First Four vs. Final Four


March Madness has arrived along with brackets, theories and office pools. The next few weeks the national buzz will be focused toward the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game on April 3rd. Isn’t it amazing that after all the theories and analyzing of rosters and match-ups, the person who ends up winning your office pool is the person who based their choice on the color uniform the teams wear or the fact they just ‘love’ the mascot.

The tournament kicked off this week with four ‘play-in’ games aptly dubbed The First Four. The winners of these games will be added into a field of 64 teams divided into four regions comprised of 16 teams each. The great news for the winners of these ‘First Four’ games is they have officially made the NCAA tournament.  The bad news is they enter the tournament as #16 seeds; severe underdogs whose first game is against the #1 team in that region. Don’t bother looking up the odds in Vegas. A #16 has NEVER beaten a #1.  In fact, only five times since 2001 has the #16 team stayed within 10 points of the #1 team in the first round of the tournament. 

As exciting as it can be to win one of the First Four games; prospects for advancing past the next game simply don’t exist.  CBS marketing efforts pushed the importance of these games to increase viewership. I admit, the games were exciting to watch. Unfortunately the outcome of these First Four games, though they were entertaining have minimal impact in the long run.  They exist in order to wet the basketball palate of the audience in preparation for what is to come.

In the NCAA Tournament, the First Four merely marks the beginning of the journey. The most important facet of the tournament is still weeks away. The marquee event of March Madness is the Final Four.

When it comes to advertising in general, an inordinate amount of time, talent, and resources are spent on ‘First Four’ elements:  Radio and Television commercials, Magazine Print Ads, Billboards, Bus Boards, Sign Spinners on a busy street corner, these are all attention grabbing advertising tools.  As eye-catching and important as they may be in getting the word out about your business, they are merely the beginning of the journey for your customer.

Your potential customer began the journey of discovering your business through the efforts of your external marketing materials. That was just the beginning. In order to harness the power of your captive audience while they wait on hold, it is vital that the ‘final four’ elements of your marketing campaign; which includes your on-hold advertising, receives the same level of attention as you place on attracting a potential customer to call your business in the first place.

The marketing efforts put forth by CBS for the ‘First Four’ games of the NCAA Tournament were good.  But they are nothing compared to the all-out blitz they will roll out heading into Final Four weekend.  Why?  Because they know the final four is more important than the first four.  They invest their resources accordingly.  So should you.

What’s true for the NCAA Tournament is also true for your advertising efforts.  The final steps in the journey are simply too important to leave to chance.  CBS doesn’t just hope you’ll watch, they invest in the process so you will be compelled to watch.  The same is true with your on-hold advertising.  It’s not enough to simply hope your callers won’t hang up before you return to their call. Invest in the process with a creative on-hold advertising campaign that is so engaging, they are compelled to listen and can’t wait for your return so they can ask questions about what they heard while waiting on hold.  At On-Hold Concepts we have created such compelling advertising messages that callers have actually asked to be put back on hold to hear more.

Knowing that in basketball and in advertising, the final part of the journey is more important than the beginning; treat your on-hold advertising like the marquee event of your marketing campaign.  It is in this final stage of the advertising cycle where you turn a potential customer into a loyal customer. The results are in, and the winner of the battle between First Four and Final Four is clear: Final Four. 

Now, the winner of the 2017 NCAA Tournament Final Four is yet to be determined.

But my money is on the team in blue with the cool mascot.

Tom McTee, Super-Genius

Tom McTee