doesn’t work, you know what you have to do. Just don’t send me a copy.
I ain’t buying.