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Experts: Know your customers for best ad impact

“It’s OK to love your sled” — and it’s desirable to take chances in advertising.

Advertising experts Bryna Larsen and David Habernasky agreed this week that to achieve incremental growth in business, Steamboat entrepreneurs must be committed to working on creative ad campaigns.

Larsen is the regional advertising director for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Hayden Valley Press and the Craig Daily Press. Habernasky is an account executive with radio stations KRMR, KFMU and The Mountain KIDN.

The two spoke before almost 75 people attending the latest in a series of Success Steps breakfasts, sponsored by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, the local SCORE chapter, which advises entrepreneurs, and Colorado Mountain College.

Larsen said one of her favorite ads of all time was placed for a local snowmobile dealer and led off with a bold headline that pronounced that it’s permissible to feel strong affection for one’s snow machine — only it was shorter and catchier than that. As in, “It’s OK to love your sled.”

Not only did the ad demand attention, she said, but it spoke directly to the prototypical “man’s man of Steamboat,” the guy who builds things with tools, plays hard in the outdoors and loves his outdoor toys.

“You have a split second to catch someone’s attention,” Larsen said. “You want a big, fat headline.”

Habernasky said it’s not imperative to create a funny ad to make an impression, but it’s important to take some chances to make an ad that will stick in the minds of the audience.

“Risk being memorable,” Habernasky said. “Creativity works.”

Striving for creativity is one of four main points Habernasky said he urges clients to consider when designing an ad campaign. First, he said, match your product or service to the radio station’s format.

“Rush Limbaugh’s crowd will not buy snowboards,” Habernasky said.

Larsen told the business people in the audience that more advertisers should take more time to understand who their customers are. And even more of them need to home in on who their customers are not.

“I see a lot of people who don’t know who their customers are,” Larsen said. “But you need to ask yourselves, ‘Who is not my customer?’ That’s who is on the outside. And that’s the No. 1 way you’re going to grow your bottom line. Our mission as business owners is to grow our bottom line.”

It is critical for businesses to do some soul searching about how much money they can invest in advertising. Set a target for how much you hope to grow your profit margin in the year ahead, she suggested, and then set an advertising budget.

“Some books say you should spend 4 percent of your gross,” Larsen said. “That’s a lot of money. Four percent of gross is a large number. You need to decide what feels comfortable. We don’t start people out at an uncomfortable number.

“Decide, ‘What number is comfortable for me to invest every week or every month and invest in my business so I can increase my bottom line?'”

Habernasky said he emphasizes that his clients need to provide the customer with a significant incentive to respond to an ad. If you’re going to offer a discount, go big enough to get a response, he said.

Finally, to make an ad campaign “pop” and deliver results, go with frequency over consistency, he said. A new business promoting a grand opening should consider running 24 to 36, or even 48 spots a week to be effective, he said. Well-established businesses with longstanding successful campaigns might drop to 12 to 20 spots weekly.

Larsen said she advises clients to employ a multi-media strategy and counsels them not to be afraid to shake things up when they aren’t producing. Advertisers shouldn’t hesitate to tell their marketing consultant when they are disappointed, Larsen said.

“Ask them to make changes to ensure your campaign is successful.

Ask them to do better for you,” Larsen urged, and don’t be afraid to tell your consultant that you want out of your contract if it isn’t delivering as anticipated.

Often, Larsen said, the most effective newspaper ads are those that feature a bold headline and a prominent picture of a person, because people are drawn to other people.

“Animals, kids, people — we all love to look at people.”

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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