Changing Your Focus: How to Make Your Marketing Work

jennifer cox

Jennifer Cox is one of the founders and serves as president of the National Network of Embroidery Professionals (NNEP), an organization that supports embroidery and apparel decoration professionals with programs and services designed to increase profitability and production.

It occurred to me a while back that we have been doing ourselves and this industry a great disservice in the way we present ourselves to our communities. For decades, we have described ourselves as embroiderers, embroidery business owners, and embroidery professionals. That seems reasonable enough, since we do create embroidery, right? Yet when a customer comes to us and asks us to add embroidery to something they have already purchased, we get distressed, because we do not have the opportunity to sell them any of the products that will then be embroidered.

The recurring theme of how we need to present ourselves better came up again when I was working with a member of NNEP, Tamara Boyer of Thread Art LLC, located in White Bear Lake, Minn. She was designing an ad that she wanted to place in their local Chamber of Commerce Community Guide. In Boyer’s first draft of her ad, she listed the services she offers to her community along with her address and her contact information. While the ad was clean, simple, and direct, it was missing the point. It did not answer the age-old and all important question, “WIIFM?,” which is also known as, “What’s in it for me?”

Make marketing work

When a reader views the ad below, they see some words that they understand, but they have very little reason to do anything with the information. It will be seen and probably forgotten by the vast majority of her fellow community members. How many people in the general public even know what dye-sublimation is, or how it could be useful for them? Boyer said, “I did not realize that I was totally missing the point until you explained it to me that way. I went and looked at several publications and the ads in them and now I see what you mean!”

The sad fact of the matter is that when you tell people you do embroidery, it is usually a conversation stopper. People do not know what to say in response to that statement, as they do not know what that means and they do not want to appear uninformed. Even though this is a print ad in Boyer’s situation, the same thing happens. People will read it and move on. They are not likely to reach out to her to find out about ordering something from her.

By shifting the information from what she does to what she offers, she increases the opportunities for people to identify what she offers in a way that is more meaningful to them. We brainstormed ideas about how she could say things differently to attract the interest of her community. An added bonus is that now she is talking about the products and the service of embroidery. The message has changed from “bring your stuff to me,” to “We provide this stuff for you.” That alone is a significant improvement to the conversation she is presenting to the general public. It changes the profit potential considerably for every order where she provides the products and the embroidery.

Now when someone reads this ad, they are more likely to connect with the products and services Boyer offers:

By listing the products and then adding “decorated with your logo or design,” she is now creating a more memorable story for the reader. In Boyer’s store, her primary products are the ones she included in the ad: jackets, shirts, and caps. If you sell baby items as your main product category, lead your ad copy with that information. If you do a lot of work for people that enjoying boating life, talk about the products that would attract their attention. If you do lots of work for schools and community organizations, mention team apparel, spirit apparel, camp and fundraiser products, or whatever your leading products are.

She then put in a call to action (CTA), telling the reader what they should do. Running an ad without a CTA is often a waste of time and money. It is out there in the universe, yet it is not directing any behavior that will generate potential business for your company. We also rearranged the information to put her contact information at the bottom of the ad, where people expect to find it. Being different for the sake of being different is not always a good idea. We expect to see contact information at the bottom of a package, a TV commercial, a web page, and in print ads. Follow this pattern to make things easier for the reader.

We had one more conversation before Boyer finalized the ad she sent in to the Chamber of Commerce. She really liked the idea of offering a coupon to generate incoming calls, website visits, and visits to her business. By adding a specific detail to her coupon offer, she can now track the impact of this specific paid advertisement. If she never gets a call that mentions “Promo16,” she knows that she should either 1) change the ad next time to see if she can generate some interest, or 2) not run the ad again, and try something else with those funds. The final layout with the coupon code looked like this: 

Each ad you pay for should include some way for you to measure its impact. Unique coupon codes provide a very simple way to see what ads are getting people to connect with you. It is human nature to want to take advantage of a “coupon,” so if they saw it, and they reach out to you, they will mention it.

If you are running any print ads, take a look at them to see if they are talking about what you do, or if they are talking about what you do for your customers. And if you do not have a call to action—such as call me, visit this website, or stop by for a quote—consider adding something to invite the reader to connect with you in the way that works best for your business. And finally, if you cannot measure the effectiveness of that ad, what can you offer on that ad that will make it possible for you to see if it is having the desired impact? What’s the point in paid marketing if you’re not getting any results?