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Marketing Tips for Pool Builders

This ain’t the Super Bowl…

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

Were you one of the 95 million people watching Super Bowl XLIII? My wife and I celebrate this annual ritual with a group of friends we’ve known for nearly thirty years. And while I enjoy the game, my friends know I’m really in it for the commercials.

So as usual, this Sunday I settled into my primo spot to see the very best that Madison Avenue executives had to offer. At a cool $3M per 30 second spot, these ad agencies spend most of the year preparing for these moments. And I relish every one of them.

This time, I was not so impressed. Maybe it’s because this year, the clan of revelers was louder and more raucous than normal. I found it difficult to catch every sound and nuance of each spot. In fact, I was actually tempted to slip into one of a half-dozen less-populated rooms, so I could focus on the commercials. But in doing so, I would miss the camaraderie of friends that I might never see if it weren’t for this annual event. Friendship wins over TV commercials.

I made the right choice. After the game, I reviewed the commercials again, and confirmed that it wasn’t the noise. It was a lack of compelling content. There was plenty of humor, but in most cases, the message was obliterated by the quest for “advertainment.” Really, now… should I eat Doritos because magical things will happen, and then I’ll get hit by a bus? Should I use Castrol motor oil so that monkeys will kiss me? They got worse, but I’ll spare you.

On the other hand, there were some good ones. The Hyundai commercial with angry German and Japanese executives was spot-on, and probably my favorite. Funny, crisp, well-executed, and it drove home a great point. In fact, all three Hyundai spots were pretty good. Hats off to their ad agency.

So what does this have to do with pool building? Well, everything. It’s the same thing I keep saying – Your message is key. Our job is not to entertain people. Our job is to sell pools. So let me share a few more tips that would help you and the Madison Avenue executives write better ads:

START WITH PLAIN ENGLISHMost Super Bowl commercials are in plain English, which is why we don’t mind watching them. Big words and jargon are boring to outsiders, and they make you sound like you’re trying to hide something. People will tune you out and ignore you and your message. Speak in “plain English” instead, and people will trust you and listen to you. Use contractions. Slang is OK too. It makes you sound real and believable.

Check out USA Today for good examples of simple, plain English writing.

SPECIFICS VS. GENERALITIES – People tell the truth with specifics, and lie with generalities. Pepsi, Coke, Bud Light, Miller Lite and most of the other big-time advertisers never give you a real reason to choose their product. They’re just “branding’ with advertainment. That costs millions of dollars, and is not appropriate for anyone other than Fortune 500 companies (if then).

You, on the other hand, can add credibility to your ads and marketing by getting specific in everything you say. Use facts. Use numbers. Avoid generalities. For example, if you say “We have a wide selection,” it means very little to anyone. On the other hand, if you say “We have 537 different tile choices and 88 different pavers in stock to choose from,” people will tend to believe you. Get specific!

TELL A STORY – Brag about yourself, and few will listen. But tell an interesting or heartwarming story that people can relate to, and they will pay attention to whatever you have to say. Once again, the Super Bowl ads prove the value of this strategy. Admit it – The only reason you watch these commercials is because you know there’s a 30 second story coming up, and you don’t want to miss it.

The challenge that most Super Bowl ads fail to overcome is telling a believable story that directly relates to your product or service. Once again, look at Hyundai’s “Car of the Year” ad (true) versus Castrol’s creepy “kiss the monkey” ad (not true, I hope!)

LOW RISK OFFER – This would be the single easiest way for Madison Avenue to improve their Super Bowl ads – to include a low-risk offer for a free DVD or report at the end of the ad. But they won’t do it because it takes away from the advertainment “story-telling” time.

Lucky for you, it’s easy to add a low-risk offer to your ads. You’re not doing “advertainment” anyway, right? So give your prospects a low-risk offer such as a free report or free informational DVD. This will get people who aren’t ready to talk to a sales rep to still contact you and give you their information. Now you can market to those people through e-mail and/or direct mail until they’re actually ready to meet with a sales rep and buy a pool.

Think about it – Most people who are thinking about buying a swimming pool (more than 85% of all prospects) are not ready to talk to a salesperson. So if the only option you give them is “Call now for a free estimate,” most people won’t take any action. Your ad will flop.

SCRATCH OUT/WRITE IN – Use this trick to judge the effectiveness of all the Super Bowl ads next year, and your own ads this year. Just scratch out the advertiser’s name and write in the name of a competitor. If the ad still sounds reasonable and believable (presuming it ever did), then the ad didn’t say anything unique about the advertiser. If Miller Lite and Bud Light swapped ads, would it make any difference? How about Coke and Pepsi? (Ironically, Coke and Pepsi did exactly that with this ad. And I think you’ll agree that they could actually trade out this “ad swap” ad, and still no one would care or notice.)

Well, I hope this Super Bowl perspective on advertising has helped you pick up a few more trick and nuggets to help you grow your business. If you ever want a more serious look at your marketing and advertising, just give us a call.

Till then – Good selling!

Brett

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2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc. May not be used without permission.

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