Why Most Advertising Does Not Work

If your Advertising isn’t working – STOP IT!

Let’s start with the simple stuff. If you are running advertising that is not working, please stop it!

This applies to you whether you’re running ads in newspapers, magazines, or on radio, television, billboards, posters, taxis or buses.

I know it sounds obvious but here’s what often happens: People run advertising because they feel they ought to. They’re not really sure if it’s working but they are hesitant to stop it because it may be one of their main forms of marketing.

By the end of this report you will have enough information to ensure that you are never in that position again. You will either be running great ads that produce great results, or you will be spending your marketing money elsewhere.

Only use Direct Response Advertising
There are two types of advertising – direct response advertising and brand advertising.

Understanding the distinction between the two will immediately save you a fortune.

Brand advertising is used by companies like Coca Cola and the large car manufacturers to build and increase awareness of their brand. Unless you have huge amounts of money which you are happy to lose, you should avoid brand advertising at all costs. For a small business it is a complete waste of money.

The only type of advertising you ever want to consider is direct response advertising. The only purpose of direct response advertising is to produce a clear response.

The type of response may vary depending on the type of business you are in and your overall marketing strategy. You may want the response to be an immediate purchase. You may want the response to be for someone to contact you to ask for a brochure.

The great thing about direct response advertising is that you can instantly tell whether it is working (see the next point) It either produces a response or it doesn’t. One of the reasons that most small business advertising does not work is that it’s a combination of half hearted direct response and highly ineffective brand advertising.

Fortunately, you now know the difference. In the land of the small or medium business, direct response is King!

Testing and Measuring
It is absolutely essential that you test and measure all of your advertising.

If we are going to engage in direct response advertising we obviously need to be able to measure that response, otherwise we are not going to know if the ad is working.

At the very least we need to know how many people responded, how many of them were converted to a sale and what that is worth to you. Then you need to compare that figure to the cost of the ad and you can immediately work out how profitable the ad was, or whether you should stop running it.

So many businesses just allocate a certain mount of money to an advertising budget, spend the money every year…and they’ve only got a vague sense of whether the ads are working are not. This is crazy. If your ads are working, you want to roll them out on a larger scale. If they’re not, STOP and use the money on one of the dozens of other marketing strategies that can bring you a 100 or 200 or 300% return on your investments.

You will obviously need some sort of system for asking people who contact you for the first time where they heard about you. If you have a larger business, you may even want to set up a separate phone line with a number that only appears in your ad. If you’re directing people to a website, you may want to set up a special web page that also only appears in your ad. This will ensure that you can clearly identify when people are responding to your advertising.

One of the reasons that Radio and TV Advertising can be so high risk, is that it’s very difficult to test it on a small scale. You should never invest in Radio and TV Advertising unless it’s money you can afford to lose.

Your Headline is the most important part of your Ad
In the ad itself the most important element is the headline. The headline is either the heading that goes at the top of the ad or if there’s no heading it’s the first words of the ad. If you’re on the radio it’s the first thing people hear. If it’s TV it’s the first thing they see and hear. The headline needs to grab peoples’ attention. One change in a headline can produce a 50-100% increase in response.

One of the biggest challenge that any print advertiser faces is getting people to read their ad – let alone for the ad to produce a result. So the main purpose of the headline is not to sell your product – it’s just to get people to read your ad.

The headline should be about your readers – not about you. If your headline has the name of your business in it, you are probably losing out. Imagine you owned a company selling £10 fire alarms. Which of these headlines do you think would be most likely to get the reader’s attention:

Simpson Fire Alarms – Your Guarantee of Safety


Is your Family’s Life worth the price of a round of Drinks?

Be adventurous with your headlines. Test different versions to see what works best. There are no rules – except what works.

Remember AIDA
There’s a classic formula used by advertisers and it’s well worth remembering. The formula is AIDA. This stands for

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

If you follow this formula in every ad that you write or produce, you will greatly increase your chances of success.

Attention – the first thing your ad needs to do is grab the reader’s attention. You achieve this with your headline.

Interest – once you’ve got their attention, you need to create an interest in your product or service.

Desire – There is a big difference between being interested in a product or service and desiring it. You need to convert the reader’s interest into a strong desire for what you are offering.

Action – Even if someone desires what you have, it is not enough until they take action. At the end of the ad you need a call to action. Tell people exactly what they need to do to follow through and make it easy for them to do so. This is where many people go wrong. Even if you have a good ad, you still need to tell people precisely what to do – how to take action.

Benefits, Benefits, Benefits
One of the principles that should drive all of your marketing is communicating the BENEFITS of your product or service.

Your ad needs to be a personal communication to the individual reading, hearing or seeing it. And it needs to be about them. It needs to address their needs, desires and fears and it needs to constantly communicate the benefits of what you are offering.

Nobody will buy anything from you until they have explicitly understood how they will benefit from what you have to offer. So here’s a useful tip. When you’ve written your ad, imagine stepping into the shoes of your prospective customer. From this perspective does the add fully convey what those benefits are? If not go back and fine tune the ad until it feels right.

Don’t Advertise on a Left Hand Page
If you’re doing newspaper or magazine advertising, this one piece of knowledge can turn an unsuccessful ad campaign into a successful one. This has been tested again and again. When you read a publication, your eyes are drawn to the right hand page as you flick through, so statistically, more people will see your ad if it’s on the right hand page.

If you look at the big national magazines and newspapers, you will see that most of the large advertisers are on the right hand pages. The few that appear on a left hand page will be paying less because their advertising agencies know that less people will see the ad.

When you book your ad space, tell them you want it on a right hand page. Very few people in your position ask for this, so the publication will normally oblige. If they tell you they can’t guarantee it – tell them you’ll advertise in a future edition when they can guarantee it. You’ll soon discover how obliging they can be!

Never pay the full rate for advertising
The person selling you the advertising needs to know very early on that you have absolutely no intention of paying the full rate.

Most advertising rate cards are far too high and you can always negotiate. If you’re a small business remember that large companies who use ad agencies are buying based on the readership or audience levels rather than the rate card – so haggle and negotiate. If you can pay 20 or 30% less for your ads it can turn an unprofitable ad into a successful one.

Here’s another handy little trick to pay less for your advertising. The closer to the deadline you can book your ad, the better. Sales teams work towards targets and as the deadline approaches they get more desperate to fill the ad space. They become far more open to negotiation.

This applies to all forms of advertising. If your local radio or TV station does not sell all its ad space that they have available for tomorrow – it’s gone forever. If you come along and offer them a deal at what seems a ridiculously low price, you might be surprised at how low they’re willing to go.

Don’t Follow the Competition
One of the biggest mistakes people make is advertising in publications or on various forms of media (taxis, billboards, buses etc) just because their competitors are doing so. Don’t for a minute think that all your competitors are there because their ads are producing great results. They’re more likely to be there because everyone else is and most of them wont have a clue whether their advertising is working.

In fact, this is a well known sales trick used by the people selling ad space. If they can get one or two of your competitors to advertise, they can call you up and tell you how you’ll lose out if you don’t advertise too. What they fail to mention is that your competitors probably never test their advertising, often haven’t got a clue how to market and are only advertising there because they think you will. This is a highly effective way to sustain the advertising industry. It’s not a great way for you to run your business.

Don’t buy into the myth that Advertising is essential for your Business Success
Now that I’ve shared some of the strategies for making your advertising work for you – I’ll let you into a secret. I’m not a huge fan of advertising for small businesses. If you can get it right it works brilliantly – but generally, advertising is one of the least effective ways to grow a business.

There seems to be a cultural myth that to run a successful business, you must advertise. Whoever came up with that one is the same person who said that if you get a university degree you’re guaranteed a great, fulfilling career.

Advertising is just one of many marketing options that you have. But you really shouldn’t be dependent on it. In fact, here’s a strategy I use with my clients which is really powerful:

When I work with a client, one of my goals is to get them to the point where they have so much great marketing going on it makes little difference to their business if they stop advertising.

Why do I do this? Because quite honestly I’ve seen more business owners pull their hair out through advertising problems than anything else. Ultimately, my work isn’t about marketing. It’s about Freedom. It’s about giving business owners the freedom that comes from having a successful and profitable business which is supported by multiple pillars of marketing.

It’s hard to be free when the future of your business involves trying to get a couple of ads to work in a crappy local newspaper.

So start to think out of the box. Ideally, you should be using a combination of up to at least ten other marketing strategies to grow you business. They include (but are not limited to).

  • Telephone Marketing
  • Direct Mail
  • Internet
  • Email marketing
  • Direct Sales
  • PR (Why spend money on advertising when PR gives you coverage for free)
  • Strategic Alliances
  • Lead Response Marketing
  • A multi level Referral system

Have a look at this list. How many of these are you implementing in your business? More importantly, what would happen to your business if you could start to combine some of these extra marketing approaches? How would that effect your profits? What would that do to your financial freedom?

Here’s another thought. At least four of the items on this list will cost you either nothing or very little to implement. Why throw money at advertising when some of the best marketing is Free?

In the weeks ahead I’ll be sending you Free tips and advice via email that will show you how to achieve this. I hope that this is the beginning of a great, long term relationship where I become the source of leading edge information for you that will make a real difference to your business and your profits.

Happy Marketing!