Monthly Archives: April 2018

Inconvenient Truth About Advertising

When I started my first company, I knew nothing about advertising. Now I know more about it than I thought I’d ever know and realize that I have been manipulated for years.

The startups that have taught me so much about advertising have been e-commerce ventures, traditional brick and mortar stores, business-to-business companies, and professional associations. I learned many lessons the hard way through ineffective campaigns I managed or from interaction with the experts guiding my campaigns. One of the most important lessons is that what works well for a big and established business doesn’t necessarily work well for a small business or startup.

The purpose of mass media advertising is to reach the masses. If you’re incurring the cost of reaching the masses, you should be getting mass responses. From the beginning, be clear about the goals and determine how success or failure will be measured. Tracking results is imperative. Recording when a customer responds to an ad isn’t enough; who the responders are is as important as the number of responses. Each ad is intended to reach a particular audience. You need to validate the assumptions of whom, when, and where. Did you have the expected number of responses and are they increasing? Unless you challenge the assumptions and ask these questions, how can you know the difference between a campaign that needs more time to be effective and one that is simply a failed strategy? Advertising is a numbers game: make the numbers work to your advantage.

Effective advertising can only be achieved through experimentation. Advertising always seems too expensive and too slow at getting the desired results, but there’s no way around these unfortunate facts. It’s not just the cost of the media buys but also the cost of experimenting with the various channels, determining which one works best, and discovering how to optimize the performance of each channel. The selection of a publication is important, but so are where you place the ad, the size, the color scheme, the wording, and the competitors for the audience’s attention. You could place your ad in the right journal yet get little or no response. On the other hand, the perfect ad may not resonant with the audience because it’s in the wrong publication. Bring up the topic of pay-per-click at any meeting about advertising, and you’ll hear immediate groans all around you. Everyone, particularly startups, has spent large sums trying to figure out which keywords work best. Also, bidding costs can be prohibitively high for many new businesses. A common misconception is that the Internet is free, but effectiveness on the Internet is as expensive as in any traditional media. All media present their challenges. There’s simply no way out of the cost. The inconvenient truth is products don’t sell themselves.

About Advertising Your Business Online

For those that are still debating about online advertising for their local business, they may have unanswered concerns that are holding them back.

Some common concerns are wasting money generating business in another state. Others worry about it costing too much. Another popular concern is that your business is too small to have a web site.

Lets take those concern one by one.

First of all, you can make sure that you advertising is location specific. Each computer has what is called an IP address. This address locates where the computer is. You can tailor your advertising so that your web page only shows up when a local person searches for your services, thus ensuring that only local people find you.

As far as the cost is concerned, a good marketer will cost about the same as advertising in the yellow pages, but with much better and also consistent results.

If you are concerned that your business is too small for a web page, then that’s exactly why you SHOULD be advertising online! Unless, of course, you have the type of business that you don’t want to grow for some reason. A web site positioned correctly will make a small business a thriving business very quickly.

OK, so after addressing the concerns, what are some basic things that you should know about advertising your business online?

First of all, not all web sites will generate new customers for you. If you already have a web site, you probably already know this. The only web site that is worth anything is the one that has consistent, new traffic on a daily basis. The only way that your site is going to manage this is by being on the front page of a very good search term.

If your current site can’t do this for you, trash it and hire a marketing specialist (not a web designer) to generate business for you.

Another thing to keep in mind when you are hiring a marketing professional is to steer clear of people that want you to do pay per click. This is a very expensive short term fix and in my opinion, it should be avoided. This kind of marketing is for the big boys, like drug companies that have a budget of a billion dollars for marketing. They don’t really care about new customers and conversion rates and you do.

You goal in advertising online should be to have a simple web site created with a great offer on the front page that will entice potential customers to call or email you.

Twain Taught Me About Advertising

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”

Advertising is life made to look larger than life, through images and words that
promise a wish fulfilled, a dream come true, a problem solved. Even Viagra follows
Mark Twain’s keen observation about advertising. The worst kind of advertising
exaggerates to get your attention, the best, gets your attention without
exaggeration. It simply states a fact or reveals an emotional need, then lets you
make the leap from “small to large.” Examples of the worst: before-and-after
photos for weight loss products and cosmetic surgery–both descend to almost
comic disbelief. The best: Apple’s “silhouette” campaign for iPod and the
breakthrough ads featuring Eminem–both catapult iPod to “instant cool” status.

“When in doubt, tell the truth.”

Today’s advertising is full of gimmicks. They relentlessly hang on to a product like a
ball and chain, keeping it from moving swiftly ahead of the competition, preventing
any real communication of benefits or impetus to buy. The thinking is, if the
gimmick is outrageous or silly enough, it’s got to at least get their attention. Local
car dealer ads are probably the worst offenders–using zoo animals,
sledgehammers, clowns, bikini-clad models, anything unrelated to the product’s
real benefit. If the people who thought up these outrageous gimmicks spent half
their energy just sticking to the product’s real benefits and buying motivators,
they’d have a great ad. What they don’t realize is, they already have a lot to work
with without resorting to gimmicks. There’s the product with all its benefits, the
brand, which undoubtedly they’ve spent money to promote, the competition and its
weaknesses, and two powerful buying motivators–fear of loss and promise of gain.
In other words, all you really have to do is tell the truth about your product and be
honest about your customers’ wants and needs. Of course, sometimes that’s not so
easy. You have to do some digging to find out what you customers really want,
what your competition has to offer them, and why your product is better.

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”

In advertising, you have to be very careful how you use facts. As any politician will
tell you, facts are scary things. They have no stretch, no pliability, no room for
misinterpretation. They’re indisputable. And used correctly, very powerful. But
statistics, now there’s something advertisers and politicians love. “Nine out of ten
doctors recommend Preparation J.” Who can dispute that? Or “Five out of six
dentists recommend Sunshine Gum.” Makes me want to run out and buy a pack of
Sunshine right now. Hold it. Rewind.

“Whenever you find you’re on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.”

Let’s take a look at how these stats–this apparent majority–might have come to
be. First off, how many doctors did they ask before they found nine out of ten to
agree that Preparation J did the job? 1,000? 10,000? And how many dentists hated
the idea of their patients chewing gum but relented, saying, “Most chewing gum has
sugar and other ingredients, that rot out your teeth, but if the guy’s gotta chew the
darn stuff, it may as well be Sunshine, which has less sugar in it.” The point is, stats
can be manipulated to say almost anything. And yes, the devil’s in the details. The
fact is, there’s usually a 5% chance you can get any kind of result simply by
accident. And because many statistical studies are biased and not “double
blind” (both subject and doctor don’t know who was given the test product and who
got the placebo). Worst of all, statistics usually need the endless buttressing of
legal disclaimers. If you don’t believe me, try to read the full-page of legally
mandated warnings for that weight- loss pill you’ve been taking. Bottom line: stick
to facts. Then back them up with sound selling arguments that address the needs
of your customer.

“The difference between the right word and almost
right word is the difference between lightning and
a lightning bug.”

To write really effective ad copy means choosing exactly the right word at the right
time. You want to lead your customer to every benefit your product has to offer,
and you want to shed the best light on every benefit. It also means you don’t want
to give them any reason or opportunity to wander away from your argument. If they
wander, you’re history. They’re off to the next page, another TV channel or a new
website. So make every word say exactly what you mean it to say, no more, no less.
Example: if a product is new, don’t be afraid to say “new” (a product is only new
once in its life, so exploit the fact).

“Great people make us feel we can become great.”

And so do great ads. While they can’t convince us we’ll become millionaires, be as
famous as Madonna, or as likeable as Tom Cruise, they make us feel we might be as
attractive, famous, wealthy, or admired as we’d like to think we can be. Because
there’s a “Little Engine That Could” in all of us that says, under the right conditions,
we could beat the odds and catch the brass ring, win the lottery, or sell that book
we’ve been working on. Great advertising taps into that belief without going
overboard. An effective ad promoting the lottery once used pictures of people
sitting on an exotic beach with little beach umbrellas in their cocktails (a perfectly
realistic image for the average person) with the line: Somebody’s has to win, may as
well be you.”

“The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession.”

We’re all part of the same family of creatures called homo sapiens. We each want to
be admired, respected and loved. We want to feel secure in our lives and our jobs.
So create ads that touch the soul. Use an emotional appeal in your visual, headline
and copy. Even humor, used correctly, can be a powerful tool that connects you to
your potential customer. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling shoes or software,
people will always respond to what you have to sell them on an emotional level.
Once they’ve made the decision to buy, the justification process kicks in to confirm
the decision. To put it another way, once they’re convinced you’re a mensche with
real feelings for their hopes and wants as well as their problems, they’ll go from
prospect to customer.

“A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he
needs.”

Ain’t it the truth. More money, more clothes, fancier car, bigger house. It’s what
advertising feeds on. “You need this. And you need more of it every day.” It’s the
universal mantra that drives consumption to the limits of our charge cards. So, how
to tap into this insatiable appetite for more stuff? Convince buyers that more is
better. Colgate offers 20% more toothpaste in the giant economy size. You get 60
more sheets with the big Charmin roll of toilet paper. GE light bulbs are 15%
brighter. Raisin Brain now has 25% more raisins. When Detroit found it couldn’t sell
more cars per household to an already saturated U.S. market, they started selling
more car per car–SUVs and trucks got bigger and more powerful. They’re still
selling giant 3-ton SUVs that get 15 miles per gallon.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Who gets the girl? Who attracts the sharpest guy? Who lands the big promotion?
Neiman Marcus knows. So does Abercrombie & Fitch. And Saks Fifth Avenue. Why
else would you fork over $900 for a power suit? Or $600 for a pair of shoes?
Observers from Aristotle to the twentieth century have consistently maintained that
character is immanent in appearance, asserting that clothes reveal a rich palette of
interior qualities as well as a brand mark of social identity. Here’s where the right
advertising pays for itself big time. Where you must have the perfect model (not
necessarily the most attractive) and really creative photographers and directors who
know how to tell a story, create a mood, convince you that you’re not buying the
“emperor’s clothes.” Example of good fashion advertising: the Levis black-and-
white spot featuring a teenager driving through the side streets and alleys of the
Czech Republic. Stopping to pick up friends, he gets out of the car wearing just a
shirt as the voiceover cheekily exclaims, “Reason 007: In Prague, you can trade them
for a car.”