The following is an excerpt from Sensible Small Business Advertising.
In preparation for starting a business, a mechanic learns how to repair cars. A doctor spends a lot of time and money getting an education and serving time as an intern. An attorney likewise has to invest in education, pass the bar exam, etc.
Whether you are a roofer, plumber, retail store owner, or whatever else, from architect to zookeeper, somehow you learned how to do what you do.
Someone taught you how to effectively perform your service or produce your product. Someone probably even coached you on how to run the business, market your business, keep the books, take inventory, comply with regulations, hire employees, provide benefits, etc.
Whether this is your first venture into running your own business or you have been at it for years, you more than likely share one problem in common with almost every other business.
In spite of all the education, experience, training, apprenticeships, and seminars in which you have been involved to prepare you to succeed in business, there is one area that no one seems to prepare you for, and that missing element—that crucial part of enabling your success—is learning how to advertise.
No one sits you down and explains how to advertise, what forms of advertising are available, which ones will work best for you, what to expect from various forms of advertising, how to develop a successful advertising program, how to keep your advertising program working as effectively as possible, how to gauge the success of your advertising program, how to tweak the program as you go, etc.
Instead, you are at the mercy of every ad salesperson who comes through the door or who calls you on the phone. You will be prone to make your decision to either listen to them or to blow them off based only on whether or not you like them or how busy you are at the time or what kind of day you are having, or some other subjective “reason.”
Advertising Salesperson—Friend or Foe?
Now listen to this. This is very important. I know you won’t want to hear this, but it is true. Refusing to take the time to hear what advertising salespeople have to offer is a big mistake. I know it takes time from your day. I know some of them grate on your nerves. I know you have heard from somebody that the ad product the salesperson wants to talk to you about “doesn’t work.”
I remember dealing with the wife of a man who owned an auto repair business. She handled all the advertising for the business, which would have made sense if she did it because her husband didn’t have the time to deal with the advertising part of the business.
But at one point I asked her if it would be possible to meet with both him and her so we could benefit from his input. She said, “Oh, no. You’ll never get to meet with him. He hates salespeople.”
To which I replied, “You mean he hates salespeople other than him, because he happens to be a salesman too. He sells tires, tune-ups, and other repairs, and I sell advertising to help him sell those things.”
Some Mind-Altering Concepts
Sometimes we have to change our way of thinking to correct problems. I truly hope I can get you to change your way of thinking in order to remedy the frustrations you may have had in your attempts to advertise.
One of the main changes you have to make is this: stop thinking like a business owner and start thinking like a potential customer. Too many business owners base their choices of advertising media on price alone. “What is cheapest? What is the absolute least amount I can pay for advertising?”
And yet, you are the same people who will steer your customer away from a lower-cost item toward a higher-priced one. Why? I hope it isn’t just because it will bring you a higher profit. I hope it is because you know that, penny for penny, the higher-priced item excels in performance, durability, ease of use, etc. The higher-priced item is a better value for your customer and is, therefore, worth the difference in price.
One of my advertising clients, a law firm, had a yellow-page phone-book ad campaign consisting of a small, one-inch in-column ad under the main heading of “Attorneys.” One of the lawyers who was influential in deciding their ad campaign declared that the office hadn’t received “any calls” from their ad.
Well, duh! Look in any phone book and you’ll see exactly why the ad didn’t accomplish much. Their ad was far too minuscule to have any major impact compared to page after page of full-page ads run by other attorneys. Does it take big bucks to advertise that way? You bet it does!
Look at all the other firms who do it year in and year out. Why? Because they know that the investment brings them exposure and business. Do you suppose lawyers just love throwing their advertising money around regardless of whether they get a return on their investment? Not the lawyers I know.
This is where your skull may tend to get a little thick. Somehow you don’t see how that principle applies to your advertising. So you underinvest in advertising and then complain because your advertising “didn’t work.”
More important than price is the quality and the return on investment that the advertising will bring you.
Sensible Small Business Advertising issues from Jack’s concern over the many situations he has confronted in dealing with business people about their frustrations, fears and confusion regarding advertising. Having found no comparable published work that systematically provided the needed information, Jack took it upon himself to write this work.