Posted by: Christine Adams | September 11, 2009

The Truth About Advertising

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Advertising can be a tricky and expensive venture. There are several mistakes small businesses make when entering this confusing world of ambiguity. Hopefully I can clear up some of the mysteries, offer a few suggestions and help you through your next marketing campaign.

1. Please do not try to track your advertising. I am sure this statement makes some marketers and CEOs cringe. Many people would disagree with that statement.  You are spending a large amount of money; of course you want to know if it is working. Some businesses use coupons or incentives to help accomplish this task. The problem is that you are requiring the customer to do your legwork. You will not get a true feel for how effective your campaign is by asking someone to do something for you. They are coming to you to make a purchase, not to track your campaign.

2. Do NOT stop advertising too soon! I used to sell radio advertising for a living and the single most common mistake that small businesses make is cancelling their advertising before it has had a chance to gain momentum. When placing an advertising buy, do not “try it out” and see if you get results. Stay the course! At minimum you should sign a 6 month contract, but a year would be more beneficial. You will not get the desired results out of a month long campaign. It will only frustrate you and cause you to believe that advertising does not work.

3. Understand that branding your business will prompt people to purchase when they are in need of your product or service. The more times a potential customer hears or sees your name, the more likely they are to react when they are ready to purchase. For some products or services, that does not mean they will be banging at your door today or tomorrow. When they are in need of your business they will choose you and they may not even know why. That is the psychology of repeat impressions.


1. Thoughtful ads that evoke emotion. The standard statistic given is that the average American is exposed to 3,000 advertising messages each day. If this statistic is even remotely accurate, we need to find a way to set ourselves apart. You have two options: 1. don’t advertise and let your competitors be in front of your potential customers all of the time or 2. Use thoughtful ads that evoke emotion. You must find a way for your message to pull at heart strings, hit the hot button, or create a dire need for your product or service. The same old bland message will simply be a needle in a haystack if not carefully delivered.

2. Purchase a good mix of mediums. Split up your budget and use several different forms of advertising. If you are currently on the radio, add print to the mix. Utilize local informational publications. Purchase television ads if you can afford it. (If you purchase cable television because it is cheaper, beware that you pay for what you get! Ask your sales rep to help you choose specific stations and day parts so your message has some frequency with the intended viewers.) The point is to get your message out through as many different avenues as your budget will allow. Remember, the more times a potential customer hears or sees your ad, the more likely they are to react when they need your product or service.   

3. Place ads where your customers will see or hear them. The two key words in that sentence are, “your customer,” that does not mean your preferences are their preferences. When I sold radio, one of my station’s formats was country music. If I would have had a dollar for every person who told me they wouldn’t buy my station because they did not like country, I would be rich! Does that mean country listeners don’t have money to spend? Do they not have consumer needs? The ironic part of this example is that our demographic was primarily “soccer moms” who make the majority of the consumer decisions in the household. Do not judge a form of advertising by what you would personally like or dislike.

Personally, I think that advertising is overrated and far too expensive. I consider grassroots marketing much more effective and I believe that thoughtful campaigns involving community and good deeds go much further than any amount of money spent in the media. The unfortunate part is that if you don’t advertise, your competitors will be in front of the customers that you are not reaching through your viral campaigns.

I could go on for days about the tricks of the trade, what to do, what not to do, but my blog would be far too long. If you have any specific questions on advertising, please feel free to ask. As I said, it is a tricky world, but the more knowledge you possess the more likely you are to come out ahead!

“Kodak sells film, but they don’t advertise film. They advertise memories.” –Theodore Parker


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