in January 2006
Beyond the Yellow
By Doug Fearing
When traditional methods fail…think outside
So you want to
grow your business but you’ve tried all the traditional
ways to get new clients: larger Yellow Pages ads, more cold
calls by sales staff, bid on more projects, etc, etc. Have
you ever considered TV?
In our company’s infancy
(we just celebrated our eighth year), we had a problem.
No one knew us! We could cold call all we wanted, but without
name recognition they would not give us a chance. The work
we were getting was because we were selling so cheap they
couldn’t pass up the deal. What to do? By a stroke
of luck, a TV advertising sales representative from the
local Madison WI ABC affiliate came cold calling on us.
“I’d like to show you an opportunity to get
involved in TV advertising at a price you can afford,”
he said. Ya, right. We’ve all heard that one. What
the heck; he was a personable guy and I was so impressed
he thought I could afford TV, I figured I would at least
listen to him.
He was selling a program called
“Image Plus.” We would participate in what could
be best described as a buying group. We make a year commitment,
paying $1500 every month for those 12 months along with
a set number of other participants in the Image Plus program.
In return, we would receive 20 guaranteed TV ads per month
and an undetermined amount of available TV ads that went
unsold each and every week. They would even include the
cost of the TV commercial production. The unsold TV ads
were to be evenly distributed among the Image Plus members.
Well, the price was right (cheaper
than radio) and we wanted to get our name out, so we went
for it. We averaged getting 50 to 70 commercial plays per
month. We were amazed when we saw our company’s commercials
playing during Monday Night Football, the British Open and
other primetime shows. Who knew there was that much unsold
When we agreed to join the Image
Plus program, we basically thought it was a way to get name
recognition so, when our sales staff made cold calls, no
longer would we be an unknown. We never thought it would
lead to direct sales. We got a pleasant surprise.
Six months after we joined the
program, we got our first call requesting a proposal that
came directly from the TV commercial. The phone has not
stopped ringing. We stayed in the Image Plus program for
two years and only left because we were limited to one TV
station and we wanted to try a new market that the ABC affiliate
was not catching. We then negotiated a similar deal with
the NBC affiliate. We are now in our fifth year of TV advertising,
and it has been so successful that we now employ an advertising
agency to negotiate our advertising buys across several
local TV stations and cable channels—and we have tripled
our TV advertising budget.
Every week we receive several phone
calls that can be related directly to our TV ads, and our
sales have grown consistently. We have even reduced the
size of our Yellow Pages ads with no ramifications because,
even though the ad is smaller, our name rings a bell when
they see the Yellow Pages ad and they respond.
Will it work for you? Can you afford
it? I can’t answer that. I do know it is worth looking
into. I also know that the Image Plus program is not unique
to Madison. Numerous TV stations across the country offer
A few things to consider if you
want to pursue it:
• Don’t expect immediate
results. We did not see any results for six months.
• To get the best value, you have
to commit to a specific period of time, preferably a year,
with a specific budget
to one TV station and then they may deal.
• If it works for you, move your
dollars around to other TV channels each year to
Fearing, along with wife Lois, founded Fearing’s Electronic
Systems in 1997. The company specializes in audio, video
and security systems for the commercial and residential
markets in the southern and central regions of Wisconsin,