American merchant, John Wanamaker, once famously said, ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half’ – I’d argue that the true number for broader marketing communications is closer to 90%.
It’s something I knew from my 15 years experience in the industry, but I’ve understood better since I relocated to North America 18 months ago as the almost daily pile of marketing flyers drop through the mailbox. From real estate agents to grocery stores… restaurants to house painters, I’ve developed a pretty effective process for dealing with the swathes of marketing flyers that come through the door every week. It involves a short walk from the front door to the recycling bin.
While flyer drops are traditionally North American it’s symptomatic of a much larger problem. Whether it’s using paper flyers, email, press releases or media outreach, it’s approach that many companies, across all industries, adopt. They send out material promoting a new product or service, a new appointment or partnership, without actually considering whether it’s relevant to either the journalist or end-user. The traditional wisdom is that the broader they make the content of the collateral, the wider the audience it will appeal to. And, the belief is, the more people that read it the better the chances are that it’ll be relevant to somebody.
The problem is that the broader the information provided, the less relevant it becomes to everybody that receives it – including the 5% that are actually potential customers. Rather than improving your chances of attracting customers, this approach actually reduces the odds. So, why do companies do it? In short – money. Because, very often, budgets are determined by the cost per audience member reached – the larger the number of people that an advert, tweet, piece of collateral, etc. crosses, the lower the cost per person. The lower the cost per person, the easier it is to justify the budget.
In a world where the amount of information that can be researched about a target audience is at unprecedented levels and everything is measurable there’s no excuse for unfocused campaigns. Targeted PR, marketing and social media activity will undoubtedly deliver better returns than a ‘scattergun’ approach.
Next time you’re planning a campaign – whether it’s PR, marketing or social media – think about the people that are most likely to become customers, and tailor your message, medium, and delivery mechanism to them – you’ll see the difference almost instantly.