5 Advertising Strategies Working Now

Last updated: January 14, 2022 | By Mike Davis

Reading time: 8 minutes

It can’t be overstated: 2020 threw everyone for a loop. Millions of Americans were (and continue to be) impacted by COVID-19, both personally and professionally. But the resiliency of our nation’s business owners, workers and families has been nothing short of remarkable.

As a glass-full type of guy, I have to believe things are looking up… and thankfully, the numbers echo this sentiment.

Our economy is bouncing back. Consumer confidence is on the rise. There is hope.

The vaccine rollout is leading to fewer restrictions on businesses, which will most likely result in a strong second half of the year – we’re projected to end 2021 with a 6.5% growth in GDP.

But not all spending and shopping habits will return to pre-pandemic behaviors; some changes are here to stay. Advertising that effectively acknowledges these changes and will help businesses rebuild, rebound and grow. Here are 5 advertising strategies that are working for the thousands of businesses Valpak serves – and our own.

1. Adapt to New Shopping Behaviors (And Beliefs)

88% of customers expect companies to ramp up digital initiatives as a result of COVID-19, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Consumer report. We’ve seen that at Valpak as well.

The pandemic was a catalyst that drove unprecedented demand for contactless services. Small businesses embraced technologies they may not have otherwise considered, like Quick Response (QR) codes. And, in turn, consumers familiarized themselves with technologies they may not have otherwise used.

QR code adoption has benefited businesses and consumers. The codes are inexpensive to procure, convenient to use and completely contactless. Restaurant menus, reservation portals, touchless payments, etc., can now be easily accessed with any smartphone camera. Promotion and usage of contactless services like QR codes is likely here to stay too, particularly within certain industries.

Take the restaurant industry, which has been one of the hardest hit. Many restaurants simply weren’t prepared for curbside pickup, takeout and online ordering but quickly adapted to operational mandates and to meet customer demand. Some even forged new partnerships with food delivery services. Through the first 10 weeks of the pandemic, restaurant delivery advertising was down just ~5%. All things considered, that’s pretty remarkable.

At some point, the “six-foot rule” will cease and stores will return to 100% capacity. But I anticipate technology-based buying and selling will remain. Customers relish the additional convenience – and show no indication they’re ready or willing to let that convenience go.

Salesforce also explored customer engagement as it relates to shifts in demand. The study found 69% of respondents want companies to translate the products and services they’re familiar with and have enjoyed all along into new formats – especially creating digital versions of in-person experiences. As expected, younger generations welcome the transition to digital channels without reservations. But even older generations have grown accustomed to using a digital wallet instead of a leather one.

2. Reach Consumers Across Channels

Consumers use multiple channels to shop, often researching a product on one, purchasing it on another and reviewing that same product on yet another channel. So how do you choose the best channels for your business?

With millions of Americans staying, learning and working from home, start with the channels that reach them there.

Social media, for example, offers consumers the chance to connect with “the outside world” and advertisers the chance to target their messaging at a relatively cost-effective rate via a relatively intuitive interface. Mobile display and direct mail afford even greater targeting capabilities with far fewer competitors vying for attention.

Other channels, like email marketing, have fared less well. From 2019 to 2020, email open rates declined by 3% as email fatigue set in. Face-to-face conversations and work meetings have been replaced by emails and networking apps (think Slack, Teams, Skype, etc.). After a long day of communicating via email, the average person isn’t checking their inbox in their downtime.

The pandemic only intensified the decline in advertising effectiveness for radio, newspaper and TV advertising too, once tried-and-true channels. Same goes with outdoor advertising – less people on the road/using public transportation = fewer eyeballs on your ad.

Conversely (and thankfully) direct mail thrived as these traditional industry strongholds weakened. Advertisers reached people at home who were most likely to do business with them. And it paid off.

3. Utilize Data to Sell More Effectively

Close your eyes and think of your ideal customer. Who are they? Where do they live? What do they do for work? For fun? How do they shop? How do they want to be advertised to?

With modern data advancements, you can target by demographics, purchasing power, shopper behavior, even create lookalike audiences from your customer data. There are literally thousands of possibilities that enable you to pinpoint exactly who sees your ad and when.

Data sources can be updated as often as weekly. What worked six months ago may not work now. It’s important to hire a vendor that utilizes the most current data available, so your advertising campaigns are appropriately tailored to target consumers when it matters most (when they’re ready to purchase). Then, you can retarget this audience using a different channel.

For instance, you can use direct mail to reach homeowners with higher incomes who spend more on what you sell than the local average, then retarget these same consumers with display ads on digital devices within the same homes. Combining print and digital advertising – one of the most popular methods of multichannel advertising – can increase conversions by 28%. That’s a pretty effective 1-2 punch. Now add personalization through data collection to deliver a TKO!

4. Personalize Your Messaging by Audience

Once you identify your ideal customer, it’s time to craft your message. Personalization will help you stand out, give you a competitive edge and further solidify your customer relationships.

Consumers crave personalization because they rarely get it. A recent survey found 31% of customers wish their shopping experiences were more personalized. If you’re asking, “How do I do that?” it starts with data. Come to think of it, most marketing today starts and ends with data.

Personalization uses data collection to extend personal experiences to your customers, from adding their first names in email subject lines to creating custom shopping events based on their likes and interests. And make it seamless across your marketing channels.

Send a happy birthday postcard to a potential customer that fits your criteria, inviting them to stop by your store for a discount. Then follow that up with a social media ad touting your high customer reviews. Or welcome a new homeowner to your service area with a small gift, followed by a quick email to confirm they received the package.

It may sound like a lot of effort but it’s worth it! Evergage conducted a survey among marketers on the value of personalization. 96% of respondents said it helped them advance customer relationships. 88% said they felt a measurable lift in business results. 61% said that personalization helped them deliver a better customer experience.

Ready for the biggest kicker of all?

81% of consumers are willing to provide their basic information to get a personalized experience. 79% agree they’re more loyal to brands that use personalization tactics.

Customer loyalty drives retention. It’s those loyal, repeat customers who will sustain your business through the ebbs and flows.

5. Whatever You Do, Just Advertise!

At the onset of the pandemic, it felt like the economy was on the edge of a precipice. State/local regulations and ordinances brought a fear of the unknown to businesses across the U.S. Thousands of business owners had to conserve as much cashflow as possible and for many, that meant advertising didn’t cross their minds.

It makes sense – it’s tough to spend money when there isn’t much coming in. But, believe it or not, that’s actually flawed thinking: During periods of economic downturn, studies have shown that short-term sales growth from direct mail advertising increases.

Here’s some insight as to why.

First, if you advertise when your competitors don’t, all eyes are on your business.

Advertising also affects how consumers view your business. A Twitter study from April 2020 found 77% of users felt more positively about brands that advertised support for society/their communities. Ikea’s advertising campaign in the spring of 2020 garnered a positive response (translating to higher sales) with their #StayAtHome ads, which aligned with people’s new lifestyles.

Even more so, consumers want businesses to advertise in general.

How else will they find out about new product offerings and changes in operations if you don’t tell them? Advertising gives consumers confidence in your business and a sense of normalcy.

You don’t have to take out a 30-second primetime ad on the local network affiliate to be effective. Advertising comes in all forms – you just need to figure out what works best for your business and your budget.

Be Realistic and Ask Questions

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is this: Be realistic about what you know, what you can manage and what you can afford. And ask questions.

As decision-makers, we often struggle to ask for help. But a strong leader understands the importance of seeking the expertise of others when it’s needed. Reach out to your local chamber of commerce, find networking groups on LinkedIn or join professional organizations. Listen to what works for your peers and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to try an avenue you haven’t considered before.

Bear in mind that keeping it local should be a top priority. With few exceptions, your customers live in the area that surrounds your business (that’s where you’re going to find new customers too).

That means “support local” should be more than a catchy phrase. Consumers support businesses that support their communities.

It goes beyond giving discounts or free meals to first responders. It’s hiring local, partnering with other local businesses and actively working in your community to make it a better place.

The strategies shared here are designed to work for all business categories. Although everyone’s experience is unique, we all have common ground: to help businesses grow so our neighborhoods thrive.

– Mike Davis, Valpak CEO

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