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Entrepreneurship: When You Advertise Keep it Simple and Say it Often!

By Dr Paul E Adams |

"Advertising is like learning, a little is a dangerous thing." - P T Barnum

I hate ads that yell at me. I hate ads that have fine print at the bottom of the page. I hate ads that insult me. I hate ads that confuse me and I forget about ads that bore me. How about you? Advertising has become costly, complex, and to often- trite. A hundred thousand messages a day compete for our attention and dollars. No wonder we have developed short attention spans- who has time to take it all in.

Oh, it was so simple yesteryear to be in business and tell the world. During the days of Shakespeare, all you needed to do was to hang a sign in front of your store or shop. Later, as paper and the printed word spread, advertising and promotional materials read like wedding invitations. You invited people to visit your establishment. Nothing more. No one mentioned price, specials, or discounts, just the fact that you were there to serve the customer.

Now it seems the more outlandish the claim the bigger the bang. With so many choices to the entrepreneur, advertising can be confusing. There are a million options in how you create a message to customers, and almost as many choices of how to send your message. If you are not deluged with customers calling or stopping in, you may never know if your ads pull. Did anyone read, view, or listen and if so, what was their impression? If you only knew-success would be a snap.

Advertising is a tough business- and a very iffy situation for the entrepreneur starting out who must watch every dollar. Advertising and promotion can waste your money in a hurry. Over the years of working with small business owners, I have found the lack of understanding of how advertising works and what to say to customers- a common problem. Entrepreneurs may have expertise in their chosen business- but some are lost when figuring out how to let people know they are in business.

It is easy to get confused, you can spend money from giveaways such as pens, key chains to sponsoring the Super Bowl. Deciding which media to spend your dollars is step one- knowing what to say is step two- how do you find out? Consultants are not cheap- and if they don't know anything about your business, you will be paying to educate them. Salespersons from ad agencies range from stupid to smart. That leaves you back at square one.

To start with, you must answer the basic question of why customers do business with you. What is so unique about your business, your product or your service- or, in other words, why are you so wonderful? What do you offer that will entice customers to leave your competitors. What is it about your business that attracts people? If the questions seem simple and a waste of time- ask ten customers at random why they shop with you- if they are honest, the answers may be surprising. You may find out it is not because you are the most charming of all entrepreneurs, but they live next door.

Ads that work are simple. Few have time to read a thousand words about how great your business is- they have time for a headline- and if interested they may be willing to invest a few minutes reading a short blurb. Not much more. If you are spending your dollars on newspaper ads, try little ads appearing many times as they have a better chance of being seen and building interest in your business than a one time big splash.

If you use radio, you need to grab the commuter; most other listening is background noise. Radio ads are the most difficult of all. You only have words to do the job with a listener, who probably cares less- not an easy task. And with television- if you want anyone to care, you need interesting visuals and dialogue.

What ever your choice of media- a simple message based on the motivation of why people buy your product or service- a message that is repeated as many times as you can afford it. If you use local cable, go for the shortest ad and as close a prime time as you can afford. Don't fall for the bargains at four in the morning. Unless you have a product for insomniacs.

If you want to get the most from your promotional bucks, practice the simple rule of "keep it simple and say if often"- it works. When you are rich, you can be an ad maven and start a fan club-in the meantime stay in business.

Canadian, Eh!

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