Most people, including most business owners, do not spend their lives in advertising. So when faced with a need to increase business they often decide to try advertising. After a career in the advertising industry I’ve encountered these business owners numerous times. I’ll get the call…

"Yes, Eric, I’d like to try some advertising. How much is an ad?"

When the conversation continues, it goes something like this…

"We would like to try your magazine, so we thought we would place an ad."

When I ask what their expectations are they typically say something like…

"Well, we’re not sure, but I assume it will sell some paintings for us."

"How many paintings do you expect it to sell? What price point on the paintings?." I ask.

DEAD SILENCE. "We’ll we’re not sure."

When possible I try to direct an inquiry like this to a discussion about needs, objectives and goals. Most people have not thought about the outcome other than "selling some paintings" or boosting business. But different goals require different strategy.

I once ran an ad in a magazine. My goal was to build subscriptions. So, I placed an ad in a magazine, which reached people who were potential subscribers. I even inserted a subscription card. They had a circulation of 80,000. The result? We sold 12 subscriptions costing me $600+ to get each. Why did the ad fail? I did not follow my own advice. (Which we will get into in a minute.)

In another case I decided to run ads in a little inexpensive newspaper which reached potential advertisers. Since my goal was to create awareness and brand our name with potential advertisers I decided to take a long term approach. So I bought an ad to appear every issue for a year. One ad ran. No calls. But none we’re expected. A second, third and forth ran. No calls. None were expected. At this point my marketing assistant was saying, "Eric, do you really want to continue since you’re getting no results?" I told him, "Wait and see, we will see results."

After about eight months of impressions our phone started ringing from companies who said things like "we keep hearing about your magazine and want to explore some advertising." It was clear they were coming from these ads.

Intuition says… run and ad…get a call. Most ad experts will tell you intuition does not work. (Though sometimes you get lucky and it does work.) Frequency is the key to success in advertising. The repetition of message over and over again is what gets people to notice, build trust (yes, seeing you time and again builds trust if your ads look good) and eventually take action.

Even though I have spent my entire career in advertising I fell into the trap of being seduced to thinking I could sell something with a single ad. I was wrong. When I changed my strategy to consistent long term advertising I started seeing results. This will continue as we remain committed over the long haul. … against my intuition.