Great sales professionals understand that their first task in a cold sales call is to turn the interruption into a conversation. That gives knowledgeable, time-served salespeople a great advantage, because having areas of mutual interest makes it much easier for them to get that conversation going. Even these salespeople will prefer not to be making cold calls in the first place though: it’s much better to join in a conversation which is already under way.
When it comes to advertising, this experience has traditionally been ignored. As an advertiser, you’ve been sold interruptive advertising – the equivalent of the cold call – by clever salespeople who know what they’re doing. However, that’s all a display advertisement usually is: something which aims to awkwardly divert the attention of prospects who were doing something else. It’s never the best way to start a conversation, as the best salespeople know only too well. If you’re going to interrupt someone, there’d better be a good reason, and it’s a rare trade press advert which can overcome that barrier.
So, what’s the alternative? The best way is to target your advertising at environments where people will be receptive to it, which explains the continued success of “special features” in magazines. No prospect is going to be reading these themed news roundups unless they’re genuinely interested in the subject matter, and although the adverts are still interrupting the editorial, if they concentrate on benefits rather than features, they can be perceived as helpful, rather than annoying. Although as an editor I disliked “advertorial”, I could always see why it might be effective, so long as the tone wasn’t too out of place.
That’s why search advertising online has been so astonishingly successful. It’s the next step in advertising, because it simply can’t be done in print. Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to think that many businesses would spend their entire advertising budgets on small text adverts on the web, but that’s exactly what’s happening right now. You can’t advertise everywhere, so it makes sense to exhaust the potential of what’s working best before moving on. Few industrial and scientific companies who take it seriously have found the limits of search advertising online yet.
Imagine that you sell a niche product, small blue widgets, and that your best compromise for advertising has always been Widgets and More magazine, on the basis that although its circulation is far broader than your customer base, it’s at least got some focus. Then imagine that an advertising sales rep approaches you with a new title specifically for your sector, not just Blue Widgets but actually Small Blue Widgets. That would be attractive enough. But then you’re told that the magazine is so focused that it’s available not to the entire group of people interested in small blue widgets, but just to those who are actively searching for something new. Now they’re talking.
And it gets better. The advertising is not going to be interruptive, but presented in a way which blends in with what they’re expecting. I think you’d cancel what you’ve been doing to give this a try, wouldn’t you?
Oh, and by the way, there’s no charge for the advertising if it doesn’t get results. You only pay for the people who respond to your advert.