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7 Questions To Ask If Your Advertising Doesn’t Work

on September 10th, 2008

Sadly advertising does not work for the majority of small businesses. So they give up believing that advertising is only something "big businesses" do, claiming that "advertising doesn’t work for my type of business". I think they’re wrong. I’ve run several businesses where other people already running a similar business told us that they had tried advertising and it didn’t work. Some of them were even kind enough to show us the advertising they tried, tell us where it ran and what they paid for it. By carefully looking at their adverts and considering the placement of their adverts we were able to identify  common mistakes. By avoided these mistakes and used tested advertising methods we were able to create several successful advertising campaigns.

If your advertising isn’t working, here are some questions to ask yourself (or your marketing manager) about your advertising. Get the answers right and your advertising will work.


1) Are we advertising to the right prospects?

The easiest way to waste your advertising budget is to advertise to the wrong audience. Check your market research, who is it that buys your product? Then think carefully about where that buyer will be looking and advertise in those places.

Most publications will be able to tell you not just how big an audience they reach but also who that audience is broken down by key demographics. Make sure their demographics roughly match those of your target audience otherwise your advertising is unlikely to succeed no matter how good it is.


2) Why are we interrupting the prospect?

It’s unlikely that your prospect chose to view your advert, after all do you deliberately view adverts? However your prospect, like you has hobbies, family and a career and the associated wants, needs and problems that they bring. These are important to them. So if your advertising doesn’t grab their attention with a compelling reason that is important to them (note the emphasis on them, not you), it will be ignored.

So how do you know what is important to them? Well that’s what market research is for. You did do some market research before you started advertising didn’t you? If not, stop now and focus on your market research before you spend another penny on advertising.

3) What does it have to do with the prospect?

After you capture your clients’ attention with a compelling headline, you must get them interested in what you have to offer. If you don’t capture their interest quickly they’ll ignore the rest of the advertisement and go back to whatever they were doing before you interrupted them. Worse still if you’ve caught their attention with a gimmick or by misleading them they may well be angry with you and think less of your business.

So how do you get them interested? A good start is to tell them what the advertisement has to do with the what they consider to be important. The easiest way to do this is to clearly state the main benefit that your product offers them. Again your market research should suggest which benefit your customers consider to be the main benefit.


4) Why would the prospect believe us?

We’re all interrupted by advertising so often these days, each advert promising so much that we’ve become highly skeptical. So once you’ve caught a prospect’s attention, turned their attention into interest you then need to turn their interest into belief. That is belief that you and your product will provide them with, at very least, the benefit you promised them.

So how do you prove it? That largely depends on what you are selling, but the most common ways are:

  • independent research;
  • testimonials from previous customers;
  • case studies.

Alternately you can provide a set of frequently asked questions along with suitable answers. If you have room why not include all of them.


5) What should the prospect do about it?

Once you’ve got their attention, turned their attention into interest and overcome their cynicism what do you do? Simply listing your phone number of web address is not enough, instead you need to give them a compelling reason to become a customer and then tell them how to become a customer.

In other words tell your customer what to do, how to do it, and what they’ll get as a result. Special offers are a good way of doing this.


6) Why should the prospect act NOW?

Be honest how many times have you read an advertisement, thought "yes I could use that when…" and then promptly forgotten about it? The reality is if a customer doesn’t act on an advertisement immediately they are unlikely to do so at some point in the future.

Your advertising must give prospects a compelling reason to act NOW. What will they gain if they act NOW? What will they miss out on if they don’t?


7) Are we measuring the return on investment of our advertising?

John Wanamaker, a 19th century entrepreneur, Lord Leverhulme founder of consumer goods giant Unilever and Franklin Winfield Woolworth the founder of Woolworth’s have all been credited with the quote:

I know that half of my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.

Which may have been witty and true in their day, but is totally unacceptable today. With the advent of modern technology the modern marketing manager should be able to attribute a return on investment (ROI) to every marketing activity and every single piece of advertising. If you don’t know how then I would suggest you buy a copy of Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples ASAP! Then test, test, test and test some more.

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  • 1

    [...] 7 Questions To Ask If Your Advertising Doesn’t Work [...]

  • 2

    Number 7 on your list I think is the biggest problem with small businesses, they don’t know how many leads they got from which marketing. I have seen companies spending money for years on certain marketing and when they start to track they realise they get no business.

    G Web on September 21st, 2008
  • 3

    I agree – you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Direct response marketing is often the best for small businesses. Many get caught in thinking they have to set an advertising budget instead of spending money on anything advertising that gives them a positive RIO.

    Jenna on September 22nd, 2008


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