Why You Don't Want to Run a Business that Relies Solely on Ads

storytelling marketing luxury brands

There’s a very famous saying in marketing, perhaps you’ve heard it. It goes… “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

This saying is attributed to John Wanamaker, a pioneer in marketing and advertising in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It reflects a common challenge faced by advertisers, which was true back then and even true today, which is, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to accurately measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.

Despite advancements in analytics and attribution models, it can still be challenging for marketers to determine which specific advertising efforts are driving the most value and which are not performing as well.

But… But… But…

This presupposes that only ads that deliver a ROAS are worthwhile. I’m not so convinced of that. Only a smattering of your market is ready to buy. For these folks, sure, an ad can be the marshalling wand (I had to Google what these were called) guiding them into your funnel like an aircraft marshaller to a pilot.

But what does that mean for the other +99% of people who aren’t ready to buy, but could someday? Is your ad not worthwhile when targeting them – even if they never click on it, never engage with it, and there’s no ROAS attached to it?

If you only target buyers and ignore potential buyers, then you may reach a point where you’ve already reached all the buyers, or worse, a larger competitor continues to outbid you, and your potential customers never learn about you. In such case, you may not have the financial stamina to continue.

Running a business that relies solely on ads is expensive and myopic. An analogy I like to use is that of a farmer – if you don’t plant seeds, there will be nothing to harvest.

If You Don't Plant Seeds, There Will Be Nothing to Harvest

I’ve been really standing on my branding soapbox lately. This is a result of careful reflection on the state of marketing and what works and what doesn’t.

Branding is a lot like planting seeds. Will it give you something to harvest tomorrow on next week? No, probably not. But over time it will, and it may be just the thing that carries you through the long winters.

Paid ads is a lot like picking what’s already grown. That may be enough to keep you going for a while, but you’re not the only picker out there… and picking gets expensive. So what happens when your ROAS is in a steady decline and your CAC eats up all your margin?

Branding is a way for you to attract customers organically without the reliance on ad spend. This is because you’ve established a strong market saturation through your expertise, authority, and trust. With this approach, you can eventually scale back your paid media spend and reach critical mass.

The winter is coming, my friends. Bundle up.

So instead of running a business solely on ads, you should instead look to branding and content marketing (this includes social media marketing) that allows you to demonstrate your brand values in an interesting and entertaining way.

Once you’ve established your expertise, authority, and trust in the marketplace, and you target the right audience, once they have a pain in which your solution can solve, they will think of you first and come to you.

It’s all about branding.

The Importance of Branding

Branding is more than just a logo or a name; it’s the holistic representation of your business’s identity, values, and promise to customers. 

It’s the story you tell, the emotions you evoke, and the experiences you create. Effective branding sets you apart from competitors, builds trust and credibility, and fosters loyalty among customers. 

It’s the cornerstone of your marketing efforts, driving recognition, preference, and ultimately, growth. Investing in branding is not just about creating a memorable logo or slogan; it’s about crafting a compelling narrative that resonates with your audience and creates lasting impressions.

An investment into branding will allow you to scale back on your ad spend over time and allow your name to attract customers.

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