If You Advertise For Sales, You Should Get Sales

One of the more enjoyable blogs that I read from time to time is by the (in?)famous Drayton Bird – hailed as the father of direct marketing. His credo throughout his entire career has been to ensure that advertising works, which is why he has consistently advocated for direct marketing – because it must elicit a response and you are able to track that response.

Reading his blog the other day, I came across his post Is This The Biggest Advertising Lie? and thought how eerily true his account of the way advertising agencies sell their ideas across was. In fact, he goes on to say that this is the biggest lie in advertising:

This type of advertising cannot be measured. You can’t just count how many leads come in and calculate your return on investment. That would be very misleading. You need a campaign. You have to build “awareness”. Look at what the big advertisers do. They repeat their ads. You need your name out there so people have heard of you and recognise your brand.

I know I’ve heard that used before. I’m pretty sure you have to.

Then, in his usual hard-hitting style, he goes on to give what he calls “The Truth About Advertising”. These are great principles to remember:

  • If your ad doesn’t work once it will never work no matter how many times you run it.
  • People who measure their results know that the first time an ad runs it attracts the keenest prospects. If it doesn’t work then, it never will.

However, he goes on to rail that “Brand and awareness are terms often used by ad agencies and magazine and newspaper sales reps to make excuses for not measuring the results of their work. Many advertising companies have used this method for decades to keep their customers in the dark about how effective their work really is. The plain, unpleasant truth is that most advertisers have no idea whether their advertising works at all or they’re just wasting their money.”

I can’t really agree with this because there is a time and place to advertise for “brand” and “awareness” – and later on in his post, Bird does say something similar:

Am I saying that Coca Cola, Nokia and Adidas are run by a bunch of dim-wits who are pouring their advertising money down the drain? No; I am not. Their sales process is not the same as yours. They are selling through retail in a global consumer market where image rules. Their ads are designed to stick in the mind and make people choose them when they reach the shop.

And their margins and numbers are so colossal that they can afford to throw millions at advertising. You can’t. You build and sell property [Note: Bird was talking about this in reference to one of his clients, a property developer]. You need a return on your investment – and pretty quickly.

So, if you are the kind of business that is advertising for sales – then you better make sure your advertising works and draws in the kinds of sales you need. Otherwise, you better make sure you are ready to go the way of “Coca Cola”, “Adidas” and “Nokia”.

Of course, you could also do what Bird advises:

So the next time your advertising salesman asks you for a big cheque think twice and ask him some simple questions, like:

“Really? Show me the sales results.”

And, “Can I talk to a few of the people who are getting sales through you?”

And, “Please explain to me why and how that ad you’re suggesting will work?”

Or even: “How about I pay you on the results? The replies can go to you and I’ll pay you so much a lead.”



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