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Direct Response vs. Image Enhancing Advertising

September 9, 2009
Filed under Dealer Consultants

Tory HornsbyWe’re in a new era and a new economy. As I’ve previously written, the industrial age is behind us and the information age is here. We’re also in a place where customers have more choices and resources than ever, which in turn give them more power. This vast increase in customer resources also has brought about more competition, distractions and clutter than ever before. This further illustrates the need to stand out from the crowd and present yourself and your dealership in a unique way to your specific target audience with the right message, via the right media, at just the right time.

Attempting to penetrate your specific market using traditional mass media with “Get your name out there” type of advertising is far too expensive, wasteful and frustrating. When I was a kid, we had five main television stations and two of those were fuzzy. Now, my cable TV has more than 400 channels, on top of this I also have a DVR that enables me to fast forward through commercials. This is a perfect example of how fragmented and specialized media has become. And this doesn’t even factor in other complex contributors, such as the Internet and Satellite Radio.

Remember, the goal of your advertising is to generate leads that are ready to spend money with your dealership and to increase the frequency of visits from past and present customers. So, in order to cut through the clutter and trim the fat/waste of mass media, you must first understand Direct Response Advertising vs. Traditional Image Enhancing Advertising. Direct Response Advertising is any form of media promotion that is 100 percent quantifiable (so you can fully track the results), includes compelling ad copy (salesmanship in print) and a call to action with a deadline. In other words, what physical action do you want the prospect to take and by when? Image advertising is the exact opposite: Its main purpose is to “Get your name out there,” or as ad reps love to say, create top of mind awareness and build your brand. Although Image Advertising may be beneficial for huge companies with multi-million dollar advertising budgets, like Nike and Budweiser, who have the time to wait for the results, it’s simply not the most effective marketing method for small- to medium-sized businesses. Most dealerships want the ad to begin generating sales before the check for the ad clears the bank.

The dirty little secret in the ad agency world is that they love image-style advertising because the results aren’t 100 percent quantifiable. This means that they can’t be held accountable for poor, or no results. With zero or limited tracking in place, if a campaign doesn’t increase sales or traffic it can be blamed on the market, weather, economy or my personal favorite: “You haven’t run the ad enough!” The majority of what we see and what we’ve been taught is Image Enhancing Advertising. In fact, most advertising is image advertising because for the most part it’s controlled by huge companies, ad agencies and the media itself. The general purpose of Image Advertising is to “Get your name out there.” However, you only have so much money to spend on advertising. Therefore the goal must be to hit your target audience and generate sales leads.  The goal of your advertising shouldn’t be to “Get your name out there,” rather it should be to “Get your customers in here!” 

By using Direct Response advertising, you’ll be able to fully determine what’s working and what’s not. Building a reputable brand for your dealership in the community is still extremely valuable, but it should be a byproduct of your advertising efforts and not your primary objective.

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