The Most Expensive Advertising Ever

By MARK RIFFEY, for the Flathead Beacon.

Are you wasting those carefully planned advertising investments?

The most expensive investment we can make is one that’s wasted.

You’ve studied, sifted and listened intently to figure out the perfect message for a certain group of people interested in what you make or do.

As you hoped, it resonates with just the right people at just the right time. Lots of folks are calling, stopping by your store, and visiting your website.

Minutes later, all the positive you’ve created can be gone… POOF!

At speaking engagements, I’ll often mention the importance of following up with the people you meet at a trade show (you *do* follow up, right?) and recall a trade show story about a major personal electronics manufacturer. During the show, they collected contact information from almost 30,000 people who said “Hey, I am interested in this new product”. Numbers like that are a big win, even for a global electronics company. Yet they wasted it by not following up with those people.

We’ve said enough of the right things to gain someone’s interest and then….what?

Saying the right things to the right people isn’t enough
We spend a lot of time tracking our marketing investments so we know what works and what doesn’t. We spend time making sure we’re delivering just the right message to just the right people by studying their demographics (facts/figures like gender and age) and psychographics (what they do, read, etc) and fitting our message to the reader.

But that isn’t the entire equation.

When we say the right things to the right people at about the right time, it usually results in “high-quality leads”. What exactly does that marketing-ese mean? To me, it means “people who have raised their hand to say they’re interested in what you have to offer – and are ready to buy now or soon if it’s the right fit”.

So then we turn our sales staff loose on them.

What makes this advertising so expensive?
Whether we’re a big company or a mom-and-pop, we have to sell. Ideally, we sell by helping them arrive at “Yep, this is what I need” or “You’re right, I really need something else”. Whether they buy or not, you’re creating trust for the next time they need what you sell…creating a customer, becoming an informed advocate for them, not just chasing a sale.

What sometimes gets lost in the sales process is congruency between the marketing message and what sales says and does. If sales’ behavior and words are disconnected from our marketing, we have a problem. If the sales team that prospects talk to in our business are “those kinds of salespeople”, all the trust we earned can be lost with a single sentence, like “Honey, we’ll talk price when you bring your husband to the dealership.”

When things like that happen, the expensive, finely-tuned message that we spent good money on is damaged, possibly for good. You might lose the sale now and the customer for life.

If the marketing-to-sales transition is where you most often lose them, there’s good and bad news:

  • The bad news: All the advertising investment that attracted those folks was wasted. That’s the most expensive marketing ever.
  • The good news: That’s a reasonably easy thing to fix in most cases.

Trust, The Final Frontier
We ask ourselves “How much do I like the salesperson?”, “Do I believe them? and/or “How much do I trust this product/brand/manufacturer?” before we finally buy. All of this comes down to “Do I trust this business?”

“We don’t like to be sold but we love to buy.” says Jeffrey Gitomer. We buy from people we like and trust.

Because the trust earned over time by some “institutions” is crumbling, that lack of confidence can seep into people’s ability to trust your business, something that’s already at risk in most sales situations. It’s no less damaging in a sales situation than the differences between a candidate’s promises and what they later do as an elected official.

Your entire staff must be aware (and regularly reminded) that reputations are built (or damaged) and trust is earned (or lost) with every single transaction and every single interaction. Keeping your reputation’s momentum headed in the right direction is everyone’s job.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site, contact him on Twitter, or email him at

Check out the Make it Missoula’s Tips for Starting a Business in Missoula, MT and other Business information.


Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations, or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him at

Check out the Flathead Beacon archive of all of Mark’s blogs.