Monday, January 4, 2010

Advertising is Dead

Along the line of a New Year's resolution, I've come to accept the demise of advertising for my business. It's not that advertising is dead for everyone, it's just that advertising has stopped working for us. Media, in general, is far too scattered to be an effective, well, medium. I can target TV, but who watches TV anymore? Do you watch cable or satellite? Comcast or Astound? Dish or DirectTV? Hulu or Netflix? Do you skip commercials with Tivo?

Only the decrepit use the Yellow Pages anymore, and only in December. I'm out of bridge score pads and bargain jigsaw puzzles anyway. Google has become the Yellow Pages, and that's free. I still can't bring myself to stop advertising in the Yellow Pages completely. In the back of my mind, it's still the standard for legitimate businesses. I have cut it way back for this year, however.

Direct mail was an interesting experiment, albeit a hugely expensive one. It brought in about 100 new customers from the 40,000 Valpak coupons that went out over four months. At $20 per customer, it may even make mathematical sense when you crunch the numbers and determine the lifetime purchases of a customer, but like all 20th century advertising, it's full of wild assumptions. Valpak is a scumbag company, by the way, with deceptive business practices. Who would have thought direct mail would be unsavory (sarcasm intended)?

So if I had one regret about 2009, it was the money I spent on these 20th century forms of money wasting. I want my money back. 2010 will be about web 2.0 marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Constant Contact for direct mail, the blog, and maybe even some YouTube with the new video camera. I will no longer outsource my marketing (AKA advertising). Also, don't forget our customer loyalty program, The Paladin Club. You may not think of it as advertising, but it's quite a chunk of cash if you think about what we give away to our customers as rebates. The only way to justify that is marketing.

True, all of this is marketing to my base, and yes, I'm relying on my base to push word of mouth, but the sheer, overwhelming cost of old school advertising has led me to this. I think if I gain no new customers in 2010 (which means a net loss of customers), I will still be financially ahead with the savings from advertising. This continues a theme I started in 2009, focusing on net instead of gross. Gross is for suckers.

Finally, there's this concept that you should spend money on either rent for a good location or solid advertising to drive people to your destination.  There are no cheap rents in California, so everyone has an expensive location that still requires advertising to direct customers. If web 2.0 marketing can drastically cut costs for stores like ours, it may fix this problem.