Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 9:35 am | Fair 61º


Paul Burri: Cut Advertising; It’s Too Expensive

When times are slow, marketing is even more crucial for your business.

I remember when I was first starting out in business and began to place advertising in various magazines. I would get calls from the sales representatives telling me that I needed to advertise at least three times before I should expect any results. Being a cynic, I dismissed that advice as simply their way of generating more business.

Paul Burri
Paul Burri
But after being in business for several years, I finally realized they were right. The first time your ad appears, no one sees it; the second time, a few people might notice it but they don’t take any action; the third time, they may start to remember you and maybe — just maybe — go so far as to buy something from you. It is a sad truth that you cannot ignore.

The most dramatic confirmation of people not seeing your ad the first few times happened to me one day shortly before I sold my business. I got a call from a customer who said, “Hey, I just (my emphasis) saw your ad in Fine Woodworking.” We had been advertising in that magazine for over 16 years when I got that call!

Now here’s another lesson from the advertising experts. Do not cut your advertising budget when things get slow. That’s what many businesses do but it is exactly the wrong thing to do. Henry Ford was supposed to have said, “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” Another bit of wisdom is, “Trying to run a business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark.”

But when business is tight you must spend every dollar wisely and effectively. To do that you need to track the effectiveness of your advertising. That means knowing which ads work well and which ones don’t. How do you do that? There are several ways and the most effective one is to simply ask every new customer, “How did you hear about us?” If you are doing magazine advertising in several magazines, you can add a different department number to each magazine. You can even code each magazine to see which month is the most effective. Department FS could stand for the September issue of Fine Woodworking.

Another helpful way to have customers tell you which ad is most effective is to offer a “coupon code number” to certain ads and not others. (You’ve seen these ads: “Mention this coupon code number for an additional 5 percent discount.”) Or you could try a technique used in the billboard industry. Every billboard ad has a phone number different from other advertising media. When that phone rings in your office, you know it’s from a billboard ad.

But it’s not enough to do all that clever coding if you don’t keep track of it with a simple log of some kind. I had my sales reps keep a log near their phones on which they would jot down where the customer heard about us. Then we would periodically tabulate the results and use that information to determine where to put our advertising dollars.

Keep on advertising.

Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business but he is a small business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >