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Should You Advertise?

If you're unclear on whether you should be advertising, we'll help you sort things out and let you know what it takes to create a successful ad campaign.

This article was excerpted from MadScam. Buy it today from EntrepreneurPress.com.

Sit down. Pour yourself a stiff drink. Then, on one side of one sheet of paper write down all the reasons why you think you should be advertising. After you've done that, refill your glass, turn over that same sheet of paper, and write down all the reasons why you shouldn't be advertising. Only if the reasons on the first side of the sheet outweigh those on the reverse should you consider committing a portion of your hard-earned revenues to an ongoing ad program.

Let's consider what some of those reasons might be. The pros could be:

  • You're in a startup mode; you need to let people know you exist.
  • You've been around a while, and people still don't know you from a hole in
    the wall.
  • Your competition advertises.
  • Your competition is killing you.
  • You have a deep-seated desire to kill your competition.
  • You think you have a unique product/service.
  • You are convinced you have a unique product/service.
  • You want to be the next GE/IBM/Nike/P&G.
  • Everyone else seems to advertise.
  • Your wife/husband/partner/dog thinks it's a good idea.

The cons could be:

  • You have no idea where to begin.
  • You don't think you have enough money to do it properly.
  • You know your competition will probably outspend you.
  • You're not sure if you have a unique product/service.
  • You are absolutely sure you don't have a unique product/service.
  • You're not ready to commit to a long-term program.
  • You see advertising as an ill-begrudged expense, not an investment.
  • Your best friend once got ripped off by an ad agency.
  • You're quite sure you've never been influenced by an ad in your life.
  • Your wife/husband/partner/dog thinks it's a dumb idea.

I'm sure you can come up with a lot more reasons, both pro and con, but the point of the exercise is to get you to start thinking about whether or not you really need to advertise in the traditional sense.

Time, Information and Money
Believe it or not, these three things are the only ingredients you need to create great advertising. And if you go back to the question on whether you should advertise and you think it isn't important enough to devote sufficient time, information, and money needed to create a properly thought out, well-structured and well-managed advertising program, don't even consider starting.

Speaking of Time
Realize and accept this: A successful advertising program is only possible if you've devoted sufficient time to both the development of your communications plan and its execution. That's what I call up front thinking time. The flip side of the coin is realizing that if you planned your program right, your advertising will be flexible enough to be quickly modified for those unavoidable times when it's necessary to meet changing circumstances and opportunities in the marketplace. This can often mean creating and producing ads overnight, particularly if your business is retail. This is what I call panic time. It's the stuff you cannot possibly preprogram into your schedule because you will never know when you need to execute it.

That's one of the drawbacks of being an entrepreneur running a small to midsize company. You will either have to run the advertising program yourself or delegate to another person. And unless you have reached a certain critical mass, it's very doubtful you will have anyone with any advertising experience to delegate to, in spite of the fact that everyone claims to do three things better than anyone else-make love, drive a car, and create advertising. (However, I'm the only person in the world who can do all three at the same time.) Most people wouldn't recognize a good ad if it hit them on the head from 20,000 feet. The question you have to ask yourself is: Are you prepared to take the time and make the right level of investment to make a worthwhile ad program pay off?

Information
When it comes to producing great advertising, the single most important resource you can work with is information. In fact, you can never have too much of it. All the truly great campaigns of the last 50 years have been based on solid information. One example of this prerequisite virtue is the classic David Ogilvy ad for Rolls Royce with the headline, "At 50 miles an hour, the loudest noise you can hear is the ticking of the dashboard clock." Ogilvy didn't spout pseudo engineering, "Power Glide Auto Gismo smoothes the ride and puts you in charge." Or snob appeal, "When you arrive in your pink Château La Grande, the girls at the country club will die with envy." Instead he featured the unmatched craftsmanship, quality, and design of the car via the least talked about piece of equipment in it--the clock!

Start off with as much information as you can. It doesn't matter if you discard or fail to use 90 percent of it, the remaining 10 percent will contain that one nugget that will separate you from everyone else in the market.

Interestingly enough, some of the best advertising around is produced by those companies small enough for the founder and initial management team to be involved in every aspect of their advertising and marketing. The same people who had the guts and vision to take the risks required when starting their business in the first place are people who still believe passionately in what they are doing.

Money
You don't necessarily have to spend a fortune to create effective advertising. If you prepare the groundwork in the way I'll be laying out in the next chapters and then execute with style and intelligence, you can have an ongoing ad program that will help build your business.

Concentrate on spending money where it will do you the most good, researching your market, developing your communications plan, and then executing well by investing in the high-quality production of artwork, photography, etc. Do not skimp on costs at this stage in the belief that you can use the money saved to buy more media, which in turn will get you more exposure. Always remember that every element of your company's advertising and communications, and sometimes the media you choose to run it in, are a reflection of your company's character. If your advertising is schlocky and the publications you run it in are schlocky, you'll come across as a schlocky company, not the kind of business that people want to do business with.

To read more about creating great advertising at a low cost, buy MadScam today .

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