Advertising is sort of a unique endeavor in many ways. A lot of business owners want to help with it–or get input from their friends and family–even though they don’t know anything about it. That doesn’t happen with the bookkeeping or janitorial tasks.
I think part of the problem is that people misunderstand how advertising works.
I have seen a fair number of business owners and managers agonizing over marketing materials and ads, getting lots of input and making lots of tweaks. Their focus is almost entirely on how they come across, how they look.
They treat advertising like boys do a middle school dance: Hours upon hours of planning and preparation, cologne (usually too much), tucking in the shirt just right, hair just right… they make sure they look perfect. Then they go to the dance and stand against the wall the whole time.
They forgot the most important part. They forgot to ask anyone to dance. They’ll probably get to dance with a couple girls who came over and asked them, but that’s it.
It’s the same way with advertising. If you focus on making yourself look perfect and just “getting yourself out there” you’re missing the important part.
Ads need to inspire action.
This goes for all sorts of things, actually.
- Fundraisers have to ask for the donation.
- Doing voter registration work, I found I had to ask two questions to get results: “Are you registered to vote?” almost always gets a “yes.” So, you have to follow up with “At your current address?” That’s the one that makes people actually consider what you’re asking instead of defaulting to the answer they think will make you go away.
- Callers on talk radio shows have to ask a question and shut up to get an answer. So often they’ll ramble so long that the host cuts them off or they’ll ask three questions and only get a quick answer to one.
If you want to make something happen, you can’t sit on the sidelines and hope.
But that’s what so many ads do. They’ll have the logo, a slogan, a picture and maybe some text that talks about how great the company or product is. Maybe they’ll even include a phone number or web address.
At best, those ads build name recognition. They don’t make sales.
To get results, an ad needs three things:
- A clear benefit or reason to engage with the ad
- A call to action
- Follow through
The call to action is like asking. It tells people what to do next, and it makes a huge difference in ad performance. For example, “try it for free” or “call today” are calls to action.
The benefit provides the reason the call to action should be heeded. It should provide a compelling answer to the question “What’s in it for me?”
Follow through isn’t actually part of the ad, but the connection of the ad to your sales funnel. If someone calls the phone number in your ad, you need to answer the phone. If someone clicks an ad and lands on your website, it needs to give them what they came for and make it easy to buy.
Finally, an ad needs to reach the prospect at the right time. That’s another post. Suffice to say, it’s a lot easier to catch someone when they have commercial intent by advertising on Google than on prime time TV.