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Advertising: Learn From the Mistakes of Others

Updated: Mar 17, 2021


When it comes to the competition, one of the principles we teach is not to obsess about them but be aware of what they are doing...or NOT doing.


When was the last time you really looked at the advertising messages of your competitors?


I mean really looked?


Not just at what they have on sale, but what is the real message of their ads? Chances are there isn't one.


The reason there isn't one is because the ad was created or generated by someone who didn't really know what the vision and direction of the company is.


Most ads simply report information (mostly sales) without really grabbing the customers attention or interest.


Advertising has two and only two functions.


One, to inform the consumer and/or two, a call to action.


What do you see when you look at your competitors ads? Is there anything to inspire the customer to act?


Is there a real call to action in the ad? In most cases the customer will probably go right past their ad without a second thought.


Did you ever notice how many tire ads there are in the paper when you need tires? You hardly notice them when you don't.


Shouldn't the ad make you get up, go out to the garage, and look at your tires?


Shouldn't the ad make you think about the product or service before the fact?


Here are some common mistakes your competitors are probably making. Learn from them.


Don't try to do too much with too little. Business owners often tell me they can't wait for the day they don't have to advertise so much. Let me tell you that day will never come.


You can't be all things to all people, so don't advertise everywhere. Focus your efforts where your target market is located and ignore the rest. Advertising based only on cost. Where is the lowest price place for me to advertise? Advertising reps will tell you "cost per thousand" is the most important consideration.


It's not "cost per thousand" — it's "cost per customer" you should be considering. If your advertising is working, — the cost is FREE.


Advertising must always be an investment it can never be an expense. Ads must pay for themselves in customer traffic and higher sales figures. Otherwise why do it?


The increase in customer traffic and sales will more than offset the cost of advertising. (See: 25 Low Cost Small Business Advertising Tips) Advertising infrequently. New businesses often run one or two ads and declare, "Advertising just doesn't work for us, we've tried it."


Research says we need to see an ad at least 9 times in order for the company to be creditable in our eyes. The problem is we usually miss every third ad.


To reach the average person 9 times, we actually have to run the ad a minimum of 27 times for it to be seen at least 9 times. Size doesn't always count. A full page ad many not pull as much as a quarter page ad. Consistent messages in size and content usually do better over time than big then small.

Do you want your ad to sell product or win awards? Naturally you want the best possible ad you can afford.


But, don't let the messenger overpower the message. The message is the reason for the ad. See: "Inside Great Ads - for what makes a good ad." Don't imitate your competitor. Don't be a "me too" business to your customer. Your job is to set yourself apart from the competition — not imitate them.


Use positioning to separate yourself from your competitors. See: "How To Make Your Business Unique." Failing to capitalize on strengths of the business. You should know the demographics of your target market. What product strengths can you match to them.


Use your strong points to overcome competitive disadvantages. No advertising measurement. How effective is your advertising? How do you measure what your ads produce?


You must develop procedures to measure if the ad is doing the job. One way is to "key" your ads. You need some signal that will alert you to where the customer came from.


For example: If the customer call and asks for their free copy of "10 Things You Should Know Before You Buy Tires" you would know that's from your newspaper ad. On radio you may tell the customer to call and "Ask For Joe". On TV it's "Ask for Steve" In magazines, it's "Ask for Pete".


Put codes on all coupon ads to tell you what papers they came from. A code such as (BC210/21) might mean the Bozeman Chronicle (BC) the second week (2) of October 2021 (10/21).


The number of coupons you redeem will tell you how effective the ad is. You can't evaluate the coupon unless you know which media they came from.

Advertising is not a cure-all. If you have a lousy business, poor customer service or bad products, all the great ads in the world won't help you.


Advertising can't overcome business weaknesses. Fix the business before you waste your advertising dollars putting out the wrong message to the right people. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that advertising is expensive enough when it works and even worse when it doesn't. If you use these tips, you can save yourself some valuable ad dollars and improve your advertising efforts.


Based in Bozeman, MT, Tom Egelhoff is the author of, “The Small-Town Advertising Handbook: How To Say More And Spend Less,” and "How to Market, Advertise and Promote Your Business or Service in Your Own Backyard." He is also a seminar and workshop presenter and trainer. He may be reached at 406-580-1104


Listen in on Tom's Saturday weekly radio show "Open For Business" on AM 1450 KMMS Radio, Bozeman. Have a business question for Tom? Click here to get Tom's advice for free.

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