This article will take a look at what advertising can do for your wet leisure company. How should you be advertising, where, why and to whom? Is advertising a luxury or a necessity?
Is my pool company a brand or a business?
People talk about ‘big brands’ and ‘brand advertising’ in a way that makes you think it is the exclusive preserve of multinationals and companies with a turnover in the millions.
Not true. A brand is a company, business or product that customers, consumers and clients have a relationship with. A brand is a business that stands for something, believes in something and delivers and sticks to those promises. So a one-man-band can be a brand by being known by his or her customers as reliable or responsible or excellent or perhaps even all three.
It might even be easier for that one-man business to stick to its brand values than it is for a huge multinational; because a brand is a company’s personality.
Elsewhere on this site we have talked about marketing plans and marketing strategy. A marketing strategy helps you define your brand values – the two or three things that your pool company is most clearly known for. Or, if you like, the aspects of its personality that most quickly come to mind when people think about that business.
A well-defined brand – like a great personality – helps you attract customers and not only that, it helps you attract the sort of customers that you will do the best business with.
You can’t really choose whether to be a brand or not. The market will decide what it is that your business has a reputation for, even if you don’t manage the process. The point is, that with brand management you can go a long way to choosing what that reputation is all about.
Advertising. Who needs it?
Advertising, sorry to say, is an art and not a science. Someone once said, ‘I know that half my advertising budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half.’
However, like all the best arts advertising can be refined and focussed. The first things to think about are who you are hoping to speak to, who are you trying to sell to? Your new customers are quite likely to share some characteristics with your existing customers – perhaps in where they live, how old they are, what sort of jobs they have and what other things they are interested in.
Marketing is mostly about seeing the world from your client’s point of view. Is your pool customer going to be reasonably well off, interested in health and fitness, perhaps with a growing family and living within a hundred miles or so of your business? Then, what sort of media are they going to be looking at? The TV might seem too expensive, but local ITV channels often have impressive deals for new advertisers.
When people think about pools they often see their children playing in them. Could you help a local school build or maintain its own pool? If you can and let it be known, that’s advertising.
People who are concerned with their own health and fitness may well be a member of a gym or visit the local sports centre. Many of these environments now have an area to advertise in or a magazine to buy advertising space in.
Knowing who your potential customers are can give you real insight into what media to choose. It will also give you an idea about what sort of message to be putting across. Once again, try and put yourself in the mind of your customer. Try and think what sort of message or image would most appeal to them. An advert with a good idea is more powerful than one with a pretty picture. Ideas resonate and stay with people long after a picture alone has faded from the memory.
Events, shows and offers.
It’s quite often possible to take a stand at a national or local show or become involved in some form of local event. This is all advertising too and has the advantage of allowing you to meet potential customers face to face.
To make this form of advertising as effective as possible try and give your stand some sort of theme which will make it stand out on the day and in people’s memories. All the people who work on the stand should try as hard as possible to engage with the visitors and encourage them to ask questions and take away sales material. It’s also a really good idea to try and get the names and contact details of everyone who visits your stand so that you can follow up with direct mail as and when appropriate.
You should also try to let as many people as possible know that you will be attending a particular show before the event. Send out invites and perhaps run some sort of competition that will attract attention and increase footfall on the day.
If your competition is memorable enough or your stand has a particularly striking theme, there may also be the opportunity to get some sort of PR coverage in specialist, local or possibly even the national press.
An advertising budget.
Setting yourself an advertising budget gives you an idea on what options might be available to your pool business. Every advertiser works to some form of budget be it large or small and so, of all the options and opportunities available to them, they have to choose what they think will provide the best return on investment. The more they know their customers and the more they focus their marketing strategy, the easier these decisions are to take.
As a rule of thumb, you should probably start by considering a budget for advertising that is about 5% of your annual revenue. Start with that figure and then adjust up or down a little according to results.
The other major advantage of setting yourself an advertising budget and having a clear marketing strategy is that it makes it easier to decide how to react to all the offers of advertising opportunities that will be presented to you throughout the year; the Fire Brigade calendar, the new local free sheet, the business card rack on the supermarket wall. These offers are only good for your business if they target your segment of the market and they reflect the brand image of your pool business.
Keeping a track.
The only way that you will be able to tell which of your methods of advertising is being most successful is by monitoring where new enquiries come from.
Ask people where it was they heard about your company when they ring or walk in to enquire about a pool or one of your other services. Keep a track of where all the new leads originated and every few months take a look to see what trends are developing, which media and which messages are doing the best.