By Patrick B. Smid
There’s no time like the present to advertise. When the economy is strong and demand is high, your water treatment business needs to maximize its opportunity for sales. But, when the economy is slow and demand is off, advertising becomes more of a matter of survival. Your advertising message may change, but if your business is to grow, it must answer this question: How do I get my message to the public?
The answers range from retaining a full-service advertising agency to hiring an in-house staff. In any case, a careful coordination of efforts is needed to ensure that the advertised message is consistent with the products and services you offer and the budget you can afford. Let’s look at what appears to be the most obvious answer at first glance: the full-service ad agency.
A full-service agency can handle the creativity, production and placement of ads for you. The agency assigns an ac- count executive as a liaison between your staff and agency personnel. The first thing an agency will do is learn what makes your water treatment company special in the marketplace. If the agency has a marketing department, they may also analyze opportunities for you to direct your business towards. Once an image and direction for your business are agreed upon, the agency should present an annual calendar showing how, when and at what price your market will be reached. A consistent message and presence are key to your success.
Working behind the scenes at the ad agency are a creative director, artists, writers and media placement specialists. They handle every aspect of developing a campaign, subject to your approval. Although a full-service agency assumes the advertising workload for you, responsibility for the cost effectiveness of the campaign can never be surrendered by your business. Someone on your staff must work very closely with the agency to make sure your business is being properly represented and that expenses are in line with budgets.
If your ad plans call for extensive media placement, a major part of an agency’s fees will be covered with a 15-percent charge added to the placement cost of the media. If your business is doing more direct mail, direct sales, trade shows and the like, the agency may charge a monthly retainer plus expenses, or an hourly rate plus expenses. Whichever form of payment is agreed upon, an agency offers convenience, talent and experience that would otherwise be supplied or coordinated by your staff. This option can be difficult to manage but offers the potential for greater creative control and lower costs.
There are two avenues to travel when deciding on how to implement staff- directed advertising programs. Staffing your business with a creative director, writers, artists and media placement personnel is an expensive proposition. Top creative people command high salaries and yet you may not have the workload necessary to justify them full-time. Production-only houses, independent media placement shops and freelance talent are the viable alternatives. With an experienced advertising manager on your payroll, the freelance talent pool available in every major city can be employed on a project-by-project basis. Not only are their fees usually less than their equivalents at a full-service agency, you have a better opportunity to match the right person to the right job. And, you only pay them when you need them.
Crucial to the successful use of free- lance talent is their coordination through your advertising manager. This person performs the same role as an agency’s account executive and is the direct link between your staff and freelance creative talent. The strength of this individual determines the effectiveness of your ads and the integrity of your budget.
When searching for the right people to handle your advertising, agency or freelancer, ask to see a client list and port- folio of previous work. Look for people who have worked with businesses that have goals similar to yours. In advertising, as other fields, direct experience counts! You’ll find a large number of both agencies and freelancers to choose from. Interview as many as possible and make sure that the work you’re shown was done by people still on staff. And finally, remember that advertising is susceptible to interpretation; find people with whom you can communicate!
You’ll find that advertising in the best of times can increase your growth rate exponentially. Advertising when times are bad not only helps your business survive, it positions it for growth when times improve.