Make Advertising Work for You

If you’ve just started a new business, or have an offer to promote, you are going to have to get the word out there one way or another. There are ways to do this for free, of course, but you might be considering an advertising budget as well. Paying for advertising can be something of a gamble (how much of a gamble depends how much you are willing to spend – and on what type of product or service you are advertising), and it is not guaranteed to succeed, but there are certain steps that can be taken to increase the chances of it bringing returns. Advertising does work – if the message is good and well delivered, and if there is sufficient demand for the product offered. If advertising didn’t work at all, big companies wouldn’t pour vast resources into getting their message and name out there – and keeping it out there.


The first goal of advertising is to make people aware. If you set up a business but don’t inform anyone that it exists, it will sit there and sell nothing. A business needs to tell people that it is there and what it provides. Similarly, if you want to promote a new product or an offer on a current one, you’re going to have to tell people about it.

You might think that you’re a tough nut to crack when it comes to being persuaded to buy a product. But while many businesses need continuous, regular customers to survive, sometimes they might only need to coax you into buying something one time, even after repeated efforts. And this one purchase might turn into more. I’ll give an example. For many years I have walked past a bookshop. I glance in its window at its ever changing display at least a couple of times a day. Occasionally something might make me look twice, or even stop. But for many years I walked on and never bought anything. Then one day I saw a book that stopped me in my tracks. I looked at the price tag, went straight in, and bought it. With just a bit of time and effort – and at little to no cost – every now and then, the bookshop enticed me, and probably many others, simply by periodically rearranging its window display. Now, multiply me by the amount of people who walk by that bookshop day in day out over many years. And then add those who happen to pass by just the once and make an impulse purchase by pure chance, and then those that will then return and buy something else another day. You start to realise that it’s a little like going fishing. Sit there for a while and you might not get a bite… then suddenly, you get one, only in this case each bite might lead to more.

Sales works in a similar way. Call ninety-nine people in a row and try to sell them a product and they might all say “no”, however, if the hundredth one says “yes”, the resulting sale could repay the cost of the day’s calls many times over. If this converts someone into a regular customer, the return will be even greater. But selling has another dimension – persuading people to buy.


While I do not condone trying to push people into buying something that they do not want, if someone does happen to require the product or services that you provide, and is thinking about purchasing them in near future, then you are going to want to nudge them to make the decision to buy from you and not from a competitor. You will need to make them aware of what you can offer them, that it is in their interest to buy from you, and show that your products and services are the best value available. So how does advertising achieve this? There are a few techniques. Emotion is a common way; showing how having something could make someone happier, or conversely that not having it might mean that they miss out – or they might have to pay more for it if they delay. Flattery can also be a good tool, perhaps sending the message that your customers should treat themselves to something because they deserve it. Another way is to use offers, such as a discount – and never underestimate the power of the word “free”. It doesn’t have to mean that the whole product or services offered is free – you just add a free part on to the deal.

What form can this all take? Let’s envisage a static advertisement frame, perhaps in print or on a website. The main message usually comes through a large image which takes up maybe half, or even almost the whole space in the advert. This image will often show an end goal that the buyer will achieve, or it may illustrate a problem that needs to be solved. The image might be accompanied by a header or strap line to further grab attention.

The second most noticeable thing in an advert will probably be a discount or an offer such as “buy one, get one free”. This will most likely be quite large and bold, designed to entice the reader to take more interest. Less immediately noticeable will probably be a few details, perhaps bullet points giving information about what the product or services does, or what problems it will solve. At this stage the advertisement will be reaching its conclusion. A company logo and contact details will probably come next, and then perhaps a hint of urgency, for example a date by which the offer must be claimed. Sometimes these last two components can be the other way round, with the expiry date coming before the contact details, or the hint of urgency could be left out altogether, but either way some method of contact or a way to buy the product is a necessity.


Once persuaded, how do you keep the customers coming back? Obviously a great product/service is a must, but beyond this, familiarity is the next big part of advertising. Ever wonder why massive brands continue to advertise even though everyone knows who they are and what they do? Because if they stopped advertising, they would probably stop being massive brands. As well as being there for the purpose of gaining new customers, their ads are out there to remind you that their product still exists and is there to be purchased. Once a brand is established, it needs to remain established. Some can do this and maintain their level of business through recommendations and word of mouth alone, but many need advertising too. And if you have a business, it is always useful to keep your name out there just in case you lose a customer, for whatever reason, and need to gain a new one to replace the drop in revenue.

So what are the options for advertising a new business? Consider the demographics – who are you selling to? It could be everyone and anyone, but think about who is most likely to buy from you. Younger people might respond more to digital advertising, while others could be more likely to pick up your message from methods such as print. This could mean putting something in a local publication, for example a magazine that is delivered free door to door. This is still an effective way to get your name out there, even with so many modern digital alternatives available. Social media is a fantastic way to spread the word about your business, but if there is a local a magazine or paper that is well established, popular and interesting, people will read it, and having your businesses in a respected publication could give it a seal of approval, taking that first step to gaining trust. A word of caution, though. Don’t always expect immediate results (though that is not to say you won’t get them). Remember the earlier analogy about fishing. People might see your advertisement but not immediately need your services, and might recall it sometime after they initially saw it, or mention it to a friend or relative. Also, you might be up against similar, established businesses who have advertised in a publication or been operating in the local area for a long time, and you could find yourself having to keep plugging away and be patient to get yourself established and build a familiarity with people.

Another option is a leaflet drop. 99.9% might go straight in the recycle bin, but if you get 3,000 out there, even a return 0.1% could be three big jobs coming your way which would pay back the cost of the leaflets many times over – and the sweat of taking them out there if you decide to do it yourself (though at least it’ll be good exercise!). If you choose this method, think carefully about how to target the leaflets. Again, who is most likely to buy your services – single people, couples or families? Younger or retired people? Where are they most likely to live? Are you looking to sell to consumers or business to business? If you will be selling to other businesses, where do you imagine business owners might live? It might not always be where you first think in some instances, but using this method will help you to narrow things down and save wasted time, effort and paper! Think about where your potential customers are likely to live and deliver accordingly.

It is worth remembering, though, that even with the best possible designed advertisement, with a great offer, that is timed perfectly and reaches just the right people, the response you get in return will still depend on to what degree the product you offer is in demand, and also just how short or plentiful its supply is. Badly executed advertising for a service that is in high demand and which few people offer might still get a good response, and conversely, a perfectly made advertising campaign for something that is not really needed might get little or no feedback. But if you have a product or a skill to sell, and you are confident that people will want to buy it, you need to find some way to get the word out there.

So to recap, when you need to advertise, one of the most tried and tested methods is to give a potential customer an image of what they will achieve, or a problem that will be solved for them, by using your services. Make some kind of offer for them to respond to, and if you like, add a sense of urgency such as a deadline date by which the offer can be claimed. Make sure there are details which state how you can easily be contacted – preferably at least a couple of different ways (i.e. email and telephone number). And finally, think about who is most likely to buy your products or skills, and tailor your advertising methods accordingly. Advertising works – if done well, appropriately, efficiently, where there is a demand for a product or skill, and with a degree of patience involved – so when you need to do it, make it count and make it work for you…