5 Reasons Your Advertising Isn’t Working

Canada dry classic adMost businesses say that finding effective advertising platforms for their business is one of the most confusing, and frustrating parts of having their own business.

Marketing and advertising made perfect sense before you started a business, but now that you're watching your money go down what seems to be a bottomless drain, you're hesitant to spend money on anything.  You're convinced that “nothing works”.  There is some truth to that.  A lot of things don't work, but are you doing a good job in finding out what really works for your business?

If you're like most business owners, the answer is “probably not”.

Advertising isn't like Social Media, where you tend to waste time (if you don't do it right).  In advertising, you're spending money, probably money you can't afford to lose, and that's scary.

Like anything in your business, advertising needs to be planned.  You have to be proactive, not reactive.  Reactive is waiting for a salesman to walk through your door and “sell” you advertising space.  Proactive is doing the research and “finding” the good places to advertise.  The same holds true to online advertising as well as offline advertising.

Despite what people say, advertising works, if it's done right.  Below are 5 mistakes that small business owners make that make them declare that “Advertising doesn't work!”

There Is No Plan

If you don't know the outcome you'd like, how do you know how to get there?  Do you have an idea of what kind of outcome you'd like to see from your advertising?  Yes, more business, but you have to be more specific than that in order to see results.  Do you want the readers of your ad to call you?  Do you want them to go to a special landing page you set up for them?  Are you looking for an immediate sale, or are you trying to build a long term relationship with the them?  All of this should be thought out before hand so you have a clear understanding what you'd like to achieve with your advertising.  Once you know the outcomes you want, then you can go about finding places to advertise and to start creating your advertising piece.

Classic ad copy

There Isn't Enough Research

Many business owners don't do enough research before plucking down their hard earned money.  They listen to a well crafted sales pitch, maybe ask some friends for advice, then write a check.  When they don't see the results they were looking for, they start the blame game.  The only person you should be blaming is yourself.  You didn't do enough research (work) before making your decision.  So what can you do?

Ask the right questions.  The salesman trying to sell you ad space will give you all of the numbers that make the opportunity look rosy, you need to dig deeper.  Ask some of these questions:

  • Call or email businesses that are already advertising with this publication, what do they have to say?  Try and contact businesses that have a similar customer base as your own, and try to speak to businesses that have been advertising for at least a few months.  Don't rely on the businesses the salesperson gives you, they're most often ringers.
  • Find businesses similar to your own and see where they're advertising.  If you see several businesses like your own advertising in a single publication, it's probably safe to assume that your ideal customer is reading that publication.
  • Ask you best customers.  Pick 5-10 of your best customers and ask them about their reading habits, which publications they read and through what medium do they find new businesses.  Is it through Google?  The local paper?  A regional magazine?  Pick their brains for valuable consumer research.  If you're not open for business yet, find people who fit the ideal customer profile and ask them.

Advertising online?  Read The Small Business Guide To Online Advertising

David Olgevy quotes

You Quit Too Soon

Many small business owners I speak to fall into this trap.  They try something for a month or two and quit because they didn't see the results they were hoping for.  Then they move on to the next opportunity.  Same results.  They repeat this cycle until they are convinced that advertising just doesn't work.  What doesn't work is the approach that's being taken.

Let me ask you a question.  If you tried playing the guitar for the very first time and couldn't play your favorite Eddy Van Halen riff, would you stand up and announce that guitars don't work?  Of course not, that's a stupid statement to make.  After several months of lessons and practice, you may come to the conclusion that Guitar Hero is the closest you want to come to playing the guitar, but at least you gave it a real effort and came to your conclusion logically.

Before you go and pronounce an advertising medium DOA (and spread your falsehoods to other business owners), make sure that you've tested it long enough.  Direct mail is a perfect example of people quitting too soon.  It normally takes several mailings, to the same person, before a response to the ad is possible.  If you're not ready to commit long enough to make a conclusion, maybe you should reconsider spending money on the ad in the first place.

avis classic ad copy

There Is No Testing Of The Ad Copy

The advertising medium may not stink, maybe your ad stinks.  Do you have a clear value proposition in your ad?  Do you have a strong call to action?  If a call to action is missing, what's the urgency for people to take action on your ad?  Try alternating ad copy each week or month and see which one is getting a better response rate.  Testing and refining ad copy is crucial to developing an ad that works.  Sadly, most small businesses create a single ad, and live with the results, never knowing if a little tweak in the ad could have increased response rates by 500%.

*Tip – Don't let the creative designer who created you ad also do the copy.  They are two different functions and require two sets of expertise.  People underestimate the power of great copy. Would you let the architect who designed your home pour the concrete foundation for it?  Nope.

When you first create an ad, create several versions of it, all with slightly different copy.  Maybe try different headlines, calls to action, or price points.  You don't know which one people will be drawn to unless you show it to them.

Classic car ad

There Is No Tracking Of Results

It's easy to track your online advertising, that is, if you're actually tracking it.  Offline advertising is a little trickier to track, but by no means difficult.  You just need to place trackable elements into your ad piece.

So what can you put in there?

  • A special promo code that customers that call or go to your website will use for an exclusive discount.  Every ad you place should have a different promo code.
  • Use a special phone number in your ad so you can track where the calls are coming from.  Google Adwords offers call tracking numbers, as well as several other companies.  Using call tracking numbers is relatively cheap.
  • Create a special landing page on your website and use it only for a specific ad.  Place the URL in your ad (www.yourbusiness.com/special) and track how many people come to that page and what they do after they get to your website.
  • Offer a time sensitive deal where people need to call within 48 hours to get the special.

Classic headline for ad

 Plan, Test, and Track

These are the keys to creating effective advertising campaigns.  If you don't do your research and have a plan for your advertising, it'll be hard see positive results.  Testing and refining your advertising will turn mediocre campaigns into winners for your business.  Tracking the results of your work, seeing what works and what doesn't is vital to ensuring you're not wasting your hard earned money.  Still think advertising is a waste of time and money?  I'd love to know why, leave them in the comments below!

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Gary

CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
6 replies
  1. Julie Morgan
    Julie Morgan says:

    I think we fall into the trap of trying something, then stopping before we really had enough time to see if it worked. I think we did 5 direct mailers in the past 5 years, but only sent out one mailer each time. As I learn more about advertising, I realize we were doing it wrong, and wasting a lot of money.

  2. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    It’s always hard to stick it out when you’re not seeing any kind of results. Sometimes advertising is a waste of money, other times it just needs more time or refining to get it to work.

  3. James
    James says:

    I see that you need to do a lot of testing before you can really get it to start working for you. I feel like I waste so much money on advertising that doesn’t work. I tried adwords a few times, but I found I was wastine too much money and not getting enough calls. Thanks for the article, food for thought

  4. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    Testing and refining your ads is critical to getting a decent roi out of your advertising. Too many people create a single ad/copy and live with the results. When you originally create the ad, have a few versions created that tests the headlines, images and calls to action. You never know which one is going to work best until you try them out.

  5. Mike Kawula
    Mike Kawula says:

    Great Post!

    To Testing Copy, reminds me of this awesome quote: “It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money” David Ogilvy

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