Be Your Own Boss: Advertising Advice

If you aspire to be your own boss, you could probably use the author's advertising advice.

| November/December 1980

  • 066 be your own boss
    To be your own boss means you can go your own way, but there is a right way and a wrong way to handle advertising.

  • 066 be your own boss

Today I'd like to provide a little basic advertising advice to those of you actively trying to be your own boss. Too many "greenhorn" shoestring businessfolk are alternately fascinated and terrified by the "glamor" of advertising, probably because the "ad game" is one of the most misunderstood aspects of running an enterprise. And it's also the area where a first-time-out businessperson is most apt to make mistakes (usually costly ones), often due simply to a misconception of the purpose of advertising. An entrepreneur can get caught up in the excitement of seeing his or her name in print, and start an ill-fated ad campaign without understanding even the fundamentals of good advertising!

As a commercial advertiser (one who uses ads to sell a product), your ultimate goal is twofold: First, you want to discover the unique advantages) of your goods or service ... and second, you want to express that advantage, giving your customers one or more good reasons to try your offering. To help you achieve that aim, I'm going to present seven basic rules of advertising that should enable you to avoid the most common pitfalls.

Move Slowly

The first principle is, strangely enough: Put all advertising off until your business has established itself. Now I realize that may seem a little self-defeating, but it's actually a sound piece of advice for the fledgling entrepreneur to follow. As I mentioned at the beginning of this column, it's all too easy to get hooked by the glamor of the ad game and crank up a massive campaign before even you are thoroughly familiar with your product. You need to understand, and be in close touch with, your market before you advertise.

Talk to your customers and ask for their reactions to your business. Such an informal survey will tell you more about their preferences than would any large-scale marketing research project. After you've been in operation for a few months, you'll probably be able to pinpoint the precise features of your product that make it unique in your area and that appeal most to your clientele. At that time, you'll be better able to catch the public's eye with a well-directed ad.

Remember, though, that advertising is not some sort of magical trick that will induce a consumer to buy (repeatedly) a product he or she may not even want, as the popular myth seems to suggest. Sure, lots of people, after seeing an ad, buy an item they normally wouldn't have tried ... but there's no advertisement in the world that could convince that same person to buy the product again if he or she wasn't satisfied with it. And that point brings us to the second law of advertising: The goal of any ad is to get the prospective customer to try the product or service at least once. After that initial lure, the quality of the goods themselves must keep the consumer interested.

Write It Yourself

My next rule may sound crazy — or maybe even suicidal — to most beginning entrepreneurs, but I firmly believe that it's good counsel: Don't hire an agency to write copy for your ad! Most small businesses can't absorb the expense of a professional advertising contract ... and agencies often turn out unsatisfactory ads anyway, since the employees of such outfits tend to concentrate more on entertaining the reader with "creative" approaches than they do on selling your particular product .

1/2/2015 2:46:41 AM

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