Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Don't Make It Up As You Go Along

TourdeFranceFroomeQuintanaWelcome to the 2016 installment of What The Tour de France Can Teach You About Advertising. As regular readers of this space know, this is my annual post using the Tour de France, professional bicycling's greatest race, as a metaphor for you how can improve your company's advertising. (If you want to get caught up on some of the previous entries, you can do so herehereherehereherehere and here.)

For mostly the wrong reasons (thisthis and this, primarily), this year’s Tour de France has been one of the more entertaining Grande Boucles in recent memory. But as wild and wooly as it has been, for most of the contenders, the tactics involved in the race have remained the same. In general terms, it plays out as; Keep yourself in a good position to not lose time, be ready to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, and then be ready to run down attacks to protect your position.

While it may not seem like it, in a broad sense, most of these actions were planned months in advance. The teams and riders scouted the course of each day’s stage ahead of time and, most likely, knew the stages and particular points on a given day’s course where they would make their moves. Then, as the race has unfolded, each team and each rider has adjusted their strategy based on the events of the Tour so far.

So, how does this all relate to advertising? Well, if you’re running a business, you should plan your advertising strategy in advance, know the most advantageous times to market your goods or services and be flexible enough to adjust on the fly. Just as a Tour rider may be stronger in the mountains or in time trials and will plan their attacks at specific points in those stages, it’s important that you plan ahead to take advantage of the best times and approaches to market your business.

To do that, look at every marketing opportunity you have ahead of time and plan your advertising campaign and budget to play to your strengths and to keep your wheels turning during the slow periods. Then keep track of the return on your advertising and your spending and adjust as needed as the year progresses.

Note that, when I say “plan your advertising strategy in advance,” that doesn’t mean Post-Its with “buy advertising in June, July and August” on your annual planner or patiently waiting for a special offer from an ad rep. Long story short; Don't make it up as you go along! Instead, map out where and when you’ll spend your budget ahead of time so that you can save time, save money and keep your business in front of your customers and ahead of the pack all year long.

Further, just as each Tour de France contender and team has a strategy for each stage of the race, make sure you have a strategy for each medium where you advertise. For instance, your digital strategy (Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Snapchat, PokémonGo) should be separate from your broadcast, print and promotional strategy. Yes, there are those times when you may hit with an across-the-board media blitz, but remember to use each medium to complement the other.

Finally, just as a rider’s or team’s strategy may change based on the results of the previous day’s action, or even based on what happens during the stage, monitor your return on investment (ROI) in all your media and don’t be afraid to adjust your strategy as you go. If one component of your overall ad strategy isn’t performing to your satisfaction, apply those resources to the elements that are helping your business.

Tour de France riders and teams start planning their race strategy as soon as the organizers announce the route in October, well before the race the following July. They’ll study each stage, train on many of the routes and plan what they’ll do at a given point well in advance of the Tour each year. Then, they stand ready to tweak that strategy as the race dictates. And, if you’re advertising your business, you need to develop a comparable strategy with your yearly ad plan. Plan your expenditures in advance to maximize your budget, make sure every media in which you advertise is playing to your strength and, as the results and ROI dictate, be ready to make changes along the way. Doing so may not put you in the yellow jersey, but it will certainly go a long way toward keeping your business rolling toward more green in your bank account.