Ready, fire, aim

By Stephen Rhodes

Ready, fire, aim is a common mistake businesses make when they dabble in communication strategy.

targetThrow enough stuff at the wall, and some of it is bound to stick. Some operate this way out of a sense of panic – the need to spread the word far and wide, almost hopeful that if only more people knew, business would be better. This scatter-gun approach is costly and almost never works.

Food stores spend a lot of money on flyers to attract customers. My impression, although it may not be particularly well informed, is that despite the abundance of advertising, most people will not drive far from home to find a food store. And once you get to know the store, meaning where everything is, why go through the frustration of trying to learn where everything is in a new store? That’s my theory. I am interested in your viewpoint.

So, for me at least, no amount of advertising is going to dislodge me from the comfortable feeling of knowing where to find stuff.

But food stores know their audience and they know there is a market for people who want greater selection or better quality, healthy choice or even low pricing. And we all know about loss leaders, those attractively priced consumables, designed to get us through the door in hopes our feet stick to the floor.

The super food stores kick it up a notch with photolabs, pharmacies, wine shops, drycleaners et al. They understand that there is a market for this kind of convenience and are  reaching out to a specific audience who want one-stop shopping.

On the other end of the scale – the small independent video store and pizzeria must also communicate with their customer. Run a string out a kilometer or so from the center of their store and that’s the prime target. It doesn’t make sense for this small entrepreneur to pay for advertising to reach 100,000 households when only 10,000 are likely to ever darken their door. They might also use flyers, but targeted to their audience or geographic reach.

An effective strategy depends on knowing your audience, so focus on your top prospects first and identify the best way to reach them – whether it’s advertising, direct mail,  newsletters, emails or personal calls.

Measure the return to determine what approach works best. You can start by simply asking your customers how they heard about you. It’s inexpensive research and it works.

Are you focused on your primary customers?

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