Rod Covey

According to Ad Age, the nation’s 100 biggest advertisers spent an estimated $104.5 billion on advertising last year, an increase of only 2.8 percent from the previous year. This is the lowest growth rate since the ad industry recovery began in 2010, reflecting the slow pace of the U.S. economy as a whole. So the challenge for savvy marketers now is to be certain that every promotional dollar spent grows their customer base.

A few decades ago, media choices could be counted on two hands. Today, there are several dozen thanks to the burgeoning digital marketing sector: social media, mobile websites, Web display ads, paid search and email marketing, to name a few.

What to do with so many choices? We asked the Covey-Odell Advertising staff that has worked for more than 100 organizations for more than four decades to suggest the three most effective marketing tools in the challenging second decade of the millennium. The top three are: 

1. Research. In an economic downturn, research budgets are often the first to go, though vital to customer satisfaction and growth. Survey your customers to determine how well your company is performing; your strengths and weaknesses; customer input regarding phone, personal and written communications; the attitudes and professional performance of your support staff; and how you can boost your image, service and quality.

Customers with a problem will relate this to 10 other people, and you’ll be able to use this research to improve future communications. 

2. Media. With dozens of choices, basic principles apply to all. Newspapers, magazines, cable/broadcast TV, radio, outdoor, direct mail and online strategies are proven business builders, but you should continually assess each regarding their efficiency in reaching target audiences.

Repeat ads to maximize efficiency through their cumulative power. Consider a mobile website, blogging and one or more social media channels. All are extremely cost-effective and reinforce an image of your company as progressive. Promote your website via every means — in your ads, publicity, customer handouts, lobby signs, emails, invoices and business cards. 

3. Creative. This is the most important, because it is the bottom line of effectiveness. A bad ad is a total waste of your marketing dollar. A good ad is unique, interesting, to the point, tightly written, consistent and, most of all, spells out benefits to the readers or listeners. 

We track ads of every size and in every media and find that at least a third are a waste of the advertisers’ money. Good creative backed by solid research will make your ads rise above the din and increase your company’s sales, brand identity and market share. ●

Rod A. Covey is president of Covey-Odell Advertising Ltd. of North Canton. He launched Covey-Odell Advertising in 2008, and the North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce named the company the 2009 Business of the Year. For more information, visit