The Truth On Advertising

Advertising is hard. It’s the fastest way to watch money fly out of your accounts and into a black pit.

There are lots of moving parts, and it can feel like an infuriating mix of magic masquerading as science, with no repeatable recipe to follow.

But does that mean advertising and marketing don’t work? Absolutely not. Just look around and you’ll see exactly how effective it can be. I guarantee you that 5 of the last 5 things you’ve purchased, subscribed to, or contracted for all began in some form or another with an advertisement, or piece of marketing (free or paid).

So why doesn’t it work for you?

Well, since we’re being honest here, the problem is you. And god knows, it used to be me too. In fact, it’s all of us.

It’s our expectations being out of line with reality.

We, as a society, have gotten so good at marketing ourselves to ourselves that we end up drinking our own kool-aid and then wonder why we fall on our face. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The truth is that there are two paths forward. And there’s no magic to it.

Either you can spend years learning how to do it right by yourself; trying, failing, flopping, and wasting money (like I did). Or you can go out and hire a professional, or team of professionals, to do it right and hopefully learn with them along the way.

Oh, how I wish I’d been guilty of the latter and not the former, but you live and you learn. And I learned two very important truths when it comes to being effective with your advertising and marketing, especially in a digital world.

Purpose and leverage. Let’s break these down and see what I mean.

Like us, marketing campaigns and their constituent advertisements are not really capable of multitasking. Not effectively anyway. That means that no campaign can reasonably do more than one thing at a time, no matter how much we wish it could.

Looking to build brand awareness? Great. That’s one campaign. Want to drive page likes or grow your followers? Super. That’s another campaign. Want to go straight for the kill and drive sales? Or maybe you want to collect email addresses so you can build your list? Excellent. That’s at least two more campaigns right there.

Starting to see how this works?

If you want to see success with your marketing campaigns, you need to identify and stick to a single, solitary objective. Nothing else will do. Unless your goal is to lose money. Having more than one objective per campaign is a great way to do that.

That brings us to leverage.

Just because your campaigns can only do one thing at a time, doesn’t mean that they can’t do many things over time.

What do I mean?

The old adage of work smarter, not harder is the crux of the lesson here. Look at what you’re doing in your marketing and business today and take inventory of what you can turn around and quickly make into something else.

Doing a pilot for a new client? Take the results, anonymize them to remove any reference to the pilot client (unless, of course, you have their permission to use their name), and turn that data into a case study that you can use as a lead magnet to bring in more business and collect new leads.

Maybe you’re running a Facebook ad campaign? Why not draft your copy to encourage people to tag their friends who would find your offer useful? Since Facebook doesn’t charge for these “organic” actions you can increase the effectiveness of your campaign objective while decreasing your cost per action simply by inviting the users you’re already reaching to do something helpful for their friends, who you might not have access to otherwise.

Or how about when you review results with a client or customer? Why not take that call by Skype or Hangouts and record the video as a screencast, turning it into the most effective form of testimonial you could possibly have (assuming the results were good, of course).

The point of leverage is to realize that you’re already doing so much in your business – most of which no one ever sees. So why not take stock of all the incidentals that you are creating in the process and see what can be repurposed for growth?

All sounds great, and it’s 100% true. But in the interest of transparency, I’m obliged to say that mastering purpose and leverage, while absolutely vital, still isn’t enough to guarantee your success. You also need to consider your offer.

People are overwhelmed with ads, content, and static of all sorts today. Nowhere more so than when they get online. And people today are always online. That means that in order to stand out, your offer can’t just be “good”. It’s gotta be so fucking amazing that it stops them in their tracks and causes them to take action right then, and right there; whatever that action happens to be. And by now you are defining a specific action that you’ll use to track success, aren’t you? If not, go back up a few paragraphs and reread the part about “purpose”.

Now, it all sounds simple when you lay out it like this, right? But the truth is that not everything that is simple is always easy.

Think of it like driving.

If you know how to drive a car you won’t have any trouble navigating the road, whatever twists and turns you happen to encounter ahead. That’s because you know how to control the gas, when to break and how to interpret the signs on the road and the indicators of the other drivers. Now imagine that you were to try and drive a car without knowing how.

We’ve all been there. Just think back to the first time you sat behind the wheel. You were probably excited, nervous and might have felt like you had blinders on as you took in your surroundings from the perspective of the driver’s seat for the first time. Thankfully someone (hopefully) was there, with you, to teach you what to do and what to look out for. If you’d tried to have done it all alone, the chances are quite high that you wouldn’t have wound up getting anywhere, and if you did manage to get the car moving in the first place, you might have pretty quickly crashed into a wall.

Marketing, especially direct response online marketing (otherwise known as “Demand Generation”), is exactly like that. If you know what levers to pull, and you know what path and types of language will lead a user to take the action or sequence of actions you want, you can be wildly successful.

But just like driving, it takes practice and lots of time to learn to do it well.

And that’s the truth on advertising.


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