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If You Read This, The Point is Made

By GMNET Staff

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” —John Wanamaker (1838-1922)

The quote by Wanamaker would be funny if it weren’t so true. Trouble is, it plumbs a real issue. How does one nail the optimal marketing mix? How do you employ only strategies and techniques proven to make the most money and that reduce the worry that finite marketing dollars will be wasted?

Given the agonizing that many golf managers endure over advertising, it should follow that quantifying marketing impact—return on investment—should top every manager's list of priorities.

But, quantification isn’t always easy. And then, there’s the dizzying array of options: magazines, daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, radio, television, direct mail, phone book pages, signage, the Internet, and the list goes on. It’s easy to spend thousands of advertising dollars every month if one tries to cover all the media mix bases, but is that a strategy, managed mediocrity, or a sure way to go broke?

Good news. There’s a raft of research information that can improve decision making.

First, though, all golf managers should engage in research of their own. Where do you stand in terms of mind share and market share for your target sales area? You could spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire a big city market research firm to do an in-depth study and present you with a report, or you can do simple, valuable tests yourself.

Stop 100 people you don’t know (or hire someone else to do this for a day). For example, if you were in the carpet business, you may ask the 100 strangers a question like this: “I wonder if you could help me. I want to get new carpets installed, and I’m not sure what company to call. What would you recommend?” If only a handful of people give your company’s name in the top three suggestions, the message would be clear; your profile needs to be raised. Only advertising can do that.

What if more than half of the people interviewed gave your club’s name first? Does that mean there’s no need to advertise? Consider the McDonald’s of the world. Even though McD ranks #1 globally for fast food mindshare, does it cease advertising? No. Even if you’re number one, you have to keep revenues growing with new promotions, and your competition is always looking for ways to grab your spot if you relax.

So, no question that advertising is necessary. But, what’s the optimal media mix?

To zero in on that issue, it helps to think about low involvement and high involvement media.

Low involvement media elicits little conscious thought. Television and radio are low involvement media, and so is junk mail for about half the population. People don’t need to do anything (or think anything) when viewing TV or when listening to a radio—they are literally uninvolved, often tuned out. This is called cognitive selection, and given that each of us is exposed to hundreds of marketing messages every day, we’ve gotten very good at it. This explains why persistent repetition is key for electronic media if it is to build long-term memory and gain top mind share. It can be very expensive.

Magazines, conversely, are high involvement. You don’t pick up and read a publication accidentally; reading requires conscious effort, the desire/need to actively access information. Of course, not all print publications are equal in terms of involvement. The highest impact comes from publications with content that serves specific information needs of targeted populations. For example, people who read computer magazines are highly involved (motivated) to absorb information because they’ve deliberately sought it out. Likewise, publications aimed at business people, a segment always thirsty for new ideas to improve sales and boost operational efficiency/effectiveness. Such publications are typically read cover to cover and they’re retained for long periods of time, often years. Golf magazines are also high involvement.

Okay, you’ve picked a good media to reach target audiences. What about content? What works best? Research proves that advertorial content enjoys the highest readership and the highest credibility because it looks like and reads like news.

Great. So, do you buy an advertorial page and that’s job done? No, unfortunately, the human mind needs repetition to imprint on memory, even when it’s highly involved. How much repetition? Some studies say the magic number if nine, others say ten. So, run ten ads; now is the job done? It might be if people saw every ad, but research also shows people see/hear only one in 3-4 ads when spread across the various media—and this assumes targeting, not shotgun.

The scope of the task becomes apparent.

To capture mind share, and imprint on long-term memory, you should plan a targeted campaign of at least 40 ads to achieve the required ten “hits.” This takes time and careful thought.    

Advertising is psychology, the minds of managers included. One tip is to look at ad expenditures in terms of cost per contact, not as a cumulative dollar figure that doesn’t give an apples-to-apples perspective. For example, a $1,000 ad may seem like a large sum of money. But, what if that ad is verified to be read by 20,000 pairs of eyeballs? That makes the cost per contact five cents, inexpensive access. It’s still vital, of course, that the message in the ad or advertorial be compelling. No point getting the eyes but failing to make a positive impression.

Bottom line, anyone who sells products or services cannot exist, and certainly cannot thrive, without proactive marketing. These outlays should not be viewed as expenses. Marketing is an investment when approached intelligently. The key is to ensure that every investment returns more than it costs. 

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