“Why does my advertising not seem to work?” – 5 lessons for small businesses

Advertising your small business is an important part of any growth strategy.  But many business owners become disillusioned with its effectiveness, and question the investment when there are so many other more immediate expenses.

But often this is not an issue with advertising per se, but how it is implemented.  The classic problems are:

  1. Stopping too soon. People are exposed to so many advertising messages that you need to make sure they see it many times over for it to stick in their mind. This is just human nature – the more familiar we are with something the more we remember it.  The rule of thumb is that you should run a campaign for a minimum of 3 to 6 months.
  2. Weak creative. You have a couple of seconds, if you are lucky, to catch the eye.  Your adverts need to bold, simple, and direct.  Classic mistakes, and the lessons that can be learned, are
    1. trying to put in too much information
    2. fussy typefaces
    3. bland colours
    4. no hierarchy of messages – lots of things of similar sizes so the eye doesn’t know where to focus first
  3. Poor message. Be clear on what you want to say because readers or listeners will not waste their time trying to unravel your message.  Short, sharp and to the point is a good rule of thumb.
  4. Bad targeting. This is a classic problem with print and radio, where you are sold circulation numbers or listener figures, but you have no idea who these people are.  You could be spending a lot of money advertising to people who have nearly no chance of being your customers.  Don’t just get swayed by numbers, it’s the quality of the audience that matters more.
  5. Wrong time. Your busy day is a Saturday, but your print advert in a weekly newspaper goes out on a Tuesday.  What are the chances you will still be remembered on Saturday?  There are many mediums that are inflexible, and do not match your business pattern.  The goal is to try communicate as closely to the time of purchase as possible.

So it’s not that advertising doesn’t work.  It clearly does, but you need to do what’s right and keep at it.  And online advertising is opening up many more cost-effective opportunities which can overcome many of the barriers.



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