How to choose where to advertise

Like most of my clients, if you’re a business owner, you get 20 calls a day from companies selling advertising services. They all say the same thing; you “really need to meet with them”, their advertising services are “amazing”, and you’ll be doing your company a disservice by not advertising with them.

So which one is really amazing?

Here are a few simple rules you should follow when hiring vendors to help you with your marketing.

Length of contract

It is understandable that a company would request a contract or a commitment to do business. After all, they are committing resources to you and they often need time to get things rolling. What you should look for though, is a contract that makes sense with the medium that they are selling. With my direct mail company, doing a 3 month trial as a new client is about right. It’s good to hit it a few times before deciding if it works or not. With the Yellow Pages, back in the day, the book was out on the streets for a year. So your should pay a fee that is commensurate with that time-frame.

However, you should not be signing a long term agreement with platforms that you (literally) can turn on and off. Like the internet. the only reason there could be an agreement in place with internet services is that the company is assigning resources and they need to know that you will “stick around” for a while. But not a year. 30 days to 6 months is appropriate for internet (it should be a length that makes sense to your situation – I can do a separate article on this topic if needed). Although, really, the contract should be based on results and performance. Google can be turned on and off. Immediately. So there you go.


I have become very reliant on tracking phone calls. I am also addicted to analytics. You can know who called, the nature of the call, how well your sales team did on the phone, where they clicked from, how long they stayed on your site, and much more. This is critical in understanding how a campaign is working. Don’t get too caught up in the fine details, but as an overview, knowing you are receiving calls everyday, and seeing form fills from your website. If you can say “I receive 5 calls and 2 email leads average everyday from my website” you are headed in the right direction.


This factor is a little trickier. Obviously trust is earned, and it’s hard when you are just meeting someone to know if they can deliver what they say they are going to deliver. First, if you are a business owner, you got there because you have great instincts, and you are a leader. Make your BS meter the first gauge to whether someone is worth giving a try. You know if someone seems “off” or it seems to good to be true. Next, I would ask for references. You are really hiring this person, so make a few calls, ask about them. Third I would look at the person’s command of the industry or product. Ask for their recommendations and heck, Google some of the things they are telling you. See if they know what they are talking about. Especially with the internet, it’s not enough to simply sell advertising and have it run on the local radio station (in a basic sense of advertising), a rep really needs to understand all that designing a website encompasses and how Google AdWords really works if they truly want to make great recommendations. Have them show you what they are suggesting. Have them explain it to you in detail. You will know they understand, because they will explain it in a way that you understand.

Following some of these basic steps you should make sound advertising decisions. It’s most important to know that none of us have the “diamond bullet” advertising platform, so it really comes down to trying things and seeing what works best for you. As Jon Wanamaker once said “half of my advertising is working, trouble us, I don’t know which half?” Be patient, try things, and put pressure on the process and your ability to track. You will eventually get exactly where you want to go.

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