5 critical questions for effective Small Business Advertising in On Entrepreneurship

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If you honestly evaluate your advertising using the five questions in this article you will find out a lot about your advertising.

One of two things will happen:

You’ll discover that your advertising provides compelling and powerful answers to each and every question. If so, congratulations—you’re in the top 1% of all small business advertisers, and you’re achieving amazing results from your advertising.

OR

You’ll find that your advertising is totally focused on the wrong person—it’s focused on you or your business instead of on the perfect client in your target market. If this is you, don’t feel too badly—99% of all small businesses fall into this category. Their advertising isn’t very effective and earns, at best, a small “fair share” of available business … and it only gets that much because the competition’s advertising is equally horrible.

Let us stress one very important point before you continue: do not make this an intellectual exercise.

Think of your image of the perfect client.

Then physically pull out your advertisements, sit down, and answer the following five questions as if your perfect client were asking them.

These questions will make demands upon your advertising that are very different from traditional advertising. Answering may seem strange at first, but stick with it. If your current advertising doesn’t provide compelling answers, start to think about how you could change it so that it does.

Small Business Advertising Question #1: “Why Are You Bothering Me?”

FACT: Advertising is an interruption.

Your ideal clients didn’t wake up this morning, get out of bed, and proclaim, “Wow, I sure hope someone advertises to me today.” The real world simply doesn’t work that way.

Your ideal clients, however, did get out of bed with business problems, goals, and other things that are important to them. If your advertising doesn’t grab their attention with a compelling reason that’s important to them (not you, but them), it will be thrown in the trash or just ignored.

If you don’t know what’s on your ideal client’s mind, you have no business putting together an advertisement … yet.

Go back to market research, and learn more about your target market. The research and understanding are key to generating responses to your advertising.

Small Business Advertising Question #2: “What Does It Have to Do with Me?”

human hand neon signage
Photo by Charles Deluvio

After you capture your clients’ attention, you must get their interest.

Every once in a while, an advertisement will run in the Wall Street Journal with a huge, bold headline that simply says:

SEX!

Does it get people’s attention? Sure. But the next line is, “Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about my worn-out, dusty shoes.” Well, unless you’re interested in worn-out, dusty shoes, your interest in the advertisement stops right there and you move onto the next page.

So you see, once you grab their attention, you must get them interested … immediately! You can do this by telling them what the advertisement’s information has to do with the things they consider to be important. Again, this is about what they consider to be important, not what you consider to be important.

A tried-and-true way to capture interest is to state the biggest possible benefit or promise you’re able to make to your target market. If you know your market well, this is a sure-fire way to keep prospective clients reading.

Small Business Advertising Question #3: “Why Should I Believe You?”

Prove it!

Decision makers default to skepticism, not belief, about your claims. If you don’t give your prospects powerful and compelling reasons to believe what you claim in your advertising, they won’t.

It’s your job to provide the proof they need to believe what you’re communicating. If your advertising doesn’t provide proof, get to work and add it in.

For every promise you make and every benefit you list, ask the question: “Why should I believe you?” Then answer the question using one of the seven methods of adding overwhelming proof to your advertising (the three favorites are testimonials, case studies, and photographs). Or answer the question as if you were sitting in front of a prospect who asked you that very question.

Small Business Advertising Question #4: “What Should I Do About It?”

Just listing a phone number or website URL isn’t enough. It is amazing to know the number of advertisements to critique that lack a compelling offer and clear directions for how to act on it.

Have you given prospects a specific step to take in order to begin the process of becoming your client? The key word here is “specific.” Tell the prospects exactly what to do, how to do it, and what they’ll get as a result.

Small Business Advertising Question #5: “Why Should I Do It Right Now?”

A “cute” theory espoused by many so-called advertising gurus is that decision makers will remember you or your firm when it comes time to take action, even if they don’t take action right away.

But “reality” (you know—studies, statistics, and empirical evidence) shows that notion to be utterly false.

If your prospects don’t take the action you want when your message is in front of them, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll come back to it at a later date.

Sure, they might “mean to” take action later. They might file the ad in the pile of things to do, put it on a corkboard, or stick in the pile of “really important” stuff on their desk. But the end result is usually that your message is put aside and forgotten.

Your advertising must give prospects a compelling reason to act immediately. What will they gain if they do? What will they lose if they don’t?

Wrapping It Up

While advertising salespeople like to talk about image, exposure, and awareness, your focus belongs on making sales and on results you can deposit in your bank account. These questions will help you create advertising to do just that.

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