Chapter IV: Offline Marketing With Online Results
Chapter V: Publicity - It's FREE & It Works
Chapter VI: Don't Waste Your Time - Track Your Advertising
Chapter I: Getting Inside the Mind Of Your Customer
o Part One - Information Rules Over Entertainment
o Part Two - The Annoyance Factor of Online Advertising
o Part Three - Look At Behavioral Traits Not Demographics
The Most Important Thing To Know About Advertising
© 2000 Karon Thackston
I am often asked, “What is the most important thing to know about advertising?” The
answer is simple, although it eludes many people.
Know your target audience!
When you ask most business owners who their target audience is, you are generally
quoted a list of demographics. While demographics are a portion of the make up, to
know your target audience goes far beyond statistics.
Advertising is a message you send to the people whose business you would like to
gain. It is a form of communication to a specific group of buyers. When you
communicate with friends and family, you take the communication style of that
particular person into account before you speak or write. The same holds true for
your target audience.
When you begin to write a letter, you don’t sit down and begin writing without first
determining who the letter will be addressed to. If you are writing your mother, you
will no doubt design the message differently than if you are writing your best friend.
Your verbiage changes and your style changes according to who you are writing. You
make a point, although sometimes subconsciously, to write in such a way that your
audience will be receptive. These same principles apply when addressing your target
audience via advertising messages.
Find out all you can about what kind of people your target group consists of… not
just what demographic segment they fall into. Find out if they are analytical or
creative types, if they are business professionals or stay-at-home moms. The closer
you get to those in your target audience, the more effectively you’ll be able to
communicate with them…and the better received your advertising will be!
© 2000 Karon Thackston
When writing advertising copy, asking this question is essential. Why? Because your
customer is going to ask it over and over again.
Customers do that. I’ll bet you do it, too! Customers want to know what’s in it for
them. That’s why it is vitally important to constantly work the answers to “So what”
and “Why” into your copy. This is done by listing features, but more importantly by
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you see an ad for a cat litter. The ad indicates
this cat litter offers specially enhanced particles. Everyone’s next question will be “So
What?” The specially enhanced particles are a feature of the cat litter. The feature
doesn’t relate why the customer needs this product. The feature may be quite
impressive, however the person watching wants to know why they should be
interested in those particles. To answer the question at hand we need to list the
It just so happens that these specially enhanced particles were developed to absorb
every single bit of odor left in the litter box. These particles will leave the litter box
just as fresh smelling as before kitty did his business. That is what the customer
needs to know. That information is what the customer will relate to. Now, are you
asking, “So What”? Ok, I’ll tell you.
When writing copy, be sure to include features and benefits. Let’s look at our cat
litter ad again. If we make just one small adjustment to the copy it becomes much
Kitty Fresh cat litter was developed with specially enhanced particles that adsorb all
odors from the litter box. Your house stays fresh smelling all day. And because these
particles work so well, you won’t need to change the litter box as often. Try Kitty
Fresh cat litter today!
How’s that? That answers “so what” and “why”. The customer understands what the
particles are and why they need them.
Here are some other questions to remember when writing ad copy:
1) Why does that feature benefit me?
2) Why would I use that product?
3) Why should I buy your service/product over any other?
4) What’s in it for me?
When writing, focus on what is going through the customer’s mind. Try having a
friend or associate give you feedback on your copy. Tell them to answer the question
“So what”. If they can, you’ve done your job!
Customer Preferences in Online Advertising-Part 1 of 3
Information Rules Over Entertainment
© 2000 Karon Thackston
Online consumers have given some very explicit information regarding their
preferences when it comes to advertising. According to research conducted by
Jupiter (www.jup.com), a worldwide authority on Internet commerce, there are
several things online business people need to be aware of in order to increase their
I have created this 3-part series of articles as a commentary relating to the results of
Jupiter’s study entitled, “Inside the Mind of the Online Consumer”. It will help you
understand what the information means to you. Taking heed to the
recommendations Jupiter reveals will most certainly improve your advertising
Customers Use the Internet for Information
Forty-eight (48) percent of consumers online use the Internet primarily as a utility
device, not an entertainment device. This means they are using the Internet as a
tool, not a toy. Because of that fact, consumers are primarily looking for
information, not games. This is not a new revelation. However, how this fact relates
to advertising is new.
Customers Want Information-Based Ads
According to the customers in Jupiter’s survey, they respond to advertising that
compliments their online activities. Forty (40) percent said they respond more
readily to online ads that are informative rather than entertaining. This would
include new product developments, benefits-oriented ads and those focusing on
Notice that one of the categories listed is “product benefits”. This is where the
majority of online advertisers fall to pieces. It is simply imperative that online
advertising copy be filled with benefits. Online consumers are looking to answer the
question, “What’s in it for me” over and over again. They are seeking information
and the advertising you give them should fill that need.
How to Build An Information-Oriented Ad
So now that we’ve learned that customers are ready and waiting for us to provide
them with information-based advertising… how do we do it? Does that automatically
mean you have to go with long copy? No, not at all.
According to Jupiter, “Advertisers that are marketing high-consideration products,
which require a more informed purchase process, should focus more exclusively on
consumers’ online information needs. Advertisers that are marketing low-consideration products – for which consumers require little information in order to
complete a purchase – have more leeway to take a less informative and more
entertaining approach to their advertising.”
It’s just as I’ve stated for years. Let your target market lead your decision to use
long or short copy. Those seeking information on affiliate programs, MLM programs,
high-investment products or services, etc. are going to be seeking more information
than someone in search of a new bathrobe. For more detail in this area, visit
Here are some suggestions you can use to help build a successful information-type
1. Include statistics – When you make a sales claim, back it up with
information, including statistics. You might say, “Our saucepans have a non-stick coating that’s guaranteed for life. In actual, in-home testing, food did
not stick to our saucepans 98.3% of the time.”
2. Include targeted benefits – You must include targeted benefits to make
your message hit its mark. Let’s take the saucepan example a bit further.
“Our saucepans have a non-stick coating that’s guaranteed for life. In actual,
in-home testing, food did not stick to our saucepans 98.3% of the time. You
get omelets that come out of the pan whole. You get sautéed chicken that
makes a beautiful presentation on the plate. You get less waste, less burnt
food and more healthy cooking because you use no oil.” Now those are
benefits any chef would think are important.
3. Provide content on your site that backs up your claims – As you surf
the Web take note of information that supports your advertising claims.
Surveys, research, reports, testimonials, etc. can all provide valuable
information that could move a customer from the point-of-decision to the
4. Submit articles – Customers looking for information are much more likely to
respond to a URL listed in an article than a bold-faced advertisement.
Because articles provide information in a non-threatening way, they work
along the same level as endorsements and referrals. Write articles relating to
your area of expertise and submit them to article archive sites and Ezine
5. Offer a free report – Give away information free with a purchase or
subscription to your newsletter. Since information is what surfers are looking
to receive, it will work as a big incentive.
Next in the series will be a focus on ads that are avoided and shunned by online
customers… and how to be sure yours isn’t one of them!
Customer Preferences in Online Advertising-Part 2 of 3
The Annoyance Factor of Online Advertising
© 2000 Karon Thackston
In part one of this series, we discussed the fact that studies show information leads
over entertainment. We discovered that Web site visitors are primarily looking for
information, and therefore, ads should be more information-oriented.
The second of the three discoveries in the Jupiter Communications (www.jup.com)
survey that I will comment on is the discovery that some online advertising is seen
as an extreme annoyance. Let’s be sure your ads aren’t included in that group.
What They Hate
No one likes to be bombarded with advertising. We all see it everywhere we go. It’s
on television, the radio, billboards, and even grocery story carts for goodness sake.
However, online advertising is viewed as the most aggressive.
Jupiter found that 49% of those surveyed said online advertising was the most
intrusive of all. Many were willing to tolerate ads in broadcast or print media,
probably due to the fact that they could leave the room, change the station or turn
the page. However, online ads hold an extremely negative reputation.
From my experience, this is most likely due to the fact that online ads often have a
“used car dealer” air to them. I have seen many that look like they’re all produced
from the same template.
These ads promise the sun, the moon and the stars. They scream about why you
simply must buy the product or service. Then, to make it worse, the site captures
your email address and you receive hundreds of email advertisements via an
autoresponder that apparently has no end.
The Worst Possible Ads
The worst offender is pop-up ads. These are the advertisements that pop onto the
screen as you click through a Web site. They advertise specials or offer subscriptions
to Ezines, etc. Once thought to be a tremendous sales tool, these ads have become
Sixty-nine percent (69%) of those in the Jupiter survey viewed pop-up ads
negatively. Almost 25% found them so annoying they would completely avoid sites
that used them. That’s a powerful statistic. Can you afford to have 25% of your
Web site traffic never return simply because you employ pop-up ads?
What We Can Do To Make It Better
So, now that we know what our site visitors hate, how can we adjust our advertising
in order to please them (and make them buy)?
Here are some recommendations to consider when creating your next piece of
Don’t do “anything and everything” to get the buyer’s attention. Everyone
that comes to your site isn’t going to buy. The harder you try to get their
attention and force them to read your ad, the harder they will try to
Remember from Part 1 in this series, site visitors are looking for
information primarily. Include your ad along with other, useful
information. Perhaps you might try offering a free report or article that
provides information the visitor can use. At the bottom, insert an
advertisement for a product or service you offer that can help them
Don’t use pop-up ads.
Keep your target audience in mind. Business people aren’t going to have
the time or inclination to participate in game-type ads. On the other
hand, teenagers love them. If your target group is younger people,
games might be the thing for you. Design your ad to meet the
preferences of your target customer.
Using these suggestions will help your ads be more readily received – instead of
avoided at all costs!
In Part 3, the final article in this series, we’ll look at the behavioral aspect of online
advertising and discover what characteristics and traits should be kept in mind.
Customer Preferences in Online Advertising-Part 3 of 3
Look At Behavioral Traits Not Demographics
© 2000 Karon Thackston
In part two of this series, we discussed the annoyance factor of online ads and how
to overcome them. In this last article, I’ll tell you how to use behavioral traits to
direct advertising efforts rather than demographics.
I am a strong proponent of defining your target audience. If you don’t know who
you are communicating with, how will you be able to do it effectively? Jupiter
Communications’ (www.jup.com) survey backs up my claims.
What Difference Does Behaviorism Make?
I’m sure almost everyone has heard the phrase features vs. benefits. The entire
premise behind this statement is that you must tell the audience what’s in it for
them. How, if you don’t know their concerns, their hopes and their needs, are you
going to define benefits that will make a difference to your target customer?
The difference between demographics and behaviorism is that one tells you the
basics and the other tells you the details. Demographics let you know that your
customer is a man employed in upper management who is 45 years old, has 2
children and makes approximately $50,000 per year.
Behaviorism tells you that, because he’s a man, he is compelled by information-type
ads. (If he were a she, she would most likely respond to animation or sound.) It
also tells you that he’s burned out on corporate politics, having a mid-life crisis, can’t
being to think of how he’s going to pay for college for 2 kids and is in bad need of a
raise! Now… which profile do you think you could communicate more effectively
with? The demographic or the behavior? (It’s a rhetorical question!)
Target Everything About Your Advertising
People hear the phrase “target marketing” and “target audience” all the time. But do
you understand how extremely important those phrases are to the success of your
marketing campaign? You simply must, MUST know your target audience.
When you communicate with them through advertising, you absolutely have to be
able to address their fears, their problems and their concerns with a solution. They
want to know what’s in it for them. If you don’t understand what they need, you
simply can’t answer that question.
Targeted advertising increases sales!
When you create an advertising piece, especially online, every aspect should reach
out and grab your target customer. This means the copy (especially), the design,
the colors, the photos, the graphics, the packaging (if applicable), the ordering
process… absolutely everything.
Segmenting Your Broad Market
One trouble that often plaques businesses is the fact that their target audience is so
broad. If that is the case with your company, try segmenting the market and
appealing to each segment’s behavioral traits.
For example: perhaps you’re a Real Estate agent. You need a Web site and want to
appeal to several segments of the Real Estate market. What can you do to
incorporate the behavioral traits and other preferences of so many people?
Divide your site into smaller areas specifically targeted to each segment. You might
choose to have a link on your home page that says “Need to sell your home? Click
here!” In that section you can speak specifically to the needs and concerns of home
sellers. (Who are usually women!)
Another area might be directed toward home buyers. These people want lots and
lots of information, including pictures. Be sure to give it to them along with some
articles dealing with hiring a moving company, transferring your utilities to a new
address and how to prepare children for a new school. Get it? Major decisions
require lots of information.
Keep Focused On the Customer
Above all, keep focused on your customers and their needs. Resist the temptation to
use your favorite shade of pink as a primary color in your Web design if your
customers are mostly men. Remember that you can choose to include an optional
flash presentation within your site if you’re dealing mostly with women. And always,
always address your target market’s concerns and needs with benefit-oriented copy.
By combining the information within the 3 parts of this series, you can truly make
your online advertising more powerful… and more readily received by your
***The initial survey (about which I have written this commentary) was conducted
by Jupiter (www.jup.com), a worldwide authority on Internet commerce.
Chapter II: Develop A Plan of Action That Works
Putting Together The Pieces of The Marketing Puzzle
© 2000 Karon Thackston
When I started in advertising… too many years go to admit to… I began to notice
that most “do-it-yourselfers” were making the same mistakes. They were treating
each aspect of marketing and advertising as a separate entity. Instead of creating a
plan based on the marketing process, they were picking and choosing individual
areas to concentrate on. Needless-to-say, they didn’t have much marketing success.
Marketing is the entire process from product conception to delivery. Most people
mistakenly believe that the words “marketing” and “advertising” can be
interchanged. In actuality, advertising is only one part of the entire marketing
The marketing process is like a puzzle. If you leave out any of the pieces, you’ll find
a big hole that detracts from your end result. So what are the pieces and how do
you put them all together? Here, I’ll show you the basics that must be included in
your marketing plan.
Product Conception and Definition
The first step to marketing a product (or service) is deciding what the product is
going to be. Before doing anything else, write down a clear definition of your
product or service. What is it basically? What will it do/provide? What are the
features? What are the benefits?
Next, and most importantly, you’ll need to decide if there are people who will have a
need for your product. This group of people is called your target audience. They are
the ones that you will advertise to in an effort to sell your wares. It does no good
whatsoever to have the best product or service if no one will buy it. Who will have a
need for your product or service? Why will they find it useful? What problems do
they have that your product or service will solve? How often will they need to buy it?
Are multiple purchases possible?
Reaching Your Target Audience Through Advertising
Step three is to determine a plan of action for reaching your target audience through
advertising or publicity. Where does your target audience spend time? What
magazines or newspapers do they read? What radio stations do they listen to?
What TV shows do they watch? How do you plan to reach these people where they
are? Can you reach them with ads, brochures, Web sites, mailings or how?
Your target audience will also give you what you need to know in order to package
your product and design your advertising efforts. Follow their lead. If you are
marketing professional services to corporations, you’ll need to stay with darker
colors, professionally printed brochures and flyers (instead of homemade with
templates) and above all, copy that speaks their language.
This is where advertising comes into play. Again, it does no good to have a super ad
or the best-looking Web site on the ‘Net if you can’t get it seen by the right people.
Spend a lot of time and consideration on this step of the process. It will make or
break your business.
Packaging is not only a step used for products. How you package your services plays
a major role in your success, too.
Again, follow the lead of your target audience. What will appeal to them? Bright
colors, dark colors, a hard plastic casing or a cardboard box?
For services, your packaging comes in the form of your Web site design, brochures,
corporate profiles and other marketing materials. Make sure they fit with the profile
of your customer – not necessarily with your personal tastes.
For products, the distribution step involves things like inventory, shipping and
returns. For services, it involves delivery time, follow-up and refunds. How will you
handle this piece to the puzzle? Will you need to rent a warehouse? Have private
trucks or use a freight carrier? Can you provide services in a timely manner? How
will you handle returns and refunds? All these questions must be considered, and
proper arrangements made, before planning to sell the first item.
Even if you’re a one-man show, you’ll need to have a sales strategy in place. Most
small business owners wear several hats. One of yours might be that of “salesman”.
Things to consider during this phase of your marketing plan will be: what sales
methods can you employ that will appeal to your target audience? Can you use a
sales letter for direct mail or your Web site? Will you have “live” salespeople who
employ telemarketing to makes sales? Will you have a brick and mortar shop where
customers visit you and meet a salesperson face-to-face? The process of selling
can’t be overlooked as it is what takes over once advertising has done its job.
Finally, no basic marketing plan is complete without proper thought being given to
customer service. “Customer service isn’t part of a marketing plan”, you say. It
most certainly is! It is much easier (and cheaper) to sell to an existing customer
than it is to sell to a brand new customer. Not to mention, without excellent
customer service, your repeat sales will dwindle into nonexistence.
Create a plan for handling your customers properly and professionally. Will you have
a frequent buyer program? What will you do when someone has a special situation
that goes against normal company policy? How will you let your customers know
you appreciate their business? How can you encourage repeat business?
As you see, each step is intertwined with all the others. Customer service issues
relate back to sales and distribution. Sales questions make you think of advertising.
Your target audience plays a major part in all areas of the plan.
Don’t sell yourself short. Leaving one or more pieces of the puzzle out will certainly
cause problems. Putting all the pieces together will give you a definite plan-of-action
and a much more positive result.
There’s Free Advertising Money Out There. Do You Know Where To
© Karon Thackston 2000
Even those with very little experience in advertising know running ads can get quite
expensive. There’s the cost of designing, copy writing, placing ads and tracking ads.
The bill runs very high sometimes. However, there might be money available to help
you with your advertising expense. It’s called Co-Op (cooperative) Advertising.
Co-Op ads are those that highlight a specific manufacturer (usually) in addition to
your business. I’m sure you’ve seen them before. For example, McDonald’s® will
run a flyer in the Sunday newspaper featuring Coke® as a part of a combo meal.
When McDonald’s® does this, Coke® picks up part of the expense for those ads.
McDonald’s® and Coke® work in cooperation to promote both products.
How does it work? Many manufacturers set aside a certain amount of co-op funds
each year in order to give some help to those who sell their products at the retail
level. By helping you promote your business, the manufacturer is also helping to
promote his product. It’s a cheap way for the manufacturer to pick up some
This type of program also applies to specials and sales. I’m sure you’ve noticed that
most computer manufacturers offer discount or free printers in their packages. The
maker of the printer and the PC company are producing co-op advertising in order to
promote both products. In return, they share the ad expense.
Each co-op plan is a little different. Normally the manufacturer will set forth
stipulations as to how many times their name or logo should appear in the
advertisement, what frequency the ads should run, and perhaps one or two other
guidelines. You may be required to get approval prior to submitting ads to the
media. Once the ad has run, simply send a copy of the ad, along with your invoice,
and you’ll receive a portion of what you spent back in return.
Co-op ads can apply to any business. Perhaps you offer an on-site car detailing
service. You might check with the manufacturers of the soap and wax you use.
These companies could very well offer you co-op funds for including their name
and/or logo in your advertising pieces.
If you own a restaurant, definitely check with the beverage distributor you use. Most
soft drink companies offer co-op funds.
How much will you save by working in cooperation with other companies? I have
seen some outfits that pay as much as 75% of the ad cost. Most pay between 35% -
50%. That’s quite a bit of savings.
If your company sells products made by other manufacturers, you may very well
have co-op money available to you. The best way to find out is to ask. Usually your
manufacturer’s representative will know who you should call to find out the details
about any co-op programs they offer.
Sound too simple? Well, you do have to play by the rules – and co-op advertising
will not be available to everyone. If you find a program you are eligible for it would
certainly benefit you to participate.
So what if you don’t work in conjunction with any manufacturers? You might try
creating your own co-op advertising program. For example: if you are a landscaper,
try approaching some lawn care maintenance companies in your area. Because you
both are aiming for the same target audience (but for different reasons) this would
be a perfect match.
Your ads could list the benefits of having the lawn professionally designed, and then
maintained by the lawn care firm. The two companies would split the cost of the ad,
saving both a good deal of money.
Whichever direction you choose to take, co-operation in advertising always benefits
those involved by creating greater exposure and drastically reducing ad costs. Be a
savvy advertiser…create or participate in a co-op program before your next ad goes
Fast, Good, Cheap – Pick Any Two
© 2000 Karon Thackston
Think about that statement for a minute. Is it true? Sure it is! Especially for small
businesses. If you want something in a hurry and you need it to be of good quality, it
won’t be cheap. On the other hand, if you want something quick and you don’t have
a lot of money chances are it won’t be the best there is. Now we get to the
combination most small businesses need - good and cheap. You’re right… it won’t
This is where the majority of small businesses and e-businesses find themselves. I
fall into this category, too. We want to look professional in all our efforts, but we
aren’t made of money. I need my advertising, my customer service efforts, my
billing, my database management, my web hosting and everything else to be quality
- and to be inexpensive. So what does that mean according to the equation above?
It’s going to take some time.
Patience is not a well know attribute for entrepreneurs. So those who are lacking in
this area will be excited by this article. I speak from the arena of attracting and
keeping customers through advertising and customer service. Let’s look at some
ways to gain ground in these departments without a lot of cash.
!" Ezines - I know, I know. Everyone you talk with is screaming the praises of
Ezines and Newsletters. I don’t intend to rehash the same ‘ole routine. I want to
bring up 2 things that will promote your business at no charge with more speed
than conventional marketing.
(1) Advertise in your own Ezine. I receive countless Ezines and newsletters in
my mailbox each day. Many of them carry advertising throughout or at the
end of the publication. Do you know that I’ve only seen 3 newsletters
(besides my own) that had an advertisement for it’s own company listed. If
you have a monthly special, a web special, a discounted price, a free
product… list it in your Ezine. It only makes sense to take full advantage of
the database you’ve built.
(2) Submit Guest Articles. This is a long-time advertising/publicity practice
that has rolled over into the web world. When you submit articles for
publication in other newsletters you do 2 things: (a) you create a forum for
your business or web site by placing it in front of the targeted reader; and (b)
you create an image for yourself as an expert. “Those who get published must
know what they are talking about”, is the common thinking. Both are
excellent forms of advertising and over time they tend to have a snowball
Please remember to require the publisher to include your tag line (your name,
company name and web address) with each article, and only submit articles to
Ezines that fall in line with your target market. (Quick trick: submit the articles
you’ve already run in your own Ezine!)
Where do you find lots of newsletters and Ezines that fall into your target group?
!" Appreciate Your Customers - There is no better way to build a reputation in
customer service than treating your customers well. You don’t have to let people
run all over you. The statement I love is, “The customer isn’t always right, but he
is always the customer.” Basically, show your customers appreciation for their
patronage. It would have been very simple for them to choose another business
to buy from. They didn’t… they chose you! Like using Ezines and newsletters in
your advertising, showing appreciation reaps its reward fairly quickly. Think
about it… when someone treats you in a special way, you want to be around that
person. The same applies to customer service. Appreciation is cheap and it is
wonderful for building customer loyalty. So exactly how can we show appreciation
without blowing the budget?
(1) Tell your customers “Thank You” . Every time your customers buy
something, tell them “thank you”. When they complain, tell them “thanks
for bringing that to my attention”. At every opportunity, let them know
they are appreciated.
(2) Start a database. If you can, collect the birthdays of your customers.
Mail them a birthday card and they will remember you forever! Everyone
likes to be remembered on their birthday. If you choose to include a
coupon or discount of some sort, fine. If not, the customer will appreciate
still the gesture.
Also, send special information or discounts only to those in your
database. I do this periodically and it goes over with a bang every time! I
email articles I see on the ‘Net that I know would be of interest to my
database. Occasionally, I email a discount “coupon” for dollars off on my
services. Be sure to let the customer know these specials are ONLY for
(3) Get creative. One company (named Dove Communications) would leave
little Dove Chocolates on their contact’s desk each time they were on-site
to perform work. Everyone loved the candy and remembered Dove
Communications because of the innovative way the left their “calling
Appreciation is the best mortar when it comes to building customer loyalty.
Building a small business on a shoestring budget is not an easy task. Often times the
Fast, Good, Cheap equation takes it’s toll. But time is on your side and with
consistency, and a little creativity, you will succeed!