Common Ad Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

© 2002 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Summer 2002
Author: Edward M. Stevens
Page 44

Common Ad Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

By Edward M. Stevens, APR

Over the years, we have dealt with both large and small advertisers. Some mistakes are common to both groups because advertising often is such a personal and subjective thing. You see a lot of yourself reflected in the advertising you do.

Here are the top ten common mistakes in my book:

1. You don’t have objectives. Every investment deserves a return on investment. A special issue of a publication may offer you a chance to tell your story, but special issues should not drive your advertising. Solid objectives should.
2. You take what you get. If you are small company, you may depend upon your media supplier to produce your ad. Be critical of the work. Show the ad to a few people and get their reaction. This low-cost survey can reveal problems you might overlook.
3. You have little sense of the competition. Study your competition. Where do they advertise? What are their messages? How do your media schedule and messages compare?
4. You disregard research. Research isn’t always available. But if it is, use it. For example, research shows that the words FREE, NEW, REBATE, and DISCOUNT are effective. But use them honestly.
5. You do ads without a clean, professional look. Just because you bought a one-page ad doesn’t mean you should fill every inch of it. Use white space to your benefit, and use professional photographs. Family photos belong in a family album.
6. You provide no call to action. You take the time to create an ad and invest in a quality publication. Then you produce an ad where the reader doesn’t know what their step is—if any. Offer a coupon, invite them to your Web site, and tell them to call today. With a call to action, you can check the effectiveness of your ads.
7. Your advertising lacks creativity. Good creative ads can make a small campaign memorable and produce results that are greater than the original investment. Creativity gets people talking and remembering. That means you get “word of mouth,” and sometimes even the press picks up your story.
8. You use unfounded claims. Be sure that your claims are real, not imagined … that the product exists and works as you say it does. That’s truth in advertising. All of your communications must be based upon the truth.
9. You don’t protect yourself. Be sure to use copyrights, trademarks, and registration marks to protect brand names. It can be costly if you don’t take the time to protect the trade name of your company or the brand you represent.
10. You avoid professionals. Many good advertising and PR firms can help you with your communications programs. Today, many one or two person operations do great work. Find out who they are, and don’t be afraid to involve them in your business. Often you can blend your internal resources with an outside ad specialist to make your communications better.