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.
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.”
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).