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Stretch Your Advertising Budget

Furniture World Magazine


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By taking a scientific approach, you can stretch your advertising effectiveness without stretching your budget.

Are you happy with the results of your advertising investment? Are you convinced that your media buying strategy is reaching the maximum amount of your target market for your money? Do you want to increase traffic to your store without increasing your budget?
If you’re like most furniture retailers, deriving the greatest value from your marketing program is a constant challenge. You’re probably spending a good chunk of money on advertising. In fact, the average furniture retailer spends approximately six percent of its annual sales on advertising. But, many retailers do not get the maximum value for their advertising dollars, and that translates into a loss of store traffic and profits.

This is especially true when it comes to buying television or radio advertising. The reason? TV and radio are more uncharted territory for furniture buyers than print media.

And because they are not comfortable with the process, many furniture retailers do not take a scientific, strategic approach to media buying. They also aren’t aware of many of the resources that are out there to help them with their advertising efforts. As a result, they are not getting the maximum return on their advertising expenditure.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most value for your advertising dollars:

Know Your Target Audience
In order to choose the most efficient medium to reach your target audience, you must first know as much about your target as possible. How old are they? Where do they live? What type of music do they listen to?

It’s amazing how many furniture retailers spend a great deal of time planning promotions, designing ads and buying media – all without a clearly defined picture of who they need to reach. Even the most eye-catching print ad or well-produced television spot will draw less than optimal results if it is mis-targeted. Remember, every dollar of advertising that doesn’t reach your potential customers is a wasted dollar.

And no… not everyone is your best potential customer! Beware of evaluating the effectiveness of your media plan based on your personal preferences. People who buy their own media often tend to buy what they watch, read or listen to. You may not be your target audience!

But there are steps you can take to help ensure your ads are reaching your target market.

One of the best ways to do this is to start by identifying lifestyle and demographic characteristics that are common among your current customers. There is no better predictor of who your future prospects are than by looking at who currently buys from you. And the more you know about your customers’ likes, dislikes and habits, the better equipped you will be to reach your target audience.

If possible, run a query in your store’s database of past purchasers to find out specific demographic information.

If you don’t have such a database, broadcast stations in your area can be your best resource. Contact your advertising rep, and ask him or her to run a qualitative profile of your store’s current customers, using a software program such as Scarborough, Media Audit or Marshall Marketing. TV stations, as well as media buying agencies, subscribe to these types of services in order to help clients make educated advertising decisions.

A qualitative profile of your current customers will give you a good picture of who they are, including age, gender, income levels, key occupations, whether or not they have children and whether they rent or own their residence. The results of such a report might surprise you, indicating that your store’s customer profile is different than you thought.

Below is a sample Scarborough qualitative profile of buyers that was run for a specific furniture store (the store’s name and market area have been removed to maintain privacy).

A Qualitative Profile Of
Your Current Customers will give you a good picture of who they are, including age, gender, income levels, key occupations, whether or not they have children and whether they rent or own their residence. The results of such a report might surprise you.

Remember: broadcast stations have a wide range of software that will enable them to zero in on your customer base, helping to boost the ROI of your marketing efforts. But you must know what to ask for in order to get the right help.

Select The Correct Advertising Medium
In general, furniture retailers allot about two-thirds of their advertising budget to local newspaper ads; however, this limits their reach, since only 65% of adults read the newspaper daily. Although print is a valuable form of advertising, less saturated alternatives such as radio, television, movie theaters, billboards and even bus shelters might help you stand out from your competition.

Remember, also, that your advertising medium should always remain consistent with your overall image and message. If you position yourself as a high-end retailer, then bus advertising would not be the wisest choice.

There are ways to assist you in deciding where to advertise. Just as qualitative profiles such as the ones mentioned above can help you pinpoint your target market, there are reports that can tell you the individual media outlets – such as which television, radio stations or newspapers – to best reach these prospects. Known as “media ranker” reports, you can also request these from your advertising sales rep.

These reports can go a long way toward helping you to select the best advertising medium, and will greatly help maximize the ROI of your advertising dollars.

Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate
Negotiating is a key factor in getting the best return on your advertising investment. But in order to negotiate effectively, you must know industry standards, and what you are entitled to if stations do not live up to their end of the advertising bargain. You must also know how to speak the ad rep’s language. Here’s a quick run-down on how to get the most out of the negotiation process.
First, make sure stations provide you with ad rates and ratings broken down by daypart. Dayparts refer to the various time periods in the day, segmented by the different program types and audiences reached. Dayparts are grouped as follows: early morning (6 a.m. – 9 a.m.); daytime (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.); early fringe (3 p.m. – 5 p.m.); early news (5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.); prime access (6:30 – 8p.m.); prime time (8 p.m. – 11 p.m.); late news (11 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.) and late fringe (11:30 p.m. – 2 a.m.). Each of these time blocks carries with it a different ad rate, based on its viewership levels.

Within each daypart, you will want to compare ad prices from different stations to determine who is offering the best values. To do this, ask each station you deal with for an Avail. An Avail is a list of all programs available from that station and includes the daypart in which the program runs, its rating, its ad rate and its Cost Per Point (CPP). CPP information is essential when comparing the rates of one station to another.

When interpreting Avails, you will want to pay particular attention to a show’s Cost Per Point (CPP). Comparing the CPPs of different shows within the same daypart is the only way to determine which station is offering the best ad value. A CPP is the cost to buy one rating point, or one percent of the population, in an area being evaluated. In its simplest terms, CPP translates into what it costs you to reach each person who will see your ad.

For example, you might compare the CPPs of two stations in your area that run a six o’clock news broadcast. For one station, the total advertising cost for a spot in that news broadcast might cost $500. For the other station, the same ad in their newscast might cost $1,000. Since one station’s total ad rate is twice that of the other, it would make sense to think that the cheaper ad is the better value. But this is not necessarily true. If the $1,000 ad reaches 200,000 viewers and the $500 ad reaches only 50,000 viewers, then the $1,000 spot is actually a better value. The lesson here is never to compare absolute costs of ads to determine which is the better value. What really matters is the cost per person reached, or the Cost Per Point (CPP). After all, a cheaply priced ad that doesn’t reach anybody in your target market is hardly a bargain!

Your ultimate goal in negotiating rates is to obtain the lowest possible Cost Per Point for each program in each day part.

Don’t Limit Your Broadcast Buy To Just One TV Or Radio Station
On the surface, limiting your buy to one station might seem like a great way to negotiate lower rates, but this strategy rarely produces the most effective buy. People watch programs, not stations. Therefore, buying ads on appropriate programming across multiple stations is usually the best way to reach the broadest segment of your audience.
To take this a step further, do not buy all of your ad spots within the same daypart, as this will also limit your reach.

Establish Objective Criteria ToMeasure Your Plan’s Effectiveness
Perhaps your media plan contains a mix of print, radio and TV ads. How do you know if this mix is giving you the biggest bang for your buck? If you don’t know how what you’re buying works together, you can’t properly evaluate the effectiveness of your plan. Media buying agencies use sophisticated procedures for determining a plan’s “reach” (the percentage of people you are reaching in your target market) and “frequency” (how often you are reaching them). Sometimes, focusing on broadening your reach is more important than increasing frequency. Conversely, there are other situations in which greater frequency takes precedence over broadening reach. If you do not have the correct balance between reach and frequency, you will not have the most effective media plan.

Plan Your Media Buy, Then Monitor It
The best media strategy in the world will not work if it is not executed the way you planned it. Close monitoring of your media plan will ensure that you receive what you intended, and will alert you to problems that need correcting. When monitoring your plan, there are several aspects you must track.

The first thing you will want to do when your invoice comes in is to check it against your order to make sure your spot(s) actually ran. For various reasons, ads might be preempted. Of course, you will not be charged if your ad doesn’t run, but this is little consolation if you were counting on using it to promote a specific sale or special event. If your ad was pre-empted, insist on receiving a make-good (free ad) for the inconvenience. Although it is not industry-standard procedure to receive make-goods for pre-empted ads, savvy media buyers do it all the time, and if you ask you might just get them, too.

Next, you will want to keep a close watch on the placement of your ad. If it’s in a newspaper, check to see if the ad appeared in a prime location, such as a section that is more heavily read, or if it appeared somewhere that is more likely to be tossed aside. Also examine its placement in relation to other similar ads. Is it too close to these ads – or too far away? On the one hand, you don’t want your ad to disappear in the crowd. However, you do want it to be in close enough proximity that potential customers scouting for furniture stores in general will not miss it.

With TV, check to see if your spots are separated enough from the competition’s ads, and also that your own spots do not run too close together. You can do this by checking your invoice. Media invoices will tell you the exact time your spots ran. If your ads ran closer than 20 minutes apart, call your ad rep and tell him or her that you are not going to pay for one of the spots. In fact, work this into your negotiation stage up front, and tell the rep that if your ads do not run at least 20 minutes apart you will require either a credit or a make-good as compensation.

You will also want to pay close attention to the time within a particular program that your ad appears. As a rule, expect one-third of your ads to run in the incoming break (the time between the previous show and the one in which you bought space), one-third to be during the actual programming and one-third to take place during the outgoing break (between the show in which you bought space and the show that follows it). If more than two-thirds of your ads run in the breaks in between shows, as opposed to during the actual show, you are not getting a fair rotation and you should insist on make-goods.

Another important thing to consider is whether or not the programming in which your spot ran delivered the number of viewers it was supposed to. TV and radio advertising rates are based on an estimate of the number of people the show is predicted to reach – that is, the number of people who will be watching or listening at the time your ad will run. In order to determine whether or not the programming delivered the number of viewers it was supposed to, call the TV or radio stations and ask them for either the Nielson ratings (for TV) or the Arbitron ratings (for radio). Do this both before and after the buy, and compare the actual ratings to the estimated ratings to determine if the programming delivered the projected audience. If the actual viewership or listenership turns out to be less than 90 percent of the estimate, negotiate make-goods as consolation.

The monitoring stage of your media plan is crucial. If you do not monitor your buy and ask your ad rep to be clear on what’s promised and what’s actually delivered, you will have no way of knowing if you are getting what you pay for. Whether you are buying direct or through an agency, if your buys are not being audited on a quarterly basis, you should hire an agency to do so. Thorough auditing (post-buy analysis), can recapture up to an additional 20% of your advertising budget (in additional spots) due to under delivery or inadequate placement.

By implementing the above suggestions – and taking a scientific approach to media buying – you can increase the impact of your advertising without increasing your budget.


Cindy Rippner Kurtz is president and co-founder, along with her husband Brad, of Media Placement Group (MPG). MPG is a Boca Raton-based marketing and media management company that places media in virtually every market in the United States. MPG places advertising in more than 500 newspapers and on 400 television and radio stations across the country. Questions can be directed to Cindy care at kurtz@furninfo.com.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.