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28 May 2013

The Number One Secret to the Success of Your Local Business

I’ve never been one to mince words, and I recently had a client insist that advertising doesn’t work. My initial response — which I kept to myself — was why do so many people continue to advertise if it doesn’t work? I did write him back, however, and felt that many could learn from my explanation, so I’ve shared it here.

Dear Mr. Local Business:

Here is the flip side of what you are asking me to do for you:

“Come on over to my house and install outdoor lighting in all my trees, and after a couple of months, if it is the outdoor paradise you promised, I will pay you and use your service for the next year.”

Though I probably shouldn’t, that is what I really want to say when you tell me that I must “prove” to you that advertising on works by giving you a free trial.

I can hear your anxiety. Your business is not what it used to be. You need customers, and you need them now.

You have spent a boatload on advertising in the past, with this glossy magazine ad here and that expensive, slick mailer there. I hear your pain when you tell me that the one full-page ad you ran in the local paper didn’t get a single call. You’re convinced that advertising doesn’t work.

While listening to you (I’ll admit, listening is not one of my strongest qualities), it hit me that you have done nothing consistently. You are searching for the magic bullet to grow your business overnight and have customers knocking down the door in the morning.

I know you’re in a panic, and I want nothing more than to help you, but I can’t turn your business around in 30 days. If we want to grow your business, you need to first grow a marketing strategy.

This marketing strategy should include the following goals:

  • I am going to get my name out to new potential customers;
  • I am going to measure performance of those efforts;
  • I am going to capture customers’ information whenever and wherever possible;


  • I am going to consistently touch those customers (maybe by email, social media or even snail mail) and offer them incentives to return with their friends and family.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again

If after a couple of months you’re not seeing results, instead of giving up on your advertising plan, modify your ads to see if a new message brings customers into your business.

(I’m inserting a commercial break for here!) 

We A/B test your banner ads, which means we put up a couple of different ads to see which messaging works. Because we are digital, it is inexpensive to make changes and test the response to pricing, service, reputation, features and/or branding messages. Being nerds, our tracking features gives us the advantage of data, allowing us to narrow down your top-performing ads and modify your strategy to focus around those messages. At our low price point (click here to check out our advertising promo for summer), you could justify advertising with us just to figure out your strategy — you may even pick up a customer or two!

(End of Commercial Break…)

Following this model, you’ll learn something about your clients. You’ll learn what draws them to your business — in addition to what doesn’t — and you’ll become a smarter marketer for your company.

The most important thing you can do to grow your business is to be consistent. Consistency builds mindshare (a fancy word for reminding people of what you do and that you are open for business).

We have a client that sends out a paper newsletter; I have pleaded with him to send it by email but lost that battle. But, the good news is that he consistently sends the newsletter and his revenues have grown from it. Like me, his clients may not open it and may even pitch it directly in the garbage, but the newsletter is a reminder that he is open for business.

Remember, advertising is about branding and mindshare. In the future, potential customers who have seen your ads repeatedly for an extended period of time will have your business at the top of their minds when they have a need for your service or are planning a purchase.

I strongly believe in what we do, as we have helped hundreds of local businesses.

For the small business, I frequently preach, “touch your neighborhood, touch your existing clients and touch your social media places for your local neighborhood word of mouth strategy.” Stay out there and stay consistent. It is the number 1 secret to your long-term success. is a tactic in your overall plan. We have your neighborhood audience (actually 60 local communities), the analytics and the affordable price point to reach local customers, but you need to view advertising as a long-term investment versus an expense for a one-time Hail Mary.

Saffie is the founder of BubbleLife and previously served as the Operations Director of both iThink, Inc. and and played an instrumental role in the sale of these companies to Volaris Communications.