Teaching a class the other day, the topic of advertising messages came up. Just for fun I counted the advertising messages in the room at that moment. Amazingly, I saw at least 126 different messages yelling at me in one 14×24 room with 15 people. That’s a lot of clutter. Then I read an article that stated our daily commutes are so much easier because fewer people are working. I assume their facts were correct that total employment is down but I started thinking about how many people I meet every week launching new businesses who are trying to make a new name in an already crowded market. Is it possible to stand out?
While prepping this article I typed “accounting firms in Indianapolis” in my search engine and got back 55,100 hits. I then tried “graphic designers in Indianapolis” and got back 584,000 hits. Ouch—way too many to fathom. I tried yellowpages.com and found “only” 749 “Accountants—Certified Public” and 348 “Accounting Services” and 185 “Graphic Designers.” Even these lower numbers show each field overflowing with firms scrambling for the same client.
Google says each person is exposed to 400 to 5500 advertising messages per day (search on “how many advertising messages do I see a day”). Think about that. At 3000 which is in the middle of the range, assuming you sleep only 6 hours a day, you are hit with 167 messages per hour or 2.8 messages per second. No wonder cable television and satellite radio are so popular.
Advertising messages today must not simply cut through the clutter but completely erase it. Business has to make all the other messages irrelevant in the ears and eyes of its target. Doing so is not as difficult as it seems as long as you know:
1) what people buy from you and
2) who is most likely to buy it
People never buy what you do; they buy the results or effects of what you do. People buy what you give them, not how you get them there. The tools you use are cool and fun to you because you like using them. If your client liked using your tools they wouldn’t be your client, they’d be your competitor. Too many people confuse process with outcome. To find out what people buy from you, ask them. Buy your clients a coffee or lunch and ask, “At the end of day, what are you really buying from me?” Listen carefully, take notes, and don’t reinterpret what is said. Their words need to become your words in your advertising message.
After you know what people buy, you can choose who is most likely to buy it. Is that contradictory to my second point? Not at all because the reality is you can choose your target market. Your target market is a function of your message which controls your branding. Your advertising message defines your target market by both word choice and focusing on results that are only of interest to your narrowly defined market. Are you adding to the clutter? Not when your message is poignantly more focused than the competition. When you define your market, really define it. Draw an indisputable border around it, and then own that market with a message that will make all other less focused competitors disappear in the fog of clutter.
Let’s look at two examples. Are you looking to buy or sell a home? There are thousands of realtors in central Indiana, all happy to help you. Nathan Phaler knows because he’s one of them. But Nathan would really like you to call him if you are interested in buying or selling a historic home in the Irvington or downtown Indianapolis area. Why? Because in the clutter of thousands of realtors, Nathan has decided to be “the” historic home realtor in his personal branding, his marketing, and his focus because he knows the market, he lives there, and he talks about his focus in his marketing.
Maybe you need accounting help. Earlier we read of hundreds of accountant types in the Indianapolis area. If you happen to be a horse farm or in the equine industry, then you are looking only for Jennifer Foster of Foster Results. Why? Because she has decided to be “the” accounting services firm for that market from Michigan to Kentucky. How? By declaring it, talking about it, focusing on it, calling on it, and being known in it.
Who will buy your product is a function of message and focus. After finding out what your market is really buying from you, the next step is to communicate consistently with that market in a manner that shows without any doubt that you are the only person focused on that market. When you target your message to your market using your clients’ words, your competitors’ messages will become the clutter, and yours will become the headline.