As a small business, you need to be getting sales today, or there won’t be a tomorrow—so you need to be running advertising to generate immediate responses, not ads geared to building an image.

Generally, if you run a certain ad and get no response, you could run it forever, and you will probably never get great results. So pull it as soon as you can, ideally after one run, and try something else.

The only exception that comes to mind is mass-market advertising vehicles such as television, radio, and transit advertising. When using these vehicles, you generally need to build a significant desire to buy in the mind of the consumer to initiate any response at all. So even to test these media it takes a number of ads with significant repetition.

To test TV or radio I would run about 12 ads in one week on the same show. If on radio I could get the exact same time, such as an ad on the 8:00 a.m. news every day for five days, then that might be enough for a good test. To test ads on a transit line I would buy transit cards in at least every other transit vehicle on one line for the shortest period buyable, which is typically a month. A much cheaper test would be to buy just one sign in one station, which in and of itself would generate a lot of repetitive viewing images.

It Is Very Difficult to Get Potential Customers to Notice Your Ads

Because advertising is so expensive, you should use some strategy to concentrate your advertising impact at the most important buying time for your business. The primary exception to this advertising strategy might be for non-seasonal service businesses, but even for these businesses I would at least test concentrated advertising—you are more likely to be noticed. And perhaps you might even get consumers talking about your ads.

Here are some different strategies for ad frequency.

Peak-Season Blowout

Using a peak-season blowout strategy involves saving all of your advertising money for one big campaign. This makes sense for businesses whose products or services are typically required during a particular season—for example, a snowplow service. In this case, the business might place its advertising in the month preceding the usual beginning of snowfall in their area. Another example would be a retailer who is particularly dependent on the Christmas trade advertising heavily throughout December.

Quarterly Blitz

Quarterly blitz advertising campaigns are quite common. They allow you to concentrate your ad dollars during specific times, while also affording you a better chance of maintaining a place in your audience’s mind throughout the year.

Seesaw Approach

The “seesaw approach,” for lack of a formally coined name for this strategy, is a campaign in which impact is created by running a big print ad or heavy radio/television schedule for one week, followed by a smaller ad or lighter radio/television schedule in the following week or weeks to reinforce the earlier impact at a lower cost.

Continuous Advertising

All too many small businesses completely dribble away their advertising money throughout the year by placing a continuous stream of small ads. This approach risks not creating enough impact to net satisfactory results. If you operate this way, consider experimenting. Maybe even drop all advertising for a while and see whether your business falls off. It might not, and if it doesn’t, you can then feel extra confident in trying a new advertising schedule.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • It’s hard to get noticed.
  • Devise a strategy to maximize your advertising impact.
  • Cut your losses if the ads aren’t working.