The media through which a business can advertise are known to nearly everyone: newspapers, magazines, billboards, telephone directories, radio, and television. In addition, small businesses can utilize direct mail, handbills, display windows, county fairs, flower and garden shows, and a variety of other means.
Advertising is a cost of doing business and must be budgeted in advance. The business owner must know which media will result in the greatest return on the money spent. The point to remember is that advertising must result in measurable profits, then certain futile expenditures of advertising capital will be avoided. Examples of wasted advertising dollars include high school yearbooks, lodge and church publications, local athletic team programs, pencils, and matchbooks. The population reached by such media is predictably small, yet the costs can be high compared to other methods of advertising. While some business owners find it difficult to say “no” when asked to advertise in their own lodge or church publications, it is necessary if the money assigned to advertising the business is to be used productively. Money given in support of local church, school, and civic organizations should be regarded as public relations or charitable donations, not as advertising.
Of the established advertising media, some work better than others for different businesses. A retail florist may find that a weekly advertisement in the local newspaper builds public awareness of the shop (attitude advertising) and also increases the sale of weekly specials
(immediate response advertising). Garden centers, nurseries, and landscapers may use the local newspaper, television and radio stations, and even billboards during the spring and fall when customers are thinking about their home landscapes. Such advertising is usually attitudinal, yet it can evoke immediate response if it features specific products or services at promotional prices.
Wholesale nurseries, large landscape contractors, and landscape architects gain little benefit from newspaper or broadcast advertising. They must reach a customer population that often extends across state lines. Magazines, particularly trade journals, are one means of reaching their clientele. Exhibition at industry conventions is another means of putting the business before the proper audience. Direct mail advertising is also used. As much as possible, journal advertisements, exhibitions, and direct mail should induce an immediate response, although attitu – dinal advertising is valuable and commonplace in this market also.
Telephone directory advertising can vary in its value to the business. In a small community, most citizens are familiar with the few horticultural operations in the calling area. Their choice of one over the other is not likely to be influenced by the presence or size of the advertisement in the yellow pages. In a larger city, customers new to the area or infrequent users of horticultural products or services may use the directory to select a flower shop, garden center, retail nursery, landscaper, or lawn care firm. How satisfactorily they are served will usually determine whether they return to the firm or to the directory. Many established retail operations and most wholesale businesses find limited value in telephone directory advertising, especially since it is almost totally atti – tudinal in approach.
Immediate response advertising has a short-term value. It must motivate the customer to seek out the advertised product or service the same day, the same week, or the next at the latest. The value of such advertising is both direct and indirect. Directly, the items advertised must sell in excess of what would have been sold without advertising and generate enough revenue to pay for the advertising while leaving a profit on the advertised items. Indirectly, the customers advertising attracts to the business may make additional impromptu purchases. A new business operator should study the response of consumers to determine which medium or combination of media is most effective for immediate response advertising.
The value of a particular medium may depend on the items being advertised. For example, a flower shop might invest in a series of thirty – second radio commercials. If prom corsages are advertised, a classical FM station will not reach the teenage market as well as an AM rock station. Advertising prom corsages could generate a profit if done at the right time and through the right medium. Still, it would be unlikely to result in impromptu sales due to the generally limited interest and finances of a teenage clientele. If the same advertising dollars were spent on immediate response advertising to an older and wealthier clientele, the profit return would probably be greater.
The single greatest value of any advertising is to let customers know that you have a good supply of what they want at the time they want it. Advertising to create a demand for a new product is often beyond the capabilities of a small business and must be left to manufacturers and trade organizations.
Advertising has definite limitations. It can never fully compensate for a poor business location or inadequate parking facilities. Also, it can never sell a shoddy item or service more than once, and it may actually lose customers for the horticulturist who tries to unload poor-quality merchandise through special sales. The quality of the merchandise or service must be high, even when the price is reduced.
Since advertising can be attitudinal, it follows that another limitation is the danger of a negative attitude being created through a poorly produced advertisement. For example, businesses that seek an upper – income clientele should avoid advertising like high-pressure used-car lots. Businesses that serve a middle-income clientele should avoid advertising that suggests high prices and Park Avenue attitudes.