Today a yellow phone book was dropped on my front porch. Oh geez, thanks. Guess where it went? I didn’t even take it out of the wrapper and dropped it right in the recycling basket. What a waste of trees and money. When was the last time you looked at a physical phone book like that? I can’t even remember.

I had already been thinking about this article because I just completed recording the last video in a new digital marketing training program I’ve put together. But I digress a bit.

To Advertise or Not to Advertise, That’s the Question

Whenever I give one of my free marketing webinars, I like to contrast advertising with marketing.

To me, advertising is pushing your message out to lots of people, without regard to their needs, wants, or demographics. It’s getting your message in front of lots of people, hoping that it will stick to a few of them.

Assuming you’re an adult, we all grew up in an age where TV and radio ads, the yellow phonebook, billboards and newspaper ads were the norm. That’s how you got your message out to your potential audience. You shove it in everyone’s face.

Interrupt Marketing

Today, advertising is still what I call “interrupt marketing”, and hasn’t changed much. You have to interrupt someone from what they’re doing in order to get your message in front of everyone:

  • “We interrupt this program for this important message from our sponsor…” (Remember those?) You have to interrupt the consumption of a TV show in order to shove your message out to everyone who is watching.
  • “We now pause for a commercial break.” (Break from what exactly? Pee break?)

By the way, they’re called “commercials” because it’s a commercial message about some product or service that’s being promoted in order to generate commerce (you pay them!).

There are several problems with advertising:

  • You’re paying for impressions, or how many times your ad will be displayed. If you buy a newspaper ad, you’ll get a distribution of x households or readers. A yellow phone book will have a distribution of x books.
  • This is costly because you’re paying to put your blanket message in front of everyone in a certain geography.
  • There’s no way to effectively measure it. How many called you because of your yellow book ad? How many even saw it? How many people dumped it in the recycling bin right away? No way to know.
  • You can’t tailor your message to specific groups, because you have to create a dumbed-down ad that “appeals” to everyone, no matter who or where they are.
  • Your ad has to be louder and catchier than the others just to get noticed. We all get inundated with about 4000 ads per day (yeesh!). It’s really hard to get noticed above all that noise!

If you market to everyone, you’ll market to no one.

Attract and Market to Your Exact Audience

To me, marketing is better described as “attraction marketing”. You want to attract the people who are actively searching for your products and services, and ignore the rest of the world. You have at least 10 different ways to attract your ideal buyers, and get them into your systems. With marketing, you need to define who your potential buyers are, where they live, how old they are, and so on. Then your messaging is tailored to fit that market specifically.

If you have multiple target audiences, you can create multiple messages to attract each to a different path. It’s far easier to attract people with your information, when they are interested in it, than trying to force someone to pay attention to your message, when they don’t want it or care! With your marketing messaging, you’re going to make it so that people get to know, like and trust you and your business.

Part of this is social proof – what does your online reputation on Yelp or Google My Business say? What have been people’s experiences who have gone before them? It’s important. Furthermore, you have an opportunity with your social media, blog, YouTube channel and even email marketing tools to have one-on-one conversations with your potential customers. This helps further build that level of trust so that when they’re ready to buy, you’ve already built a relationship with them.

People will not typically whip out their wallet the first time they meet you, so you have to nurture that relationship over time. They will buy into you before they buy from you because you’ve done a good job of attracting them with your online tools.

One of the cool things is that most of the online marketing tools are either free or very low cost. As a small business owner, it’s far easier for you to be a “marketing ninja” than the big companies. This means you can be nimble and respond to your clients’ inquiries right away when most big companies struggle with this.

By the way, I really recommend my favorite marketing book by David Meerman Scott, “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.” In my opinion, it’s a must-read for every business owner, and I even give copies away during my talks. Mr. Scott goes to great length to explain how the rules of marketing have vastly changed in just the last decade, and how we as businesses must change with the times to engage our buyers, rather than force-feed our messages.

(This original article was written by Thomas Petty, appeared here and was re-published with permission.)