Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
I’m not a fan of going to the dentist
How about you? 

Yesterday morning, I was at the dentist. My feet were propped up in the vinyl chair with the bright light shoved into my face and the paper bib clipped around my neck. It was just a regular cleaning but my blood pressure was about 10 points higher than usual.

There’s something about having a tiny sharp object poking around your gum line that’s a little disconcerting, am I right?

Lucky for me, we have a pretty incredible dentist close by, which isn’t a given considering I live out in the boonies from Tucson in tiny little Vail, Arizona. One of the reasons why this dentist in particular gets a plus one in my book? He has a TV positioned right next to that bright light on every chair. 

If you’re going to be held hostage to water picks and high pitched machinery spraying water and tarter all over the place for an hour, you might as well have something to distract you. And let’s face it. For a working mom like myself, having a chance to sit and watch a TV show without distraction is almost relaxing.

Did I just call going to the dentist relaxing? I must’ve accidentally inhaled some of the laughing gas the guy was getting in the chair next to mine. Yikes!

Why am I sharing my woes (or now, excitement, apparently) over going to the dentist? Because while I was sitting in that chair focusing as hard as I could on Tiny House Hunters (HGTV for the win!) I noticed something: TV advertisers have their game down pat!

Television Advertisers are Getting it Right!

It’s not often I say this but television advertisers know what they’re doing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a sucker for reality TV shows and am currently binge watching The Office (again), Last Man Standing, and Homeland (on the weekends after the baby is asleep in his crib). I am a fan of the medium.

What I’m not a fan of is advertising on the medium.

I’m one of the 25% of Americans who don’t pay for a TV service. Last August, after a bout of extraordinarily horrible customer service from DirectTV, we cut our 6-year+ subscription in favor of Apple TV, Netflix, and Hulu – and we haven’t looked back since.

Unlike traditional television, Netflix, Hulu, and other apps through Apple TV, have minimal ads. So yesterday, when I was being held hostage to the hygienist, I was forced to do what I hadn’t done since Superbowl Sunday – I watched the ads.

And the advertisers made complete sense. I was watching HGTV, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw ads for home-related companies, including:

  • Zillow
  • Wayfair
  • Target

The list goes on.

But this isn’t surprising. Nor is it ground breaking. It only makes sense to position your brand on the channels where you’re more likely to attract an audience that matches your target market.

What is surprising is how few small businesses translate this mentality to the digital world.

A Marketing Lesson for Local Businesses: Pay Attention to the Buyer’s Journey

I work with a lot of small businesses who are trying to get their voice heard over the big brands. To do this, they revert back to old school marketing practices and then translate them to the digital world.

This practice comes through big time with their copywriting in a few ways.

1. It’s All About Pushing the Sale

I can name two local Tucson businesses who have made a name for themselves pushing their products through cheesy commercials:

  • An appliance salesman who dresses up as a different superhero every quarter or half-year
  • A used car salesman who dresses up as a pickle… really.

Other than that, I can’t name a single local advertiser.

What I can name are local businesses I love working with because they get me (like the dentist who gets that I need to be distracted while in his chair).

Your customers are the same. If you don’t want to sound like either in your copywriting (and you don’t online) drop the pushy, cheesy sales tactics on your website. Be relatable. People love to buy from other people. If you’re pushing your sales and acting like a cheeseball to try to be remembered, you’ll have a harder time forging a strong connection with your reader/buyer.

2. A Lack of Communication

We’re in the process of redoing our backyard, which has meant a lot of visits online looking up websites of contractors in the area. A few of them have lost our business because their website was so poorly written, we weren’t sure we’d be able to communicate effectively with them when they arrived at our house.

Then there are the other contractors who were eager to win our business in the beginning, but then suddenly dropped off all communication when we approved their proposal and wrote them the deposit check (that never got handed over).

The way you conduct your business in ALL stages of the buyer’s journey matter. They can make you thousands or lose you thousands, and wasted man hours.


3. Neglecting the Changed Buyer’s Journey

The two above points really boil down to this last one – the BIG one. If you don’t understand who you’re selling to and where she is in her journey to make a purchase, you’ll continue to be frustrated by your lack of marketing results.

Today’s consumers are different than they were five or ten years ago. The way we research products, find companies, and decide where to spend our money has changed.

I said before that I don’t typically advocate for television marketing and that’s because it’s a dying channel. 25% of Americans have cut the chord. That’s a quarter of people who aren’t seeing your commercial anymore. The ones that do either have their noses buried in their smartphones scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, or they’re fast forwarding past it because few shows are watched live anymore.

But Kimberly, big companies are still advertising. Shouldn’t I follow their lead if I want to compete with them?

No. The big brands that advertise usually do so because they’re tapped out in the resources they can spend online. Small businesses trying to compete by going to old school marketing channels and neglecting new school communication styles (websites, social media, email marketing, and even email responses) seem surprised when they don’t see the ROI they once did.

Today’s buyer’s journey looks a little more like this (ultra simplified because your target buyer is likely slightly different):

  • Get frustrated with some problem she can’t solve.
  • Vents about it on Facebook and asks for recommendations from her hundreds of friends.
  • Gets a few recommendations for companies or ways she can resolve her problem, and then looks up their website and Facebook page to learn more about each one.
  • Looks for herself in the story being told on their website and Facebook page, trying to find the perfect business to buy from.
  • Makes an emotional decision based on a funny GIF that was shared and an About page that made her smile.

Understanding this modern day buyer behavior is critical for local and small businesses. You guys are the ones who have the biggest opportunity to grow by changing the way you talk about yourselves and your customer.

So, What Can Small Businesses Learn From Television Advertisers?

It’s simple. Television advertisers position their message on the right channel where they’re bound to see the biggest ROI for their marketing spending. To find the right channel, they look to where their buyer is in their journey. In the case of Zillow, Wayfair, and Target, they chose HGTV because they sell products that’ll appeal to people who are watching HGTV with an interest in sprucing up their home.

For local and small businesses, consider where the buyer is in her journey when she lands on your website and social media profiles. Then, connect with her by providing content and copy that’ll enable her to see herself in your story. When you understand what she’s looking for in the moment when she lands on your webpage, you’ll have a much stronger chance at winning her business – even over the big guy competition in your area.

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