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So you just fired off the artwork of a shiny new ad for a local magazine (or website, or booster program, whatever), and it looks great. Each graphic and word just oozes with awesome. All that’s left at this point is to sit back, sip on a Clamato and watch the money roll in, right?

Wrong. Clamatos are disgusting. Don’t do that to yourself.

More importantly, you’re overlooking a crucial element of promotion: repetition. We all know that consumers trust brands that they see more frequently, so being a mainstay in the marketplace is the key to getting a return on your marketing investment. Expecting a huge return from of one ad – or even one ad campaign – will only lead to disappointment. Instead, employ a long-term strategy; one that intends on consistency, and the awareness that all good marketing takes time.

The good news is that you don’t have to bust your ass to build that momentum. Keep these in mind…

1. Don’t advertise on the cheap. Why is an ad in Cosmopolitan $60,000? Because it works. You get the nationwide reach of a specific, engaged audience. Placing an ad on a placemat at a diner is cheaper, but don’t expect the same level of response, or any targeted response, for that matter. While I’m not advocating to spending more on one ad than you did your own car, I do stress the reality of getting what you pay for, and what happens when you…

2. Know your audience. Each publication, website or event has a target consumer, and your job as a marketer is to align with the publication’s target audience. If you’re advertising in a community magazine, relate your message to that specific community. Running an ad in an email newsletter? Make sure you’re crafting a call-to-action that this email’s audience cares about. And while we’re at it,…

3. Use a call-to-action, which is simply something that you want your audience to actually do. If it’s an event, offer “early-bird pricing”. If it’s a free consultation, give them a deadline. The idea is to encourage your audience to do something by giving an incentive for acting sooner rather than later. Doing so will force results quickly.

4. Try different media. Don’t be discouraged about social media because your Facebook campaign didn’t work out, or give up on print advertising because you advertised in the phone book. We live in an ocean of varying media, and every organization has to find its own mix. Find yours.

5. Try different offers, and see what your audience reacts to. You can’t learn anything from trying one thing, one time. To learn what works, you have to keep trying, with the intention of learning from both winning and losing campaigns. It’s about consistency – keep trying and don’t let discouragement hold you back. Finally, and sincerely…

6. Work with experts. Throwing an ad together in Word, and shooting it off to an account manager that you hardly spoke to is a terrible – albeit frequent – strategy. Ask questions of your publication to see how they can help make you successful (that’s kind of their job), and get some feedback from a designer on your layout. Some designers (the nice ones anyway) might give you some tips without sending you a bill. Just don’t ask them to do any free work – that’s just rude.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.


  • John Holling says:

    Great article, Patrick. I can speak from experience on this topic.

    Due to an unusual opportunity, we were able to place a full page ad in a well known, well read magazine last October at very little cost. We had no idea what to expect, but with a readership of around one million between online and print, and knowing their readers are our exact target audience, we were very optimistic.

    The ad ran, and almost nothing happened. We saw a slight uptick in site traffic and we did get a few orders, but let’s just say we were very glad we hadn’t paid the $70k the ad would have normally cost.

    Contrast that with a mention in a post on that same magazine’s website, where we saw our highest site traffic and most sales to date of anything we’ve done. And we still get traffic daily, almost a year later.

    You are so right that all effective marketing is about repetition and building momentum, not putting all your eggs in one basket – especially with print media.


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