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Don't spend more to make your advertising less effective

By Bruce Goldman
SCORE Counselor

There are times when doing too much can be as harmful to your bottom line as spending, and doing, too little.

Audience isn't everything

In buying media, for example, the temptation is to go for as large an audience as you can. It's only logical. Logical, yes, but not necessarily right.

Let's say you own a small restaurant in Shockoe Bottom or Short Pump or Midlothian. Do you really think that your radio buy, reaching listeners from Norfolk to Charlottesville, is going to get people to drive two hundred miles, round trip, to your door?

The principle applies to dayparts as well as media. If that restaurant of yours does mostly lunch or, even worse, dinner business, does a morning drive time buy really make sense? Sure, it'll reach the most listeners, but hours away from their next meal.

Radio is great for reaching people while they're driving or, in many cases while they're at work, but you can reach them with a less expensive time of day.

The newspaper equivalent of drive time is the Sunday edition, which historically draws more readers than any other day – sometimes more than other days combined. But paying more to reach more people on Sunday may just help you reach them too late.

A large Chevrolet dealer, whose biggest sales day was Sunday, used to pay the higher cost of buying space in Sunday editions. What happened, though, that was by the time people got up late on Sundays, browsed through the paper over leisurely brunches, got dressed and went car shopping, at least half the day was gone. When the dealership switched to Friday and Saturday advertising (giving people more time to see the ads and to shop throughout the weekend), it increased sales and cut media costs.

Size isn't everything

Speaking of newspapers, while full pages are the most expensive advertising units, they aren't the most noticed. What's obviously a full page of advertising is all too easy for readers to flip past. A page-dominant unit – say, a vertical 3/8 page – dominates the page while attracting more attention to your message. This is for two reasons: First, the surrounding editorial content gives readers a reason to go to the page your ad is on. And second, the gray look of all the newspaper type surrounding a well-designed ad works like matte in a picture frame, making the ad really pop.

Another newspaper investment to avoid is space in a special advertising section, where you pay extra to have your ad buried among all your competitors', all bundled up in one easy-to-discard-unread supplement. If the supplement's timing is right for your business, better to buy run-of-paper space in the same issue.

Newspapers tell you that you can boost readership of your ad by running it in color, because it will stand out from all the black-and-white ads next to it. That's true as far as it goes. But what they don't tell you is that when the production department gets hold of the color ads, they gang them all up together to save on printing costs. The result is that your ad gets lost among all the other color ads, and you've paid, say, the Richmond Times Dispatch an extra $1,198+ for the privilege.

Ranking isn't everything

In buying a sponsored link (aka pay-per-click) online campaign, it's natural to want the highest possible ranking (which, of course, costs extra). It's natural but wrong. Go into your Google Adsense calculator, look at the traffic estimates, and surprise! Rankings four through seven bring in more traffic than rankings one through three – and at lower cost.

Results are everything

There's nothing wrong, and a lot right,  with wanting to spend more on advertising to get more sales. But before you do, look carfully at how you're going to spend it. Put your money into things that really do increase sales (e.g., more frequency), and you'll get the higher ROI you're looking for.

As a copywriter and creative director in New York, Miami and Richmond, Bruce Goldman has won 414 international, national, regional, local and industry awards for advertising creativity and effectiveness. He's taught at the School of Visual Arts (New York) and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Mass Communications (Richmond), co-authored Lean Advertising (2003, Oaklea Press), and is a SCORE national online advertising/marketing counselor. Contact him at this address.


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About the Expert: Richmond SCORE

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SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business"
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated toentrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide.  We are a resource partner of the Small Business Administration and have over 11,200 volunteers nationwide working in 370 chapters.  Since its conception in 1964, SCORE has served over 8.5 million small business entrepreneurs.

The Richmond SCORE chapter offers a variety of services and support to entrepreneurs and small businesses across the Richmond metro area:

Personal and Real-World Advice
If you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t need to go it alone—Richmond SCORE has business experts that can give you free and confidential, real-world advice and know-how. Our volunteer counselors represent every business discipline:  some have been executives at Fortune 500 companies, while others were small business owners themselves. 
With SCORE, you can take advantage of:

  • Face-to-face consultations with business professionals.
  • An on-site evaluation at your place of business.
  • A team of SCORE counselors to provide you with specialized assistance in a broad range of business areas.

 You decide how much assistance you want and SCORE will tailor the sessions to make the most of your time. This support is available to you at no cost.

Workshops and Seminars
Whether you are just starting or want to grow your business, SCORE workshops are valuable ways to learn more about succeeding in business.  SCORE offers monthly workshops and specialized topic seminars focused on issues ranging from business planning and marketing to Web-based retailing.   These low cost workshops also provide a convenient forum for networking with other business professionals who can help you succeed.

Online Counseling & Resources
Thousands of entrepreneurs just like you count on the SCORE Richmond Web Site,, for real time resources. You’ll find dozens of online guides with proven, practical tips on a variety of small business topics. There are also more than a dozen templates for business plans, loan requests and financial spreadsheets. There are pages dedicated to women, veterans, minority and young entrepreneurs.

You can submit a question through the ASK SCORE link.  One of our seasoned business counselors will get back to you within 48 hours.  As with the personal consultations, these services are free.

 Additionally, there are links to our partners where you can find more resources to support your business needs.

Contact Richmond SCORE and Build Your Success
It’s easy to put the resources of Richmond SCORE to work for you. We’re dedicated to helping your business succeed. Live your dream.  Richmond SCORE can help. To get more information or make an appointment with a counselor, contact Richmond SCORE at 804-771-2400, ext. 131,
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