2-for-1 Meat Sale at Raley's ad

Oh, my! We do love our “2 for 1” deals, don’t we?

Two meat products for the price of one.

(We know, of course, that the seller has priced it so they make slightly lower margins on two units even if they’ve worded it that they’re giving one item away. If they actually gave away every second unit of something, they’d go out of business!)

We also love to “kill two birds with one stone,” right? Somehow it makes us feel like we’re experts at productivity. We convince ourselves we’re only using half the effort to get double the results. Brilliant!

In marketing our businesses, we often take this a step further: We convince ourselves that we can use all the postcards that were extras (or ordered as extras) from our direct mailing that was targeted to specific business owners as the print collateral we’ll give away at a consumer trade show. That’s getting twice the use out of one piece, right?

What’s that, you observed? No one took the postcards off the trade show booth shelves? Hmmm.

Not Quite as Successful as Anticipated

A common request I hear from small business owners is to list “just one more product feature” (or service) on their ads. After all, it’s costing them a chunk of change to run the ad. And they want it to appeal to the greatest number of prospects possible. They’ll reach two audiences with one piece of collateral, right?

We know perfectly well that Feature A (how quickly the product works with X factor) is important to one prospective market group while Feature B (the high quality gizmo attachment thing) is more important to yet another prospective market group. So why can’t both features be listed on this ad and let each group pick out the feature most important to them?

Because our brains just don’t work that way! We don’t review both features and pick out the important one to us.

Think about it: Running off to the grocery store is simple when your sole task is to pick up a gallon of milk. But as soon as your partner says, “Oh, we’re almost out of TP. Could you get that too?” Uh, oh! Now you’ve got to begin ensuring you remember BOTH the milk and TP. Next, the needed items grow and you have to begin writing down your list, all because the brain does its best work with one task, one thing to remember.

Here’s another way to look at it: You see an ad for a new movie starring Clint Eastwood. (Well, he’s just been on my mind given his recent ‘performance’ at the GOP convention.) You vaguely remember key plot points in the ad and Clint’s picture when you’re sitting down with a friend to catch up and ask, “Hey, do you know anything about that Clint Eastwood movie?” The fact that it’s a Clint Eastwood movie is what sticks in your memory most prominently.

Now imagine another movie ad: This one includes Clint, but he’s one of many star faces on the ad of equal size. At the time you see it, you recognize Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell, Diane Keaton and a few others. By the time you get home, you don’t remember any one star’s name or photo. They all had equal weight in the ad. You only remember the movie ad showed pictures of several actors you really like, but you can’t name one of them.

This is the exact thing that happens when you list your product’s features in an ad. If all of them are given equal prominence, none will be remembered. It’s just how our brains are wired.

But It’s Important!

I know it’s important. You can’t go around selling cell phones and computers and only list one feature.

BUT you’ll notice that for each product the marketing team highlights usually only one primary feature – “16MB” or “in Chrome” or “Biggest Screen.” Then they list other key features in smaller type in a less prominent location. This is the equivalent to saying “Featuring Clint Eastwood” with all the other stars getting a smaller mention below. It just helps our memories work better to concentrate on one main feature (even when there are others of equal importance).

What if It’s the Wrong Primary Feature?

Ah, ha! This is what A/B split testing is for with email newsletters. (I send half the group the article with subject headline A and the other half gets subject headline B.) I know which one is preferred by the number of opens it receives and overall response from readers.

The cell phone or the email newsletter both have the same, respective features regardless of which primary feature (headline) gets star-billing, right? But you test to see which star-billing gets the best reaction.

What if you can’t test out which feature is most important to your different audiences?

  1. If you haven’t already written out an in-depth analysis of each of your customer type personas, now’s the time to do it. Once you know each persona’s buying triggers, habits, keywords and phrases, you’ll know which feature deserves star-billing for that customer type.
  2. Make an educated guess! If you know other features are of less importance, take them off the table for consideration. Whittle down the choices to just three.
  3. Reverse engineer your prospect’s thinking: If you use Feature B as the top-billing, what will be the prospect’s likely action? What contingencies would you have to plan for? Do the same for features A and C. Now that you know possible outcomes, which one looks most attractive to you?
  4. Choose one! The worst thing you can do is hedge your bet by not selecting one feature (or benefit) to focus on. (You can always change it later!)


What About the Benefits?

That’s another blog post! Of course, touting your product’s most important benefit instead of merely listing features is what attracts customers in the first place. The What’s-in-it-for-me factor is always top dog in the marketing game. My focus in this article is one thing: Getting your marketing efforts focused on one thing. Make that message crystal clear!

Is It Ever OK to Use a Piece for Multiple Purposes?

Yes and no.

Yes, you will want to use the same ad, the same postcard, the same letter, brochure and email that touts the same specific and consistent message in multiple venues to attract the same type of customer.

Use the opportunity to make multiple, similar impressions for greatest impact. This is the same purpose in multiple places.

It is unlikely, however, that the same message makes a strong impact with both consumers and businesses if both are two of your target markets. (And each has many subsets of these two markets.) Each one likely has very different buying triggers and responds to different keyword phrases.

How and when to use the same piece or message over and over depends upon a lot of complex variables. (How many will see it in how many places and how frequently?) A marketing professional (such as myself!) would be happy to help you determine optimum application of your marketing pieces.

Here is a rule of thumb which may help you determine how tightly to focus your message:

A light with a “flood” beam lights up a wide angle. As a result, it doesn’t go particularly far, but it does light up a lot of stuff in the immediate area. A “spot” light beam, on the other hand, has an extremely tight, well-targeted range of illumination, leaving the surrounding area in the dark. The light travels a much greater distance with greater intensity. But it doesn’t illuminate many things the “flood” beam would light up along the way.

The more specific and simple your message, the greater your ability to convert the specific target of that ad. It’s a narrow field, but it’s very effective at converting when the focused message resonates with recipients.

On the other hand, when you employ multiple messages or offer more choices, you will convert fewer viewers because you haven’t connected with them as well. You’ve left them confused with multiple choices, so they choose nothing.

Preventing ‘2 Birds, 1 Stone’ Syndrome

It’s easy to get distracted by all the possibilities in front of you. It’s easy to think, “I can list both features and the reader interested in Feature A will zero in on that. And those interested in Feature B will zero in on the other one.” But it isn’t true. The reader will then miss both features not know which one s/he should note more prominently.

It’s easy to think, “Well, I can use this ad in both the golf magazine and in the local paper. It’s okay if some readers don’t get the golf references.” But instead the entire ad will be ignored in the local paper because it’s not targeted to that reader’s preferences and buying triggers.

In today’s highly targeted marketing world, presenting a generalist’s point of view in your ad is the equivalent of cellophane. No one sees it. There’s no message resonating specifically with any one market. All the features, benefits and one-shoe-fits-all material simply gets overlooked because no one is like that. No one remembers generalist information.

How to Keep on Target

If you catch yourself thinking or saying, “I could also use this ad for…” or, “I should expand this ad

[brochure, postcard…] so I can use it for…,” you may kill two marketing birds with one stone. BUT you may also dilute your message which is far costlier than the savings of killing those birds in one blow.

If you find yourself generalizing the language or saying, “Let’s take out X because it’s specific to this other industry,” know that you just eliminated appealing to that other industry.

My advice: Go whole hog after one target market with one piece. Use the language and jargon (when appropriate) that speaks directly to them. They’ll love you for it! They’ll think, “OMG! She understands my business/needs exactly!” You may be able to repurpose that same piece with a completely different headline and different content to appeal to another, very different audience.

Create separate pieces for each target market for the greatest success. When you address the needs of each targeted persona most specifically they’ll believe you understand them perfectly and want to buy from you. Send them the wrong message — or ask them to choose the message that they like – and they’ll assume you don’t understand them since the message is mixed.

There’s no great 2-for-1 deal if the prospect doesn’t want the product in the first place!