Bill McCabe
Customer Engagement
How to Ensure Your Marketing Doesn’t Lead Shoppers Into Competitors’ Hands

This piece was originally published at

Imagine for a moment you own a store in a shopping mall (malls still exist, right?). Your store is doing fine, but you know you need more foot traffic. So, you invest in an advertising campaign, including a TV commercial. And it works! New shoppers come in droves to the mall. However, there’s a big problem. Half of these shoppers are being scooped up and abducted by your top 3 competing stores.

“WTF!” would likely be your reaction. And a justified one. But know this, you are not alone. Many of today’s companies are facing a very similar predicament. The only difference is their competitive space is not happening in the mall, but at the Google search page.

The reality is harsh. Even if your commercial repeats the brand name five times in 30 seconds, uses comparative techniques to demonstrate your clear superiority, and displays your URL throughout the spot, viewers could wind up with a competing product in their cart.

Think about it. Let’s assume your commercial is effective and piques viewers’ interest. When they decide to search (right then, later that night, the next day or even next week) your product name may not be fresh in their minds. And even if it is, they may still do a category search, typing “car buying site” or “green detergent” into the search bar.

If your competitors are spending more than you or have a more effective SEO strategy, their site will be the first one listed. Your advertising now becomes the catalyst for a purchase of a competitor’s product. The good news is that you don’t have to get into an internecine bidding war with your competitors. Instead, you can aim to create advertising that motivates viewers to bypass search and go directly to your web site. How do you do that? Here are few thought starters:

First, incentivise go-direct responses. Offer a 20% discount, a BOGO sweetener or some other significant offer to help avoid the search bar and get them to your site.

Second, include a toll-free 800 number. Especially true for higher-value products and services, people like talking to another human being before making an important purchase. No one will outbid you and intercept that phone call. It’s as direct as it gets.

Third, use a longer-length spot. An additional 30, 60 or 90 seconds will give you the time necessary to make your case for a direct site visit. The additional time provides opportunities to elaborate on product benefits, create overly compelling demonstrations and reinforce incentives. The more a consumer already knows about you, the less likely they are to get sidetracked by the online noise coming from your competition.

Ideally, you’ll create a synergistic mix of advertising and search. This means spending optimal rather than excessive amounts on both. Your commercials should strive to drive viewers directly to your site or be memorable enough to have them search for your brand by name. On the other end, your search strategy should be so well-targeted that it complements your advertising rather than duplicates it.

From an advertising perspective, there’s nothing worse than creating a great commercial that ends up driving viewers into the arms of competitors. Fortunately, with some strategic and tactical thinking, you can help combat this outcome.

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