It was a picturesque Sunday afternoon and we were winding southbound through Philadelphia on Interstate 95. My wife was in the front seat and the little ones were in the back. Traffic was gridlocked because of a national event so traffic was funneling down nearby ramps onto the city streets below.
At the foot of the Broad Street ramp was a man panhandling that appeared to be homeless. He held up a tattered cardboard sign that read: “Disabled Veteran. Need Help.” I hadn’t just fallen off of a tomato truck from New Jersey so I proceeded with caution. After a brief exchange, I thanked him for his service, handed him a donation, and drove off. As I thought about the interaction later that day, it occurred that there were some advertising lessons to be learned from this homeless veteran.
Go Where the Eyeballs Are
One of the timeless rules in advertising is to go where the eyeballs are. This veteran intentionally stood at the foot of a busy off ramp. He was most likely aware of the increased traffic, including tourists, that would be in town for the well publicized national event that was in town. I suspect that he also noticed that traffic was exiting I-95 because of the ongoing gridlock.
Are you advertising in places that attract the most relevant eyeballs? In print advertising, make sure to review the magazine’s media kit to make sure your target market subscribes? You should also have a system to gauge the leads and sales coming from the ad placement. If you’re advertising online, you can measure your results in much greater detail. Take those results and tweak your placement, frequency, design, and messaging accordingly.
Stand Out by Avoiding Areas Flooded with Competitors
This veteran identified an area of Philadelphia with heavy vehicular traffic. There wasn’t a single pedestrian in sight. This allowed him to stand out in a way that would have been impossible in the inner city. A small pack of homeless people competed for attention at the bottom of a nearby ramp with much heavier pedestrian traffic.
Getting your advertisement noticed is difficult to accomplish on a crowded page or screen. Your ideal approach is to stand out by avoiding areas jam-packed with competing ads. It’s admittedly difficult to find an effective place to advertise that isn’t crowded. Most of us can easily figure out where the action is, but it’s a worthwhile effort to continue the search. If you happen to find it, establish a dominant position before the competition shows up.
Keep Your Message Simple and Clear
Does it get any more clear than “Disabled Veteran. Need Help?” This veteran understood that the message had to be short enough for passing drivers to read — Billboard Advertising 101. His message was clear as well. He identified himself as a veteran and made it clear that he needed help.
Is your messaging simple and clear? Some construction ads are jam-packed with copy, some of which is unnecessary. Whether machinery, services, materials, or qualifications, some ads try to accomplish too much. A strong construction ad briefly tells the reader who you are and what you have to offer.
Your Advertising Will Never Appeal to Everyone
This veteran had no clue who was in his audience. Some were fellow veterans. Some were patriots. And some were apathetic. He wasn’t discouraged because he knew that what he was advertising would resonate with an unknown percentage of passing motorists. He held his position.
Your ad may be attractive with a clear message and an incredible offer and you still won’t appeal to everyone. Does that mean you shouldn’t advertise? Of course not. If your ad is in the right place and it’s well done, it will strike a chord with your ideal prospect. Keep the faith.
Stir Up Emotion to Hit the Sweet Spot
Watching that veteran standing among traffic in tattered clothes struck an emotional chord. A man that served his country has no business holding his hat out to strangers. The most stoic among us are driven by emotion, even if we don’t admit to or show it. I spent the rest of that day second-guessing myself and wondering whether I should have been more generous.
Think it’s impossible to stir up emotion with an advertisement for concrete or excavators? Wrong. Doing so requires an extra level of creativity and a deeper understanding of what moves your target audience. Find that magic place and you’ll discover the power of effective advertising.
Be Prepared to Overcome Objections
When I rolled down the window to engage with this veteran, I was skeptical. Was he really homeless? Was he really a veteran? With moments to spare, I asked him about his time in the service. He quickly replied with his branch, years served, and even a battalion number. It’s possible that he fabricated this, but my guard was lowered enough to help him out.
Advertising can bring leads to your business, but the sales team may still need to overcome objections. Are you prepared to field incoming calls to convert new business? Whether phone call, website inquiry, or email, who gets the inbound leads? Are they personable, knowledgeable, and prepared to overcome common objections?
Some of the greatest lessons in life often come from unrelated situations. Most likely this homeless veteran didn’t know the first thing about effective advertising. His actions; however, serve to remind us all of the basic building blocks of effective advertising.
Whether you need ad design, copywriting, promotional materials including brochures or flyers, or help with an advertising strategy, Fraley Construction Marketing is at your service. Click here to set up a free consultation.