8 Advertising Secrets Your Small Business has been Missing Out On


Learn how to sell smarter by uncovering the truth behind what makes humans tick


Advertising can be tricky, costly and frustrating.

But how can it be made affordable, or even better, how can it become your small business’ secret weapon?

According to Claude C. Hopkins’ book, Scientific Advertising, there should be two main things to take into consideration for creating great advertising:

The first thing is testing – to get your money’s worth you need to know what actually tickles your customers’ buying bone.

The second thing is to understand human behaviour – we humans are predictably unpredictable, which means how we make buying decisions is usually 100% predictable (it’s the “why” that sometimes leaves us clueless).

In this blog post we’ll go over the 8 advertising secrets that will do wonders for your small business when applied in advertising campaigns with good copywriting and design.


Curiosity – Who wouldn’t read an ad about the most evil product on Earth


 1. Curiosity – Who wouldn’t read an ad about the most evil product on Earth?


Any kind of ad you put out there for the public eye to see should always leverage your business’s facts to entice curiosity.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it also makes the sale.

Maybe you’re a restaurant specializing in traditional Icelandic cuisine. What should you do? Tell a story! Show customers what makes your food so strange and delicious. What’s the history behind eating sheep heads? Who wouldn’t want to eat stuff the Vikings ate?

Fill your advertisement headlines with flavour just like your food – hypothetical questions, bizarre facts and statements that would take anyone off guard against being sold to.


Pricing – Your two feet deserve $200 socks vs. your two feet deserve $2 socks


2. Pricing – Your two feet deserve $200 socks vs. your two feet deserve $2 socks


Did you know that Red Bull purposely prices their energy drinks slightly higher than their leading competitor in every country?

Why would they do this?

It’s simple. When you pay more, you subconsciously think you’re getting a better (premium) product.

When people consume a product, they want to think they’re worth it. People instinctively want to feel like they’re able to get the best regardless of how wealthy they are.

Even if what you’re selling is ice cream (worth a measly 10 cents per scoop) – advertise that the milk used to produce the ice cream comes from a herd of dairy cows worth 2 million dollars. Who wouldn’t want to eat ice cream that’s made of “million-dollar” milk?


Sampling – A sample unused is a customer refused


3. Sampling – A sample unused is a customer refused


It’s underused and abused… sampling doesn’t get enough respect, but it should.

Samples aren’t used properly, that’s the big problem with businesses using samples – even corporate giants like Coca-Cola can’t seem to get it right.

Most businesses, especially small businesses, think samples will be their downfall. They think they’re too costly and don’t make a difference in their sales.

But if used effectively, samples will make your business explode (in a good way).

How can you use samples to grow your business?

Selling cars? Use the car itself as a sample. Tell your customer, “Drive the car for a week for free, if you like it then we’ll sell it to you; if it’s not for you, then just return it – no questions asked”.

Are you a foodie or restaurateur? Advertise this: “if our stuff isn’t up to snuff, then we don’t expect you to pay – in fact we’ll pay you for your time”. Consider it a sample. I know what you’re thinking, but no, you won’t lose money… you’ll gain more paying customers quicker than you could have all summer long. Try it.


Ownership – Let people “own” your product before they even think about buying


4. Ownership – Let people “own” your product before they even think about buying


Using the power of “mine”. People tend to hover towards things they self identify with – it’s human nature.

The endowment effect is powerful in advertising. This hypothesis claims that people assign more value to objects they feel they own.

I tip my hat to Ogilvy Australia for the original Coca-Cola “Share a Coke” campaign, which took advantage of our hardwired want for all things “mine”. In this campaign every bottle of Coca-Cola had a random person’s first name on the label. It’s a great example of how one aspect of human behaviour can be targeted for smarter advertising.

A business that sells sporting equipment can easily exercise this effect. Advertise this to your customers: “your ball, helmet, stick, bat, club, etc. is waiting for you to be picked up at the nearest store – your name is literally on it (at no extra charge)”. People will eat that offer right up!


Scarcity – There would be a scarcity of sales if there was no scarcity in advertising


5. Scarcity – There would be a scarcity of sales if there was no scarcity in advertising


This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t bother to mention the use of scarcity in advertising. It’s been used to death… but that’s because it never stops working. Regardless of what kind of scarcity it is: amount, time, limit, etc. it triggers an innate desire to buy.

  • “This blah blah offer ends by tomorrow at midnight”
  • “The last chance ever to buy the limited edition blah blah”
  • “Exotic, rare and impossible to reproduce, this blah blah is in limited supply”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to scarcity, people are also attracted to a product’s exclusivity.

  • “Our blah blah is sold exclusively to members of the armed forces”
  • “We serve only the finest blah blah exclusively to honour students”
  • “Our blah blah is grown solely for use by people over the age of 45”

My only recommendation would be to use scarcity in healthy moderation; otherwise, it will become increasingly obvious that what you claim is unlikely true.


Suggestion – Using the placebo effect in advertising


6. Suggestion – Using the placebo effect in advertising


In certain circumstances suggesting something is better because of A, B and C can prove to be effective. This is especially true when making comparisons.

We humans are suckers for suggestion; for example, if there were five stacks of printing paper on the desk in front of a group of people and I said the one in the middle is made of 100% recycled paper, then everyone would use a piece of paper from the stack in the middle (even if all five stacks of paper were identical).

Something as simple as saying “our pizza is the best in the city because of its unique texture – we spend an extra 12 minutes per pizza kneading the dough to eliminate any imperfections”.

A comparison could be something like this “Our beer is 100% local and brewed 2 kilometres down the road. Their beer is made 2000 kilometres on the other side of the continent. Our beer is so close, you can taste the freshness”.


Personality – A company without a personality is like a person without a face


7. Personality – A company without a personality is like a person without a face


Let’s face it… every company needs a real personality. It’s what makes brands work.

Your company’s personality should have a story behind it – maybe about the founder, about the team or about the local influence.

People are drawn to stories; this was proven by Harold J. Rudolf in his book Attention and Interest Factors in Advertising. As a research director of an advertising agency he discovered that the more story appeal there was in an ad’s image the more people would look at the entire advertisement.

Not the touchy-feely sort of story, but something your customers will find amusing and relatable. Not only will this boost loyalty among current customers, but it will also make acquiring customers through your advertisements much easier.

Dyson a British company known for the world’s finest vacuum cleaners uses their founder, Sir James Dyson, as their de facto personality. Behind the personality lies a story of the vacuum’s creation and why it’s the most advanced suction technology on the market.


Flattery – A little compliment goes a long way


8. Flattery – A little compliment goes a long way


Everyone likes a compliment every now and then, but what people love most is to be trusted – and sometimes that’s the greatest compliment you can give.

The proverbial “cherry on top” is achieved when you give your customers an exclusive privilege based on the trust you’ve developed.

A massage therapist or hairdresser could allot special after-hours appointment times to their best clients. For example, “you’ve been with us a long time; you’re literally our most valuable customer! We know you have a busy schedule, so we would like offer you exclusive after-hours appointments”.

Also, offering services on credit at some point is a great way to keep your most trusted customers coming back for more.


What has worked for you?


Has your small business tried any of these advertising secrets? What were your results? I’d love to hear your story! Share it in the comments below.
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