Every so often, I'll come across an entrepreneur that insists on word-of-mouth advertising, exclusively.  I think every small business owner would prefer this free means of promotion – that is, if this way of marketing was good enough to retire on.  But, it’s not.

After a bit of probing, I usually discover that those who swear by word-of-mouth (pun intended), are those who’ve once been burned by exploring some sort of expensive marketing avenue. Have you been down this road – a promise of something great; however, never got the results? It is quite easy to feel at home with not spending money on marketing when this has been your experience.

Small business owners will tell me, "I've tried that before. It doesn't work."

Having said all of this, I’d like you to go back and reassess your marketing-failures.  Chances are, you were on to something but simply executed it poorly. After being in this field for quite a while, I’ve learned that marketing missteps can yield an incredible amount of valuable information.

I’d like to bullet-point some things I’ve learned over the years that may revive the hope of creating marketing pieces that work. Who knows, with a few tweaks to your methodology, you may actually see the results you were promised.

So here’s my Top-24 list:

  1. Your ads should aim for the heart - not the mind

  2. Watch for silly errors, e.g., don’t loose out on the savings…

  3. Repeated punch-lines are subject to the laws of diminishing returns – update your ads regularly

  4. Market to the right audience - everyone is not a potential customer

  5. Increase the frequency of your ad placement

  6. Be consistent in your messaging  - a unified front in all places you advertise

  7. Do not place too much content in your marketing

  8. Quantify value, e.g., a $25 dollar savings…

  9. Create a sense of urgency, e.g., this week only

  10. Do not mimic the persona of a competitor

  11. Develop a branding strategy - a consistent mood/theme for all marketing efforts

  12. Do not use self-aware ads, e.g., we’re number one in service…

  13. Present one contact point per ad. A single commercial should not have call, click and stop by…

  14. Update your webpage – preferably to a “responsive” format (mobile friendly)

  15. Don’t be too creative, e.g., Shakespearean word play

  16. Allow consumer preferences to shape your marketing

  17. Don’t use volatile marketing tools, e.g., flyers on car windows

  18. Create a marketing budget

  19. Use a slogan that includes the customer. I’m Lovin’ It, is supposed to be a declaration of the customer – not McDonald’s

  20. If you have no charisma, resign as company spokesperson

  21. Get to the point – arrest my attention in 5-seconds

  22. Use social media to make friends – not dig for customers.  Remember, it’s always easier to ask a friend to become a customer rather than asking a total stranger to do the same

  23. Heed the advice of a marketing professional

  24. Seek objectivity. Get your ads reviewed by an outsider

Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker, consultant, and creative director for DSV Media, a creative services firm and ad agency specializing in Small Business Marketing for companies all over.  Ask your questions: walter@dsvmedia.com