WARNING! Does Your Advertising Make YOU Look Like a Foolish Business Amateur?

QUESTION: What’s worse than advertising that doesn’t work?

ANSWER:  Advertising that doesn’t work… AND also makes you look bad.

For example… I like to run. It burns calories and keeps me fit. And when it’s not too hot outside (Its 98º right now), I’ll run through my neighborhood. Looking at the mountains and flowers and trees helps take my mind off the fact that I’d rather be home… er… not running.

If I run on Wednesdays, I’ll invariably see a handful of different landscapers’ trucks parked outside of their customers’ homes. Fact is, they all provide the exact same services (grass cutting… tree trimming, etc.)… and all do it for about the same price. And there’s not much difference in the quality of their services. (How many different ways can you cut a lawn? Sure, some might be sloppy… not as reliable… but for the most part, their services are identical.)

HOWEVER… few of these guys know anything about how to effectively advertise their services and sell against their competition. (Do you?) If they did, there wouldn’t be so many competitors within the same development. Why should there be 10 different landscapers within a community of fewer than 200 homes? It’s plain nuts!

They either: 1) Don’t care to get more business (which is unlikely), or 2) They don’t know how. So, let’s put aside all that’s required to create ads, brochures, emails, websites, sales letters and the like. Let’s focus on just one simple thing: the messaging on their TRUCKS. It’s a constant and free source of advertising for these guys. Nearly 200 potential new clients see their trucks rolling by their windows at least once a week. The trucks are–literally–rolling billboards.

The problem? They don’t think of them that way!  In fact, they apparently don’t even think of their trucks as advertising of ANY kind, but just something “you’re supposed to do” if you own such a business. “Heck… that’s what everyone else is doing!”

Now here’s the problem… The guy who just now drove past my house–let’s call him Joe–has the most amateur-looking lettering and crappiest logo you’ve ever seen in your life. It looks like he painted it himself with his foot… which he might have. His truck is dirty… sloppy looking… and if you walk past it and peer inside (which I’ve done while running past it many times), you’d think a bomb exploded inside. Look at all that trash! Fast-food soda cups strewn all over… McDonald’s hamburger wrappers… petrified french fries… empty crushed cigarette packs… and absolutely filthy windows, like he grabbed a blob of Vaseline and flung on the glass, then rolled the window up and down. (Don’t ask me what it is… I have no idea.)

“But, Drew… come on! Maybe poor Joe doesn’t have lots of money for a fancy truck!”

Please. The trash is reflective of the same mindset that applied the crappy foot-painted lettering and logo.

How much does it cost to keep your things–your ad, in this case–clean?

How much would it set you back to throw away your trash? To shoot some Windex on the windows once a week? To check to see if your rolling billboard is creating a positive impression that could bring you more business?

You can buy a big bottle of glass cleaner at your local dollar store for a buck and have clean windows all year long. Joe’s rolling ad says this:

Joe’s Lawn Service 760-000-0000

Yes, that’s it. His name. His number. It’s about as persuasive as, well, Joe himself.

And it’s too bad. Because Joe’s a nice guy and seems to do a nice job. The “mow lines” on the lawns he cuts are meticulous. Super-straight diagonal cuts and a perfectly clean driveway which he blows and sweeps after every service.

He even hoses down the ground around the lawn just to make sure he leaves the homeowner’s property as neat and tidy (or more so) than when he first arrived.

I’ve seen him check and adjust the irrigation sprayers, too… just to make sure that the entire lawn is getting sufficient water.

And look! There he is hosing down the street in front of the house, too!

You see, many landscapers put a giant burlap sheet in front of the house which they dump the grass clippings onto. They gather the corners together and load it into their trucks. This naturally makes a bit of a mess in the street. No worries. Joe takes care of that, too. But from the looks of Joe’s truck–his sales materials–you’d never believe it, unless you were already his customer. (And that’s the problem.)

Enter TruScaping–the landscaping pros with the gorgeous, shiny-clean  truck… beautiful lettering and logo on the doors.. and sparkling-bright windows. Here’s what the message on their truck advertises:

TruScaping–The Art of Lawn & Garden Care Mowing, Pruning, Planting, Complete Landscaping & Design Services Weekly, Bi-Weekly, Monthly Service Plans Call for free estimate: 760-000-0000

Can you feel the difference? Yes, it’s a feeling! The visuals of the clean trucks and professional messaging, logo, sales copy… everything… give you an impression of a business that is: __________. Successful, right? Of course. You subconsciously think, “They must be good because their image is good.” This is a hard-wired response in our brains that we just can’t shake.

For example, let’s say you wanted to sell your house. You call two agents and say, “Please come to my house and tell me about your listing services.” Both agents arrive at separate times.

Agent #1–Mike–pulls up in a dull-gold 1972 Plymouth Duster, smoking a bit from the tail pipe and from under the hood. The headliner hangs down inside the cabin of the car, and the nose of the car has a rust hole the size of a 10-egg omelette.duster

QUESTION: What do you AUTOMATICALLY think about this agent? Do you think, “Wow, this guy must be a very effective agent. Oh, sure… his car is horrendous, but maybe he’s just not into cars. Maybe he’s not the material type.” Or, is it more likely you’d think, OMG… you’ve GOT to be kidding! This guy is a real estate agent? Look at that jalopy! What!? He can’t afford a decent car? I don’t think this guy could influence a pit bull to eat a New York strip!”

Next,  Agent #2–Joe–rolls up in his… $217,000 2014 Bentley Continental GT. bentley Match point. Game over. Fact is, unless the wiring in your brain was somehow knocked loose by “an old football injury,” you’d instantly believe that agent #2 is dramatically more effective in most everything he does. After all, “he has that freakin’ Bentley.”

But this is simply your perception. Agent #1 could be far more effective at listing and selling homes… and his sales record could prove it. It’s just that ever since his wife got killed by a hit-and-run driver and he learned that her life insurance policy lapsed without being renewed, he was faced with raising 4 children on his own and–through the experience of her passing–came to realize that there’s more important things in life than shiny cars.

Agent #2, Joe, on the other hand, never did well in any sort of sales, let alone real estate. He first tried his hand at network marketing, but could never convince enough people to come to his meetings… even when he gave away ridiculous amounts of food, drink, and chocolate.

Next, that ad in the paper persuaded Joe to spend $5,000 in a “sell-gold-by-the-inch” dealership, but his natural “ability” to make people uncomfortable before spending money sent that attempt down the toilet. “What the heck… I’ll try real estate,” he thought. “After all, look at all these help-wanted ads advertising for agents with ‘no experience needed’.” And ever since passing the licensing exams and putting in hundreds of hours of “floor time,” Joe had little more than 1 lousy listing to show for it. And it expired, unsold.

Joe’s new strategy? Drive up in a big shiny, expensive car, loaned to him by his wealthy brother-in-law who has more cars than garages to store them. “That, for sure, will help me rack-up more listings! After all… ‘perception is reality’!”

Get the point? Joe’s appearance did the talking–the advertising–for him. His newly adopted outward image spoke volumes about “his performance” without saying a word… despite the fact that pulling up to a prospective client’s house in a Bentley Continental says nothing more, technically, than the fact that you’re pulling up in a Bentley Continental… but to the consumer brain, it says most everything. And if Joe’s personal demeanor matches the power of his new 616 horsepower sales prop–even if he fakes it–he won’t need nearly as hardcore a sales pitch as agent #1, Mike, because, after all, “He must be successful… look at that car!” Whether or not he performs is another story.

The point is that it persuades homeowners to give him more listings because he’s playing the role of a successful agent… and that’s what home sellers want. It’s his trappings that help get him the business. Unfair? That doesn’t matter. What is, is.

Now, the idea isn’t to deceive people, of course… but to not “get” that people form instant impressions based on your appearance is setting yourself up for potential business suicide. Fact is, it’s impossible not to advertise. Your car or truck advertises–whether there’s a word or image on it or not. The design of your website or landing page advertises. Forget the words for a moment. Just the way it LOOKS says whether you’re successful or struggling.

Does anything you show to the public say that you’re struggling? You might want to take a second look. Your business card… your stationery… your logo (or worse still, lack of one)… even your spelling and formatting of your emails and sales letters. Everything communicates something. And just as you cannot not communicate. You cannot not advertise.

So, the big question remains: Does YOUR advertising make YOU look like an amateur? Isn’t it worth a look? Or–if you’re not too thin skinned–I’ll do it for you.. and reveal things you’re completely overlooking.

Click to learn more.

Until next time, I wish you… Success!



Drew Eric Whitman, D.R.S.
Direct Response Surgeon™

P.S. Have you read CA$HVERTISING? Click to learn more.

P.P.S. Please check out my new book, BrainScripts for Sales Success. Click here

8 thoughts on “WARNING! Does Your Advertising Make YOU Look Like a Foolish Business Amateur?

  1. With such great books like CA$HVERTISING, why do most businesses still run ‘Awareness/Image” ads instead of “Direct Response” ads?

    I’m a marketing coach, educating business owners on this topic of “Direct Response” is challenging.

    I read a quote a while back that I think sums it up.

    “It is easier to fool someone, than it is to convince them that the are being fooled? 🙂

    • Drew Eric Whitman said:

      Hi Kevin:

      The reason businesses are still running image ads is because they simply don’t have a direct-response mindset or someone sold them on the idea of creating ads that are charged with little more than looking or sounding good. It’s easier to create ads that have no expectation of measurable response. Another cause is the same as what causes businesses to create poor advertising. As my mentor, the great Walter Weir told me, “Drew… they simply don’t know any better.”

      Thanks for your question, Kevin!


      • Yes they simply don’t know any better , I’m a CRUSADE to educate people on DIRECT RESPONSE marketing. When I saw your book it hit my DIRECT RESPONSE nerve. I’ve got all the Dan Kennedy stuff, but your book is a niece easy read. 🙂

        • Drew Eric Whitman said:

          Thanks, Kevin. You’re right… there’s so much to learn out there. I’ve got more to learn than I have life to live. I better get crackin’! 😉


  2. Drew, I love you!… well the way you see things anyhow. You my friend always key in on the painfully obvious, yet always screwed up world of marketing/advertising. Small businesses in general make it harder on themselves, latching on to the false belief they must spend as little as possible on their marketing machine.

    Instead of “How much does it cost me to improve my vehicle?”, they should be thinking “How much will it cost me to leave it like it is”.

    Great article


    • Hi Paul,

      I find small business owners always look at the cost of marketing ( I call it investment), but they never think about the cost of NOT marketing.

    • Drew Eric Whitman said:

      Hi Paul!

      Than you… you’re so right!

      And it often comes down to one thing: most business owners are so busy RUNNING their businesses that they don’t take the time to hone their business skills, namely ADVERTISING.

      The pizza man sure knows how to make pizza… and, oh boy… is that crust fantastic!

      … the sporting goods guy can tell you everything about the flight characteristics of scores of different golf balls on his shelves, including which feature rubber or liquid cores…

      … the web designer can create amazing graphics and tell you the best places to put which elements for the easiest navigation and best overall visitor experience…

      … and the Realtor(r) can tell you all about the local market and the ideal price to optimize your chances for a quick sale…

      … but few, unfortunately, take the time to learn how to increase the effectiveness of their advertising. It’s work. It’s outside of their field of expertise. And, “who has the time?”

      So, naturally, they suffer the consequences of their ignorance, when it’s a VITAL aspect of running a successful business.

      They have 2 choices: 1) Do it themselves, or 2) Get someone experienced to do it for them… or to assist.

      The problem is, most do neither.

      And here’s the frequent result, in pictures: http://bit.ly/1c8e6H3

      Thanks for your reply, Paul!

      Drew Eric Whitman, D.R.S.
      Direct Response Surgeon™
      Author of the advertising best-seller:
      “CA$HVERTISING”… now in its 3rd printing.
      Translated into French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic.
      Available at Amazon.com and online and retail bookstores worldwide.

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