The Game of Advertising

As with everything that costs a lot of money in your business, there really needs to be a goal behind it. A lack of understanding about advertising is one of the reasons most small businesses don't do it well.

WHAT IS THE GOAL?

Obviously the goal is the drive traffic. Every part of your marketing plan needs to bring new customers through the doors. Those customers need to spend more money than the ads cost you. Everyone understands this part, so why are most small business terrible at advertising?

THE LONG GAME

If you place a $100 ad today, how long do you give it to generate $100 and decide to do another one? One day? One month? One year? The problem is most people measure response in days or at most a month, instead of years. If you are in this business for the long term, you have to plan your advertising for the long term.

Let's say your advertising budget is $1,000 a month. You will drive yourself crazy and constantly change advertising tactics if all you do is focus on how much it has brought in this month. On months that it doesn't pay for itself, you'll be tempted to do different types of advertising, or worse yet, stop entirely.

Instead focus on the year. If you're spending $12,000 a year, look at where you are at along the way in light of that goal. The longer you consistently advertise to the same people, the better your response will be. And since it's a long game, realize that just paying for itself isn't a bad goal the first year you advertise. It gives you a good platform to build on for greater returns in the future.

THE REAL GOAL

The goal of advertising is to drive traffic, but let's drill down deeper. The heart of that goal is for people to see your name over, and over, and over again until that moment when they need your service or product, they think of you instead of a competitor. With that in mind, let's look at ways to effectively advertise for the long term.

TIPS FOR PLAYING THE GAME

1. The 6 Month Minimum: Give new advertising channels at least 6 months to judge response. A year would be ideal, but most business owners aren't willing to commit past 90 days. 6 months gives you a chance to experiment and learn.

2. Experiment With Your Message: Not every message you craft will hit on the first try. If you are giving a newspaper a six to twelve month trial, for instance, you have time to try different messaging and learn what impacts your audience the best.

3. Know Your Industry: It's good to understand your industry and look at where competitors are advertising. You don't have to do the exact same things, but it's good to learn from those that have been there before.

4. Understand Your Calendar: Most businesses have seasonal ups and downs. Your advertising response will experience the same thing. If a month is naturally your worst month of the year, your advertising response is probably going to be lower than other months. If people are not in the market for what you sell in July, advertising in July won't see the same return as advertising in other months.

5. Always Be Advertising: So should you just stop advertising in the slow months and save the money? NO! Never stop advertising. If we go back to the heart of our goal, we want people to see you continually so when they do need you, they call you.

NEVER GIVE UP

Advertising is something you'll always be doing if you want to grow your business. Plan on it from the beginning, and you'll see greater success through the life of your business. And it might just be the key to save your business if it's struggling to gain traction.