Marketing Tool: Paid Advertising

A good ad, run often enough, will succeed in print, on the radio, and TV. It can be surprisingly easy to miss the mark with your advertising, though, so in this section we will cover tips for creating customer focused advertising and debunk some common myths about advertising.

Customer-Focused Advertising

Too many businesses focus their advertising on what the business thinks of itself, and not enough on what the customer wants to know. Here are some ways to build your message around your customers.

Skip the Canned Ad-Speak

Give specific, credible examples that lead the customer to the conclusion you want them to make. Here is a good example:

“A lot of mechanics try to do it all. And that’s ok … until you have a transmission problem. Do you want a guy who spends most of the day changing oil working on your transmission? Come to Greenfield Transmission. We won’t change your oil. We will fix your transmission.”

Don’t Try to Change Peoples’ Minds

A good message does not try to change someone’s mind. It shows them how your product intersects with their values. Good advertising is based on finding out what the customer wants and showing them how your product satisfies that desire. This is where focusing on your brand is of vital importance – be consistent about your brand, and your target audience will be drawn to you.

Use Emotions to Create a Compelling Mental Image

Craft a story that your customers want to experience. Think, for example, about strawberries. What gets people excited about them is that they are sweet, juicy, and you can pick them yourself. Here are two examples, the first of which is a more traditional advertisement, and the second of which uses emotions to get the message across.

“Bob’s Berry Patch. Open daily 8-4. At Bob’s we grow the widest variety of strawberries and we have since 1952. Pick your own or picked available. Bob’s Berry Patch is on Route 107, across from Mayberry Town Hall.”


“It’s a sunny June afternoon. Your daughter has just picked the biggest berry in the patch. She takes a bite and the warm juice drips down her chin. Her smile is priceless. You’re so glad you remembered your camera. Bob’s Berry Patch. Open daily, across from town hall. Creating juicy strawberries – and family memories – since 1952.”

Provide New Information

Show the customer that you are a resource for them by offering a specific, credible piece of new information, rather than a hollow-sounding assertion (such as, “your berry experts since 1952.”) Sticking with Bob’s Berry Patch for the moment:

“Not all berries are created equal. You can freeze some in June and they’ll taste just as fragrant and sweet in December. Some make spectacular jam. Others taste best fresh. Tell us what you’re going to do with your berries. We’ll put you in the right row. Bob’s Berry Patch …”

Beware: Customers are Lying!

Customers, when asked, will insist that the two factors they care most about with regards to locally grown foods are price and health. However, purchasing trends show that customers come to local farms for an experience. They want authentic food from local farmers that allows them to feel virtuous and indulgent at the same time, and they are willing to pay for it. Don’t make the mistake of making an ad that speaks to what people say they are looking for, rather than what they actually want.

Common myths about advertising

Much of the “common knowledge” about advertising is out of date or just plain wrong. Here are some common myths and ways to avoid falling into their traps.

Myth #1: Bigger is Better

It’s commonly believed that if you are doing a print ad, you should do a half page or a full page ad, and that radio spots should be a full 60 seconds. In fact, smaller, more frequent messages are more efficient and effective than larger, less frequent ads.

Myth #2: Spread Your Marketing Budget Around to Various Media

The problem with the approach of running ads in the paper, on the radio, and on television is that few farmers actually have the budget to do so effectively. Don’t split a limited budget into fragments. Put it all in one form of media and stick with it as long as you can- this is called frequency.

Myth #3: You Can Trust Your Customers to Tell You How They Heard of You

Customers, while they can be a good source of information about the impression your business makes, cannot be trusted to recall specifics on where they heard about you. If you rely on their feedback, you run the risk of skipping from one media to another and becoming inefficient and wasteful with your budget.

Myth #4: Coupons Will Prove If My Ad is Working

Putting a coupon in the newspaper with your advertisement does not test the effectiveness of your ad – it tests the attractiveness of your offer. A 50% off coupon will return to you at a much higher rate than a 10% coupon, although the same number of people will have seen the coupon. When you offer a high coupon rate, people will use them and spread the word, which is not about the ad – it’s about the offer.

Myth #5: I Should Try It for a Few Weeks and Evaluate

Unless you are advertising for a specific event, you cannot tell if your advertising is working after only a few weeks. It takes time to build momentum. Unfortunately, many businesses expect door-busting results after just a few ads, which is very unlikely. Be patient and stick to your program for at least three months before beginning to evaluate. This is called consistency.

Myth #6: Everything is Online Now- Traditional Forms of Media are Dead

Radio and TV are intrusive. They reach customers that your website alone never will. Use them to bring new customers to your business, and use your website and email newsletter to retain them.

Myth #7: You Need to Segment Your Audience OR Your Advertising Should Be Broad Enough to Include Everyone

Most farmers and small business owners don’t have the time or money to engage in detailed segmentation of their audience, and highly targeted advertising isn’t necessary for small, local businesses. Having a strong message is the important part – identify your strongest supporters and choose a consistent message that resonates with them, and your ad will succeed.

Myth #8: Advertising is Expendable

Economists have studied companies that stop marketing during economic downturns and those that continue, and the research shows that those that continue are much more likely to survive and grow. When competitors withdraw their advertising, there is an opportunity to increase your market share. Furthermore, consistent advertising reassures your customers that you are still in business, helps you maintain your brand identity, and prevents you from losing customers to your competitors.

Case Study #1: Robin Hollow Farm

Robin Hollow Farm does some paid advertising, and this year is experimenting with a web-based ad on a website devoted to weddings. This is savvy thinking about your audience: rather than advertising broadly and hoping to catch anyone that might be interested in any part of her farm, Polly is focusing on a particular component of her business and promoting it to people who are potential clients.


This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2010-49200-06201.

In accordance with Federal law and US Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).

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