Two Common Profit-Robbing Mistakes

by Michael Cooney

Is your company advertising in the right places, but in the wrong way? If so, you’re not alone. Many marketing execs have done proper research to determine the best avenues for their advertising, yet remain puzzled as to why the response is nowhere near what was expected. For maximum profitability, you must be certain you’re not making these two common, profit-robbing mistakes.

Fulfilling your ad’s purpose

One of the most common mistakes I see is failure to remember the primary purpose of an advertisement. That is: to motivate the reader to take the next step in your selling process. It’s as simple as that.

What action do you want your ad to bring about? Do you want the reader to call you personally? Set up an appointment through your assistant? Return a coupon so you can send an information package? Send you a check? Whatever it is, it’s your job to direct the reader or viewer what to do next.

How do you accomplish that? By telling enough of your story, and giving enough information, so that the reader is motivated to take the next step.

A friend recently showed me his script for a one-minute television commercial, then asked if perhaps he shouldn’t shorten it to 30 seconds so that it could appear roughly twice as often for the given budget. I advised against it, for this reason: once you have someone’s attention, doesn’t it make sense to tell him enough to motivate him to take action? If your commercial tells twice as many people half your story, you’ll just end up with twice as many people who won’t respond. To put it another way, say you went on a sales call to a prospective client. Would you give him only half your presentation, half the benefits of your product/service, and then stand up and walk away? Of course you wouldn’t. So why allow your advertising to do that?

The same principle is true for print ads. You might suppose that a one-page ad would sell twice as much product as a half-page ad. Not necessarily. If half a page is all that is needed to tell a compelling story, then a full page may generate few additional sales. On the other hand, if it takes a full page to give all the important details and tell the whole story, that full-page ad may sell four or five times what a half-page ad would.

Direct Response vs. Institutional Advertising

This second mistake is directly tied to the one above. Interestingly, the larger the corporation, the more likely it is to make this costly error, because a hundred-thousand-dollar flop may be too small to notice.

First, some definitions: direct response means you are seeking a response directly from your ad or commercial. You want the reader, listener or viewer to respond and take the next step in your selling process. Institutional advertising, on the other hand, seeks no response. This is also called “image” advertising, since it is only intended to showcase and build your company’s image. Such advertising typically features eye-catching photography with the product’s name, and may or may not even show the company’s address.

If you agree that the purpose of your advertising should be to get the reader or viewer to take action, then you can see that merely showing a beautiful photograph of your product is not going to help much.

As to the argument that you just need to get your “image” out there so that when a prospect is ready to buy, he or she will remember your product, well, that’s a weak position to take. Here’s why: you can create direct response ads that carry your compelling sales message, and the “image” rides along for free! There’s nothing that says text and imagery can’t work together and compliment each other to create a powerhouse ad.

Further, direct response ads allow you to track the results of each ad, so you can learn which approach is working best, and also which advertising venues are working better than others. Thus, you can fine-tune your expenditures to get the most bang for the buck. That is also why many ad agencies love institutional advertising. When response can’t be tracked, it’s hard to prove a particular ad didn’t work. No accountability, no blame.

By avoiding these two costly mistakes, you can greatly increase the profitability of your advertising. Better still, you won’t be throwing your money into advertising that can’t even pay for itself.