Before you react and think that this is post about how much I hate advertising, it isn’t.  In fact, I think advertising can be a great source of leads and brand awareness for a business.  But too often I see small businesses spending money on advertising for the wrong reasons.  Here are some examples of poor logic when it comes to advertising spend:

  • “But it’s only $50/month” (insert your low monthly cost here…are you sure that is the best way you can spend your company’s $600?)
  • “My competitors advertise there” (and if all the other kids jumped off a bridge?…ok you know the rest)
  • “It supports a good cause” (I hate to sound harsh here but wouldn’t it be better to make as much money as possible so you can be a big donor to your favorite cause AND get the benefit of a tax deduction?)
  • “They’re a client” (I’m a huge believer in the cycle of giving and receiving but before you use this excuse, refer to the section on measurement below).
  • “I get a lot of clients from them.” (OK maybe, but again refer to the section on measurement).
  • “I thought I’d try it for a month.”  (This one is destined to fail as it is rare to see a positive ROI on most advertising channels after only a month…that’s why advertisers all try to sell you multi-month packages).

As you may have guessed from my reactions to the variety of excuses above, the first way your small business can throw away your money on advertising is:

#1 Don’t Measure Your Advertising Results

Advertising is like any other business investment.  You should only invest if you see a positive Return On Investment (ROI).  Now measurement in the world of advertising can be a tricky thing, especially when clients are exposed to your business from multiple channels.  Perhaps they drove by your business and saw your sign.  They then Googled you and checked out your website.  Later, they were exposed to your remarketing ad while reading an article on the Huffington Post website.  So what caused them to be a client, the sign, your website or your remarketing campaign?  It was likely a combination of the three, but for that particular client it wasn’t the newspaper ad you placed last month as they didn’t see it.  The point is, that if you don’t ask new clients how they heard about your business, and record those results for later analysis, you won’t know.  Our memories can play tricks on us.  The client may forget they saw your remarketing ad and only remember your sign as being how they heard about you, failing to reinforce the value of your remarketing ad had as a reminder.  You may forget that it was only one client who said they found you because of your sign and think that online advertising is useless because most clients find you when driving by.  But even though measurement of human behavior can never be perfect, some measurement is 100% better than no measurement and over time you’ll begin to see trends.

When you measure your results, don’t just track where people heard about you but also how much they spend with your business over their lifetime as a client.  It is important to measure the financial value of the clients brought to you by various advertising channels since if some channels are bringing you low value clients, they may not be worth retaining in your strategy.

#2 Don’t Let Your Staff Know What You’re Doing

So you decide to run a Google Adwords campaign.  You work hard on your catchy subject line, you make sure that you have an attractive landing page with a compelling lead magnet and that you have SEO optimized your landing page against the keyword phrase used in the  campaign so you’ll get more traffic and a lower cost per click from Google.  Great!  Except for one thing.  You worked out all of the details with your marketing consultant and didn’t tell your staff.  Your staff are probably really good at making appointments for you.  They can probably explain to a caller what you do.  But can they do it in a way that sells?  Do they tell callers, “Yes Dr. Awesome offers acupuncture services…” or do they say “May I ask what prompted you to call us today?  Oh you found our ad on how to be pain free in 15 minutes on Google?  And do you suffer from chronic pain?  I’m sorry to hear that but you have come to the right place.  Dr. Awesome specializes in helping patients suffering from chronic pain and has helped thousands of patients become pain free, starting with their first session.  She is offering a free 30 minute consultation for new patients.  She is generally booked weeks in advance but I happen to have an opening Wednesday at 2 p.m., may I book that for you?  Great, let me get some additional details from you…”.  See the difference?  Sales training isn’t just for salespeople any more.

#3 Don’t Follow Up

Advertising is all about filling your sales funnel.  But unless you sell an impulse product or a service that does not require explanation, (and even if you do) it is unlikely that everyone who contacts you as a result of your campaign will buy right away.  And since you invested good money in your campaign, the best way to throw that investment away is to make the prospect’s first contact with you your only attempt to close the business.  On the other hand, if you invest in a good CRM tool (we love Infusionsoft) then you have the ability to capture the prospect’s contact information and add them to a drip campaign where every few days they will receive a value-oriented (not sales-y) email from you on the topic that caused them to reach out.  You may include a call-to-action in these emails but the purpose is to demonstrate your expertise and value and to keep your business top of mind so that when the prospect is ready to buy, you’ll be the first one they think of.  You may also want to add a sales call at the end of your drip campaign to follow up in person.

The Bottom Line

Advertising can be a great way to generate leads.  You may even wish to use it for brand awareness.  But at the end of the day if you don’t know the total revenue derived by each of your advertising investments, if you haven’t given each lead it’s best opportunity by training your staff to at least close on booking an appointment, and if you have no means of following up to remain top of mind with prospects who may not yet be ready to buy, then you will absolutely be throwing your money away.

At ZenChange we help clients with their campaigns, measurement and follow up so they can get the most out of their advertising dollars.