Posted by: Andy Porter | September 15, 2011

Advertising and Responses

As a marketing consultant I am often asked, “How do you really know if the money spent on advertising is wasted or driving in business?”

The most basic rule of advertising is this: More pieces out equals more responses back.

If you outflow (send out) flyers, coupons, newspaper or magazine ads, letters, etc. you will get more people coming in (inflow). More outflow equals more inflow. This basic principle applies to many areas of life. The more times you send out your resume the quicker you tend to find a good job. Networking is another great example of this principle. The more you get out and meet people and make friends the better your business goes. In an even more general sense the amount of kindness one sends out is directly proportional to the amount of kindness one receives.

But back to advertising! How do you know if it is working? Well, many businesses ask callers or new customers the question “how did you hear about us?” This is a good thing to do and you should definitely do it. But are the answers you get accurate? Very often they are not.

First, look at how advertising works. Each advertisement is a message. The message reaches the ears or eyes of the potential customer and can be ignored or accepted. How many messages does it take to get a response? How many times do you need to hear about a business or product before you go to take it for a test drive, or go in for a visit?

Timing is important. One reason the message needs to be repeated is that the message needs to hit the customer at the right time for it to be accepted. You may hear or see an advertisement for a place to get your oil changed many times and never notice it and then one day you hear or see the ad when you are actually in need of an oil change and it’s on your mind. Bingo! Now the ad registers and is accepted.

Most potential customers need to get your message repeatedly before deciding to try your product or service. So when you ask the client “how did you hear about us?” they usually give you the first thing that comes to their mind. “I saw your yellow page ad”, or “I received your Val-Pak coupon”, or “a friend told me about you”. But realistically they probably have heard or seen your message many times before actually arriving for service.

Well, if this is true, how does one ever know if their marketing is working? Simply by looking at the raw statistics of how many people come in for service.

Remember the basic law above. If you send out your message, whether its via Val-Pak coupons, letters, postcards, email, your web site, newspaper ads, TV, radio, networking groups, billboards or word of mouth your should expect a response. So, the more you send out your message the more numbers of customers you should be getting in. This does not always mean that you will get in more new customers, just more customers.

Just remember that the response you get may not be what you expected. You may devise an advertisement with the intention of attracting new clients, and instead you may get a lot of former clients coming back in for something. They see or hear your message and it reminds them that they need to come back in to see you!

As you probably know advertising does not always work immediately. Sometimes you need to send out your message repeatedly for some time to start to see noticeable responses. So the message here is: be Patient!

There is one more VERY important thing to mention related to advertising and response. The quality of your service or product and the level of customer service you provide. Actually these are two things, not one. You can have a great product or service and lousy customer service. An example would be a dentist who is wonderful, friendly, and a great technical dentist, but the front desk employees are hurried and uninterested. The opposite is possible as well; you can have an auto repair business with great front desk staff who the customers love and lousy technicians who can’t fix a lawn mower much less an Audi. Of course (heaven forbid) it’s possible that both of these situations exist.    

So let’s look at what happens if one of these variants exists: you, the owner invest money and advertise your business. Customers show up for service. The product or service is in some way not up to par. Those customers may come back, maybe not. They for sure are not loyal customers, and they will

probably not be referring other people to you. These customers will most likely be looking for something better and when they find it, goodbye to you! So of course to attract more new customers this owner may need to spend more money to advertise.

You can see where this is heading. More and more money spent for advertising and less response and less customers coming in. If this is happening you MUST immediately do what ever is needed to handle it now. More staff training, better equipment, or even new equipment and new staff! Poor product or less than wonderful customer service is like having an open artery pumping your blood onto the sand. You (or your business) will soon die! 

What should be happening is this: you advertise, new customers come in, they get great product and service, become loyal customers and refer new customers to via word of mouth. You business expands and grows. This should be what is happening.  

Yes, if you are spending your hard earned cash on advertising you should expect to see a result. If the results are not there it could be that you are sending the marketing pieces to the wrong groups of people. Like sending oil change coupons to people aged 70 and older who live in a retirement community. Maybe you need to survey customers better or redesign your ad. Maybe your vehicle used for advertising (say, advertising in the local newspaper) is not getting responses anymore.

And lastly, but NOT leastly, my advice would be to take a complete, detailed look at your quality of product and your level of customer service. Improving them can be the difference between an advertising campaign that drives in boatloads of customers and one where you get few or no responses and your hard earned cash is wasted.



  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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