Please, Be Patient!
by Chad Rueffert

Instant gratification in the business world is a very rare thing.  And often, like the dot-com boom, is a mirage that disappears as soon as you start drinking from the spring, leaving you with a mouth full of sand.

Many new advertisers are looking for instant gratification and have unrealistic expectations of what should happen when their message hits the masses.  A few days into the campaign they’re holding meetings to discuss why the phones aren’t ringing off the hook.  Is the message wrong?  Did we pick the wrong station?  Should we cut our losses and try something new?

My advice?  Please, be patient!
Advertising is not an instant cure-all for slow sales.  Sure, you can run a big promotion, offering 50% off and expect that you’ll see more people than you did the day before.  But as soon as the sale is over, so is the traffic.  And if you’re a relatively new business or offering a new product to the market, even a big promotion is unlikely to draw massive traffic because consumers have no basis on which to judge the worthiness of your sale.

No matter what business you’re in, if you want advertising to work for you, you’ll need two things, and surprisingly none of them are big budgets, in-your-face creativity or the LOW LOW PRICES as most of us are led to believe.  Over the long run, if you want to use advertising to build your business, you need patience and commitment more than you’ll need anything else, and there are a variety of reasons why.

Consumers don’t buy everything, all the time
If you see an ad for beer, and you just got back from the liquor store, you’re not going to jump in the car and go buy more beer.  You’ll wait until you need beer and then go buy it.  So the brewery that advertises on Monday may not see the results until Friday, when you actually need to buy beer.  That’s where the patience factor comes in.  But what happens if one of your competitors runs a beer ad Thursday night?  You prospective customer might just buy their beer instead.  That’s where the commitment factor comes in.  Some people buy on Tuesday and some people buy on Friday.  Your ads better run on both days if you want to influence both potential customers.  

Consumers are suspicious
Your product may actually help people lose weight, make their skin smoother, their smile brighter or their love life better.  Your product might be better, cheaper, faster and easier to use than your competitor’s product.  But just because you say so in a television ad, does not mean that the consumer will believe you.  But be patient!  Consumers disbelieve most product claims at first.  But time is a great factor here.  If your new weight loss product is still around after six months and your potential customer has heard your promises two dozen times, perhaps talked to a friend who had a good experience, and seen it on the shelf at their favorite drug store – then, they might just decide to buy it.  But you better be committed for the long haul, or you’ll never get past that initial phase of disbelief.

My TV gets 110 channels
It used to be that an ad in the local newspaper or on the 5 o’clock news would reach the majority of the people in your market.  That is just no longer the case.  Today, it takes more money and more time to get the same number of gross impressions.  Gross impressions are the total number of people who see your ad multiplied by the number of times they see it.  One ad on one cable channel in a market like Colorado Springs might reach only a few thousand people.  Subtract from that the people who aren’t ready to buy your product yet, those that are suspicious of your claims, and those that ran for the bathroom during the commercial and you begin to realize why you have to be both patient and committed with your advertising.    

Your product may have only one competitor, but your ad has thousands
Between television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the Internet and all of the other media outlets, consumers are completely overwhelmed with advertising messages.  They change the channel, tune them out or turn them off at every opportunity.  It is unrealistic to expect that without some commitment to advertising over a long period of time that anyone will pay attention to your message.  And it is realistic to believe that your message may have to be on the air or in print for a long time before it attracts the notice of a significant number of people.

With all of that said, advertising obviously works, or there wouldn’t be so many stations and so many ads competing for our attention.  But it doesn’t work for everyone.  Advertising works for the people who have the patience to wait for the results and the commitment to keep communicating their message until consumers hear it, believe it, and have a reason to act on it.