It happened again: A client of ours was speaking with one of their customers and mentioned that our agency was doing the marketing for them. The response was, “Oh, yeah, I hear they’re good but they’re expensive!”
Our client doesn’t think so, given that their marketing has resulted in more business than they’ve ever had. But one more time, someone has used the “E-Word” without any substantiation.
So, with no intention of sounding self-serving, let’s tackle this head-on, shall we? What does “Expensive” mean? And what exactly is their point of reference, in other words, expensive compared to what?
(By the way, “good but expensive” has been a line that has cropped up at every – and I mean every – advertising and marketing firm I’ve ever worked at, not just my own.)
Here are some reference points that are often cited as measures of what is and isn’t expensive:
- Having one’s TV commercials created by the local cable station isn’t expensive. Aside from the fact that they really aren’t imaginative, not well-produced and don’t get the attention of anybody but the people on your own staff.
- Having the newspaper or magazine’s sale department create the ad isn’t expensive. Although it’s unlikely that the ad will get anyone talking about it or take the desired action that justifies the media expense – coupon ads excepted.
- Creating one’s own ads is inexpensive. But home-made looks home-made, and even if those in the company don’t see the difference, the audience certainly does.
- Pulling “stock” ads out of a catalog isn’t expensive. On the other hand, it absolutely guarantees that the ad isn’t really building your unique brand since hundreds of others have also plugged their logo into the box at the lower right hand corner.
- Running a social media-only campaign isn’t expensive. But driving up your “Likes” actually does cost time and money, and hoping a post will go “viral” is a hit-or-miss proposition, which is like deciding you’re going to play for the NBA: only a very very few out of all the contenders actually go all the way. Most end up with no results to show for it.
So what are you paying “more” for with a professional marketing agency? If the agency’s worth its salt, there’s a lot of sweat-building strategic homework up front, such as determining who is the best audience to target, comparing what’s going on competitively in the marketplace, making sure that the message actually has motivating power, thinking about visual and verbal cues that impact emotionally as well as rationally, strategizing the best call-to-action, and deciding how the results can be measured. There’s nothing “off the shelf” about this critical process. And then, there’s the creative component that assures the greatest stopping-power in both words and images. Especially in funeral marketing, creatively breaking through to a strongly disinterested and jaded audience is paramount. (Ads that the audience expects are an instant turn-off.) Admittedly, this kind of higher-end creative and strategic brainpower costs more because good agencies pay more to attract good talent to work for them. But the results more than compensate for the added expense.
I’ve long said, marketing is a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you believe in its power, you’ll invest your time, your resources and your money to make it work and you’ll be right. And if you don’t believe in it, you’ll hold back, go the “inexpensive” route, and you’ll be right as well.
I have a sign on my wall that says:
If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
It’s more true than words can say. So what’s expensive?
Are funerals expensive? Yes, but families benefit in untold ways from a healing memorial experience that lasts lifetimes.
Are cars expensive? Yes, at least the ones that don’t break down before their first oil change, provide genuine safety and make you feel good to be behind the wheel. (And let’s be honest, are you really driving the cheapest car on the lot?)
Is health care expensive? Yeah, you bet. But trying to avoid its cost will certainly cost you much more in the long run – and maybe the short run too.
Is entrusting your business’ marketing to professionals expensive? Well, in retrospect, no…not really when you look at the alternative prospect of a sinking sales curve.
Believe me, this is NOT a pitch for LA ads. This is a plea to re-think what “expensive” means with respect to your marketing. Far too many in the funeral profession, whether providers or suppliers, are taking the inexpensive path and, boy, it shows.
In my book, “good but expensive” will always beat “so-so but it’s cheap” every day of the week. I hope it’s the same in your book as well.
Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.