Four Questions to Ask Before Buying Advertising

To make sure every dollar you spend on marketing is used effectively, ask yourself these questions (and get some answers):

Where does your store rank among competitors in consumers’ awareness? I worked on projects for independent jewelers in two major cities that chose not to invest in advertising. Both were in business for close to 100 years. Nevertheless, research to determine the stores’ visibility in their markets didn’t find a single article from a newspaper, historical society archive, or Google search. The researchers found one old newspaper ad and a mention of one of the owners in a synagogue directory.

How well do you know your customers? To learn what demographic characteristics the majority of your clients share, take your mailing list to a research company or direct-mail house, which can create demographic lists highlighting household incomes, neighborhoods, marital status, age, media preferences for receiving information (mail, e-mail, print, etc.), shopping frequency, and types of stores patronized. The results will help you target the consumers you want. For a less expensive (but less valuable) analysis, break down your customer list by ZIP code, and purchase mailing lists of affluent consumers in those areas.

Of the people in your market who share your core customers’ demographic profile, what percentage are your customers? While working on the opening of a new location, a jeweler retained a research firm to analyze its client base and identify potential customers. Results showed that the jeweler virtually owned the market among customers in the store’s core demographic. But results also revealed that the store’s core customer was aging, and it needed to cultivate new relationships to ensure growth.

Is your advertising reaching the right people? Once you know how your clients prefer to get information, choose the most effective media. For example, if your core customers are mothers in households with incomes of $150,000–$250,000 who prefer to read print magazines, then place ads in regional parenting publications. If your core customers are between 25 and 45, try online ads that reach affluent young adults. After ads run, analyze their effectiveness. For example, if an ad for a single piece of product results in a spike in traffic, try to determine if shoppers came in just for that product or to see more of the particular brand.