Do You Have Sacks of Money to Burn on Your Advertising?

Do you have sacks of money to burn on your marketing and advertising?  All of the small businesses that I’ve come across say they don’t.  Yet there are a good number of small businesses that have held their own marketing and advertising budget bonfires.

How does this happen?  A conclusion I’ve come to is that many small businesses burn sacks full of money in advertising with miserable results because they just don’t understand the core basics of how advertising works. 

A common mistake made by many small businesses is doing "a little bit here, and a little bit there".  Here’s an analogy to think about.  Have you ever been around someone who never finishes a full soda or drink before opening another one?  You know the ones.  The people who have several partly empty/full bottles or cans scattered around their work area or home.  If we could visualize the small business that advertises  “a little bit here, and a little bit there” that's what they would look like.

When a business does “a little bit here, and a little bit there” they are ignoring a basic rule of advertising which is to have a concentrated message in an area, medium, or market that’s most important to them.  The small business owners who fall into this trap usually are the ones who become the most discouraged about advertising.  I’ve heard them say, “Well, I’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to work.  From here on out, I’m going to rely on my sign out front, and word-of-mouth advertising”.  By doing so they’ve made the problem worse by making another mistake of removing themselves from the market and allowing their competition to have it all to themselves.  The solution isn’t to withdraw.  The solution is to dominate or concentrate the message in one area, medium, or market that’s the most important to the business with what can be afforded.   And you don't add another medium until you can afford another "full one".  

Another full one?  Yes, fill one glass full before you add another one, and fill that one to the brim before you add another one, etc.

One more offshoot of the “little bit here, and little bit there” philosophy is where small businesses market or advertise in such an insignificant way in newspaper, radio, TV, etc. that they don’t make an impact.  To demonstrate my point you just need to open up your local newspaper.  Look for the businesses that have the smallest newspaper ads (business card size).  Many times they’re bunched together in one big montage of ads. These montages or cluster of ads are nothing more than an advertising budget bonfire hosted by your local newspaper.  It’s great for the newspaper but lousy for the advertiser because no one advertiser stands out from the another which completely defeats the purpose of advertising.  It has been my experience that people who buy advertising on that level do so because they think they're reaching newspaper readers without a large financial risk.  Yet the risk is actually high because the chance of a reasonable return from one those "big groups of small ads" are nearly non-existent. 

If your advertising budget is too small to where you can’t afford the required size and repetition in your local newspaper, radio station, TV station, or other mass media in your local market I suggest that you spend what you can in other ways.  Use the money in relationship type marketing until your business grows enough to where you can afford the others.  Relationship type marketing includes taking clients out to lunch, thank you calls, thank you notes, and membership in your local chamber and other community organizations.  But just don't send in your chamber dues and expect advertising results.  Become active in the organizations you join so you can build relationships face-to-face which in return will build your business.  

For more on this topic, see my article Advertising On a Small Budget.


Marketing and advertising your small business the right way is much more complicated then just buying an ad in your medium of choice.  That's because in marketing and advertising you’re trying to influence habits, thoughts and perceptions.  To do so successfully takes planning, creativity, and enough time for your repetition to work.  Make sure you develop the right message, commit to the repetition needed to make your message work, and develop a plan that has your message in the right places at a cost that will give you a fair return on your investment.


Bill Grady
About the Author, Bill Grady

Bill Grady has over 35 years of marketing and advertising creation, sales,
and management experience.


He began selling advertising at age 20, became a radio station General
Manager at the age of 23, and has personally sold millions of dollars in
local advertising over his career.


Bill is a former President of the Iowa Broadcasters Association and his
stations were recipients of multiple National Association of Broadcasters
awards for excellence.


Since 2002, Bill has brought his marketing and advertising knowledge to
thousands of small business owners in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota,
Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.


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