advertising campaigns

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.  On the surface, advertising seems pretty straight forward but you quickly realize there is a lot more involved in running a successful advertising campaign.

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.  But the truth is that advertising does work, it's just not working for you.

It's like picking up a guitar for the first time and trying to play it.  When you sound terrible playing it you would not put the guitar down and tell everyone that guitars don't work.  No, guitars do work, just not for you.  You need to learn how to play and it takes time.  The same is true with advertising.

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” good advertising opportunities for your business.  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 or Strategy

Classic ad copy

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 results you'd like to see from your advertising?  Yes, more customers and sales, 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.

So before you spend a dime on advertising, or any marketing for that matter, make sure you have a strategy in place along with some goals you want to achieve with your advertising campaign.

Check out my course on Creating an Amazing & Profitable Digital Marketing Strategy


You Haven't Done Enough Research

David Olgevy quotes

Many business owners don't do enough research before starting an advertising campaign.  A lack of research and planning is probably the biggest reason advertising campaigns fail.  Most business owners operate reactively with their marketing and it's difficult to do planning and research when you are always reacting and not being proactive with your marketing. Before starting an advertising campaign you need to know the following:

Who is your audience? Without knowing who your audience is you will have no idea what messaging you should use.  If your answer answer is, “my audience is everyone”, then you will end up creating an advertising campaign and message that is so watered down that it appeals to no one.  You need to really understand who your audience is, what their interests are as well as their fears/concerns.

What are you offering?  Once you understand who your audience is and what they desire, now you can create the right offer.  An offer could be a discount, an add-on offer, or similar offer that your audience take take action on.  All advertising small businesses do should have an offer as the goal is for people to take action in the form of a phone call, contact form submission, a visit to your store and eventually a sale.  You don't have a big enough budget to waste on “branding” campaigns where you simply show off your brand.  Save that for Coke and Pepsi, you want your advertising to generate revenue for your business.

What is your FOMO?  All advertising should have FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out.  Adding FOMO to your advertising is what will get people to take action now rather than later.  It's that little bit of pressure and fear that is they don't act now, they may miss out on the offer.  This can be an expiration date for your offer, limited quantities or similar constraint to let your audience know that the offer will not be around for long.

You Quit Too Soon

avis classic ad copy

If advertising worked great the first time, everyone would be millionaires.

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.

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 campaign in the first place.

There Is No Testing Of The Ad Copy

Classic car ad

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%.

When it comes to online adverting, you have the ability to create several variations of your ad and get to test and measure them all in real time, a huge advantage over traditional advertising.  There is not excuse for not testing different ads in your campaign.

*Tip – If you are running a print ad, 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 – the words you use will determine success or failure of your ad campaign.  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.

These incremental improvements to your advertising campaign will eventually lead to a well oiled and profitable advertising campaign, you just need to give it enough time and testing to get it right.

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 ( 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. Have questions about online or offline advertising and what options are best for you?  Contact us here to learn more about how we can help.

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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.
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