How To Get More Bang For Your Advertising Buck

“Half my advertising is wasted, but I don’t know which half.” ~ John Wanamaker, 19th century retailer

You’ll find improving your advertising to be one of the best ways to leverage your marketing dollars. Why? Because an ad costs the same whether it brings in 1 call per day or 10 calls per day. So improve your ads and you’ll get more calls without spending an extra dime on advertising.

Let’s define the two major types of advertising: General (or image) advertising and direct response advertising.

Copywriter Bob Bly defines general or image adveritising as “advertising that seeks to instill a preference for the product in the consumer’s mind to prmote the future sale of the product at a retail outlet or through a distributor or agent.” Image advertising is seen every day in TV commercials for consumer products and magazines such as Forbes and Fortune for institutional advertising. Some famous image advertising campaigns included:

“Merrill Lynch is bullish on America.” This slogan was introduced during the 1971 World Series.

“When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” Very memorable ad…but would it make you call a broker and invest some money?

E.F. Hutton no longer exists as a business although their old ads remain alive on YouTube.com.

Many businesses place small display ads in their local newspapers to get their name out there. Similarly, I see “business card” sized ads in the local Chamber of Commerce magazine of guess what? The company owner’s business card. Normally this would fall under image advertising because it just gets your name, contact number, and perhaps areas of expertise out in the marketplace. A caller might tell you they saw your ad in the Chamber paper. Or you can ask them how they heard about you. Otherwise you won’t really know if it’s helping or not.

Bob Bly defines direct response advertising as “advertising that seeks to get orders or leads directly and immediately rather than build an image or awareness over a period of time.” This type of advertising is the opposite of image or general advertising.

Direct response ads are easy to spot when you see a coupon at the bottom of the ad. Or you’re asked to call an 800 number to order the product. You measure the response to these ads to know how well the ad is working. You can change the headline or the offer and know if you improved or hurt the ad.

You can turn your “image ad” into a direct response ad by offering a free report. This could be a written report or an audio interview on CD. The viewer of the ad is asked to call your office to get their free report. You capture their name and address so you can mail them the report. You can also ask, “Would you like to receive helpful and interesting investment information via email?” You can mail them the report with a copy of your last physical newsletter. Most importantly, you can measure the success of the ad because you’ll know how many people call in to request the report.

Direct response advertising also allows you to measure the relative strength of different advertising mediums. For instance, you might advertise in 2 different yellow pages. You could offer different reports and track which yellow pages works better for you. Otherwise you just have to guess. Online searches may eventually put the yellow pages out of business. Only time will tell. But if you track your own yellow page ads you’ll know  when it’s time to pull the plug on yellow pages.

Glitzy image advertising might win a design award. And get posted on YouTube.com. But you want to win new clients. So use direct response advertising to get prospects to call your office now and get them in your marketing pipeline. Measure your results so you can test different ads. Keep your winning ads and cull the losers.

Richard Emmons