I just read some advertising suggestions on an Internet marketing site that are beyond annoying. They are flat-out bad advice. They illustrate a complete lack of understanding of the whole persuasion process.
First, small business owners are told that advertising often has a cumulative effect, so ad-driven sales may not be immediate. Then, they’re told how to measure and track the immediate response of their advertising.
Reading past that little dichotomy, some of the suggestions included:
Use magazine response cards. Remember to code the cards if you use multiple publications. Use a coupon in your newspaper ads. Code the coupons so that you can tell which publication generates the most sales. Put a line in your radio scripts to “Mention this ad and get a 10% discount. " Ask all new customers how they heard about your business.
Make no mistake. These are all bad suggestions. Very bad. In addition to being very poor persuasion, each of these strategies assumes that your prospective customers are paying very close attention to your ads.
Trust me, customers don’t.
Good advertising is seduction. Pretend with me for a minute that all advertising is an attempt to get a “date" with your prospect.
How do these recommendations hold up under that scenario?
Would you, for instance, send a response card to anyone you could possibly be interested in dating, which says “If you’d like to learn more about me, fill out your name, address, and your specific areas of interest in me, and apply your own postage to return it to me?"
No, I didn’t think you would.
The advice contained in these recommendations also suffers from major misunderstandings in the motivations of customers.
Coupons assume that you have nothing to offer but a better price. Think about the implications of that for a moment. It implies that after you’ve spent the money to advertise your discounted (and minimally profitable) price, that the customer has no reason to ever come back to do business with you again. Or at least, until you drop your price again.
Mention this ad? In three decades of mass media experience, I’ve never heard of a single person saying “I heard your ad. Give me the discount. " Smart radio stations will never allow this on their air. Does that mean people don’t respond to advertising? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. It means that they won’t embarrass themselves by parroting your line. Not surprising, is it? Most people won’t admit that advertising affects them in any way.
Ask new customers where they heard about you?
They don’t know.
Oh, they’ll try to give you an answer. Really though, your advertising isn’t important enough for them to remember exactly what they learned about you, let alone the source of that information. But because they’ll want to be helpful, they will guess. They’ll usually guess wrong.
There are two major problems with any of these “track your response" strategies.
They provide bad information. Bad information is worse than none at all. It gives you a distorted view of reality. Which leads to the second problem: You’ll be tempted to make decisions based on this bad information. You will frequently make the wrong decisions.
Consider this, instead. Send the object of your affection an “I love you" message.
Does it matter whether your “I love you" comes in a telegram, an e-mail, a card, or over the phone? Or is the expression of love the most important consideration?
Does it matter whether your ad message is delivered in the newspaper, over the radio, on cable TV, or by direct mail? Or is the message the critical part?
Your advertising will improve by orders of magnitude when you spend less time attempting to find the most effective medium, and more time searching for the most effective message.
Chuck McKay is a marketing practitioner specializing in small retail and service businesses.
He is the author of Fishing For Customers And Reeling Them In.
Chuck's columns appear regularly at http://www.fishingforcustomers.com
Mr. McKay is available as a guest speaker or seminar presenter.
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