How to know when to advertise

I had an interesting sidewalk conversation with a friend recently that I’ll share with you. We were standing in front of a retail store-front business that was shuttering after a short (few months) attempt at launching. We both knew the owner and the issue of their lack of advertising came up. It’s good to know at this point that my friend has been quite successful selling print advertising for many years.

My friend pointed to the lack of advertising as their downfall. I said that there had to be much more to their situation than that. I went so far as to suggest it was probably best they hadn’t begun advertising during the early stage of their business anyway. That comment was met with a jaw-drop.

It’s probably good to know at this point that I have been referred to many times as the “unmarketing marketer.” That’s because I have never bought into the “you have to be doing something and a lot of it” reasoning that can be found behind a lot of wasted marketing budgets.

The conversation was over quickly and I believe it was punctuated with a statement ending with, “agree to disagree.”

So when do I, the “unmarketing marketer,” think should you advertise? Here’s my short answer:

Your money is well-spent on advertising when you have 1) identified your ideal target market, 2) tested messaging (including an offer) relevant to the needs and/or wants of the ideal target market, 3) identified appropriate advertising venue(s) where the ideal target market will see your presence in a context relevant to your offer, 4) and commited to a budget that enables maintaining a consistant advertising presence for at least four to six months.

The even shorter answer is you need to have spent the time and made a serious effort to accomplish all the first 3 items in the quick answer before you can sanely commit to item 4.

When a business first launches, they hopefully have an idea of how they will best serve a target market and who that target market is. But it’s the wise business owner that talks little and listens a lot because, more often than not, the aim is a little (or a lot) off. This means coming to grips with the fact your ideal customers are not who you thought they would be.

Amazingly and sadly, some business owners are unable to make this adjustment. Instead they jump into very expensive advertising campaigns with misguided offers and messaging in venues that miss reaching their ideal target market. Then, when little or nothing comes from “doing something and doing a lot of it,” they blame the advertising venues as “not as effective as the ad sales people said they would be.”

So, yeah, if you’re just launching your business, and with a very few exceptions, resist the temptation to “do something” until you really know who your ideal market is and what your best offer to them is. My apologies to my advertising sales friends who may see this differently. But this will actually bring them clients with realistic advertising budgets who become much happier long-term advertisers.