Accelerate Your Advertising and PR – Surviving the Recession – Part 3 of 7

This is a photo of a Boeing 747-200. This aircraft requires 219,000 foot pounds of thrust to get airborne, but only 100,000 foot pounds to cruise at altitude.

Think of your ads as the jet engines which power your company.

As soon as you remove the thrust, you’ve grounded your campaign. And that’s a shame, since it typically takes four to six months for a campaign to start producing solid results.

Conclusion: Do not interrupt your advertising during tough economic times.

Study after study has delivered the same results: companies who pull in their resources and hunker down to ride out the economic uncertainties fall way behind when things get better.

Those same studies show that companies who aggressively pursue revenue in good times and bad leapfrog over their competitors in the following years.

This may take a certain amount of faith, because the evidence that your plan is working won’t be available for months. If you’re getting a bigger share of a shrunken pie, it may appear that you’re standing still. At least, for now. When the pie grows, your share will grow, too.

Think of it as buying market share at a discount.

There are two reasons your dollars go further in slow times.

First, when you’re one of the few voices still speaking to the market, your share of mind increases.

Second, when you’re one of the few active voices, all of your media representatives will suddenly become VERY negotiable when it comes to rates.

The average recession in the U.S. has historically lasted eleven months. We’re half way into this one, so during your negotiation be sure to lock in those new, lower rates for a full year. (Longer if the media will allow it).

What does advertising do?

No matter what the economy, aggressive advertising can:

  • Generate immediate sales
  • Upsell current customers
  • Provide new leads and prospects
  • And, don’t overlook the long-term benefit: the more people feel familiar with you, the more likely they are to choose to do business with you.

    The strength of your advertising, and the revenue which results from it, will depend largely on your focus up to this point.

    Direct response will be less effected by the economy than will image advertising. The more transactional your messages have been (full of facts and details), the more you can expect business to continue.

    But, if you’ve been using brand-oriented messages (service and commitment based), don’t change them, since they tend to pay off better the longer you use them. (Remember, only 100,000 foot pounds of thrust to remain airborne). You will, however, want to create an additional transactional package to generate immediate cash, and to cover today’s operational costs.

    Focus on Value – and on family values.

    At times of economic uncertainty, people tend to “cave.” They spend much more time at home with their families.

    Consider using family scenes in your ads where possible. Dump the rugged individual image. Extreme sports and adventure are bad images during a recession.

    Do your ads cultivate a trust factor?

    Is the ad about you, or about your customer?

    Are you talking directly to your customer?

    Are your claims credible, or full of hype and sensationalism?

    Do you make a claim with full intention of backing it up, or do you know you’ll have to explain that claim because people will not understand the weasel clauses?

    Can you use someone else’s credibility?

    The concept is known as endorsed mailing. You send a letter endorsing another business to your customers, and he does the same for you with his. Select your endorsement partners with care. If the other business is trusted by his customers, you’ll be perceived as trustworthy, too.

    Or, work out deals with other businesses to stuff their flyers into your merchandise bags. Of course, you’ll reciprocate.

    Or, get three or four other reputable companies together and share the cost of printing individual offers on card stock, then mailing them all to your own lists. This one is known as “marriage mail.”

    Focus on your existing customers.

    Focus on media that you’ve proven will provide a sufficient return on your investment. This is not the time to experiment with ideas that might work to attract new customers. New customers are more expensive.

    Instead, apply the 80/20 rule, and invest whatever you need to keep your 20 percenters very happy with you.

    Cut money out of any project that you can’t prove return on investment (like trade shows, for instance), and use those funds to increase direct marketing to every customer in your database.

    PR is golden.

    Got positive quarterly results to report? Won any industry awards? Have a fabulous customer service story? Call your local media and share the news.

    What’s interesting about your story? If it’s positive growth during a recession, financial editors will want to know how you did it. If winning your national award draws attention to your local business, most editors will want to play up local pride. And human interest stories always make great content – especially on a slow news days.

    Public relations has two wonderful benefits: it’s much more credible than advertising, and it’s free (other than the investment of your time, and a few postage stamps or phone calls).

    In summary:

    When times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad, you must. But, don’t be reckless about it. Make every dollar count, now, to pay off in multiple dollars over the next few years.


    Chuck McKay is a marketing consultant who helps customers discover you, and choose your business. Questions about helping your business thrive during an economic recession may be directed to [email protected].

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    Bottled Water, Fresh Fruit, and the Price of Gasoline

    Are you in retail? Have your sales been affected by gas prices?

    I just eavesdropped on a conversation between the managers of two local stores.*

    They both noted that store traffic has decreased, and the telephone is ringing much more consistently, since the price of gas passed $3.50 per gallon. People are now calling to confirm inventory before they drive to the store.

    There’s no doubt that, as surely as it’s effecting the rest of our economy, the price of gas is effecting retail sales, too.

    There’s also no doubt that this is a time of great opportunity for those businesses who recognize what’s happening, and have the courage to take immediate action.

    The change in consumer behavior will be short lived.

    People will return to their old habits.

    How do I know?

    Because they always do.

    When the Mother Earth News was a fledgling publication, people worried about protecting the ecology. Later they joined the conservation movement, then the environmental movement. Today, they’re enlisting in the green movement.

    Roughly every decade the name changes. And every decade new people get involved. The old people are only willing to discomfort themselves so far.

    Green is a great promotional tool.

    Unfortunately, it runs counter to our consumer-centric way of life.

  • Have you seen the ads from the bottled water company claiming their thinner plastic bottle has less impact on the environment? Do you secretly wonder if people truly worried about the effects of plastic in landfills would drink tap water? They aren’t. They don’t.

  • The Toyota Yaris gets 40 mpg with a standard gasoline engine. The Lexus LS 600h L is a hybrid which gets 22 mpg. Care to bet how many people are so concerned about the price of gas that they switch from the Lexus to the Toyota? They aren’t, and they won’t.

  • For that matter, wouldn’t repairing the existing car rather than buying a new one be the ultimate in recycling?

  • People worried about the cost of gasoline should logically move closer to their jobs, wouldn’t you think? Today the average home-owning family demands another bedroom, another bath, an attached two car garage, and at least 800 square feet more living space than they did 50 years ago. Will they give up those larger suburban homes to economize? They aren’t, and they won’t.

  • Purchasing bedding, draperies, or carpets made of recyclable fabrics reduces the demand for new natural fibers by as much as 15 percent. More than 15 percent, and they wouldn’t be able to make the resulting fabrics fire retardant. Will people risk their families’ safety to recycle? They won’t, and they don’t.

  • Do we really need fresh fruit in January? Apparently we do, even if it’s flown in from the southern hemisphere on giant transport jets with excessive “carbon footprints.” In any economy, some people will pay a premium to get exactly what they want.
  • Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not passing judgment. Frankly, my job is to help sell fruit in January. I’m merely pointing out the realities of human nature. People are willing to accept only a certain amount of discomfort before they revert to form.

    $4.19 a gallon? Drivers will get used to it.

    Some of us remember when gas was $0.25 per gallon. We remember the grumbling when it hit $1.00. This story has been replayed a few times, and people always adjust. They will not change their consumption patterns for homes, bottled water, fresh fruit, or even gasoline… it will just take them a bit to grow accustomed to the changes.

    What’s driving shoppers’ fears today is the speed at which prices are increasing.

    How can shoppers explain what’s happening? Most can’t. And that inability to articulate leaves them simply threatened enough to invoke survival behaviors. People scared (consciously or unconsciously) for their family’s survival look for security. They hunker down and wait for the threat to pass. In the short term, they’ll spend money reluctantly, and only when they must.

    But they will continue to buy.

    Turn this highly-predictable behavior to your advantage. As my dear friend Tyler Engberg told me back in 1971, “There is great money to be made at times of confusion.

    Capitalize on confusion.

    As long as people perceive a problem, you’ll gain market share by offering a solution.

    Ad another body to your payroll if necessary, and cater to your customers survival fears. In your advertising, invite people to save gas by shopping with you.

    Offer to check your inventory in order to be sure you have specific items in stock before your shoppers make the trip.

    Offer order fulfillment and save them the trip. Confirm that you have the goods in stock, then take your customer’s credit card numbers and ship items to them at their homes or offices.

    And, for goodness sakes, learn their names.

    But if you intend to do these things, move quickly.** As soon as shoppers adjust to higher gas prices your competitive advantage goes away.  You need every advantage when you’re fishing for customers.

    Your Guide,
    Chuck McKay

    Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

    Got questions about retail strategies for to counter high gas prices? Drop Chuck a note at[email protected]. Or call him at 304-523-0163.


    * One of those managers was my wife. She, the other manager, and I were all having lunch at the same table. As much as I find a certain appeal in assuming the James Bond persona, I wasn’t sneaking around spying on my retail brethren.

    ** Need help crafting such ads? Come to the Boom Your Business Seminar in Nashville August 1 and 2, and catch Chris Maddock’s Ad Writing 101. Can’t make it to Nashville? Call me.



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    The Psychology of Pricing

    The following stories are true. The author personally witnessed each as it unfolded. There is a commonality, which will become obvious.

    1. A young man spends $400 on a new set of tires for his car, and then promptly totals the car. He pulls the new tires from the car and displays them in his front yard with a sign that says “New tires, $10 each.” No one even stops to look at them. After two days he changes the sign to read $5 each.”

    2. A convenience store operator decides to get rid of two cases of cans of an off-brand fuel additive which haven’t sold at the recommended $1.67 per can. He puts the individual cans in a basket near check-out marked “Twenty-five cents each.” No one buys even a single can.

    3. A music store has a collection of posters for guitarists and keyboard players which explain chord theory. They’re left over from last year’s inventory, and aren’t selling at the imprinted price of $5.95 each. Much like the convenience store owner, the music store owner displays the posters near check out. He prices them at fifty cents each. They don’t sell, and the owner is now considering dropping the price to twenty-five cents just to get them out of his inventory.

    Interestingly, the solution is the same in each case.

    That solution?

    Raise the price.

    The young man changes his sign to read “New tires, $50 each.”

    The convenience store operator marks the cans “Cleans fuel injectors like nothing else. $4.95 per can.”

    The music store tags the posters at $5.95, and adds a small sign to the effect that the poster is a valuable reference for any recording studio.

    The results?

    The tires sold. The fuel additive sold out. The posters sold out.

    Consider it from the perspective of the potential buyer. There’s a psychology of pricing in which the old saying “You get what you pay for” is the lens through which the buyer views the world. Consciously or unconsciously, the vendor conveys the value of his product through its price. If the price is ridiculously low, the goods must be of low worth. But displaying them proudly, at a premium price, conveys value, too.

    Everyone appreciates a bargain. No one wants to buy junk.

    Would you have any interest in $5.00 tires?

    Why would you even consider putting a twenty-five cent additive you’ve never heard of in your car’s fuel tank?

    Would you even glance twice at a piece of “art” that costs only a quarter?

    You don’t want to sell junk, do you?

    What’s in your inventory that you need to move? Can you price it aggressively, and move it to a high-profile location?

    Drop a note and let us know how pricing effects the way you fish for customers.

    Your Guide,
    Chuck McKay

    Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

    Got questions about articulating your value, and making sure people know it? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected]. Or call him at 304-208-7654.




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    Can Breakeven Analysis Predict Your Coupon Success?

    Pretend with me that you own a snow cone cart (or as they call it in the South, “shaved ice”).

    You’ve mentioned to a friend that your sales are ok, but that your business isn’t growing. She suggests that since people love a bargain that you distribute a “buy one get one free” coupon.

    Can You Predict the Impact of That Coupon?

    Yes, I believe that you can.

    You financed the cart and are paying $200 per month for it. You pay $300 per year for your license to sell food. Your liability insurance runs $600 per year.

    You use $15 of dry ice each day to keep your shaved ice cold. You use your car to tow the cart to the public park in which you sell your cones, and spend about $30 per week in gasoline. You use roughly $0.17 in syrup, paper cones and napkins for each snow cone served. You purchase your ice for $0.80 per bag, and use roughly 5 bags each day. (Some always melts by the end of the day and is wasted, but it’s better than being caught short).

    Oh, and you sell ‘em for $1.50 each.

    We’ll Use a Technique Called “Break Even Analysis.”

    This technique is useful in start up operations to calculate the number of sales at any particular price point to “break even.”

    Assuming that demand is roughly 14 cones per hour, and you are open from 10am to 10pm six days a week, what’s your weekly revenue and net profit?

    Now, what’s likely to happen when your “buy one get one” coupons are distributed and redeemed?

    People won’t drive clear across town to save $0.75. Your coupon renewal will happen within a six to ten block radius.


    These are already your regular customers.

    Some of Your Coupon Sales Will Cannibalize Your Regular Sales

    But then, some of the regulars who haven’t been by in a while will be reminded by the coupons. And, of course, there are always going to be people who have never bought before.

    Let’s make some assumptions, shall we?

    1) The coupons will boost your business by 6 redemptions per hour (12 cones).

    2) Three of those coupons will be renewed by your existing customers.

    In other words, your gross sales will increase from 12 to 18 per hour, but you’ll be dispensing 21 cones per hour – 210 and 252 per day, respectively.

    Now your variables will look like this:

    So, are the coupons a good idea?

    Can you apply break even analysis to your next promotion? Finding the bait with the top ROI is of major importance when you’re fishing for customers.

    Your Guide,
    Chuck McKay

    Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

    Got questions about couponing, or about breakeven analysis? Drop Chuck a note at [email protected]. Or call him at 760-813-5474.

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    Do You Have To Drop Price To Increase Sales?

    1976 Buick Century Wagon

    1976 Buick Century Wagon

    In 1985 while living in Florida I paid $1,000 for a 1976 Buick Century Wagon.

    The wagon was a bit older than I would have selected under other circumstances, but the previous owner had the most incredibly detailed maintenance records on the vehicle. I assumed (rightly) that he must have kept the car in remarkable working condition. Besides, it was the appropriate size to ferry all of the kids to their various commitments.

    That car was one of the most dependable I’ve ever owned.

    Two years later, when I accepted a job in California, the mother of my children said “This car is now eleven years old, and I don’t think I’d like to drive it across the country. Let’s sell it and buy a different car when we get there.”

    Then she added “And I want to sell it.”

    Like a number of first time advertisers, she called the local newspaper’s classified department. Discovering that every additional word cost her more, and trying to save money, she dictated “1976 Buick Century Wagon. Must see to believe. $500. Call (904) xxx-xxxx.”

    Total cost? Fourteen dollars for ten days.

    Days passed

    More days.

    No phone calls.

    At the end of the first week, she asked “Do you think I need to drop the price? Would it sell at three hundred?

    I said “Let me see what I can do.”

    I called the paper and changed the ad to: “Perfect second car for family with children. Clean, incredibly maintained 1976 Buick Century Wagon in perfect working order. Automatic transmission, cruise control, electric adjustable seats, electric windows, electric rear window, electric retractable antenna, air, AM/FM casette, new tires, good upholstery, headliner and carpet. Comfortably seats nine. Everything works. $1,000. By appointment at (904) xxx-xxxx.”

    Total cost? $37 for the week.

    We got exactly three calls the day the ad hit.

    One buyer asked to come see the car immediately, and brought cash. He counted out the bills, I signed over the title, and called the paper to cancel the ad.

    Two lessons

    First, spending too little to do the job is the most expensive advertising that any of us will ever do.

    As Charles Mortimer, former Chief Executive of General Foods said at a 1963 shareholders meeting, spending too little in advertising “is like buying a ticket three-quarters of the way to Europe. You’ve spent your money but you don’t arrive.”

    Second lesson? Often, it ain’t the price. It’s the sell.

    You see, every decision carries the risk of being the wrong decision.

    As advertisers, our objective is to minimize the appearance of risk in purchasing our products or services.

    Dropping price can reduce the risk, but it can also kill profitability.

    Providing our prospective customer with enough reassurance that (s)he’s making the right decision also reduces the risk. Customers are willing to pay more when they’re sure they’re doing the right thing.

    What can you do to minimize risk?

    Can you do it without dropping price?

    Better yet, can you aggressively raise your price, and do a better job of selling? Its not enough to catch ’em. You have to make ’em profitable when you’re fishing for customers.

    Your Guide,
    Chuck McKay

    Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

    Got questions about writing seducing headlines and emotional appeals? Call Chuck at 304-523-0163, or write [email protected].


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    One Easily Remembered Point


    One of the things that too many small businesses do when they advertise is to try to pack the ad with everything that could possibly be of interest to any potential customer.

    After all, advertising is too expensive to waste any opportunity to sell everything to anyone.

    That’s logical, isn’t it?

    None the less, it’s guaranteed to be bad advertising.

    Look at this Yellow Pages Ad

    It could easily be a radio ad, or television ad. The style isn’t at all different, merely the details of the execution.

    Dentistry Ad

    Dentistry Ad

    And as a Yellow Pages ad, listed with all competitors under “Dentists,” Dr. Whacksem is likely to get a few calls from this ad. He will, however, always suspect that his ad isn’t very efficient. It doesn’t draw enough business for what he’s paying. He’ll blame the medium. “My radio rep told me that Yellow Pages don’t work. She was right.”

    She’s wrong. So’s the doctor.

    The medium isn’t the problem, the message is the problem.

    What’s the message? Ah. There’s our problem.

    What is his message?  That he works on kids, and their parents, and older people, too? That he will accept insurance payments or make a payment plan? That he does fillings, and teeth whitening, and root canals, and extractions? That he does crowns and bridges and bonded porcelain? That he uses x-rays? That his staff is professionally trained? That he’s “mercury-free,” (whatever that means)?

    What is Dr. Whacksem’s message? I’ve counted at least fifteen, and that doesn’t even count him telling you how to get in touch.

    Without scrolling back up, how many can you remember? Humm. And that was only two paragraphs ago, after I drew your attention to it.

    Nobody will remember a list.

    Listing your services, or your products, is bad advertising.

    Instead of getting more information to more people, you’ll accomplish exactly the opposite. The message becomes part of a blur in the minds of the people who are already being clobbered by hundreds of other ads every day.

    This ad doesn’t say anything “salient,” anything a potential customer can relate to. Without that salience, it doesn’t stand out. It doesn’t get remembered. To maximize your impact, you need to give this ad salience.

    You need to make one simple, easily remembered point to one particular group of people.

    Some small business people get it right away. Many do not. Frankly, most do not.

    You’re telling me NOT to tell people that my dental office works on children, and adults, and old people. You want me not to tell people we do root canals, and teeth whitening, and x-rays, and takes most insurances? That’s crazy. What if someone needs a crown, and they don’t see that in my ad?”

    What if someone needs a crown, and you didn’t manage to get their attention in the first place? How many people do you believe actually read your list of services?

    Whatever the size of your business, your advertising will have a bigger impact if you limit your ads to one simple easy to remember message.

    Consider this ad from one of our first dentist’s competitors:

    Better Dentistry Ad

    Better Dentistry Ad

    First, notice the headline – “good news for high fear dental patients.” How many people are afraid to even be examined by a dentist? And even those who aren’t afraid will appreciate the promise of “Soft Touch.” Everyone will appreciate that their comfort is this dentist’s first concern.

    Notice, too, that the ad doesn’t list all of basic services. Truthfully, though, doesn’t every dentist do fillings? Root canals? Cleaning? Doesn’t every dentist use x-rays?

    Do we even notice that these things are missing? Do we care?

    No, we don’t.

    What do we remember?

    Instead, we remember that Soft Touch Dentistry doesn’t want us to hurt, or to be afraid.

    The second ad makes much more impact, doesn’t it?

    OK, but what happens when someone who’s not afraid of the dentist hits the Yellow Pages? Which ad is she drawn to?

    Care to speculate?

    Of course it’s the second one. Whether she needs a cleaning, a root canal, or a crown, our dental prospect is still not likely to even notice the first ad, and will react positively to the second. The second ad, the highly-focused single message ad, is the one our dental prospect will read. She’s also more likely to phone for an appointment.

    So, by narrowing the focus to a single point, we actually broaden the appeal of the ad. Wow.

    Then, there’s cost.

    And there’s something odd happening here. With all of its additional impact, the second ad takes only about 60% of the space that it’s competitor does. Soft Touch Dentistry makes a much bigger impact with a substantially smaller ad. Double wow. How much money will this save Soft Touch over the year? Better yet, how many more impressions can Soft Touch Dentistry purchase with the same budget?

    OK, one last thought: the Advertising Performance Equation (APE) represents the relationship between your message, the frequency of that message delivery to an audience, the customers’ experience with you, your market potential, and resultant sales.

    All other factors being equal, and without going into the math, making your ad twice as memorable will double the percentage of your advertising driven sales.

    And we like to double the catch when we’re fishing for customers.

    Your Guide,
    Chuck McKay

    Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

    Got questions about helping people to remember your advertising? Drop Chuck a note at[email protected]. Or call him at 304-523-0163.




    My friends Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg, authors of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today best-selling book Call To Action, are conducting a one-time-only, two day seminar at Tuscan Hall on the 21-acre campus of Wizard Academy in Austin, Texas.

    In Call To Action: Secret Formulas To Improve Online Results Bryan and Jeff will teach you how to break through the invisible web-blocks that are keeping your web site from performing. They’ll give you a global overview of the revolutionary principles and tactics that made them famous around the world.

    There will be at least one “ah ha” moment in which a light bulb appears over your head. They guarantee it.

    No matter how much or how little you know about web development, you will receive huge benefit from this class. Since the company’s inception in 1998, the Eisenberg’s have focused exclusively on helping clients, large and small, persuade and convert their web traffic into leads, customers, and cash based on their proprietary Persuasion Architecture and conversion rate optimization techniques.

    Prepare to be amazed.

    If you have a web site whose performance could use improvement, you need this class. It will not be repeated and registration is strictly limited to the first 120 participants.

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