As a business owner who regularly attends many networking meetings, this is a phrase I often hear; particularly, I’ve noticed, after introducing myself as owning a marketing agency.
I tend not to speak furiously about the finer points of my industry at such meetings, but this response always intrigues me. So, a few questions:
Q: What makes you say that?
A: We spent [insert fee here] on advertising and never got a single lead from any of the adverts.
Q: Was there a tracking mechanism in place? A: Blank expression/please explain?
A device to ensure that when there are phone/email enquiries they can be traced back to the marketing tactic that generated the enquiry. A: No, not really.
This is interesting – without this, even if there WAS a response the business in question wouldn’t know it had come from that advert.
Q: Where did you advertise?
A: [insert name of publication here].
The number of times we hear that businesses have advertised in a generic publication or newspaper that isn’t specifically aimed at their desired target audience is incredible! I suspect I know why it happened, often that “last minute deal” the ad-exec called about. Ignore the price; if it’s the wrong place to start with, why would you want to place an advert there?
Q: What was the messaging about?
A: Um, well it was about our product / service.
No one cares about your product or service. What they DO care about is resolving an issue or problem of theirs, which may or may not be resolved by using your product or service. The solution is to promote the benefit, not the feature. For example, an accountant might advertise how using their services saves their clients time and possibly reduces their tax burden because the accountant knows the right tax loopholes.
Q: Was it quite wordy? A: Well, yes, we have a lot to say about our [insert product/service name here].
Again, few will care enough to read it. Make any blurb on adverts short and punchy. Less is most definitely more. If there is some small print, fine, make it small or ask people to look at it online instead of including it on the advert!
Q: What was the imagery like?
A: Oh, it was a picture of our product / stock photo of someone in a suit. Smiling.
There is a place for a product photo in an advert, but why not have it as an inset? The remaining space can then be used to “sell the dream”, which is marketing speak for promoting the benefit again. Example, you sell taps – show a GORGEOUS bathroom, not a picture of a tap. Services are harder to illustrate, but again, think out of the box and sell the dream. If it’s conceptual ensure it’s not so off the wall that no-one gets it. Try to tie in with the main headline.
And so it continues, after which people start to consider that actually there might be more to this advertising lark after all.
At the risk of re-hashing a guide to advertising theory, failed advertising usually falls into one of 5 categories:
- The advert has been poorly designed, doesn’t focus on the potential customers requirements, but at least is in the right media location.
- The advert is fantastic, but it’s in the wrong place to reach the desired audience.
- The advert is fantastic, it’s in the right place, but has no tracking so you don’t know which of your adverts is working.
- The advert is fantastic, it’s in the right place, it has a simple tracking mechanism… but it’s been booked as a one off. A series booking is FAR more effective.
- Worst case, it’s all wrong and there is no tracking. Of course the tracking part of this is moot anyway as there probably wouldn’t BE any enquiries!!
I once listened to a presentation by a local marketing expert (self proclaimed of course..) who advised her audience to stop advertising if it wasn’t working and try something else instead. I would suggest analysing WHY the advertising isn’t working and then make changes accordingly. It’s almost certainly fixable.
Lastly, if advertising doesn’t work, why are there so many adverts?