Outdoor

The 3C’s and 4P’s of Outdoor Marketing

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When I was working on my MBA, I took a very insightful class called Marketing Strategy that drilled the concept of the 3C’s and 4P’s into my brain. If you have not heard of this marketing concept, briefly reviewed, it is understanding your Customer and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your Competition and your Company, then taking this knowledge and adjusting your Price, Product, Place of distribution and type of Promotion to maximize your sales and profitability.

When I started my own company, I sought to take this concept a step further and applying its principles to Outdoor Marketing.

Customer

Applying this principle to outdoor marketing requires different thought than developing a TV or radio spot then deciding on which stations to play it. For instance, you must understand where does your customers travel, shop, work, eat and enjoy life outside of the home? Moreover, what are their likes and dislikes? You must truly get to know your customers because this information will be crucial in your outdoor marketing efforts and specifically in determining exactly where to place your ads.

Competition

You are not the only one who wants your potential customers. Undoubtedly, you have competition. To effectively communicate to those customers, you will need to differentiate your company from your competition and focus on your strengths and on their weaknesses. Furthermore, be sure to expand your idea of competition. You not only have direct competitors (i.e. Ford dealership vs. Toyota dealership), but you also have indirect competitors (i.e. Ford dealership vs. Mass Transit). Broaden your horizon and give adequate thought as to their strengths and weaknesses.

Think like a consumer. If you understand your customers, you will know where to advertise to reach them and your competition may not. Don’t be afraid to directly compare your strengths to their weaknesses in your outdoor advertising. Make your competitors defend themselves. The business arena is not the place to play nice guy.

Company

First and foremost list what your company can do well and, more importantly, what it cannot. It is quite painful to admit that you do not excel in all areas of your business but it is better to understand it now and not misstep and let your customers down by promoting something that you can’t delivery on.

Once you have this list, can you effectively communicate what your company does utilizing outdoor media? Can you get across your primary focus and your main strengths? Can you make it simple enough? Focus on your top two strengths that intersect with the top wants of your target customers and place your ads where they frequent. Furthermore, depending on what you want to communicate, you will need to choose the appropriate outdoor media of which there are many.

Price

If your company cannot afford to advertise on traditional billboards, which can average $2,000 per month for a major highway billboard, then you should look into other forms of outdoor and out-of-home media. You can advertise at bus stops, in malls, on diner placemats, and of course my favorite, on receptacles. The price for this media can range anywhere from $50 to $500 per month depending on which you choose and where they are located.

(Ray’s comment) In Billings, cost of the best locations in the city are owned by Lamar Advertising.  These boards are around $750 per month after a production cost of $650 per board.  Since the Montana sunshine is not as harsh as other places in the country, the vinyl used on these boards can last up to 12 months before needing replaced.  The out of home advertising options discussed by Andrew are not all available in the market.

If you are a smaller company with a small budget for advertising, alternative out-of-home media, as opposed to the traditional highway billboard, will be most effective for you. You will not be able to take the shotgun approach and advertise everywhere. You will have to be more like a sniper and target your customers (not literally, of course) using the information you’ve gathered when analyzing your customers.

Place

Where you advertise will be dictated by how you analyzed your target customer. Thus it is vitally important to truly understand your customer otherwise you could develop a fantastic message that falls on deaf ears. If your target customers are college students, you should place your message around bookstores, coffee shops, bars, and late night eateries. If your target customers are professionals, then you should place your ads on mass transit, highways into town, bus stops, and lunch-time eateries. If your target customers are stay-at-home moms, you should place your ads in malls, shopping centers, and grocery stores. Take note of your best customers and you’ll know exactly where to place your ads.

Product

Your product will most likely have many features. Depending on where you are advertising and which segments of your customer base will see your message, you will want to showcase different features of your product or service. If your message is in an upscale part of town, you will want to focus on your service and how you are customer-oriented. If you are placing your message in a lower-scale section of town, then you’ll want to focus on value and your guarantee.

Promotion

Out-of-home media can help to reinforce your existing message and you can also talk to consumers when they are out trying to make their purchase decision. With a properly placed message, you can directly influence that decision. You can place your ad near the place of business of your largest competitor. You can also place your ad near a synergistic business (i.e. if you are a tailor, you could place an ad near a fabric store). Out-of-home media provides much latitude to what you want to say to whom and when.

And do not limit yourself to thinking that out-of-home media, and more specifically outdoor media, is only billboards. There are a myriad of alternative outdoor mediums. You can also better target your message to consumers who will be most receptive to it because everyone goes somewhere at sometime. Your job is to learn this information about your customers and place your ad there through ubiquitous advertising tools such as the AshCan.

In summary, following the above steps will aid you in better understanding your business, its strengths and weaknesses and how to sell your strengths to the appropriate consumers at the right place with the right message.

Always consider out-of-home media as you can narrowly target your best potential customers and not spend a fortune doing it.

Remember, think like the big guys and perform with the nimbleness and friendliness of a little guy and you cannot go wrong.

(Ray’s comment) Billboard advertising is what most people think about when dealing with out-of-home marketing in Billings.  Some of the worst use of this valuable media is being done in Yellowstone County.  From way too many words (even at 35 miles per hour you can’t catch up) to advertising products that make NO sense (cremation services)  Billings boards are a hodge podge of noise.   Billboards are a directional media, not a place to write “War and Peace.”

Anthony Free is the President of Clean Media – Home of the AshCan, a new innovative advertising solution that combines the utility of a smoking receptacle with the functionality of being able to advertise prominently on its sides. [http://www.clean-media.com]

Anthony Free is a graduate of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University with an MBA concentration in marketing and Cornell University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

He has worked for ExxonMobil, Priceline.com, and Sunoco before most recently venturing out of his own to start Clean Media.

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