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4 Must-Haves for Brands Considering TV Commercials

4 Must-Haves for Brands Considering TV Commercials
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Do you ever find yourself watching TV and wondering just how much advertisers paid for high-profile prime-time spots? The same thought crossed my mind while watching Shark Tank, the popular ABC show featuring aspiring entrepreneurs pitching businesses to potential multimillion-dollar investors. I pulled the rate card out of curiosity and, as you might have guessed, it’s incredibly expensive -- at least at first glance.

After the sticker shock wore off, I realized purchasing the spot might not be as much of a stretch as it seemed. If my company, Hawke Media, were to purchase a spot on the show, plenty of people outside of our target would see the commercial. And while those viewers are gravy for us, what mattered more was getting 30 seconds of undivided attention from those in our actual target.

Related: I’m Gonna Be on TV!

Based on my experience with the process, here are four things your company needs to have in place before launching a commercial:

1. A proven conversion funnel with optimized user flow

TV advertising, by nature, is going to bombard you with leads that don’t fit your target demographic. Shark Tank, for example, has not only many entrepreneur viewers, but also a lot of families. Because not all viewers are your customers, you need a solid plan for converting impressions into sales. Start with digital testing; that’s where you can gradually tweak things until you feel good about your conversion funnel.

2. Plan to nurture and leverage leads

One of the main benefits of TV ads is that the results are trackable. This can be done by embedding a unique URL or phone number into the commercial, both of which allow a business to directly track the response to its spot. Media Design Group, for instance, provides raw data that shows a spike in website activity when a commercial runs -- whether visitors are first-timers or ultimately convert into buyers. Take advantage of data like this to capture leads, not just conversions.

Keep in touch -- via email and retargeting -- with people who don’t necessarily want to buy the first time they see your product or service so you can re-engage them. If you can’t afford the popular retargeting apps, free website pixels can capture leads as well. Once you know who has visited your site, you have the flexibility to choose how much or how little you want to spend instead of blindly paying for a “specialist” or third-party platform.

3. A brand message that stands the test of time

You need to have your message down, or it will be impossible to articulate your brand visually and audibly in 30 seconds. Tell people why you are exactly what they need.

Related: The New Prime-Time for Ads -- and How to Use It to Your Advantage

To do this, work with a team, and scrutinize every word. This will slow down the process, but if one person doesn’t like a word, talk about it. My team does this, and it’s a super collaborative process.

I know how to market, but I don’t know how to make a 30-second TV spot. So my business partner and I develop the bones, overarching theme, tone and basic dialogue. Then, we go back to the team to see what they think. Make sure you have an idea before approaching your team, though. If you don’t have any direction from the start, you won’t make any headway.

4. Meaningful mass-market traction

A national TV commercial is a wide-net, shotgun approach. You spend a lot of money, get 30 seconds and hope for the best. That means you have to be out of the early-adopter phase and absolutely certain a mass audience is ready to buy your product. If so, TV truly is the cheapest place to get out a major brand message, especially considering that roughly 40 million households are able to receive ads either through video on demand or linear TV that are targeted at their households. You can even test a well-executed campaign for just $10,000.

Uber, for example, used TV to make an urgent case for its survival in New York City after Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed capping the number of new Uber vehicles for a year to reduce traffic congestion. And Dollar Shave Club doubled its subscribers in 10 months, partially thanks to its recent TV spots.

“It’s no secret that advertising on television is a great tool in building your brand,” Michael Dubin, founder and CEO of Dollar Shave Club, told Ad Age. “Some of the messages we wanted to communicate felt really right for television.”

The decision to run TV spots shouldn’t be taken lightly. Knowing that your brand has the traction to make such a big investment worthwhile is imperative. But if you have a solid conversion funnel and plans to continue to engage leads, even a high-priced Shark Tank spot could be worth the price tag.

Related: Time to Pull the Plug? 8 Real Threats to Traditional TV