Advertising is crucially important for the success of businesses. There are many different outlets for businesses to use to get their advertising efforts to the public. Each channel of advertising has its distinct advantages and disadvantages. And as a business owner, it is vitally important to the success of your company to determine which channels are best to invest in.

But even more important than knowing which ones are right, is knowing which marketing channels to avoid and why. While this list may not apply to all businesses, it certainly does to those on a budget or small businesses looking to reach the most targeted audience possible.

Here are our top 5 paid advertising tactics to avoid.

1. Mass Mailings

For years one of the most effective ways for a business to get their advertising message out to as many people as possible has been through mass mailing campaigns, i.e. Direct Mail. Businesses used this method of advertising heavily before the advent of the Internet and other technological advances that have made reaching out to the masses easier through website content and SEO strategies. Even with new technologies, businesses have remained faithful to mass mailing marketing campaigns largely because of its tangibility. Unlike internet communication, mailings are physical pieces of information that can be held and retained by the recipient. So the logic with this form of marketing always has been, the recipient must do something with the mailing. Even if it is being thrown into the garbage, it is still being seen and therefore more effective than something that momentarily pops onto their computer screen. Also, mass mailings, by definition are massive. They get sent to thousands of people, so it is virtually impossible for someone in the target audience to not receive the information. Plus, it increases brand recognition.

Despite these advantages of mass mailing campaigns, there are some negatives as well. In order for a mass mailing to be truly effective it needs to be substantial in size. Even with a bulk mailing postage rate, the cost of a single mass mailing campaign can be excessive and can wipe out a good portion of a marketing department’s budget. Because of the large expense involved, if the mailing doesn’t get to enough people in the target market or if it is at all ineffective, money has been wasted. Also, even though the recipient must at least look at the mailing before it is thrown in the garbage, oftentimes little more is done than a quick glance before it is tossed, so the message is often not even seen. Unless a definitive mailing list is used to reach your target market, mass mailings can be disappointing. The final drawback other than the cost would most certainly be the “stickiness” of direct mail. Once its thrown away, its lost forever. On the other hand, online marketing, such as content marketing can have a lasting effect for years since any content you publish is available to be found in the search engines so long as it is deemed relevant.

2. TV Commercials

Television has been a part of Americans’ lives since its beginning. Early on advertisers recognized the television’s potential for becoming a marketing medium, and that brought the birth of the television commercial. Since then, anyone who has enjoyed watching television has been inundated with commercials for practically every product under the sun. The more the culture became dependent on television, the more advertising time costs soared. Never is this as evident as during the annual Super Bowl, whose popularity has reached such heights that advertisers clamor for a mere thirty seconds of air time at astronomical costs. Advertisers have long known that television is one of the premier places to advertise and reach the masses.

These days, television has begun to lose its stature as an advertising Mecca. As stated before, television advertising brings with it a high price tag that is beginning to lose its value. DVRs have become more commonplace rather than the luxury they were just a few years ago. This one simple advance in technology has made television commercials lose their effectiveness. Since television programs are now largely recorded during their regular airtime and then watched at the viewer’s convenience, commercials are more often skipped through. Even though it’s easy to reach a target audience, that audience is no longer captive the way they used to be and there’s no guarantee the message will be seen at all, much less repeatedly. Also, the number of TV subscribers is falling. More and more people are getting their TV fix online such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu and much more. This further devalues the investment as there will be less and fewer eyes on your tv advertising over time.

3. Radio Ads

Compared to television commercials and mass mailings, radio ads are a relatively inexpensive way to get a brand into the consciousness of consumers. Traditionally, advertisers have used radio ads to reach people who fit into specific demographics, who are prone to listening to particular radio stations.

One of the most obvious cons of radio ads is their fleetingness. Radio listeners are captive audiences when they are in their cars, however, at the end of a trip, the car is turned off and the radio is of no use. If the station is changed, part or all of the message can be lost, rendering the ad useless. Similar to how TV is shifting the same can be said for Radio listeners. More people are tuning into satellite radio, Pandora, or simply listening to their own music through their smart phones, making traditional car radio usage more passé. As a result, advertising on the radio is becoming a less effective way of reaching any kind of audience.

4. Banners and Signs

Banners and signs are great advertising channels in high traffic areas. They are especially great ways to influence the buying habits of people who travel the same route every day. But businesses with a remote location might not benefit from an expensive banner or sign when a basic one would do the job of designating their location to visitors.

Banners and signs aren’t always effective and it’s hard for a company to know just how well this medium is working. If a sign or banner isn’t working, money could be better put to use in other channels of advertising that clearly show better results.

Note: This type of investment does have lasting power, however. If you invest in a banner or sign you can usually utilize it for years if well made. Therefore, while not highly effective as an advertising tool, it can still help others identify with your business. So if used more for awareness rather than business building we still see value in this.

5. Print Advertising

Advertising in newspapers and magazines has always been a popular way to reach large amounts of people. Print media has traditionally offered a variety of advertising options in an effort to offset their production costs. It was a win-win scenario.

These days many people are getting their news via online outlets. Fewer people are paying for magazine subscriptions as well. It has become so easy for readers and news junkies to get their information from the convenience of their laptops that newspapers and magazines are starting to become less popular. Most major publications have significantly downsized operations or moved completely into the online space. Those that have continued to distribute in print have had to increase their advertising prices exponentially since there are fewer readers, fewer publications being made, and therefore less ad space to sell.

Thus, spending money on certain types print advertising is no longer the best way to use advertising dollars. You want to put your dollars into marketing channels that put the most eyes on your brand and make sure your business is relevant to their needs.

Note: While print advertising is often costly and ineffective compared to online marketing, businesses still need printed promotional materials including brochures, business cards and letterheads. A large number of potential clients still want something tangible that represents the business.

Choose wisely

You must choose advertising channels that show a definitive ROI. Explore online marketing for your business. There are numerous channels such as Content Marketing, Email Marketing, SEO, Paid Search, Social Media Marketing, Retargeting, Blogging, Mobile Marketing, Video Marketing and much more! Online marketing is by far and away the most powerful marketing medium because of the granular nature of targeting customers. Through online marketing, if you want to market to a specific area of the country, in a specific age group, who are within a specific economic demographic with a specific educational background… you can do it!

A Note

In our opinion advertising, in general, is a thing of the past. It’s much less about blasting people with ads so they notice you and more about providing a solution to a problem or answering a question that a customer needs to solve. We focus much less on advertising (i.e. outbound marketing) and much more on inbound marketing which brings the customer to you, instead of you working tirelessly just to be heard. If you would like to learn more about inbound marketing and how it could benefit your business schedule an assessment call with our inbound team today. It’s free, and worth an hour of your time… we promise!



Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci is the CEO of Vinci Digital with over 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising. He partners with mid-size, established businesses as a growth and scalability consultant and strategic branding advisor as well as offering a full-suite of agency services. Gerald calls Carmel, CA home with his wife Safira and two children. He has co-authored two books, and is working on his own upcoming book titled, “Small Business Pricing Mastery – Creating effective pricing and defining value for today’s products and services.”

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