Why the response to most B2B advertising is so poor

Is your advertising really aimed at enticing potential customers to do something you want? It should be. Unfortunately, if you browse through any trade magazine or website, you’ll see adverts which don’t seem to have any justification for having been placed at all, unless they were just to get rid of an ad sales rep who wouldn’t go away. Those small ads, sometimes as many as 12 on a page, at the back of magazines, telling you a company’s website address – what on earth are they all about? What were the advertisers thinking? They’d have been better off donating the £95 to the local hospice – at least it would make them feel good.

Let’s do a little role-playing. If you’ve got any advertising running, or planned, at the moment, put it in front of you on your desk (or if it’s a web ad, bring it up on screen).

Done it?

Now, pretend you’re a potential customer for your company’s products (if you can think of a real prospect you’ve met, so much the better).

Are you in character?

Right, here we go.

1. You (playing the role of your company’s prospect) have just noticed the advert and invested five seconds of your life taking in the advertiser’s message. Did it actually tell you anything which would make your life easier? Or did it just tell you to do something for which the only obvious beneficiary would be the advertiser? You’re not a charity. “Visit our website! Call us for a brochure!” Why would you want to do that? If the advert isn’t offering you something which will help you do your job better, then that advertiser is just wasting your time. And people who waste your time are irritating.

2. Has the advert given you a reason to believe it? Pictorial evidence that any claims stand up, perhaps, or testimonials from existing users? If sales reps call, you expect them to be able to demonstrate why their product will be worth your investment. If the advert can’t be bothered to back up its claims, why make any further enquiries in the hope that the advertiser will suddenly remember that they can back them up after all?

3. Is there a clear offer? Does the advert giving you clear instructions how to accept that offer with the minimum of effort? Does it reassure you that the offer will be fulfilled? The default expectation for most of us is that if we just “telephone the company now”, as requested, the person at the other end won’t know how to fulfill the offer. If we just “visit the website”, we assume, however unfairly, that we won’t be able to find the page relating to the offer. So why should this company be any different? Does the advert convince you that if you do as it says, you’ll quickly and easily get what the advertiser is saying you’ll get?

If the advert ticks all those boxes, congratulations. Most do not. And that’s why the response to most B2B advertising is so poor.

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