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DIY Advertising... Tread Carefully

The current widespread drive by businesses to lower costs and to save money has contributed to increasing instances of the advertising function being “brought in-house” and being done by small business owners. The consequential declines in professionalism and appeal are conspicuous. Sales, profits, images, consumer satisfaction and loyalties have been impacted. Such practices are typically not the sole causal factors for adverse trends. However, they are exacerbating very taxing circumstances. Perhaps now is the time for businesses to progress from DIY (Do It Yourself ) advertising to DIFM (Do It For Me).

By Barry Urquhart

Many direct−mail−pieces and hardcopy catalogues for hardware retailers, homeware networks, electrical contractors, plumbers, tradespeople and discount operations suffer from the same deficiencies

The internet gives access to a seemingly limitless array of applications, information, graphics and capacity.

For the uninitiated, unskilled, naive, but often well-intentioned, it exposes owners, managers and the business to the prospect of mediocrity and, possibly, embarrassing incompetence. Beware unskilled endeavours online (and in life generally).

Internally generated images of entities, properties and individuals are often unprofessional and compromised, and responses marginalised.

Evidence abounds in all media and public presences. The poor quality, irrelevance, unappealing presentation and marginal readability of much real estate advertising and promotion are proof-positive of the contention.

Newspaper advertising volumes for the real estate sector are down by as much as 80% in some mass circulation publications. Among the common responses by those in the real estate sector is that the blame lies with the medium, rather than the content.

A close study and analysis of what pages are left for reading by intending home buyers quickly highlight a regression to the 1950s and early 60s: the “selling era” has been reborn.

A bias to Product, Price and Place is occasionally relieved by a focus on Person. Photographs for most real estate agents appear to have been taken on a mobile phone and transmitted direct to the publication. Any consideration of quality appears to have been overwhelmed by an emphasis on costsaving. False economy indeed.

Would you buy a home from the person featured in such photographs?

Many direct−mail−pieces and hardcopy catalogues for hardware retailers, homeware networks, electrical contractors, plumbers, tradespeople and discount operations suffer from the same deficiencies. Little wonder response rates from direct-response communications have halved during the past five years.

In many sale and discount catalogues the things that are most discounted are the images and brands of the company, the products and the services.

LOW COST, LOW RESPONSE
A large pool of experienced, qualified, creative and innovative advertising professionals, including wordsmiths, graphic designers, media planners and strategists exists throughout Australia. They are largely unrecognised, under-valued, underutilised and begging for the chance to address challenges and provide effective inputs for clients who value quality.

The costs of such talents are a sensitive issue, one which overwhelms appreciation of the value inherent in such intellectual property.

It is these professionals who appreciate the roles and importance of target-marketed communications, with a strong element of emotion that provides the foundations for establishing, sustaining and enhancing a compelling reason for customers and clients to visit (on-line and in person), to stay longer, to purchase, to revisit, to reconnect and, above all, to become strong brand advocates.

SAVE OR MAKE MONEY
The pervasive, enveloping forces of the current tight and competitive local, national and global economies and marketplaces have, understandably, been instrumental in instilling a sense of need and a strong drive for business owners and managers to undertake actions that save money. Save me, please!

The essence of commerce, enterprise, entrepreneurism and business is to make money, not to save money. The two are, in many respects, divergent mind-sets.

Eliminating risk taking and constantly lowering costs ultimately lead to inertia, regression, entropy and loss.

In a marketplace that is experiencing widespread reductions in communication, (volume and quality), the effect of an ability to stand-out, to make an impact, to resonate and to influence with wellcrafted and executed advertising, marketing, merchandising, promotions and selling is immense. But, the full potential will not be realised by DIY (Do It Yourself) advertising in particular.

RESPECT
Overall, greater and more consistent respect needs to be assigned to corporate identification packages, brands, packaging, premises and staff presentations.

Now, more so than for any time in the past decade, disciplined adherence to standards must be invoked and maintained.

Advice, input and feedback from life partners, family members, employees and close associates do not qualify or achieve the status of objective, detailed and professional contributions.

DIFM MARKETPLACE
Significant strategic and structural changes in buying patterns and preference have been conspicuous and influential in European and North American marketplaces. There has been noticeable progression from the DIY (Do It Yourself) market segments in hardware, food and a host of other categories to DIFM. That is, “Do It For Me”.

Consumers are happy to pay for the service, the professionalism and enhanced presentations.

Sadly, Australian businesses have been slow to embrace the service and its opportunities.

In advertising, marketing, merchandising and promotions there is much to be gained by those who have recently lapsed into DIY advertising to evolve, develop and progress to DIFM advertising.

The selection and placement of fonts, wordings, headlines, graphics and the selective use of spacing are an art form.

The innate nuances have multiplying and magnifying impacts on consumers’ responses and actions. This is simply an aspect of advertising and marketing that should be left to the professionals. Personal preferences have little relevance.


Barry Urquhart, Managing Director of Marketing Focus, Perth, is a former lecturer in Management and Marketing at the Curtin University of Technology in Australia. He is an internationally recognised facilitator of interactive strategic planning workshops and conference keynote speaking.