How To Advertise Against Wal-Mart,
K-Mart, Target And Win

by Tom Egelhoff

Over and over business owners will tell me, "We just don't have the advertising budget to compete with our bigger competitors." Sorry, that argument just won't hold water.

I know that you don't have the millions of a Wal-Mart® or Microsoft® but that doesn't mean you can't compete against them. Let's explore some quick advertising fundamentals then I will show you some ways to win against these giants.

Why Advertise

In order to compete with larger competitors you must first understand why a company, any company, advertises in the first place. There are three primary reasons.

1. You must let customers know that there is, in fact, an existing business. You have products are services and are available to do business.

2. To entice people to buy from you. You present the benefits of your products and services in the form of advertising in the hopes of convincing your target market that your product will solve their problem. See: "Understanding Why Customers Buy."

3. Advertising is also used to establish, or in some cases, change a companies image.

My #1 Iron Clad Advertising Rule

If you are a regular here you have heard the following over and over again. That's because it's the true secret to beating the big guys. That rule is, Advertising must always be an investment, never an expense.

I realize that it sure seems like an expense when you are signing the check to the radio station, newspaper or printer. But the end result of all advertising must produce paying customers. These customers must generate more profit than your advertising costs. When this happens your advertising actually becomes free. It pays for itself and you can continue to do it forever. And as your business grows so does your ability to advertise more often to your target market.

My #2 Iron Clad Advertising Rule

My number 2 rule is; "When emotion and logic come into conflict, emotion always wins." What that means is that we buy based on emotion not logic. We may pretend to compare the merits of two products but we really don't. We make an emotional decision then create a logical argument to support our decision.

Using these two rules in your advertising will further separate you from the bigger competition because most do not adhere to either rule.

How To Create A Plan To Take On The Mass Merchants

On the surface it may seem that you see your competitors advertising everywhere. TV, radio, newspapers. But the truth is that most of that advertising never really reaches their target market. A large portion of their ad budget is wasted and the cost of advertising to produce a customer is higher than it would be for you.

In short, if your advertising is in sync with my "iron clad rule" you can compete with anyone. Now, let's explore an advertising plan that works.

Creating A Plan To Beat The Mass Merchants

As I mentioned above, most larger companies advertise inefficiently. They do national advertising which doesn't account for the diversity of individual small towns and cities. You, on the other, hand have the ability to direct your advertising to your local target market.

Major advertisers will also reach this market but not with the same home town flavor you can. Most small town people prefer to support local merchants whenever they can.

Here are some steps to think about as you create your advertising plan.

  • Know your market and your customers - As stated above, most large companies use the "shotgun" method of advertising. They hope some of the buckshot will reach their customers. You, on the other hand, being local, can use the rifle approach and target your advertising only to your specific target market. See: "Target Marketing: Who They Are, How To Find Them"

  • What do you want your advertising to accomplish? - In order to comply with my "iron clad rule", your advertising must have very specific goals. When you have clearly defined goals it's much easier to create a plan which will accomplish those goals.

  • Create an advertising budget - It may be several thousand dollars or as little as $25.00 a week. Create a budget and stick to it as much as possible. Some months you may do less other months you may do more. But at the end of the year you should be within your budget. One of the most popular is a "percentage of anticipated sales." You assume your plan will work and the business will grow. You spend a percentage of sales you expect the advertising to create. See: "How To Advertise: Planning Your Ad Budget Strategy."

  • Be creative - To most people this means funny commercials. Don't try to be humorous in your advertising. But there are creative ways to say your message. Ask your employees and/or friends and customers for suggestions on how they see your business. You may be surprised at how they see you.

  • Choose the right media - In order for advertising to be an investment it must reach the right people...your target market. Do the research from the Target Marketing article above and make sure you know who you are trying to reach and how to reach them. The more effective you are at this the less per customer your advertising will cost.

  • Don't get discouraged - This is probably a new venture for you. It takes time to get it right. If your plan doesn't seem to be working, don't give up. Try and evaluate what happened. Ask customers if they saw or heard your ads. Rome wasn't built in a day. Few successful businesses where built on their first ad strategy.

The Last Word On Beating The Big Guys

Keep in mind that successful advertising is knowing and reaching your target market with your creative message. Also, you don't want to forget the two iron clad rules when creating your ad plan.

As long as you are doing those two things you can compete with anyone.

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