Foreword: The following article (well its original form) appeared on and I thought it was worth reproducing, and adding comments too, as part of our information gathering, for your work.

And although its American centric, it raises very valid questions in an Australian context too.
This is a monster post. Something I normally don’t advocate in today’s world. But in this case it’s very warranted


5 critical questions for effective Small Business Advertising



If you honestly evaluate your advertising using the five questions in this message, one of two things will happen:

You’ll discover that your advertising provides compelling and powerful answers to each and every question. If so, congratulations—you’re in the top 1% of all small business advertisers, and you’re achieving amazing results from your advertising.


You’ll find that your advertising is totally focused on the wrong person—it’s focused on you or your business instead of on the perfect client in your target market. If this is you, don’t feel too badly—99% of all small businesses fall into this category. Their advertising isn’t very effective and earns, at best, a small “fair share” of available business … and it only gets that much because the competition’s advertising is equally horrible.

Let me stress one very important point before you continue: do not make this an intellectual exercise. If you know me, I often wear my heart on my sleeve. I simply put value honesty. And this exercise in particular is something you need to be honest about with yourself.


Think of your image of the perfect client (the person you want to deal with). Then physically pull out your advertisements, look at your signage, everything, sit down, and answer the following five questions as if your perfect client were asking them.

These questions will make demands upon your advertising that are very different from traditional advertising. Answering may seem strange at first, but stick with it. If your current advertising doesn’t provide compelling answers, start to think about how you could change it so that it does.



Small Business Advertising Question #1: “Why Are You Bothering Me?”

FACT: Advertising is an interruption.

The Thorium Films advertising motto reads:

“Advertising is an uninvited guest in people’s homes, cars and some of the most private moments in their lives. We must intrigue them and captivate them with the way we look and the things we say. We must entertain them and encourage them to laugh, or at least smile; to cry, or at least feel empathy; and sometimes simply to think. We must persuade them and convince them that what we have to offer is genuinely unique and valuable. Otherwise, it is unlikely we will be invited back.”

Your ideal clients didn’t wake up this morning, get out of bed, and proclaim, “Wow, I sure hope someone advertises to me today.” The real world simply doesn’t work that way.

Your ideal clients, however, did get out of bed with business problems, goals, and other things that are important to them. If your advertising doesn’t grab their attention with a compelling reason that’s important to them (not you, but them), it will be thrown in the bin or just ignored.

If you don’t know what’s on your ideal client’s mind, you have no business putting together an advertisement … yet.

Go back to market research, and learn more about your target market. The research and understanding are key to generating responses to your advertising.



Small Business Advertising Question #2: “What Does It Have to Do with Me?”

After you capture your clients’ attention, you must get their interest.

Every once in a while, an advertisement will run in the Wall Street Journal with a huge, bold headline that simply says:




Does it get people’s attention? Sure. But the next line is, “Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about my worn-out, dusty shoes.” Well, unless you’re interested in worn-out, dusty shoes, your interest in the advertisement stops right there and you move onto the next page. Although the guy from Old Spice certainly worked well.

So you see, once you grab their attention, you must get them interested … immediately! You can do this by telling them what the advertisement’s information has to do with the things they consider to be important. Again, this is about what they consider to be important, not what you consider to be important.

A tried-and-true way to capture interest is to state the biggest possible benefit or promise you’re able to make to your target market. If you know your market well, this is a sure-fire way to keep prospective clients reading.



Small Business Advertising Question #3: “Why Should I Believe You?”

Prove it!

Decision makers default to skepticism, not belief, about your claims. If you don’t give your prospects powerful and compelling reasons to believe what you claim in your advertising, they won’t.

It’s your job to provide the proof they need to believe what you’re communicating. If your advertising doesn’t provide proof, get to work and add it in.

I still think the “Will it Blend” series on youtube did this well, but that’s another story.

For every promise you make and every benefit you list, ask the question: “Why should I believe you?” Then answer the question using one of the methods of adding overwhelming proof to your advertising (my favorites are client testimonials,  and actually showing what you do via photographs or better – video). Or answer the question as if you were sitting in front of a prospect who asked you that very question.



Small Business Advertising Question #4: “What Should I Do About It?”

Just listing a phone number or website URL isn’t enough. I’m consistently amazed by the number of advertisements I critique that lack a compelling offer and clear directions for how to act on it. (Whats the point if there is no call to action).

Have you given prospects a specific step to take in order to begin the process of becoming your client? The key word here is “specific.” Tell the prospects exactly what to do, how to do it, and what they’ll get as a result.

And in a related context, your entire brand needs to match the ideal client. You need to present to them, so that when the advertisement works, the experience is consistent for that client.



Small Business Advertising Question #5: “Why Should I Do It Right Now?”

From the original article  “A cute theory espoused by many so-called advertising gurus is that decision makers will remember you or your firm when it comes time to take action, even if they don’t take action right away. But “reality” (you know—studies, statistics, and empirical evidence) shows that notion to be utterly false.”

It went on to say “If your prospects don’t take the action you want when your message is in front of them, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll come back to it at a later date.”


that is not what Coca Cola would say. Or Maccas. Or even Woolies. Although each advertisement has a call to action, they are more concerned with their brand image staying constant and consistent. Because brand awareness is VERY IMPORTANT.

A consistent clean look that matches your ideal client is a must.

That does not mean you should ignore a call to action right now. Far from it, SMEs don’t have money bags to waste on commercials after all. You need to ensure you are building awareness AND attracting your ideal client.


Wrapping It Up

Despite the BUT in question 5 above, I do agree with: While advertising salespeople like to talk about image, exposure, and awareness, your focus belongs on making sales and on results you can deposit in your bank account.

These questions will help you create advertising to do just that.


About the author

Tony Hooper’s career began in the corporate world, however that changed dramatically with a move into the Media industry. He began making short documentary pieces (on aspects of business) and in exploring his more creative side he produced a number of short films, including the series “Stock Footage Fairytales” (now being remastered). He has worked on a number of music videos and commercials, as well as writing screenplays for both short and feature film. Tony is currently exploring the intrigues of experimental film while preparing for his debut directing a feature. He is a CPA, and a member of a number of screen bodies, and has worked within the corporate sector for over a decade, including as a Senior Executive in a major media company. His plethora of experience, from negotiating contracts, reporting financial affairs, and managing film sets, and his adaptability with situations and technology, has given him a wide breadth of knowledge on all aspects of production.