Advertising is a Risk……(written November, 2000)

At the very best it can be, advertising or any type of promotion is a risk – hopefully a calculated one. But still all in all, it is a risk and way too many of you good people out there don’t understand this. Many of you speak to me as if advertising were a science. I wish it were. So before you join into a program or buy into a business, and before you spend money for promotion – any type of promotion, whether it be newspapers, magazines, print and mail, radio, Internet, or television and before you have grand ideas of being rich, please keep in mind that all the advertising you do is a risk – very risky – at best!

If it is a risk, then why do it? You might ask? Well obviously if you do not promote, you will not get customers. No customers means no business. So you have to do it. You must advertise. The method you choose is up to you and your budget. My feelings are that your greatest expense – or investment – should be for promotion. Promotion creates sales. Nothing else creates sales. A well produced flyer does not create sales neither will a great customer service department will not produce sales. Nobody will know you have great customer service and nobody will ever know you have a fantastic offer if you don’t promote. Then how do you keep your risks to a minimum? Well first off, understand that in order to succeed with advertising you can not look at each piece of promotion and expect a return. You need to look at the overall picture – the campaign – and then decide. Second you need to understand we are not talking scientifically here. All the calculations and all the logic of science does not apply because the facts are that this is a risk and as with all risks, there is a good chance of failure. That is why it is essential to understand that you have to look at the overall picture – not one piece at a time? That’s because one promotion may flop – one may succeed – another may be average. Put these three promotions together, divide by three – that equals your average. So successful advertising promotion is based on all your advertising promotions – not just one.

Based on these factors then you will need to try and reduce your risk to the absolute minimum it can be. Step one should be to always have inquiry generating promotions. An inquiry generating promotion is simply one that generates leads – instead of going straight for the sale. Step two is to always try to be consistent with your advertising promotions. In other words one or two shots is not enough to determine success or failure for any advertising vehicle, such as magazine, newspapers and print & mail. My personal experience says that you need to run ads consistently for at least one year to determine whether or not that vehicle is going to work for you. Don’t you see ads for Burger King every day of your life? Why? We know who they are. But they are being consistent – getting in front of you regularly! We need to do this also with our promotions. Step three is to be patient and to be persistent. Unfortunately nothing works over night. We all wish it did, but the facts are the facts. If you feel over night success is for you, then you will be very disappointed throughout your career. Working toward your goals requires you to be patient enough to let things happen, but persistent enough never to fail or quit. Step four is to work at getting volume. The more people you can get your message out in front of, the better chance you have of success. Why does Microsoft still advertise? The more people who see their message, the more people will buy their software. We need to apply this same principle though on a smaller scale. Why? Because it works! Step five is to stay within your budget. Advertising has got to be your greatest investment, but it shouldn’t take food off your table. Just by it’s nature of being consistent and patient and that it is a risk at best tells us that if you are planning to make a killing right away, you will be brutally disappointed. Step six is to start over again on a regular basis. The only thing I know for sure is change is constant. What works today may not work tomorrow and what did not work today may work tomorrow. Constantly re-evaluating, tweaking, fine tuning your offers, your ideas, your advertising promotions is hard work, but necessary!

These are the ways you keep your risks down. You might have noticed that advertising therefore is a process. It is not a one time promotion. I guarantee if you tried something once, twice, even a few times, you failed in the long run because you did not apply this process. Advertising is not a science. It is a risk. Reduce your risk by understanding the process. Nobody said it was easy, but before you learned to ride a bike, that was not easy either. But by consistently practicing, being patient and persistent and doing it as much as you could, you learned how to ride a bike. Riding a bike is not scientific. Neither is advertising promotion. However when you take on the process and apply it, they are both well worth the risk in the long run, Thanks for listening.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.