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Answers to the 3 Big Advertising Questions

By: Ilise Benun

Ilise Benun is the Director of the Hoboken NJ-based consulting firm, Creative Marketing & Management. Her emphasis is on the human element of marketing and she offers training seminars and workshops on strategic storytelling, self-marketing, sales follow-up and other sales & marketing topics. She is the publisher of the quarterly newsletter, The Art of Self Promotion, and the author of three marketing books, including Self-Promotion Online, due out Fall 2000 from North Light Books. Visit the Web site for her newsletter or send email to

1. Does Advertising Work?

Well, advertising can work, but it's neither magic nor immediate. Have you heard this joke: I know my advertising is 50% successful, I just don't which 50%. Well it's not a joke. Unless you're running direct response ads, (like infomercials which encourage people to send money or to call an 800 number immediately) it's near impossible to measure the effect of advertising.

The way advertising works (and all marketing, for that matter) is through repetition. You gain your market's confidence through high visibility and the consistent reinforcement of your marketing message. These messages work as triggers, to remind your prospects that they are interested in your services and products. It's gotta sink in, below the surface, so that when your prospect has a need, your name, your logo, your message comes to mind.

So the first rule is this: once is not enough. In fact, once is a waste. The chances that your prospect will just happen to see your ad the one time you just happen to advertise are very slim. You have to start small, go slowly, and give it a chance, which means you must run your ad at least 6 times, or over the course of 6 months. During that time, you can change a word here or there to test its effect on response. Or test 3 versions of one ad in 3 different media and see if the differences affect response. Using this strategy, you'll be able to track the results, at least enough to get a sense of which ad is more effective.

2. Isn't it Expensive?

Many businesses fail because they don't spend enough money on advertising; others fail because they spend too much or buy inappropriate ad space. The cost of advertising is measured not in dollars, but in response. If you buy an expensive ad and lots of people respond to it, then it wasn't expensive at all. And likewise, the fact that you get a great deal becomes irrelevant if no one sees your ad.

The expensive ads aren't even necessarily the most effective. For example, a classified ad in the back of a neighborhood paper can be more effective -- and cheaper -- than a snazzy, 4-color display ad in a national magazine.

But size is only one of the issues to consider. Another is the quality of the ad itself: what it looks like, what it says, how the type is laid out. It's essential that you create a high-quality ad, no matter what kind you choose. According to Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the Guerilla Marketing series, "Far more people will see your ad than will see you or your place of business, so their opinion will be shaped by your ad."

Whatever you do, don't let the ad salesperson design your ad or write your copy. They offer to do it because they want to make it easy for you to advertise But you can be sure that if you hand it over to them, your message will end up looking and sounding like everyone else's. So if you're going to advertise, do it right. Spend the money to make it look good. Hire a professional to write the copy and to design the layout. This investment will payoff in the long run.

3. Where Should I Advertise?

Be proactive, be decisive, and be creative in your media buy. Put yourself in your prospect's shoes and imagine his or her moment of need. You know your customers. What are his resources? What is the easiest thing for her to do? Go to the Yellow Pages? Call a colleague for a referral? Look in a file they may be keeping just for moments like these? If you don't know, or if you want more concrete answers, don't hesitate to ask. They'll tell you.

Survey the competition; where do they advertise? Or do they? If they don't, there may be a reason for that.

If you're considering buying space in a magazine that reaches your target audience, review several consecutive issues of that magazine. Chances are that if you see repeated ads for products or services that your target audience is likely to buy, you're on the right track. Before signing a contract, interview other advertisers, maybe even a few former advertisers.

And don't just advertise in the media whose sales reps are persistent with you. You must research your market's buying habits and make the best choices for your business.

© Copyright 2000, Ilise Benun

Other Articles by Ilise Benun

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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