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Effectivness of Print Ads in Real Estate Listings

In today’s economy, it’s more important than ever to make the most of your advertising dollars. Problem is, it isn’t easy to gauge the effectiveness of an ad campaign or determine which parts of it work best.

“Advertising is not a science — it meets the classic definition of an educated guess,” says Nancy Haynes, a principal at Collins, Haynes & Lully Advertising in Charlotte.

The best way to measure advertising effectiveness is through a research-intensive tracking study, notes Mike Scardino, chief creative officer at Barnhardt, Day & Hines, a Concord-based advertising firm.

But that can be costly.

Still, there are several inexpensive steps small-business owners can take to help determine if they are spending their ad budget wisely.

For example, says Kent Panther, vice president of strategic planning at local ad agency Wray Ward, ask callers and shoppers how they became aware of your company. You can sometimes accomplish that by putting a code on your coupons or making special offers in particular media outlets.

Panther also recommends setting specific objectives for your ads. For instance, your goal could be to increase customer traffic 5% or to boost sales among repeat customers. Then monitor what actually happens.

Scardino suggests running ads with two different themes — say, one focusing on price, the other on your company’s reputation — with a different phone number for customers to respond to each one. The line that rings more frequently will tell you which ad works better.

If you advertise in the Yellow Pages, consider listing a different phone number in that publication to see how often it is used.

Haynes suggests a similar approach. Run the same basic ad in different media, but feature a different Web-site address for each individual medium you advertise in. Each Web address can take the user to a common portal, such as your standard company Web site. But you can track where the hits come from to measure each media outlet’s effectiveness.

“You want to fish where the fish are,” Haynes says.

However, she notes, customers don’t make purchasing decisions in a vacuum. They may hear your radio commercials for several weeks, then see a print or billboard ad for your company before they decide to contact your company or go to its Web site.

That’s one reason why it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of a particular ad.

Ultimately, “the proof of the pudding is in the bottom line,” Scardino says.

You need to be patient in seeing results. Haynes suggests letting a campaign run 13 weeks before trying to determine whether it is producing an acceptable return on investment.

If you don’t achieve the sales you want, be sure you understand why. Lackluster sales could be the result of poor customer service, for example.

“Advertising is only one part of the marketing mix,” Haynes says. “Be prepared to give good value. Make sure when people get there, they are happy. If people have a good experience, they’ll tell one or two people. If they have a bad one, they’ll tell everyone.”

Also, remember that “the only thing advertising can give you is traffic,” Haynes adds. “If you are not converting traffic to sales — if there is a huge disparity between traffic and sales — your ads may be drawing in the wrong people. For a good return on your investment, make sure you are advertising the right product to the right market.”

TOPTIPS
Try a variety of ways to discover how customers found out about your company or what drove them to you.
Advertise in different media or with different messages, then compare the results to see what works best.
Give your ad campaign plenty of time –13 weeks or so — before deciding whether it is meeting your objectives.
Explore whether your sales problems are caused by factors other than your company’s ads.

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