Image: brizzle born and bred via Flickr

Sending email is free, creating a Facebook page is free, Twitter outreach is free, cold-calling is free, publicity is free, referrals are free, and advertising costs money.

So why is it that even with all of these wonderfully low cost and free ways to promote your business I contend that you must make advertising one of your core lead generation tactics? (Actually one could argue if anything is free, but the items listed above don’t come with a direct cost.)

Advertising is in fact one of the marketing tactics that comes with an invoice. You must write a check to run ads or send direct mail, often before seeing any results. In my experience people shy away from advertising, not because of the cost, because they don’t know how to get results and they don’t understand the long-term residual effects. Think about it, if you knew that for every $100 you spent you could produce $200, you would get out your check book and spend away, right?

To get results from advertising today you must

  • Be laser focused on a specific ideal client
  • Create awareness for valuable content with a call to action
  • Measure leads and conversion fanatically

But, that’s a topic for another post, today I want to first get the leverage to help you understand why you must add advertising to mix and then we can start to talk about how.

When done effectively advertising is an essential part of mix because:

  1. Advertising is the only medium you can control – if you want your message to hit on the day a product launches or event is about to happen, this is the only vehicle you control completely.
  2. Advertising allows you to target ideal customers only – when you match a very personal message to a very select audience you get far greater connection.
  3. Advertising creates awareness for your content – The force that drives a great deal of conversion and trust building these days is educational content – ebooks, seminars and blog posts – advertising is a great way to help get that content found and consumed once you’ve gone to the effort to produce it.
  4. Advertising adds credibility to your message – Don’t ask me why this is exactly, but every time I run advertising people comment that business must be going well. The perception that you can afford advertising is often enough to sell and resell prospects and customers alike and makes it easier to get attention for your entire message.
  5. Advertising amplifies everything else you’re doing – When you are using advertising to create awareness for your content you automatically create more awareness for everything you are doing. Journalists find companies that advertise, referral sources remember companies that advertise, people fan and follow and friend from ads, and employees can point to well-placed ads as a source of pride in place they work.
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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Fantastic advice! This is why I tell clients that they can’t replace AdWords with Facebook – they’re just not comparable in terms of scope, reach and targetting.

  • Outstanding, I don’t know how many times I have talked to friends who own a business about how they can’t afford not to advertise.

  • This makes a pretty good case for advertising. I’ve been doing a lot of SEO and social media with little measurable results. I’m weary of paid ads because of the perceived risk.

    I have an e-commerce store and conversions are really low so I don’t feel like burning money until I have something to compare the ad results to.

    • Raza – the low performance for The Coffee Maker Store website might be in part to it’s ultra-slow page load. I clocked the homepage at 42 seconds after the URL appeared in the address bar before ANYTHING appeared on the browser screen, then another 7 seconds before the page fully loaded. Frankly, I thought the site was broken.

  • I agree with your 5 reasons, and I’d add this to your list: PPC advertising can generate leads immediately. Unlike SEO and social media marketing, which can take 6+ months to make a real impact, PPC allows you to pull in qualified traffic in a matter of days. We often suggest clients do PPC first, generate immediate traffic/leads, and learn what works well (keywords, landing pages) — then apply those learnings to SEO and Social Media outreach.

  • Great post. Advertising should sell a message that is already in the consumers mind. Yes, consumers and prospects need to be reminded why your company is different.

  • Clavoie I’d agree so long as the PPC campaign is carefully managed or it can be a tremendous fiscal bleed for smaller businesses. PPC is like gambling for the misinformed, it’s very easy to blow a lot of money quickly for highly unqualified leads.

  • Unconvinced. You can substitute ‘Blogging’ for ‘Advertising’ in every one of those reasons.

    • Sure, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Why not do both and watch how much bigger your blogging gets. I’m a huge fan of blogging, have been preaching it as a core tactic since 2004, but why not amplify it, that’s the point – if pressed I would say you need a blog first, but once you have it, advertising can amp the results up dramatically – it’s not either or, it’s both for the greatest impact.

      • There’s a huge difference between “can” and “must”. With a title like “5 reasons why you must advertise” I think you needed much more persuasive arguments for advertising.

        Also to quote another snippet, “if you knew that for every $100 you spent you could produce $200, you would get out your check book and spend away, right?” – no, not really. I’d first look for the investment that maximised my return on that $100 spend.

        There’s no guarantee that advertising will get you two for one on the dollar (just an example, I get it), or that advertising is the most effective way to spend your money.

  • Advertising is super impotent! Great tips! I will have to share this!


  • A targeted advertising campaign can be priceless to small businesses. Sometimes the most difficult part is singling out the ideal client and remembering to focus your ad dollars there.

  • Fantastic blog post! This makes a lot of sense. It is important for companies to use at social media IN ADDITION to traditional advertising methods, not instead of. Even though everyone uses Facebook and Twitter, the “old” ways still work, are proven, and will bring the customers to your front door.

  • From a small business owner who is learning and living this out currently, I can say unless you are an exceptional marketer yourself…pay the pros to do the job you could only hope for. Invest to reap rewards.

  • I couldn’t agree more with your article. Unfortunately I’ve learned the hard way to take advantage of the free advertising avenues and not get pulled under by the higher costs of some paid marketing programs.

    • Hey Brett, if you can make some free advertising avenues payoff, that’s awesome

  • What qualifies as “advertising”? Because you list email as one of the “good but not enough” solutions, so does that discount email advertising? Or am I misunderstanding?

  • Great article. I agree every small business should advertise. If you are a small business that knows they need to advertise but need a plan check out my free marketing template. You can download it from my website.

  • You brought up a great point about advertising amplifying everything that you’re doing. There are so many small business owners that truly have some innovative ideas or great things going on in their business yet they haven’t been able to get involved in the game of advertising.

  • You certainly know your stuff, I like to outsource a lot of tasks, which allows one to concentrate and step back out of the box,I know loads of business owners who start a project and yet fail to finish, I agree totally with what you said on this subject, great advice, love your blog…

  • Creating a connection with potential customers is key in today’s social media crazed world. The good thing is those connections usually translate to a more loyal customer base.