Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Scientific Advertising

I finally finished Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins this past weekend and HIGHLY recommend it. The whole book is around 75 pages and can easily be read in a little over an hour.

There are 2 primary concepts that literally jumped out at me as I was reading. The first blindingly simple, yet profound, teaching of Claude C. Hopkins is simply:

“Your object in all advertising is to BUY new customers at a price which pays a profit.”

Did you hear that?

Just like when you go out to buy a car, or parts, or insurance or anything else for your business you expect (even demand) to get something in return for your money, your marketing is no different.

If you’re not verifying that your marketing is cost-effectively buying you new customers, then you are most likely just throwing money away.

The second point that Claude makes is really just a further clarification of the above statement. On the last page he highlights the fact that pretty soon all advertising agencies will only get paid based on the results they deliver.

Is that how you pay your advertising agency?

“The time is fast coming when men who spend money are going to know what they get. (hahaha, if only that were true in marketing today) Good business and efficiency will be applied to advertising. Men and methods will be measured by the known returns, and only competent men can survive… Enormous advertising is being done along scientific lines… We (advertising agencies) shall be prouder of it (advertising) when we are judged on merit.”

Does that describe your advertising agency?

Now it may be fair to assume that with the advent of new tracking methods such as Pay-Per-Click, Click-Thru-Rates, custom 800 numbers for each direct mail piece, etc. etc. that advertising agencies are indeed moving in that direction.

I would tend to agree, except… Scientific Advertising was published in 1932!

Now do you see why it’s so important to understand the concepts of “Scientific Advertising” that he promotes? For 80 years we’ve been able to track the results of our advertising dollars in terms of the cost/lead and cost/sale and yet we still aren’t demanding that from our advertising agencies (or from ourselves if we handle our own marketing).

It seems to me, however, that times may be changing.

Yesterday I was speaking with a gentleman who does sets primarily for TV commercials. He’s done it for over 30 years and has done sets for commercials, movies, TV shows, and music videos and so seems to have quite a range of experience.

In his personal opinion, TV advertising rates have dropped off so much over the last few years he imagines it will nearly disappear entirely within the next few.

Obviously I questioned him on that, but he insisted that, whether it’s simply a byproduct of the economy or not has not been proven yet, but if not, TV commercials are on the way out. Could that be because businesses are finally demanding results from their marketing or dropping it altogether?

In practical terms, this is how you hold your advertising agency’s feet to the fire.

  1. Track the following:
    1. Cost of advertisement
    2. Number of people who inquired because of it
    3. Number of people who purchased because of it
    4. Lifetime value of each customer
    5. Profit Margins
  2. Calculate the following:
    1. Cost of advertisement/number of people who purchased because of it – This gives you your “cost/sale”
    2. Lifetime value of customer x Profit Margins – This gives you the profit you’ll make off of each customer or “profit/customer”
  3. Compare the following: your “cost/sale” to “profit/customer” – If the “cost/sale” is higher than “profit/customer” drop that marketing project or figure out a way to improve it in a jiffy.

Let’s throw in a few numbers to make the point clearer.

  • Cost of advertisement: $1000
  • Number of people who inquired because of it: 10
  • Number of people who purchased because of it: 4
  • Lifetime value of customer: $2000
  • Profit Margings: 15%
  • Cost/Lead = $1000/10 or $100
  • Cost/Sale = $1000/4 or $250
  • Profit/Customer = $2000x.15 or $300
  • Our Profit/Customer ($300) is greater than our Cost/Sale ($250) so we keep the marketing

Keep in mind that you should always be improving your marketing to be more cost-effective.

In other words, even though we’ll make $50 profit on that advertising program, if we can improve our marketing or sales process to increase the number of people who purchased based on the same advertisement to 5 (an increase of 25%) our profit would double (increase of 100%) to $100 per customer.

To get some practical ideas on how you can better track your lead sources to determine your cost/lead and cost/sale be sure to check out my blog about why Asking your customer “how did you hear about us?” is a waste of time and what to do about it…

To your Scientific Advertising success, Bryan

Asking your customer "where did you hear about us" is a waste of time and what to do about it…

A few days ago I was reading Michael Corbett’s The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising. In his book, he points out one of the biggest flaws I’ve seen in businesses – you cannot rely on a prospect to accurately inform you where they hear about you. In other words, a customer cannot provide you with accurate information on which of your lead sources are producing the most profit. Here’s why:

As Michael tells the story, he was working for a business that was having a big sale one Saturday. Prior to the sale they did a lot of advertising in the local market and wanted to determine which marketing project paid off. To do that Mike and his boss stood at the door all day and asked every customer where they heard about the sale. 30% said TV, 20% said Newspaper, and 50% said Radio – Good to know, right? Except they never had a TV ad. When they asked people if they were sure they heard about it on TV everyone assured them that they had.

Your prospects don’t know and don’t care where they heard about you.

So now what? To wisely invest your marketing dollars, you NEED to know where your leads are coming from. Michael suggests just watching sales to determine if the marketing worked. However, what if you’re running multiple marketing promotions at once? After all, who isn’t? You may have a direct mail piece, yellow page ad, website, a radio slot, and be sponsoring your local high school sports events all at the same time.

The internet marketing guru’s have this one figured out. They may have 100 different ways that they are marketing their products, but they always know exactly where the leads are coming from by tracking the “referral sites” to their website. (If you’re not familiar with “referral sites” your webpage can be setup to track which other webpage people visited that lead them to your site.)

In the “physical” world if you’re running multiple advertisements you have 2 options:

  1. For print ads (i.e. yellow pages, direct mail, newspaper, magazine, website etc.) provide a coupon. Have each coupon be unique (preferably a different color) with a unique promotion ONLY available with the coupon (and obviously void with any other offer). The different color is useful because even if they forget the ad at home, they can generally remember the color so you’ll know exactly which one they’re talking about.
  2. Simply offer a unique promotion. Your radio ad, TV ad, announcement at the high school event etc. should all include a different promotion when they go to your business and mention it.

Note: Make the yellow page ad your “weakest” promotion. In other words, if they hear you on the radio and pick up the yellow pages to find you, you want them to tell you about the radio promotion, NOT the yellow pages promotion.

What about referrals? – Well you need to incentivize (I’m aware that I just made up that word) your referrals. You need to offer something to the referrer for providing the referral. If you do that, the referrer will be sure to tell you about it. 😉

Also, make sure your promotions provide some sort of exclusivity. Generally items are made exclusive by offering a time limit, quantity limit, or “previous customer” discount. If you look at any good online information marketers, the good ones (i.e. Yanik Silver, Perry Marshall, Jim Edwards) ALWAYS make their materials “exclusive”.

Here’s the other “excuse” I hear from business owners all the time about why tracking lead sources is a waste of time. They claim that you can’t really ever know which lead source brought them in. Maybe they did hear your TV ad and radio ad and saw your newspaper ad and finally one day decided to call. I agree that in your market, having your name synonymous with your product is very important and to some extent all of your marketing projects should be helping to do that (if they’re structured properly with your Unique Selling Proposition). But here’s the thing. Who cares if everyone in the world knows that you make widgets if no one is buying your widgets??? The reason you offer promotions is because even though your prospects may have heard your name in 10 different ads, the ad that brings them in to buy something is the one you need to know about.

Do not confuse “activity” – people calling or stopping by because they heard your ad – with “profitability” – people actually BUYING something because they heard your ad. Online affiliate marketers are great at distinguishing between the 2. They don’t pay a dime to anyone for any marketing UNTIL someone buys a product! Don’t you wish you could do that in your business? Imagine setting up a deal with your local newspaper, radio station, or TV channel where you paid for the ad by giving them a percentage of sales that came directly from that ad. If you ever manage to negotiate a deal like that please let me know about it.

To your success, Bryan

P.S. The “other” way to track all of your lead sources is to offer unique phone numbers, email addresses, or web addresses with each ad and promotion. That can get a little more inconvenient for the consumer to try to remember that information however with the proliferation of the internet, VOIP phone services, and email, at some point I imagine you’ll see this happening more often. It’s already becoming popular in direct mail marketing.