Small businesses often complain that advertising is too expensive.

This can indeed be true, but I’ve seen countless examples where one business successfully uses advertising to generate leads while another simply wastes money doing the same.

The difference – two things – successful small business advertising requires ruthless application of experience and measurement.

Experience includes – past experience gathered from clients, experience of an honest ad sales rep, knowledge of your industry, experience gained from measuring past campaigns (competitive experience – usually contrasuccessful)

Measurement – don’t even consider running advertising if you can’t measure the results, it’s too risky. Measure every medium, daypart, and location, online and offline. Measure every element that can be measured – headlines, offers, images, type, copy. It may feel extremely tedious to do so but when you have a limited budget it’s suicide to do otherwise.

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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.
  • Scott

    How do you measure it? Do you suggest an 800 number for every ad (particularly when more than one person answers the phone?

  • For small businesses, I agree that probably the biggest mistakes they make in marketing is their neglect of measuring. I’ve known hundreds where the thought doesn’t even come into their mind when they start a campaign.

    This is an area that can’t just be initiated and then hope for the best.

  • John Jantsch


    You can measure ads in many ways (in fact I am writing an article on the topic for my newsletter next week.)

    You can put a code on postcard that links to a list or some other variable.
    Have callers ask for a department number or fake customer service rep.
    Use different online landing pages and track by URL
    Set-up a series of 800 numbers that correspond to an ad but forward to one number.

  • Advertising is expensive for any-sized business, which is why it should be measurable.

    Whether for lead generation or selling “off the page,” you need a GREAT offer that taps into the needs of the target audience. And you need to make it easy to say YES, as in a clear, simple call to action.

    But to get their attention to begin with, you need a compelling headline (and copy) and a complimentary visual/design/layout. People are not searching for ads. You must catch them as they go by.

    Make ads measurable with dedicated response elements — specific landing pages, response devices, etc. A simple, less sophisticated approach is to relentlessly ask prospects and customers how they learned about you. This will give you feedback on your advertising, as well as your other marketing tactics.

  • AMEN to this post! I have worked on the agency side for a long time, and you would not believe the number of BIG companies who have the money, and don’t measure. Quickest way to get fired on the planet.

    For small companies… I would recommend doing a very inexpensive precampaign measurement study. These can be done online and will give you a good idea of attitudes toward your product before you start. The biggest problem with using strictly tracking, is that in the early days, you don’t understand what the numbers mean… WHY am I getting the response I’m getting. A prestudy helps you gage whether the results are on track.

    A good agency will employ a “test and learn” model… so that if something isn’t working it can changed based on learning. You don’t need a big agency to get this… we’re 35 people and we do it.

  • I recommend using our simple, yet robust ad tracking service. You can see us at or you can click below..