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Advertising Myopia

Advertising Myopia
Tom J. Northey
August 21, 2000

In today's world of slogan saturation, discount dementia, special offers, free gifts and the never ending 'SALE SALE SALE', the private practice audiologist can often wonder if there is any real, measurable return on investment (ROI) in an advertising campaign.

Today's hearing aid market place consists of older folks and baby boomers. Both populations have seen it and heard it all before. As the proverb says 'there is nothing new under the sun'. This article will reveal (candidly) what is wrong with most advertising campaigns today and discuss key approaches the audiologist can incorporate into his or her advertising campaign to gain appropriate exposure, generate productive customers and maximize their ROI.

We begin with a quick look at a dangerous addiction. Specifically, it is probably unwise to advertise or market using the word 'sale'. The immediate result of a sale can be quite an addicting. Customers appear to stream into your practice and hearing aid sales surge. The phone and the office are busy, and your appointment book, is well, booked.

But just as the junkie never stops to consider how the drug is destroying his physical health, the private practice audiologist rarely stops to consider how 'Sale! Sale! Sale!' undermines the health of his/her business. The first 'dose' makes you feel great. So does the next one and so on - although it takes larger and larger doses to get the same effect. After a while its almost impossible to realize that there is a problem and even harder to turn back. The 'twenty percent off' progresses to 'fifty percent off' or 'two for the price of one' and the audiologist soon finds his/herself in a perpetual, year-long sale. When its all said and done you've cut your profits in half even though you've increased your unit sales and patient visits. Of course we've all heard the old story
'I lose money on every sale, but I make it up in volume'.

Even 'seasonal' sales have draw backs in that they 'train' your patient to buy only when your sale is occurring. Successful companies don't spend their ad dollars training customers to wait for a sale.

Our next area (based on a study from Roy Williams) addresses twelve causes of advertising failure.
1. The desire for instant gratification. The ad that creates enough energy to cause people to respond immediately is the ad most likely to be forgotten immediately once the offer expires. Such ads are of little use in establishing the advertiser's identity in the mind of the consumer.
2. Trying to reach more people than the budget will allow. For a media mix to be effective, each element in the mix must have enough repetition to establish retention in the mind of the prospect. Too often, however, the result of a media mix is too many people reached without enough repetition. Will you reach 100 percent of the people and persuade them 10 percent of the way? Or will you reach 10 percent of the people and persuade them 100 percent of the way? The cost is the same.
3. Assuming the business owner knows best. The business owner (audiologist) is uniquely unqualified to see his or her company or product objectively. Too much product knowledge leads him to answer questions no one is asking. He's on the inside looking out, trying to describe himself to a person on the outside looking in. It's hard to read the label when you're inside the bottle.
4. Unsubstantiated claims. Advertisers often claim to have what the customer wants, such as 'highest quality at the lowest price,' but often fail to offer any evidence. An unsubstantiated claim is nothing more than a cliché the prospect is tired of hearing. You must prove what you say in every ad. Do your ads give the prospect new information? Do they provide a new perspective? If not, you may be disappointed with the results.
5. Improper use of passive media. Nonintrusive media, such as newspapers and yellow pages, tend to reach only buyers who are actively looking for the product. They are poor at reaching prospects before their need arises, so they're not much use for planting a reticular activator or creating a predisposition toward your company. The consistent use of intrusive media, such as radio and television, will win the heart of the customer before he/she's in the market for the product.
6. Creating ads instead of campaigns. It is foolish to believe a single ad can tell the entire story. The most effective, persuasive, and memorable ads are those most like a rhinoceros: they make a single point, powerfully. An advertiser with seventeen different things to say should commit to a campaign of at least seventeen different ads, repeating each ad enough to make it stick in the prospect's mind.
7. Obedience to unwritten rules. For some insane reason, advertisers want their ads to look and sound like ads. Why?
8. Late-week schedules. Advertisers justify their obsession with Thursday and Friday advertising by saying, 'We need to reach the customer just before she goes shopping.' Why do these advertisers choose to compete for the customer's attention each Thursday and Friday when they could have a nice, quiet chat all alone with her on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday?
9. Overconfidence in qualitative targeting. Many advertisers and media professionals grossly overestimate the importance of audience quality. In reality, saying the wrong thing has killed far more ad campaigns than reaching the wrong people. It's amazing how many people become the 'right people' when you're saying the right thing. Its not who you reach, its what you say.
10. Event-driven marketing. A special event should be judged only by its ability to help you more clearly define your market position and substantiate your claims. If one percent of the people who hear your ad for a special event choose to come, you will be in desperate need of a traffic cop and a bus to shuttle people from distant parking lots. Yet your real investment will be in the 99 percent who did not come! What did your ad say to them?
11. Great production without great copy. Too many ads today are creative without being persuasive. Slick, clever, funny, creative, and different are poor substitutes for informative, believable, memorable, and persuasive.
12. Confusing reactions with results. The goal of advertising is to create a clear awareness of your company and its unique selling attributes. Unfortunately, most advertisers evaluate their ads by the comments they hear from the people around them. When we mistake mere response for results, we create attention getting ads that say absolutely nothing.

At the beginning of this article we mentioned some of the sad and ineffective tactics employed by many audiologists. These tactics can all be bundled under one umbrella called 'predictability'. Predictability is what makes advertising sound like advertising and it's one of the biggest reasons ad campaigns fail. Mouthing meaningless cliches, making unsubstantiated claims and mindlessly assuming the customer is willing to believe whatever is said are the classic mistakes of advertisers across America.

Most advertisers want their ads to be 'smooth,' 'polished,' 'professional,' and 'clever.' Unfortunately the public no longer trusts 'smooth,' 'polished,' 'professional,' or 'clever' advertising. You know you've written a good ad when it doesn't sound like an ad. Face it, your competitor believes most of the same things about his practice that you believe about yours and you're both trying to lead the customer to the same conclusion.

You'll probably make the same claims, use the same logic, terminology, and offer the same assurances in your advertising. The problem is, the customer has heard it all before and doesn't believe either of you! To be persuasive, your ads must be frank, direct, and believable. Remember, 'the risk of insult is the price of clarity.'

Your ad is believable only when the listener agrees with it. So how do you make the listener agree with you? Tell her what she already knows or suspects! Remind him/her of things you know she has experienced. Tell them their perceptions are accurate, and she'll probably agree with whatever you have to say. Build on the foundation of a common perspective. Try to see your customer's needs as they see their own needs.

Throw out the 'features and benefits' fact sheets of manufacturers, 'buzz' words and industry specific terminology. Discover how the customer/patient describes the impact of hearing loss in their own personal life. What are her triggers, frustrations, circumstances? Look at the product through the customer's eyes and you may discover how to address their needs. Walk a mile in their shoes before you talk to her about how her feet feel.

For more information on this and related topics, please contact Tom Northey MSM or Mike Fisher MBA at Audiology Economics. The phone number is 303-761-7600 ext. 14.

Sennheiser Hearing - June 2024

Tom J. Northey

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