“An Advertiser’s Quagmire” (written March, 2001)

A Quagmire is defined as a Predicament. A predicament is defined as a dilemma. A dilemma is defined “as being in a pickle” and for all us baseball fans, being in a pickle means being in the middle of a tough situation. Here’s the Advertiser’s Quagmire: Say you join into a company that you really believe in. You run an ad for it. You mail out a flyer for it. You Promote It. But it bombs. Who is to blame? Is it the advertiser because you didn’t get a good response? Is it the company you joined into because you did not get a good response? Or is it you? Good question!

Being in this business now for many glorious years, I have pretty much heard it all. People unfortunately usually point the finger. Instead of taking control of their own actions, instead of taking control of their own advertising situation, people tend to blame others. Not the successful people – the successful people understand that there are no guarantees when it comes to promotions – some promotions bomb, some do well and when you add them up and divide by two, that is an average. So the successful people accept the responsibility to figure out which promotions are best, which promotions are most profitable and successful people do them consistently, so their averages will rise. That is what successful advertising and successful people are all about – constantly testing and then doing what works more consistently.

Hey! Lack of response or little response is an epidemic in our industry. It happens every day and then people blame the advertisers or the companies they promote. It is dilemma that can be easily solved by you! Yes! I understand there are a lot of unscrupulous people in this business, but I only deal with real people – you know ones that I can talk to on the telephone and visit with in person. When you do this basic rule of trustworthiness, you will see that you will be satisfied more often than not. Trustworthy people should not mine talking to people. People who can’t be trusted on the other hand of course do not want to talk to people and most of the time, it is the times you deal with the “phantoms” that you get burned. Only deal with people you can talk to and see in person and you probably will never get burned again.

How can the “lack of response” or “little response” epidemic be solved? Understand that sometimes advertising will succeed and sometimes it will fail. When you add up success + failure and divide by two, that’s what equals an average. With this understanding then you must realize that no matter where you promote, you better give it 6-12 months of consistently running an ad in their publications. For example, if a publication runs 6 issues a year then you better make sure you have an ad in each of those issues for a year.

Second, most people who complain about the company or advertiser for the most part are the ones that think they can just send out a flyer the company gave them and sit back and collect money. It would be great if it were that easy. That has got to be the most frustrating miss-conceptions for me, an advertiser, of any of the dilemmas. Companies are the vehicles to success. Just like with any vehicle, you need to give it the gas to run. When you give it gas, it runs. When you stop giving it gas, it dies. When you give your vehicle hi-test, it runs better. When you promote your company the right way, it runs better. Fact is, the most powerful, the most proven, the best way to promote is using the two step process of generating a lead, and then following it up. Period! Too many people take the promotions the company give them, then run these ads as if they are guaranteed to succeed. It doesn’t work like that. Being around for many years as I have, most of the promotions I have seen are geared to be the follow up material after you generate a lead. So consequently, advertisers are mailing out follow up letters to people who did not request them. That hurts response drastically! What you should be doing it mailing out inquiry-generating flyers or postcards or running inquiry-generating ads in as many places as you can afford to on a regular consistent basis. Then you should be following these leads up by mail and telephone. Now if you are afraid to follow up these quality leads, don’t know how to follow up these quality leads, don’t want to give it a try – whatever your excuse may be – then I suggest you become best friends with someone who will follow up these leads for you. Because unfortunately, you probably will fail if you are just mailing out flyers without any purpose. No matter if the company supplied them to you or not.

When you spend your hard earned money with an advertiser, though he has no control over who responds, he does want you to succeed. He does want you to make money. He does want you to get the most response for your money, but he has no control over that and that is what I call an “Advertiser’s Quagmire.”

You can reduce your risk tremendously by mailing the right offer to the right person on a regular basis and then following leads up. That is how you succeed. If you don’t do this, you probably will fail. And you know what, even when you follow this advice, there is still a chance you will fail. But if you don’t do it like this, you probably are certain to fail. What would you rather try? The right way with a chance of success? Or the wrong way with an absolute certainty of failure?

People seem to forget that when you fail it is a reflection on our entire industry. The more failures we have, the more we look like Rodney Dangerfield to the other more established business industries? We can change that trend when we start understanding an advertiser’s quagmire. Do you understand?

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