Why your ad failed
By Robert Warren
So you spent good money on an ad, put it in a magazine or newspaper, and waited patiently for phone calls that didn’t materialize. You’re upset: you feel that you’ve wasted money and time, and now you’re convinced that advertising doesn’t work.
Advertising does work. Every day. So before you kick away advertising (or websites, or brochures, or any other marketing medium), first consider which of these four basic reasons applies to your effort:
Your ad wasn’t created to appeal sympathetically to the correct customer need
You can’t force a sale, as much as you might want to. Your best, most reliable, most profitable customers come to your business because you meet particular needs that your competitors don’t. Simple as that. These needs may be material, psychological or emotional, but when they present themselves, their owners come to you.
The goal of advertising is not to pitch a sale, but to establish name and brand recognition for your company by associating your name with your ability to meet special customer needs. This helps promote that “good gut feeling” that your best customers have about you but can’t really explain.
If your ad isn’t built around the right specific customer needs – not wants, not desires, not self-image, but needs – then it’s almost doomed to fail.
Your ad doesn’t establish your own credibility for meeting customer needs
Etch this on your forehead: Credibility begins with evidence of understanding.
It’s not enough to hit on the right need. You have to demonstrate in some way that you truly understand and can meet it. This step doesn’t have to be fancy, and is often very subtle, sometimes involving no more than certain writing, visual design or layout decisions.
If your customers need a strong, professional company, your ad should reflect that. If they need to know that you come highly recommended, or that you have a certain degree of experience, or that your services are unique to your area, that should somehow be a part of your advertising.
Just don’t overdo it, turning your ad into a sales pitch. Provide just enough credibility to satisfy those customers looking for it. Save the rest for your other marketing efforts.
Your ad wasn’t placed in an appropriate medium that offered regular exposure to the specific customers you serve
If your business sells luxury cars, the most carefully designed ad in the world won’t accomplish a thing printed in a free newspaper that specializes in thrift classified ads. That’s not an appropriate medium for your service, and your best customers aren’t looking for you there.
If your ad properly recognized and appreciated your customers’ needs, consider the possibility that the ad appeared where it wasn’t appropriate. Why were your best customers looking for you there? How does your choice of medium speak to your credibility for meeting your customers’ needs?
Consider time as well as position: a swimwear ad would face an uphill climb if it ran in a Michigan newspaper in December. Remember that customer needs often change as the seasons change.
You expected too much from your ad
If the ad is solid, and the medium is appropriate, then the problem is you.
Advertising alone doesn’t revolutionize profits. Like all marketing tools, advertising is a precision instrument, an individual tool designed to perform a specific task. Relying on only advertising – or only networking, or only cold calling, or only a website – to promote your business makes as much sense as an auto mechanic who uses only a hammer to fix your car.
Since human beings are complicated, so are sales problems. Complicated problems require the skilled collaboration of multiple tools, of which traditional print advertising is only one.
The role of advertising in a modern marketing campaign is to establish name and brand recognition for your company, not to pitch a sale. The idea is to make sure that your prospect has already heard of your company – and has a favorable “feel” about you – by the time customer need presents itself or your salespeople come calling. Advertising helps pave the road for your other marketing efforts.
If you expected sales to double last month because you ran an ad but did little else, you probably expected more than reality could provide. It’s in fact possible that your ad did work, but that it provided benefits that your business didn’t capitalize on because you expected different results. Next time you run an ad, do it as part of a coordinated marketing effort that includes the ability to follow up with the audience that was exposed to it. Take advantage of the good will that your advertising helps generate.
If your ad is written to appeal sympathetically to the correct customer need, establishes your credibility for meeting that need, and is placed in an appropriate medium that offers regular exposure to your most likely customers, your ad will do that job. Every time.
Robert Warren (http://www.rswarren.com) is a professional writer, editor and communications consultant. His Florida-based practice specializes in helping independent professionals establish and build expert reputations through effective use of the written word.