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Which Advertising Method is Best for Your Business?

February 6th, 2013 by Arik Brooks

We are often asked, "Which kind of advertising should we do?" This is an important question since such a large portion of a budget can be spent on advertising. The question is complex, but there is an answer. 

When I am asked, the question is inevitably followed up with a list of methods that the person would rather not do. They might say, "But I don't want to do direct mail." Or, "Print is dead, what about social media?" After spending tens of millions of dollars managing a variety of client budgets, the answer is quite clear. So, here goes.

All methods can work. That's right, they can all work. When they don't, it's more often a failure of timing, planning, creative execution, budgeting, or focus. I hear people say that print is dead all the time. I used to be someone who thought this. If I don't read the newspaper, then who does? Well, as a youngster, it turns out that I was wrong. I know this because after assigning call tracking numbers to different ads, I could clearly see that leads were indeed coming in from particular newspaper ads.

This article isn't about print, though. It's about the idea that a media option is simply a vehicle that delivers your message to an audience. The key is to find the media vendor that offers the largest amount of realistic opportunities, then providing an enticing reason to act AND delivering a message that is relevant to these folks. Lastly, it is important to deliver that message during a time that they are most likely to act. 

Audience Selection

Being realistic with your selected target audience is crucial. It's about efficiency, and you want to be as efficient as possible with each marketing dollar. We have had retail clients that told us that their customer base is a 50-mile radius around their location. But, when we ran an analysis of sales by town, it almost always turns out that over 80% of their sales would come from the town they were located in and the 4 or 5 towns that surround that location. So, any media that would spill over beyond this "true" radius becomes more and more inefficient the farther out you go. Or, in direct mail, if you have a giant list, you should constantly be eliminating targets that are unlikely to act. You might eliminate targets on geography, sales history, or other factors. 

In all media, it is crucial that the targets you choose are realistic and have a chance of becoming a customer. If your conversion rate is low, then you have a very high bar for realizing return on your marketing investment.


We have found that timing is huge. If your audience isn't thinking about the problem that you have an answer for, then trying to get them to notice is very difficult. We have a client that sells oil and HVAC services. It is a simple equation:

  1. Cold weather = people thinking about heat.

  2. When people think about heat, they pay closer attention to ads about heat.

  3. We increase our budget during periods right before and during cold weather, and the client enjoys many more leads.

When it is not cold, the number of leads is a fraction of what they are when it is cold. The ideal situation is to build top-of-mind awareness throughout the year, and peak budget expenditures during times that are most likely to convert to a sale. So, make hay while the sun shines.


The inconsistent delivery of your message can greatly reduce your chances for success. If you are not consistent, you cannot be frequent. If you are not frequent, you will not be remembered. If you are not remembered, then you have little chance of being considered when one decides that they might need what you offer.



Under-spending is a waste of money. If you are buying one option too thinly, or trying to buy too many media options with not enough money, both result in making too small of an impact. If your message is not noticed, it has no chance of converting. This is also true with newer social media campaigns like Facebook ads or pay-per-click campaigns like Google Adwords. The fact is, that most people who click will not act. So, you have to drive enough volume to get enough clicks from the "right" people to see a return. Too often online methods are sold like this: "Just spend $20 a day and you will get qualified clicks from only the people who are interested in what you have to sell." Problem is, with just $20 you get 20 or 30 clicks, all of whom are not interested, then your ad turns off. So, you have $20 in expense, 20 or so clicks, and no results. A click is just cost until it converts to a sale.

Saying Too Much

If you try to cram multiple messages into one small ad, you end up with confusion. People should not have to think about what you are saying; it should be obvious and very relevant to them. If you have a lot to say, create multiple ads and put them into a rotation.



All media options can work. But only if the audience, timing, budget, message, and offering are right. When you buy advertising, you are buying sets of eyes, ears, or both. This is the way that you should evaluate advertising options. Instead of making blanket statements about a particular option, think about the other aspects of your planning first, then choose the media that best fits the crucial elements of audience selection, timing, and creative execution. In future articles, I will discuss passive media versus active media.

Posted in the category Marketing / Media.

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