Archives for June 2011

Why Most Ads Don’t Work

10 Essential Strategies to Ensure that your Advertising is a Success

1. 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!

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.

2. 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!

3. 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.

4. 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. The headline needs to grab peoples’ attention. One change in a headline can produce a 50-100% increase in response.

One of the biggest challenges that any 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 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.

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


If you follow this formula in every ad that you write, 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.

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

The copy of your ad needs to be a personal communication to the individual reading 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.

7. Don’t Advertise on a Left Hand Page
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 the left hand pages 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!

8. Never pay the full rate for advertising
Apart from knowing that you want your ad on a right hand page, 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.

9. Don’t Follow the Competition
One of the biggest mistakes people make is advertising in publications just because their competitors are in them. 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 ads are 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 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.

12. 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?

Thanks to Cris Cardell for his insights.

Jane Applegate’s Management, Money & Time Quiz

Self-Help Quizzes and Do-It-Yourself diagnostics are popular features in women’s magazines, but rarely appear in business books.  Yet it’s worth taking a few minutes to think about how you are coping with the toughest job in America—running a small business.

Being an entrepreneur is incredibly stressful.  Despite computers, cellular phones, pagers, scanners, and e-mail, an entrepreneur’s life is not simple.  For most of us, it’s a chaotic juggling act.

So spend a few minutes with this quiz.  There are no right or wrong answers.  It’s meant to provoke thought—and action.

There are three sections: Management and Personnel, Money, and Time.

Management and Personnel

  1. Do you dread it when someone walks into your office to speak to you privately?
  2. When was the last time you had breakfast or lunch with your key employees?
  3. When was the last time you hosted an offsite staff meeting?
  4. Have you implemented any new ideas proposed by your staff since the beginning of the year?
  5. If you had a magic wand and could vaporize aggravating employees, who would be on your list?
  6. Do you spend an inordinate amount of time each day handling personnel conflicts?
  7. When was the last time you hired someone?
  8. Fired someone?
  9. Do you offer onsite training or tuition reimbursement?
  10. Do you have a mentor or colleague to call when things aren’t going well?

Based on your answers, you might want to make some personnel changes.  Life is too short to work with anyone who gives you a headache or a stomachache.  In a small business, every person counts.  And, since you’re the boss, you can choose who you work with every day.  If there is a “storm cloud” on your staff, think seriously about replacing that person.  Why pay someone money to make your life miserable?  On the positive side, take advantage of your staff’s bright ideas.  You are paying them to be smart and creative. Let them do their job.


  1. When was the last time you spoke with your banker?
  2. Have you thought about next year’s tax return?
  3. Without opening your business checkbook, how much money is in your account?
  4. How many of your accounts are past due?
  5. How much money do you owe to vendors?
  6. Are sales higher or lower than last year’s at this point?
  7. Do you have enough money to buy the new equipment you need to boost productivity?
  8. Is your accountant doing everything legally possible to minimize your taxes?
  9. Is he or she up-to-date on the new tax laws and provisions?
  10. How many new clients or customers have you gained since January?  How many have you lost?

Too many business owners play ostrich when it comes to facing financial issues.  You need to monitor your cash flow every day, every week, and every month.  Slow-paying or no-paying customers are not worth having, and it may be time to fire them.  Be sure to communicate openly with your banker—bankers hate surprises.


  1. How much time do you take for yourself every day?
  2. Do you feel exhausted before going to work?
  3. Are you working longer hours, but not accomplishing much?
  4. Is your to-do list longer than your shopping list?
  5. Do you have trouble keeping track of phone numbers and important notes and papers?
  6. Is your desk a mess and your to-read pile sky-high?
  7. Do your family and friends say you look tired?
  8. When was the last time you took two weeks off?
  9. How many times a day do you laugh? (It’s important!)
  10. Is your Palm Pilot or Visor overloaded with data?

No one is busier than a business owner.  But being busy does not necessarily mean being productive.  If you find you have little or no time for yourself every day, make some.  Try taking a short walk or afternoon nap rather than gulping coffee.  Ask a staffer to clip interesting newspaper and magazine articles and put them in a file.  Then tote them along to read while you are waiting in line for appointments.  Bring your calendar home at the beginning of the month and ask your family to book some time with you.  Put those dates in ink and don’t change them.  Taking care of yourself should be your first priority, because so many people depend on you.

Ready, Fire, Aim…

Instead of “ready, fire, aim”, use these 10 questions to guide your business strategy.

  1. What benefit do you offer the consumer?
  2. Exactly who is your consumer? Be specific.
  3. What is your position relative to your competitors?
  4. What barriers exist to keep others from stealing your market share?
  5. How will you (personally) communicate with your customers?
  6. How will you measure the response of your promotions?
  7. Do you have sufficient inventory and manpower to deal with increased demand?
  8. Have you worked through the non-media tools to ensure that you’ve established the framework for a successful media campaign?
  9. What is your month-by-month media plan? Have you planned for enough frequency with your target market? Do you have enough money budgeted to support the plan even if initial sales are weak?
  10. Does your media meet your tactical and strategic goals, or is it just pretty?

The Secret of Leveraging Your Business

The secret of leveraging your business is to find an organization or individual with established relationships to a customer base.  Pay that organization for access to the customers, and you both win.

For example, a database software maker could team up with the largest word processing software maker in Japan to sell his database software to Japanese company’s clients.  Or a long distance phone company could sell service to donors to the Leukemia Foundation.  The possibilities are limitless.  Here are seven places you can look for affinity partners:

1.  Nonprofit organizations

2.  Niche businesses with a similar audience

3.  Niche celebrities

4.  Sporting events and franchises

5.  Service providers (doctors or consultants or lawyers…)

6.  Retailers

7.  Leading manufacturers in foreign markets


Intellectual Property Info

An excellent business resource for information on intellectual property — patents, trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights and the like: