Marketing experts discuss playing defense

'Advertising is an investment; it's not an expense,' radio advertising sales manager says at forum

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Local pros beat the advertising drum Friday, aiming to convince business owners that a recession is the time for more - not less - marketing.

Five panel members spoke at a forum called "Good Investments in Challenging Times, Protecting Home Field." They told business owners to identify their message, identify their customers, find the best way to reach those customers and measure their advertising success.

Jenny Wall, who owns Moose Mountain Trading Co., said she had a tough time marketing until she formed a message. She decided she wanted to present her store as "nice people selling nice things to nice people." From there, Wall launched e-mail, Internet and print advertising.

"I think it's a crucial step to up your contact with your top 20 percent of customers, the people who make your business work," Wall said.

She's gotten creative, offering a promotion during which items of a chosen color were on sale the 12 days before Christmas. She employed a staff member's drawing skills to come up with a moose logo and aims to represent the store's personality with advertising.

Wall also has had success with Web marketing and her e-mail list. In November, 29 percent of her sales were online. In December, 35 percent were online.

The next speaker Friday, consultant Brian Berry, of JDB Technology Solutions, offered more Web tips. He told business people to use social networking sites, e-mails and newsletters and to find ways to get others to link to their sites.

Maintenance and awareness are crucial, Berry said. Businesses can't just build a Web site and wander off.

"The edict you get from people who experiment is that Web sites don't sell - people sell," he said. "Make your personality shine through."

The next three speakers represented the advertising side. Eli Campbell, advertising sales manager with NRC Broadcasting; Steamboat tv18 General Manager Mike Polucci; and Scott Stanford, sales and marketing director at the Steamboat Pilot & Today, spoke to the crowd. They shared several themes.

History has proven that businesses that advertise during a recession come out stronger, Campbell said. If a business slips under the radar, it will pay later, he said.

Businesses are fighting for a smaller pie, but they should be fighting for a bigger piece of it, he said. Campbell offered data showing that companies that advertise during a recession increase sales and profits.

"Advertising is an investment," he said. "It's not an expense."

Campbell echoed Wall's advice: Businesses must identify and invest in the top 20 percent of their clients.

Polucci, who has worked in media for two years, told business owners to be involved in their advertising.

"People that are successful with advertising campaigns are people who have ownership in their ad campaigns," he said. They also should ask clients what brought them in and what attracted them. That builds relationships and helps determine whether campaigns are effective, Polucci said.

Smaller businesses that can't afford ad consultants should enlist creative employees, he said. Or, Polucci noted, they can take the question to the wee ones.

"Kids are tremendously creative," he said. "Go to your kid, and ask what they'd like to see in an ad. You need to look at all your resources and be as creative as you possibly can."

Stanford also encouraged businesses to demand the best from their advertising. They should ask to see the numbers. Those numbers, for the Steamboat Today, are slipping, he said. The newspaper and 4 Points were 88 pages a year ago. On Friday, they combined for 60 pages.

"There's a lot of unrest in the newspaper print industry," Stanford said. "What we've tried to do is move to the Internet."

Page views and visits are increasing at Steamboatpilot.com and Exploresteamboat.com, he said. Stanford encouraged businesses to target their advertising to their clients, whether those clients are using Twitter or Facebook or paging through the newspaper.

Stanford told businesses they should be simple, creative and memorable with advertising campaigns. He reminded businesses to measure success and demand results.

"Your dollars are precious to you right now - really precious to you," Stanford said. "Make sure you're going to get that return on your investment."

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Economic Development Council organized the forum, sponsored by Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus and Mountain West Insurance and Financial Services. The third one, "Defending your Bottom Line: Maximizing Limited Resources," is March 13 at Rex's American Grill & Bar.

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