As a retailer, there are more ways than ever to get the word out about your company. There’s digital and print advertising, social media campaigns—both paid and unpaid—direct mailing initiatives, TV, radio, and even billboard placements.
But the plethora of options can leave small-business owners feeling confused about where (and how) to get the most bang for their marketing bucks. That’s because the perfect mix of media initiatives and placements “isn’t a cookie-cutter equation,” says Jane Dalea-Kahn, a Los Angeles–based digital sales executive and brand consultant who counts jeweler Martin Katz among her clients. She urges retailers to follow consumer eyeballs—which are, increasingly, trained on mobile devices.
Digital analytics firm Flurry and marketing company Tecmark both recently reported that we spend roughly three hours a day on our mobile devices. That leaves us “only so much time in the day to read,” says Dalea-Kahn, citing the ubiquity of people in waiting rooms scrolling on their phones, not through magazines.
Danny Allen, executive vice president of advertising agency Sensis in Washington, D.C., agrees that examining media consumption is the best way to figure out where to spend your marketing efforts and money. “Time spent in front of [digital] screens is up, up, up—especially in mobile,” he says. “So it makes sense for your business to be there. Basically, you rob banks because that’s where the money is.”
Still, both Dalea-Kahn and Allen say that a strong marketing strategy almost always includes a percentage of print advertising. “The studies keep showing that unless you’re in a very specific niche, traditional and digital really complement each other,” says Allen, who also believes in direct mail campaigns for certain niche audiences.
In the end, he says, “it all depends on where your audience is.”
While blowing your company’s entire marketing budget on print advertising isn’t recommended, the tangibility and distinct coloration of print feels more high-touch than ever. And magazines and newspapers are still daily reads for your older, and often more affluent, clients.
Dalea-Kahn, a former glossy-magazine publisher, recommends advertising in well-read local publications—both newspapers and magazines.
“Print is still quite strong” in categories including fashion and jewelry, says social media strategist and speaker Paul Gillin. “There’s a certain quality of image you can get in print that you just can’t get online.”
That said, Gillin reports that he sees a “disproportionate amount of dollars being spent on print advertising” among his clients and recommends that small businesses allocate more to their digital ad budgets.
Zales recognized the power of print with this candy-themed 2013 ad.
The Original Inbox
Remember the mailbox? In the age of apps and push notifications, it would be easy to dismiss direct mail marketing as too old-school. Allen cautions against that. His company, Sensis, recently went from calling itself a digital ad agency to simply an advertising agency. “Clients tend to want a little bit of everything,” he says, adding that there are certain societal segments that respond well to direct mail initiatives.
“Everyone still gets their mail,” Allen says with a laugh. “It’s true that younger people tend not to respond to direct mail, but retirees and baby boomers still read their mail. And certain new immigrant groups read and respond to their mail and save coupons that are sent to them. It’s not something that’s a fit for every [company], but it still really works.” And for jewelry retailers, it’s a medium that should be seriously considered.
Digital advertising can be neatly subdivided into two buckets: “pure” advertising (of the banner ad variety) and paid social media advertising. Both, our pros say, are crucial elements of an effective media strategy.
Paid social ads are especially effective for small businesses: Tools on social platforms (particularly Facebook) allow brands to get down to the granular level when targeting a demographic.
“Paid social is good because you can target friends of your fans, you can see the analytics [regarding] whom you’re reaching, and it’s all self-serve—you can do it yourself,” Allen says. Plus, you can run paid social ads for pennies on the dollar compared with the price of traditional online advertising.
Besides, the significant expense of a digital campaign that lives on a popular media website is prohibitive for most small businesses. “A traditional banner campaign is hard to do on a really small scale,” Allen adds.
Pure digital advertising, however, “is still very important for retailers,” Gillin says. “It should all be driving people to your digital properties—a hashtag or a Facebook page or a website. Then you can capture information about them, which is what it’s all about.”
When planning online advertising, Dalea-Kahn suggests putting personal opinions aside and going with what works. “I have clients who will say, ‘Pop-up ads are so annoying.’ But the truth is, they work really well. And if you don’t use Facebook, you still need to advertise on Facebook. Don’t tell me you’re not going to advertise on Facebook!”
David Yurman wants Instagrammers using #bubblegumpinky to generate buzz about its new scented rings.
If your business is lucky enough to employ a social media professional, you’re in a good position to strengthen your brand through unpaid (aka “earned”) social media. “Good earned social is great for building your engagement with loyal customers and building a community,” Allen says.
But unpaid social activity can’t replace paid, highly targeted ads, say all three professionals. “Unless you’re going to create that next big viral video, you’re not going to generate a lot of new interest with earned social,” Allen says. “It’s almost more about customer service now.”
Gillin recommends picking one or two social media channels (he likes Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat) and spending two to four hours per week posting and, more important, engaging with followers. “The more engagement you’re getting, the more time you should be spending on social,” he explains. And if you’re not seeing good engagement after giving it your best, “you should cut your losses and focus on more traditional media.”
Dalea-Kahn says, “You can post 10 times a day and if no one is liking or commenting or sharing, what are you doing? Why bother?”
Tacori’s sweet ad for its Honey Dipper rings was superpopular on Pinterest.
Mix and Match
In the end, curating the perfect media mix for your business boils down to knowing your audience—then meeting them where they are.
What’s the best way to discover where your shoppers are consuming their news and entertainment? Ask them, Allen suggests. “Start asking your customers if they read the local paper or a certain website,” he says. “You don’t have to do a big, expensive survey to find out this information. Just talk to people.”
So you’ve created a special ad or social media campaign, and you’re wondering when to roll it out to the public. Timing your placements perfectly is all about getting in front of your target demographic exactly when they’re in the buying mood, says Jo Campbell-Fujii, a Los Angeles–based brand consultant and veteran sales exec for luxury magazines. Even if your budget is less than bountiful, you still want to “promote heavily around March–April and again around September–-October,” says Campbell-Fujii. “These are the times when seasons are changing and people are starting to look at their [wardrobes]. They’re thinking, Bathing suit season is coming, or Fall is bringing cool weather. I need to shop.” —EV
(Flask photo: PM Images/Getty Images)