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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Does Advertising Work?

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It is said that advertising is the last refuge of those who are not creative. That seems odd since advertising solutions: iconic images and catchphrase strap lines are surely the pinnacle of promotional creativity?

But small budgets can't stretch to that level of advertising. Even when you have strong design and creativity, you need heavily repeated inserts or screenings to gain attention. Even the best ads are hard to predict in terms of effects. They say most people don't even register the first three times an advert runs in most publications. Most small businesses stop at one insertion, thereby guaranteeing failure unless they are very lucky.

But there are some situations that are resistant to clever PR alternatives. For example, the need to shift a pile of beds to make way for new stock or generate a very fast cash-flow injection. Unless Mary Queen of Scots really did sleep in them all, this cries out for advertising in the local media on and offline. Plus some freebie posts on suitable online sites.

Don't forget to use those vouchers Google gives away for £30 of free AdWords. I got mine when I registered my business on Google Maps, but I've seen the offer fall out of business magazines. Every little helps as long as you have a good landing page on your website to convert interest from the ad into sales. And a well-written and optimised site that anticipates the information a buyer might need, and delivers that with a clear call to action on every page. It's always worth testing the form of words that works for your business online. By then, you'll be well beyond Google's £30 freebie, but at least they offer free analytic tools and helpful hints.

I always find that going back to the basics keeps me focussed. You'll save a lot of money and effort if you think about who you need to reach and whether you can reach them any other way before getting out the advertising chequebook.

The most powerful question you can ask yourself is: How do I.....? Then go for a walk, or have a shower - whatever activity is good for you when you need a great idea.

Would special offer leaflet drops be most effective? What about an in-store event with treats and discounts for existing customers? If they are suitable beds, what about ringing guest houses and hotels with a bulk buy deal to renew all their beds (and take away the old ones to minimise the hassle factor). A deal on matching bedside tables and wardrobes might clinch it?

This is the fourth in a series of posts re-visiting the 30 low cost or free publicity techniques featured in PHPR's founder's best-selling book: DIYPR, the small business owner's guide to 'free' publicity by Penny Haywood. The 30 techniques are a mix of digital and offline sales, marketing and PR tools because you need to work all three disciplines (sales, marketing and PR) to effectively boost a business. As the series develops, choose a few to trial for a few months. The aim is to work up to 10 varied publicity techniques that work for you and your business to create a rolling PR Plan for success.

Your feedback is most welcome and may be included (with proper attribution) in the forthcoming revised edition of DIY PR.

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posted by Penny Haywood Calder at


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