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Television advertising may still be a good move for your target market

Business owners know it’s important to keep up with the latest advertising methods, but traditional routes like television commercials might also be worth pursuing.

The number of television viewers in America today is more than 119 million. That’s a massive audience. It seems, however, that the return on investment for TV commercials might depend on how you’re using them. Brian Wasik, owner of Spas of Montana in Missoula and Helena has been using TV advertising to promote special sales and get people in the door for more than five years.

“If I’m running a two- or three-week sale,” Wasik says, “I’ll put my ad in during the first week [of the sale] to get people to come in. If I get a bunch of spa sales, I’ll run [it for] another week. I’ve yet to run a TV campaign that didn’t at least break even on people who came in directly off it.” Wasik says he tracks the ads’ effectiveness by asking customers who purchase a spa how they heard about the company.

 Top-of-mind advertising, or TOMA, is one method large companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola use. The strategy is to make consumers aware of the product, rather than presenting a call to action. Then, when consumers are ready to buy, the products they’ve seen will often be what they’ll end up purchasing.

Wasik says this may not be the approach for small retailers, however, because TV ads are pricy; the buy-in for a TOMA television ad campaign can be anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. “[TOMA] might work for big companies, but is a lot less effective for small companies. People need a reason to act now and come in the door to buy a spa.”

Instead, Wasik focuses on advertising during the morning and evening news on local stations, when homeowners with an expendable income — his demographic — will most likely be watching.

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 To minimize production costs, Wasik writes his own scripts and does many of the voiceovers for his commercials himself, utilizing video shots of his showrooms and employees. “Prime time on cable is expensive,” Wasik says. “While I could advertise during something like, The Voice, and reach a bigger audience, I probably would not get as good of ROI. I also think people channel surf less during the news than regular shows, so they are more likely to see our commercial in small market advertising.”

 Joe Stone, owner of Swim Fitness, a Master Spas showroom in Rancho Cordova, California, has used TV commercials to promote sales but recently decided to try a different tactic: He completed a two-month, large-area TV commercial campaign that played daily and aired numerous times a day on each channel to try and generate floor traffic, phone calls and website visits.

 “We brought in Michael Phelps and used materials provided by Master Spas and their professional production team,” Stone says. “After two months, I actually do not see TV as a good marketing opportunity for my geographical area. We had very poor results for the heavy money invested.”

Both Wasik and Stone says store owners should be careful when deciding how much to invest, and recommend asking other local store owners who use television advertising if they’ve had good results. “It does take some trial and error to figure that out,” Wasik says.

 Stone says he won’t be using big advertising campaigns again. “We will concentrate on digital platforms such as Google, YouTube and banner ads,” he says. “They are by far less costly and much more effective for us.”  Wasik was not so quick to dismiss television, saying he plans to continue spending money on it as long as it brings foot traffic into his stores: “I don’t know if [TV] is going to be for the generations coming up who will be spa buyers in the next 15 to 20 years,” he says. “I think, like anything, you just keep an eye on it. For now, TV commercials work for me.”