Never stop advertising; be relentless or be dead


I’d go out on a limb to say advertising worked for Henry Ford. He was relentless with his ad dollars and to this day the company he built continues to advertise non-stop.

Coke, McDonald’s, Apple and the Ford F-150 are all category leaders and they all advertise relentlessly. It’s one thing to get to the top, to stay there is even more difficult.

As a small business owner you may say, “Well all those guys have a bunch of money to spend on advertising. I’m just a little guy and I can’t afford that…” All are valid points, but YOU can learn from the big guys. YOU must have some money to market your product.

Find something that works and beat it to death.

You think all the companies above started out with millions of dollars in their advertising budget? HELL NO! They found ONE medium that worked for them, beat it to death, made a ton of money and then branched out into other mediums.

Your advertising budget should be 2-10% of your sales budget. If you have a high margin of sale (most car dealers) your advertising dollars should be around 10%. If you’re a mom-and-pop shop it should be around 2-3%. Notice how EVERYONE should have an advertising budget?

Story time

When I was growing up in Winnipeg, the coffee and donut market was owned by Robin’s Donuts. They had very little competition, so they didn’t advertise much. They did some marketing here and there, but nothing significant. “I’m at the top, so why should I advertise!” Then Tim Horton’s opened up a couple shops. Robin’s still didn’t do much. Then Tim’s opened up more shops and started to advertise…relentlessly. By that time, it was too late for Robin’s. They were too late to the party even though they used to have a strangle hold on the market.

The funny thing is – when people leave, they all leave at once. It’s not a gradual decline. It’s quick and painful. Tim’s took over the Winnipeg market (as it did most Canadian markets) in a few years. Now, Robin’s has a few locations in Winnipeg whereas Tim’s is on every corner. And guess what, Tim Horton’s continues to advertise RELENTLESSLY.

There will be some who say, “Well, the coffee at Tim’s tastes better. Duh!” GO FUCK YOURSELF. You know why it tastes better? Because Tim’s advertises that it tastes better. If you were blindfolded, you wouldn’t be able to figure out Tim’s coffee from Robin’s Donuts coffee. It’s the same thing with wine. I know people who will buy $50 wine glasses because some marketing genius (no sarcasm here, it’s a brilliant scam) advertised the fact that their glasses enhance the taste of your $100 wine. Does it actually work? NO! OF COURSE NOT! In a blind taste test, even the best wine connoisseurs in the world couldn’t taste the difference between wine in a $50 glass compared to wine in a fucking toilet bowl (okay, it wasn’t a toilet bowl it was a $5 glass, but you get my point).

Advertising helps you decide. It plays off your existing thoughts and tricks you into believing what’s right and wrong, what’s better and what’s awful, what wine tastes like in a $50 glass compared to a $5 glass.

This also reminds me of a sports bar that was located across the street from one of the busiest entertainment venues in North America. I was on a sales call with the sports bar manager and she mentioned they didn’t need to advertise because they were always full and they were across from one of the busiest entertainment venues the city has ever seen.

My response, “What would happen if that busy venue opened a sports bar across the street right next to your business? What would happen if they brought their sports and rock stars across the street to their venue for after-parties, autograph sessions, etc…?

The manger kind of shrugged like she didn’t care. She was on top of the world at the moment as people and money were flowing in every week. She was short-sighted. She thought it was a sprint and not a marathon. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. The large entertainment venue sent out a press release stating they were buying up the lot across the street from their venue. They would go head-to-head with the aforementioned sports bar. The money and people going to the old sports bar dried up in less than a year. It went from the top of the hill to six feet under in 11 months. Like I said, YOUR death will be quick and painful if you fail to market your business relentlessly.

Never stop

You may not be in a position to spend the big bucks like the big guys, but you can own a chunk of whatever market you’re in. YOU NEED TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS. Whether you have $500,000 to spend or $500. If you’re a small restaurant in a small neighbourhood, find something you can own. Whether it’s a street lined with houses or an apartment complex. Print off some coupons (like 50% off or a free appetizer, I will slap you if you give me a 10% off coupon) and deliver them personally or whatever you need to do to own something. If you don’t own something…you own nothing and you will die. Because someone out there with half a brain will figure out you’re not marketing your business. That person will open shop in your neighbourhood, advertise relentlessly and take all your customers.

Want to stay alive? Shoot me a note at or leave a comment below.


Making mattresses different

When you start a business, no one cares (well, maybe your family and the bank). No one knows what you stand for, who you are or what you sell. Steve Jones elaborates on this post from Brand Like a Rock Star.

When you’re mounting a charge against the big guys, you need to differentiate yourself and prove why you’re different. Let’s take a look at Best Sleep Centre.

When Best Sleep Centre started, nobody cared. It was a small mattress store in Winnipeg, Manitoba and it was going head-to-head with the biggest names of The Brick and Sleep Country. The Brick and Sleep Country were established brands in the market and both were heavily pushing their mattress selection and mattress deals in their marketing. Not an easy market to break into by any means for Best Sleep Centre.

Best Sleep Centre owner David Keam decided to use his weaknesses as strengths and The Brick’s and Sleep Country’s strengths as weaknesses. Best Sleep Centre had one store in a not-so-good location. Instead of masking the fact Best Sleep Centre was hard to find, David went right after it. He didn’t even mention where he was located, he simply used the tag line, “You’ll find us.” He also voiced his own radio commercials and his one-of-a-kind voice was able to cut through the clutter. I’m not a huge advocate of business owners voicing their own commercials or using their face as a part of the brand, but in this case it worked. David also was quick to mention that the big guys had bigger locations and selection, thus meaning more overhead, so he was able to save the consumer more money as a result.

Turns out, many people were able to find David Keam and Best Sleep Centre, so he started to expand and really hammer The Brick and Sleep Country. In his advertising he labeled The Brick as “The Wall” and Sleep Country as “Sleeping Beauty”. He took on his competitors directly and the big thing during this period was free delivery. Both The Brick and Sleep Country were toting free delivery, so as a way to differentiate himself, David came right out and said he would charge for delivery. However, even with a delivery charge, he was still more affordable than The Brick or Sleep Country and he made sure to hammer home this point.

Best Sleep Centre has now expanded to be one of the largest mattress, bedroom set and futon shops in all of Manitoba. Check out Best Sleep Centre’s website and you’ll see he continues to launch attacks against his biggest competitors. You’ll also hear his one-of-a-kind voice.

At the moment, he’s trying to expand into the chair, sofa, dining room set and kitchen set category, which may hurt him in the long run. This could leave an opening in the market for someone to come in and solely focus on mattresses and make the point that they only do mattresses unlike other businesses who are expanding into different markets. More markets = more overhead = higher prices for the consumer.