Larry the Ad Man's Blog

I hope you learn from my small business marketing and advertising tips.

"Advertising is to trade what Steam is to machinery" Thomas Cook.
It was an honor to be nominated for 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Your business influences can be critical.

As a business owner, who do you speak to about your business? A neighboring store? Someone in your field? A long time friend? or someone else? Do their ideas and thoughts influence the way in which you do business? Then it is important to ask this critical question, either to them or to yourself. What is it that backs up their opinion on a subject?

As a past owner of a small business that had many influences within the same industry, I know it can be easy to give respect to those who give you business advice as a peer. But without that critical question, it can be detrimental to your business. Advertising is one area that many business owners can get wrong. Thomas Cook once said " Advertising is to trade what Steam is to machinery". There is a simplistic view by many brick and mortar one-owner retail outlets. "My advertising is word of mouth". "Why should I spend money on advertising when I don't know if it's working?" My answer is simply, you need to find out how it's working. Take the view that your advertising is to reach to a certain demographic. Target it to that demographic and see if you get new customers, your current customers shop more often or your current customers spend more with each visit. VERY few if any customers are going to tell you "I saw your ad and it connected with me in this way". They will simply purchase your product and leave. Have a realistic expectation and have patience. Changing purchasing decisions doesn't happen overnight. It's a long term strategy. Evaluate as you go, tweak it, but stay with it. As for word of mouth, it can be effective, BUT do you really know what your word of mouth is saying about your business?

Another piece of advice I dislike is "I advertised with them once but it didn't work". A nice simple clean assessment that some small business owners will take as gold. The fact that the media they are talking about has been in business for many years and has a wealth of advertisers means nothing to this argument. Lets look at the word "once". That word tells me as an advertising professional that they don't understand advertising. Ask yourself when you have seen one ad (print/TV/radio/Internet banner/facebook) and responded to it? Also ask yourself if you have ever told the business that you are responding to an ad or do they even ask? Then ask yourself if you have ever responded to an ad and left without making a purchase? My favorite response to that objection is, if it was the media that doesn't work, then can I offer you a free ad, advertising  that everything in your store is free? Do you think that might get a response? A bit obtuse I admit but illustrates the point very well that it is the message we have to get right in order to illicit a response.

So be careful when asking for and accepting advice and make certain the answer you get is well thought out and comes from a place of thorough analysis. By contrast, also be wary of giving advice in same, if you have not put it past the "litmus" test. Rather than saying the media didn't work, perhaps a more clear thought is we didn't get the response we were expecting on our ad for our big one day sale. That puts it in a much better context to have a thoughtful discussion on why it didn't meet expectations. Make sure you put yourself in a position to succeed by having positive business influences around you.


  1. Nicely written Larry, thanks for sharing those points

  2. Thanks Christine. Thats high praise coming from your writing background.