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Do You Really Need to Advertise?

With all of the (mostly) free marketing options available to you, do you really need to pay for advertising?


I’m always amazed at the number of people I meet that are starting a business without any money allocated to an advertising budget.

That being said, there are some amazing ways to market your business without breaking the bank. In fact, it’s something that Searles Graphics specializes in.

But are they enough? Isn’t that what the title “Growth Hacker” is all about?

There are two different types of businesses that believe they don’t need to advertise: Those that are currently doing just fine (and are satisfied with that) and those that will soon be out of business.

On the other hand, if you want your business to be here for a long time and if you want growth, you simply can’t get away with not advertising.

Let’s examine some of the most popular reasons why individuals believe they don’t need to advertise.

1. I get all my customers by word-of-mouth.

Great! But what happens when you have a customer that’s just not blown away enough to recommend you?

Maybe they want to recommend you but they don’t remember the name of your business or any of your contact information when it’s most important.

How about when a new competitor enters your space, undercuts you on price, and promotes themselves everywhere?

Word-of-mouth is great because it amplifies your business exponentially when things are going well.

The more customers you have, the more that talk about you, which turns into more customers and more referrals.

On the flip side, this principle also means the biggest problem with relying solely on word-of-mouth advertising is that when things go bad, they go REALLY bad.

Losing one customer doesn’t mean losing just that one customer, but everybody in the chain that would have come after them.

Without any other engine driving referrals or new business, you’re in serious trouble.

2. I use social media, and that’s free!

Awesome! You SHOULD be marketing yourself on social media.

But what happened when Facebook changed their algorithm and that group of fans you worked so hard and spent so much time building up stopped seeing all of your posts?

What about Twitter’s recent changes to do the same? And Instagram’s?

Twitter and Instagram curated feeds

What if they all decided tomorrow that they were going to charge you just to keep your account active? Think it can’t happen?

Why not? You don’t own anything on any of those platforms (except maybe the content you put up there, but even that has been called into question on multiple occassions).

If you spent 5 years building an awesome following of 20,000 fans on Facebook, would you really not pay $100 / month or so to keep it?

Most would. For everyone else, it wouldn’t de-value the platform at all for the user-base.

It’s a much more likely scenario than you think. Honestly, it’s pretty much already happened.

Is there really a difference between charging you to access the account vs charging you to reach the people who follow your page?

Facebook advertising reach to page fans

The latter is simply Facebook’s way of price-scaling access based on the size of their customer – i.e. bigger customers / companies have bigger followings, bigger pockets, and consequently pay more to reach all of their fans.

3. I get a lot of press coverage.

Fantastic! But what happens when the coverage dies down (it always does)?

PR is amazing and should be a highly sought after weapon in your marketing arsenal, but it’s fickle and unpredictable.

As soon as you’re not new or interesting, your press coverage will disappear and you’re left without anything feeding your pipeline.

4. I’m a great digital marketer.

Congratulations! Digital marketing is easy to be mediocre at but quite difficult to be great at (like most things), so you’re doing well on that front.

First, a clarification for those of you who are asking, “How is digital marketing different from social media?”

Digital marketing does encompass social media, but expands beyond that to include things like email marketing, content marketing, and search engine optimization, which comes with it’s own list of sub-categories like inbound link building, on-page optimization, etc.

So you’re a great digital marketer, but what about prospects that don’t use the platforms you’re marketing on?

You’ve seen Facebook’s TV ads, right? Yes, that’s right, Facebook advertises on television. (The video below should strike a particular chord with Pied Piper fans … )

Similarly, I get direct mail advertisements from Google constantly.

Yes, you also heard that right; I get direct mail from Google regularly advertising their digital advertising products and services. Here’s a variable data direct-mail piece Google recently sent me (NextStop Magazine is one of our publications):

Google variable data print ad

Why? Because people that still are not on Facebook are likely the same people who still watch live TV (commercials and all, gasp!), and people that don’t already advertise with Google likely spend less time online and more time with traditional media.

It’s also important to remember that the time to start advertising is not when things slow down.

Advertising takes time to work, it’s not like turning a faucet on and off. So if you’re not getting the word out consistently, you’re going to be in trouble until you get your campaigns built, fine-tuned, and start generating and converting leads.

So do you really HAVE to advertise? No, you don’t really HAVE to do anything, but if you want to see real results and real growth, you’ll start.


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