Advertising: Is it worth it?

With an estimated $180 billion spent on advertising in the US last year one may ask, “was it all worth it”?  The answer to that question probably depends on who you ask.  Large corporations will likely answer with a resounding yes.  Among smaller businesses I’d imagine there would be a wider range of answers.  Some yes’s, a lot of don’t know’s, and a few solid no’s.

Before you start contributing to this multi-billion dollar industry by sacrificing part of your budget to the advertising gods, it’s important to understand what advertising can and can not do for you.  Understanding the capabilities of advertising is essential to measuring it’s success, which is how you’ll be able to answer the question “was it worth it?”. 


  • Maintain/create an identity in your marketplace.
  • Attract new customers and retain old ones.
  • Educate customers about your product or services’ benefits.
  • Contribute, over time, to increased sales. – this comes with a “can not” caveat.


  • Create a massive customer base over-night.
  • Create a consumer base that doesn’t exist.
  • Instantly drive up sales.
  • Move useless, or poor quality products.
  • Make up for internal problems, such as poor management or poor customer service.
  • Give you an exact, or consistent ROI.

These are the top capabilities of advertising, of which there are many.

Two of the most common ways I see business owners get tripped are by having unrealistic expectations about advertising ability to instantly drive sales and create a customer base.  Advertising typically works slowly over time.

I’ve see companies drop an advertising campaign faster than a baby with a hot potato after only a short run because they didn’t see the results, albeit un-realistic results, they had in mind.  Every time I just want to scream, “NO!!! This wasn’t part of the plan!  You’re just wasting resources!  Stick with it like we said!”  So don’t be that guy.

Advertising can help give you the results you want, it just might take longer than you’d like.  That’s why it’s important to go into a campaign having done your research, created a plan, and then stick by your plan to the end, and then evaluate.


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