Most small business advertising doesn’t work.
That isn’t because advertising is a poor medium for broadcasting your marketing message. Rather, it’s because small businesses don’t run the types of ads that are designed to produce leads and sales.
Advertising does work – if you do it properly.
Why Most Small Business Advertising Fails
What does most advertising look like? Open the Yellow Pages or flip through any magazine, and the vast majority of ads included are “image” advertising. They usually use the company’s name, a big image or photo, a small amount of ad copy and lots of white space.
If you have a large advertising budget and want to build brand awareness, this is OK. Some companies – like Apple – do this very effectively.
But your company doesn’t have the marketing budget, consumer demand, or distribution channels that Apple does, so it’s a waste of money for you to try to imitate them. Your reader doesn’t know you. He has never heard about you. He has no interest in your service.
What he wants is a solution to his problem, not to learn more about your company. People don’t buy small business services. They buy results.
Worse than image advertising are the generic ads found in the phone book. The biggest text is the company name, followed by a list of bullet points about “best value,” “reliable,” “excellent customer service,” “in business 20 years,” “affordable prices” and other vague or meaningless catch phrases.
These ads are completely useless. They don’t grab your attention. They don’t focus on a problem.They don’t make an offer. They don’t motivate you to take action now.
The only type of advertising small businesses should use is direct response.
What Is Direct Response Advertising?
Like the name suggests, direct response advertising is designed to motivate your reader to take a very specific action or response.
You may have heard the term “direct response” in relation to mailings, but the principles can and should be used for all of your promotions including ads, your website, sales literature, and any other lead generating activities.
Direct response does four very specific things:
- grabs your reader’s attention by focusing on your prospect’s key desire or problem
- offers proof of a solution to your prospect’s problem
- makes an attractive, valuable offer so your prospects think, “I want that!”
- provides a call to action telling prospects exactly what to do next
In other words, direct response advertising is salesmanship in print.
Use The AIDA Formula for Advertising
One formula you can use for direct response advertising is AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.
- Grab Their Attention: To be effective, an ad must capture your prospect’s attention somehow. Most people will barely give your ad 2 seconds of their time. They’re multitasking – eating dinner, watching the kids, reading an interesting article – so your ad must interrupt them from what they were doing long enough for them to notice.
- Create Interest: Once you have their attention, you have to pull them in. Why should they watch your ad or read your copy? What’s in it for them? How does it meet their need?
- Arouse Desire: Now that they’re interested, how can you persuade them to want more? What can your product or service do to alleviate a major problem they’re having? How can you appeal to their emotional need for your product or service?
- Get Them To Take Action: The final step is to tell them what to do to find out more about your product or service. This must be as painless as possible and must be the next logical step they’d consider taking – not what you hope they’ll do. This might be to purchase your book, register for a seminar, download a free guide, or call for their initial consultation.
By using the principles of the AIDA formula, you can create enticing ads quickly and cheaply.
But I Can’t Afford Full Page Ads!
Maybe you’re thinking that this sounds great, but it also sounds like a lot of text. How can you fit all of that stuff into one tiny ad? Does this mean you should just buy full page ads?
No, not at all.
Rather than try to sell your products, services, or even your free consultation from your ad, sell free information.
This approach is called “two-step” marketing.
With two-step marketing, all of your ads promote a freebie with the primary goal of grabbing your reader’s attention and getting them to call a phone number for a free recorded message or visit your website to download your special report, audio recording, or information guide.
Once they respond, you can start educating them about how your services will benefit them.
Two-step marketing has a number of benefits:
- Higher Response Rates: Readers perceive requesting free information to be much lower risk than calling you for what they think will be a sales pitch. They can request and consume your materials at their convenience.
- More Qualified Leads: It is designed to educate, so you get fewer time wasting sales inquiries. Your marketing materials do the pre-selling, leading to a shorter sales cycle.
- Automation: The follow up process can be completely automated. You set up your recorded message or download area on your website once, and can use them for every ad you run.
- Track ROI: It’s easy to track and measure results by using a special URL or unique phone number. You know which ads send the most leads.
Two-step marketing combined with the AIDA formula can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your advertising.