How much money do you think is spent on advertising by the hospitality industry each year? More importantly, how much of this money do you think is wasted? I believe about 80% of the advertisements I see for restaurants, hotels and other hospitality business contain flaws that render the exercise an expensive waste of time.
Grab a copy of the hospitality supplement in your regional newspaper. Scan the pages the way you would when you are reading the articles — how many of the ads capture your attention? How many do you read completely? Precious few, I’ll bet — and you have a vested interest because you’re in the industry. What about the public? For an advertisement to be successful it must satisfy three criteria: it must have the right message; it must use the right vehicle; and it must be presented at the right time.
Let’s take the message first — how do you construct a successful advertising message? By adhering to the AIDA principle. AIDA is an acronym, it stands for: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
Firstly, a good ad captures your attention from among the clutter of other advertising messages. This is normally done with the use of a ‘hook’ — a clever headline or graphic that relates to the needs of the reader, not the needs of the advertiser. Take, for example, a function business with a speciality in weddings. The headline: ‘I do . . .’ in big type and on the next line: ‘Special words need a special venue’. . . is likely to strike a direct chord with any person involved in the organisation of an upcoming wedding. The headline ‘Starlight Reception Centre, we specialise in weddings and conferences’ is not.
A depressing number of the ads I see are of the variety nicknamed ‘we’re here’ ads. You’ve all seen them, they go something like this: ‘Fred Bloggs Bar and Cafe, International Cusine, open seven days a week’. So what? What is Fred Bloggs going to do for me? A successful ad must clearly address the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude of the reader.
I find it useful to construct advertising hooks by listing the features of the business and then converting them to benefits to the customer — but be careful, good food is not a feature, nor is attractive decor — they are expectations. A feature is something reasonably unique that differentiates your business from those around you, like a spectacular view or ten different varieties of oysters. If you can’t sit down and list four or five strong features of your business, you haven’t got much to sell. You would be better off spending your money creating features than trying to coerce the public to come on an advertising promise that amounts to: ‘we’re average!’
After addressing the ‘what’s in it for me’ question, a good ad should go on to justify it’s claims and tell the reader how to respond. The name of your business should be at the bottom, not the top. You have to give people a reason to memorise your business name before you reveal it, otherwise they will scan over it without filing it away mentally.
The second big issue in a successful ad is the vehicle it uses. By vehicle I mean: is it in a newspaper or magazine, or is it a poster, sign, flyer or direct mail letter, etc.? Let’s go back to our ad in the newspaper. What is the trading radius of your hospitality business? If you’re not familiar with this term, your trading radius is the area from which 90% of your customers come. Most restaurants have a trading radius of about eight to ten kilometres. What then is the logic of placing an ad in a newspaper supplement that is aimed at people who work in the industry and is distributed some 800 kilometres beyond your trading radius?
Consider the mathematics: the newspaper has a readership of, 300,000 people. Out of this 300,000 only 10,000 are in your trading radius. Out of this 10,000 only 2,000 read the hospitality supplement. Out of this 2,000 only 500 seriously scan the advertisements, and 20 read your ad (assuming it is well constructed). Out of the twenty people who read the ad, one is looking for a new restaurant experience. How much did the ad cost? Maybe $250 or more. For $250 I could print and hand out a lot of flyers at my local shopping centre, or I could distribute a swag of direct mail letters to club social secretaries in my district.
Your choice of advertising vehicle is critical to cost effective marketing. Many a good message has been wasted by putting it in the wrong place. The question is not: ‘is newspaper advertising effective?’ it is: ‘can I make my dollars go further by using a different, more effective advertising vehicle?’
The timing of advertising is also important. If my company brochure lands in Monday or Tuesday’s mail it is a lot more effective than if it lands on a Friday, because people are busier on Friday. Similarly, if you advertise for Christmas functions in September or October, you will get a far better response than you would if you advertised in November or December, when most Christmas functions have already been planned.
I’d love money for every time I’ve heard ‘I’ve tried it, but it didn’t work’. If I go back and review what they’ve done, I often find they have the right message on the wrong vehicle, vice versa, or the timing was wrong. If you come to an incorrect assumption about why your advertising didn’t work, you will shoot yourself in the foot by ignoring viable options in the future — and that’s what a lot of business owners do.