NOTE: This article has important information for all international entrepreneurs.
Do I Have to Advertise?
Yes, yes, yes! Business is one area where the “Field of Dreams” movie mantra—“If we build it, they will come”—simply doesn’t apply except in very rare instances. They can’t come if they don’t know about you or your product or your service. You’ve got to tell them! The trouble is, yours is only one of thousands of marketing messages the public is being bombarded with on a daily basis. To make your advertising stand out, you’ve got to have a plan.
One of the greatest mistakes new entrepreneurs make is to throw money at all kinds of advertising without any plan, schedule, or tracking system to gauge which ads are effective and which ones aren’t. Many experts say a new business should allocate about 4% to 5% of projected gross sales for advertising. An established business seeking to maintain a stable customer base might consider 2% to 3% of gross sales. Regardless of your actual expenditure, the main point is to establish a budget and be consistent.
Where Should I Advertise?
While the focus of this report will be on written ads such as in newspapers, publications, or the Internet, remember that there are all kinds of ways to advertise, and the types chosen should fit your business, your desired image, and your budget. Here are just a few to get you thinking beyond the most obvious:
- Give away promotional items with your company name and contact information imprinted on them.
- Leave business cards, brochures, and flyers everywhere you go.
- Advertise in the Yellow Pages of your phonebook.
- Sponsor a local high school football game.
- Sponsor a local or regional fundraising event.
- Sponsor a contest.
- Have an ad painted on your car or use a magnet sign.
- Place small, regular classified ads.
- Buy radio or TV spots.
- Hire an airplane to pull a banner with your company name over a sports stadium.
- Send out press releases when you have an announcement or special event.
- Put on a special event: a sale, an exhibit, an expo.
- Teach a class.
- Publish a newsletter.
- Give a lecture.
- Send a press release to your local media.
- Write articles in your area of expertise.
- Co-op with other small business owners to share the cost of a joint ad.
- Use direct-mail methods to send letters or postcards.
The possibilities are endless!
Don’t neglect the importance of considering your company image. If you run a children’s party-planning service, it may be entirely appropriate to dress up as a clown and give away advertising balloons, candy, and flyers. If, however, you are a financial advisor, this kind of marketing activity would hardly inspire confidence in your professional abilities.
Most marketing experts agree that even if your business is conducted primarily through the Internet and your company Website, you should remember to include your URL in all other advertising and you should advertise in various non-Internet locations. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on a huge number of potential customers who just may not happen to find you on the Internet or who may not yet be online themselves.
Track Your Ads
When at all possible, use a tracking system of some kind to determine how effective your ads are. In a printed ad requiring a mail-in response, you can accomplish this easily by adding a code number or “department” number to your address. For instance, if you’re placing an ad in the Washington Post on March 5, 2003, you might want to have your address read:
403 Dead End Road, Box 3503 WP
Your City, Your State, Zip
If you’re expecting phone responses, you can get a different phone number for each ad placed. They can all come into your main line to avoid the cost of additional lines, but your phone bill will show you how many calls came in on each one. This technique is commonly used by tourist attractions who advertise in major publications across the country and want to track where their responses are coming from.
To evaluate the effectiveness of a letter or postcard mailing, you can offer some sort of coupon, return postcard, or other response incentive and then keep track of how many you get back.
A classic e-book by Claude C. Hopkins called Scientific Advertising is one of the best books on writing and testing ads available anywhere. It is often mentioned by marketers as the source for their information.
If you are in network marketing, your company may have a method for tracking your ads. If you are an SFI (Strong Future International) Affiliate, for instance, you can learn about tracking at https://www.sfimg.com/PowerTools/KeyCodeTracking.
Simple Advertising Secrets
You’ve decided you want to write an ad and you need help. Use these guidelines for effective advertising:
• Keep It Simple!
One of the most compact bits of advertising advice came from http://www.dynamicdirect.com/(click Marketing and then Designing Ads That Work). They offer a simple 1-2-3 approach:
1. Decide how you want customers to respond: Come In, Call On Phone, Email, Fax or Mail
2. What is your greatest strength? Write down your “Claim To Fame” in one sentence and build your ad around that theme.
3. Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Write down one offer that is irresistible.
Be sure that you keep the response simple too. Make it as easy as possible for the prospect to respond. If it’s complicated or requires exertion, they won’t bother.
• Maintain Your Focus
Remember what you’re trying to accomplish with your ad and whom you’re trying to target. Multiple objectives will confuse more than sell. One ad is unlikely to appeal to everyone, so consider where the ad will appear, who is the likely reader, and then develop your ad with that in mind.
Once you have developed a profile of your most likely reader, you can then think about what their “hot buttons” might be and pitch your ad accordingly.
If your business offers a multitude of products and services, you might need to focus on only one or two at a time and create several different ads, each covering a different portion of your offerings. Even grocery stores—with thousands of products—tend to highlight specific products in a given ad rather than trying to generalize. “A product-related advertisement highlighting only one product sold three times better than a general headline introducing several products.” (Coleman Management Services)
• Make It Believable
When you make unrealistic claims or use words that are considered by many professionals to be “hype”, then you lose credibility and decrease your response rate. The most critical starting place is your headline. Willie Crawford (“My Ads Aren’t Working!”) shares some words that have proven themselves to be effective attention grabbers:
For a good e-book on how to write using language that excites a customer, Windows users can go to williecrawford.com/puremagic.exe and download a free copy of Magic Letters—How To Write So People Buy Now!
The Coleman Management Services article (See Sources, below) also contains some tested, effective wording for ads.
• Solve Their Problem
Your prospect is human and therefore basically selfish. He is only interested in what’s in it for him: What problems can you solve for him? In what ways can you make his life easier? How can you save him time or money?
“Ultimately, people only want two things: (1) to gain pleasure, or (2) to avoid pain.”
Except for what might be necessary to establish your credibility or expertise, leave out all the “me” copy and sell only the benefits. An ad should not contain a laundry list of product features or company bragging.
• Offer Something of Value
One of the best ways to make your offer irresistible is to add so much value that the prospect will feel he’d lose by NOT taking you up on your offer. This can be done by simply adding additional products to the main one being sold. TV offers are famous for using the phrase, “But that’s not all…” to tell about the additional things you’ll get when you place your order or respond to the ad by calling or coming in. Think of it as a reward for responding.
Consider these ways to add value to your offer:
- Add a free accessory or replacement part (filter, cartridge, battery, etc.).
- Offer a free evaluation or what Robert Imbriale calls a “Free Business Check-up.”
- Offer free shipping.
- Throw in a free product.
- Offer a free video, tape, report, or information booklet.
- Offer a free newsletter or magazine subscription.
- Extend the warranty.
One caveat: if you make your offer too good be true, you could actually lose credibility. Give your prospect a reason why you’re making your great offer–you’re liquidating, you’re passing on a good deal, you’re moving returned merchandise–so your prospect will be assured that you’re not just pulling a fast one on him.
• Make It Risk-Free
Risk aversion is considered by many to be the number one reason for a prospect deciding NOT to buy a product or service. If you can eliminate this, you will go a long way towards tipping the scales in favor of a purchase. You can use a trial period or a guarantee. Joe Sugarman says to go for the “satisfaction conviction.” Make your guarantee so good, so powerful, and so simple that the consumer will feel that he has absolutely no risk whatsoever. It should be so convincing that the prospect will say to himself, “They must really have a good product or else they couldn’t possibly make that kind of offer without losing their shirts.” This kind of guarantee might read something like this:
If you’re unhappy with this product at any time, for any reason, just return it any time you want and we’ll refund your money–no questions asked!
• Call for Action
You’ll need to lead your prospect to the action you want him to take: calling you, e-mailing you, visiting your store, visiting your Website, using an autoresponder, etc.. You should give him some choices, because some people are more comfortable doing one rather than another.
• Repetition, Repetition, Repetition…
Unfortunately, running an ad one or two times simply does not accomplish the desired results or even give you a good return on your investment. Research on recall numbers after repeated ads clearly shows that the recall rate increases steadily (with slight fluctuations) from three to fifty repeats of your ad (Coleman Management Services). There is also evidence that large ads do not necessarily pull any better than small ads unless you are publicizing a specific, time-sensitive event or offer.
Unless you have an unlimited advertising budget, then, think in terms of designing smaller, more powerful ads and repeating them over and over. Your tracking will help you decide WHERE to put your advertising dollars.
Abraham, Jay L. Stealth Marketing – How to Outmaneuver, Outwit, And Outmarket Your Most Formidable Competitors…Before They Know What’s Hit Them. Abraham Publishing Group, Inc., Rolling Hills Estates, CA, 2000. (800-635-6298. www.abraham.com/ ).
Crawford, Willie. “My Ads Aren’t Working!” Best Winning Ad Secrets Newsletter: http://www.adanalysis.com/04newsletters/bwas/bwas0107.html
Frey, David. “13 Elements of a Winning Small Business Advertisement.” Business Know-How ® Small Business Newsletter: http://www.businessknowhow.com/marketing/13elements.htm.
Gustoff, Adrienne. Opportunity $till Knocks – How to Start Your Own Business. American Media Mini Mags, Inc., Boca Raton, FL, 2002.
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General Marketing Resources
Rao, Vishal. “Ideal Marketing Methods for Home-Based Businesses.” Home Based Business Opportunities, 2003.
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