Many business owners say things like, “We seldom advertise because it doesn’t give us any results —it’s a waste of our money.”

And you know what—for these people this is probably true. The ads they are running are not designed to produce tangible results.

Most advertising does nothing to motivate a prospect to act—it’s simply “image” or “awareness” advertising. If your marketing budget is on par with that of Coke or Nike that’s fine, but the rest of us expect a return on those ad dollars.

What you need to do is turn all of your ads into “direct response.” These are ads that are designed to generate a very specific response or action. You can apply this approach to any ad, in any kind of media, whether newspaper, magazine, TV or radio.

The purpose of these ads is not so much to “sell” but to generate a list of qualified leads—people who may be inclined to do business with you in future and, most importantly, have given you permission to market to them.

Step one: Create one or more valuable reports, workshops, evaluations, trial products, checklists, newsletters, courses or tip sheets. You know, something like, “How To Tell If Your Contractor Is Lying To You” or “What Every Senior Must Know About the Canada Pension Plan” or “101 More Things You Can Do With Your iPod.”

Now that you have your value packed written report, every bit of your advertising— whether Yellow Pages, direct mail, back of your business card, letterhead, email signature, web site— should focus on getting people to pick up, request or download that report.

Don’t try to do anything else with your advertising, let the report sell you.

Step two: Send the report or sample to all who respond and then begin marketing to them like crazy!
Why is this approach so much more effective?

Now you can demonstrate your expertise in a non-threatening way, on the prospect’s own terms, even if all you can afford is a small ad.

Nobody likes to be sold to, but if they take the time to read your report, understand that what you do that has value, and have an 8-10 page conversation with you, the relationship and trust have begun.

People who have requested your free information are officially a hot lead. They are identifying themselves as someone who is very interested in what you do. Half of your sales job is done!

And now you can measure the response to your advertising! If one offer falls short of your expectations, change something the next time you run the ad and see if the results improve—you are now in control.

Meanwhile you will be building a database of people who you can market to—so send them a newsletter. Invite them to sale events. Offer them incentives. Put your advertising dollars to work and check the results.

Elizabeth Walker and Ken BurginElizabeth Walker and Ken Burgin

Ken Burgin and Elizabeth Walker are the Marketing Masters, a full-service marketing and advertising partnership that helps build busy businesses.