Modern Marketing 101: Do I Need To Advertise?

by Randy Murray on June 23, 2014

This might seem heresy coming from a marketing professional like me, but I don’t care for advertising.

I’ve produced and placed countless print ads, event location ads, online ads, and ads of many different types. I’ve used metrics of all sorts to try and track results. And it all boils down to this: you spend a lot of money and it’s not really certain that it gets you much of a payback or anything back at all.

And I have a growing hatred of television and online advertisements.

Why do businesses advertise? Because they have been led to believe that a great ad, presented to a broad swath of consumers, will entice them to buy what you’re selling. That may be true for fast food and breakfast cereal, but is it true for your product or service? And can you possibly spend enough to get to a broad audience?

That’s what Google’s promising you. We’ll show your ad only to people who are searching for something somewhat like what you do. And they do that. But consumers largely ignore these ads. I never click on them. Do you? So why do you think that your perfect consumer will? And why do you keep pouring money down that drain?

Are you still placing print ads in industry magazines? Why? What are you really getting? I remember, many years back, that I, as a marketing manager, had spent weeks carefully crafting a very active marketing campaign with multiple approaches and delivery vehicles only to be told at the last minute that we couldn’t do any of those things after all. Why? Because our executive VP had just purchased four full page adds in a national publication. Four advertisements across the full year. And he’d used the entire marketing budget of over a quarter million dollars to buy these ads. Needless to say, before the end of the year and with our sales efforts struggling, we had a new VP.

There are many effective forms of marketing that are not advertising. Content marketing may well be more effective and certainly less expensive than advertising. And a really effective PR effort can get you more bang for your buck than an ad campaign ever could.

For example, you could pay for ads in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal and every publication in your industry, but how much would an article about your company or product in those same publications (and their online sites) be worth? I ran that experiment. It took years to get that article, a positive one, in the New York Times. And then I saw sales spike immediately (something I never saw with the ads). And it paid dividends for years thereafter with incredible payback over everything we spent on PR up until then. I even used a quote from the article on the product box and every marketing piece, including ads, for the next few years for added credibility and payback.

You need to market actively, but I’d examine your advertising efforts with a critical eye. Yes, it’s a great feeling to see your ad up there in lights, but how much did you spend to get that feeling?

Yes, I’ll happily help you craft effective advertising. But what else could you do with those dollars?


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