The 3C’s and 4P’s of Outdoor Marketing

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.

Customer

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.

Competition

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.

Company

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.

Price

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.

Place

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.

Product

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.

Promotion

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.

Writing a Marketing Letter

Let’s start with what makes up a marketing letter, before discussing how to write one. It consists of a headline, a promise of a benefit, a call to action, and a postscript. Headlines should grab your reader’s attention and include a benefit. Following the headline’s promise of a benefit is an elaboration of how the prospect can benefit from your offer/solution. Next, comes a call to action that gently directs him or her to take the desired action. Last but not least, a good sales letter includes a postscript. Research reveals that this improves response rates.

That’s it in a nutshell. Now, let’s look at how to write a marketing letter that includes these elements.

Marketing Letters that Get Read Have Attention-Grabbing Headlines

Letters typically don’t have headlines, but many do have subject lines. Treat this as your headline. Your letter must have a headline that stands out. You’re competing with hundreds of direct mail letters flooding everyone’s inbox. So your sales letter has to arrest your reader’s attention. Otherwise, it’ll get lost in the sea of direct mail letters.

So how do you do that? I follow a simple formula that works time and time again, the 4 U’s.

· Useful: Your headline must be useful, otherwise why would your prospect read your letter.

· Urgent: Show the importance of acting now – not later – to improve response rates.

· Ultra-specific: You letter must be relevant. The more specificity, the better.

· Unique: Differentiate your offer from the competition, starting with the headline.

A solid headline includes at least three out of these four elements. You’ll find this may take some effort. But top copywriters spend more time crafting their headline that they do on the rest of the letter. After all, if your sales letter isn’t sorted and picked-up from the bulk mail, it won’t be read. That’s why you need to start with an “attention-grabber”.

Oh, if your letter has sub-heads, apply the 4U’s to them as well. They help keep your reader engaged.

Winning Marketing Letters Hold Your Reader’s Attention

Once you have your reader’s attention, you have to keep it. You have to keep her engaged. To do that your lead must tie your offer directly to your headline. It’s a logical link that runs from the headline to the offer.

What will hold your reader’s interest? You must address “What’s in it for me” or “WIIFM”. This ensures usefulness and specificity. That’s two of the 4 U’s.

Show your prospect (don’t tell him) how your offer benefits him. Show your reader using your solution to his benefit. Set a scene in which the prospect sees himself using your solution to make his job faster, easier, better. Doing that ensures you address urgency and uniqueness – the remaining 4 U’s.

With a solid lead, you can now write the rest of your letter as you would any other letter. One caveat: don’t forget to cover the emotional aspects of your offer. Besides writing to the rational brain, you also have to write to the “lizard” brain – the one that reacts and makes decisions based on instinct. It’s a fact that we make decisions emotionally and only then justify them rationally.

Effective Marketing Letters Have a Call to Action

You’d be surprised how many direct mail letters drop the ball here. They fail to have a clear, concise and relevant call to action. One way to avoid this is to start your letter with the call to action in mind. What do you want your prospect to do after reading your letter? Call you? Email you? Return a postcard requesting a white paper?

Focus only on the desired action you want your prospect to take. Keep the offer simple and focus on the essentials. Don’t clutter it with anything else. When you write a call to action, ensure it is clear, concise and engaging.

You also need to make it easy for your prospect to take action. First, keep it short. Aim for brevity to keep your prospect engaged without distraction. Additionally, give her a variety of ways to respond: mail, email, fax, telephone, website landing page. You get the picture.

Marketing Letters with a Postscript (P.S.) Generate Higher Responses

This one’s not tough to do. You should include a P.S. or even a P.S. and a P.P.S. Readers tend to want to get to the bottom line. Consequently, they’ll find themselves reading the P.S. because they expect a nutshell of valuable information here. So give it to them.

Your P.S. can do several things.

· Entice a response – Offer a free giveaway to entice a response.

· Reinforce urgency – Emphasize urgency with a limited time offer.

· Remove or reduce risk – Highlight a rock-solid guarantee associated with your product/service.

· Underscore uniqueness – Explain your key point of differentiation that separates you from the competition.

Successful Marketing Letters Focus on Your Prospect

You can write each one of these elements separately, at different times, but your letter must follow this sequence. It’s a logical flow, but it also emphasizes the potential customer rather than your company.

It begins with your headline, and the 4 U’s help keep you on track with that. Notice how the lead focuses on the prospect. You write about WIIFM. And the call to action is customer-focused as well, as you gently direct him to take a desired action. Then it wraps up with a P.S. that makes it easy for your prospect to take the desired action.

These techniques have developed and perfected over many years. You’ll see improved response rates when you follow these steps.

Direct Mail Marketing to Get an Initiative on the Ballot

One of the best uses for direct mail marketing in those little coupon packages, which go out that are sent said to people in certain ZIP codes is to use them to educate the voters on initiatives which are on the upcoming ballot. Often ballot measures and initiatives are reinforced in a voter’s mind through direct mail marketing. Although this can get rather expensive due to the price of stamps, even if you have volunteers stuffing envelopes and putting on the labels.

The reason they should use coupon mail out packages is that the cost is divided by the number of units that are in the package and because there are so many other potentially worthy coupons this means the person opening it will go through each card to see what it says. This helps break the letter opener barrier and is why direct mail marketing coupon packages work so good to educate voters on initiatives that are on the ballot.

This is not to say the direct-mail marketing campaigns with single letter envelopes and request for donations for the cause or volunteers is not also a good idea. That makes sense also along with public service announcements on the radio. However, if you are considering educating a voter and trying to get a ballot measure of passed then perhaps you should look at direct-mail marketing coupon packages as well. Please, think on this in 2006.