If I were to select the question I get asked most frequently from business owners and managers, as well as people starting new businesses, it would be a version of the following:

‘I’ve tried advertising in xxxxxxx. (fill in the blank. It could be yellow pages or local newspaper or whatever) It’s not worked very well. Can you tell me what form of advertising will work best for my business?’

It’s a simple and perfectly reasonable question but it’s a very important one because behind the question, there is a mindset, which is the real source of many Marketing problems.

The first part of the mindset is the magic bullet‚ idea. That there is one great place to advertise that will bring your customers streaming through the door. While this is a possibility, the only way you’re going to find the best place to advertise is by continually testing new publications and new ads. This can be expensive and time consuming – and when it comes to publications such as Yellow Pages, a low cost test is virtually impossible. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

The second part of the mindset – and this is the part that often causes problems – is a belief that if you can’t get some advertising to work in this or that publication, you’re not going to be able to get enough customers. In other words, there’s often a real worry for people asking the “Where should I advertise?”‚ question because they’re feeling dependent on advertising. It’s certainly a cultural belief that if you run a business, you need to advertise.

Well, most Advertising does not work!

Simple as that. If you went into 100 small and medium sized businesses who advertise, the first thing you would find is that 98 of them are not measuring the results of their advertising. If you started testing and measuring you would likely find somewhere between 50% and 80% of the ads are not working. Many of these businesses are still successful. It’s just that their new business isn’t coming from their advertising. It’s coming from referrals, internet etc.

While this is all a bit crazy it’s actually great news. Once you realise that most businesses survive without effective advertising, it takes the pressure off you to feel that you need to advertise to survive. Don’t get me wrong. Advertising may be a potential goldmine for you. But there are many, many other options for you that are less risk, often cheaper and often far more profitable. These include Email Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, Direct Mail, Telephone Marketing, Referrals, Joint Ventures, Pay Per Click etc. The list is endless.

If you make no other business decision this year decide to get really, really good at some or all of these Marketing strategies. Learn about them and then start testing them on a small, low risk scale. Test one approach each month and this time next year you will have implemented 12 new, powerful Marketing approaches. The impact on your profits will be significant – and best of all, you’ll never worry about a Yellow Pages or Newspaper ad ever again.

Best wishes
Chris Cardell