What’s Your Firm’s Advertising Mix?

As we move into the month of September and all the kids start going back to school, it always reminds me that the next business year is just around the corner a few months away.  It was in September that I always started to look at our budget for the coming year and began the process of looking at our expenditures and if they appeared to pay off or not.  At the end of my full-time career I operated a 300 call funeral home – so while in the top 15% size wise of all funeral homes – it still was small enough that I could annually do a zero-based budget exercise.  That is, just start from zero and add up what I expected to expense the next year to get to a budget number.

Some firms, in all walks of business – such as the college I serve as a board member –  just add a certain percentage to what they paid out the year before and call it a budget exercise.  I’m of the opinion that is not a very good way to contain costs.  The process of zero-based budgeting is not as easy, but I would argue that it will really pay dividends and lead to a better bottom line for the owner.  And if you are like that college — with a $3.9 billion budget and 52 operating units — I still argue that the process of zero-based budgeting would be a good idea every three to five years.

So today let’s start with talking about advertising.  I’ll let you know some things that I learned on how to make it more effective at less cost.  Understand that I was in a market of about 30,000 consumers/residents so it is tailored for that as yours will have to be tailored for your own individual market.

Over the next months as you are reckoning with your 2018 budget we will discuss some options that you can ponder to improve the effectiveness and cost efficiency of your firm’s advertising.

Yellow Page Advertising — In my opinion this continues to be, even in the computer/cell phone age, a necessary form of advertising.  I learned long ago, however, about how people “read” yellow page advertising.  I had a discussion with a former yellow page sales director who told me that the most profitable ads for the yellow pages (from their perspective) was the big, photo ads, that took up a quarter page or more.  However, he also explained that is not how people read the yellow pages — they do not open up to the “F” section and start looking for big advertisements.  The consumer reads the yellow pages by going to “Funeral Homes” and running their index finger down the columns  while,  in general, already knowing the name of the funeral home they will use.  Statistics have proven that very rarely will a client family change their mind on a funeral home because of the yellow page ad.  Upon learning this, we went from a half-page photo ad to a 2-inch column ad (placed in the column under Funeral Directors) with our logo and some valuable information in.  We did this over 20 years ago and still continue to use this type of ad in the yellow pages.  We have seen no drop off in people not finding us in the yellow pages and have saved about 80% off what we used to pay for the photo ad.

You need to ask yourself, “Is this something I can do?”  That answer depends on what your comfort level is in making changes.  Change may not always be bad. . .in some cases it may be very good.[wpforms id=”436″ title=”true” description=”true”]

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