Flushing money down the toilet…

I was standing at my reception desk getting ready for class when he walked in. He was wearing a suit and carrying a satchel. He must be selling something I thought to myself.

“Hi there”, I said to the business man.

“Hello”, he said, “my name is Steve”.

“Hi Steve, I’m Jason. Nice to meet you… whatchya got there?”

Steve went on to explain he’d gotten laid off from his advertising job last year with the downsizing of his company. He then explained he’d started his own business selling ad space in a local coupon magazine he’d put together that goes out to 10,000 homes in the area.

“How much does it cost to advertise in your magazine?”, I asked.

Turns out I could buy a 1/6 page ad for as little as $160 including the artwork set up, or $200 for a 1/4 page add, around $500 for 1/2 page and about $1,000 for a full page ad.

I didn’t want to fork out a wad of cash, so I said, “I tell you what Steve, I’ll take the $160 deal and if I get a couple of students from it then next month I’ll take a larger ad.”

“Great!”, said Steve. “We have another martial arts school advertising with us and they say this has been their best source of new students. They enrolled 4 students last month as a result.”

“Ok, let’s do it”, I consented.

So Steve set up the ad and the magazine went to press about 2 weeks ago.

And I waited for the phone to ring.

And waited….

And waited…

And waited…

And nothing.

A couple of days ago Steve called me to let me know that he was getting ready to finalize the magazine for the next edition and to see if I wanted any changes to my ad.

When I told him I hadn’t gotten a single call he sounded very surprised.

“Well sometimes it takes a while, people must get used to seeing your ad so consistency is important”, he said suggesting I should run the ad again.

“Sure, I realize that however I didn’t get a SINGLE call”, I reminded him. Out of 10,000 homes this magazine supposedly went to even with the worst direct marketing stats (0.1% response) I would have expected at least 10 calls.

“Sorry Steve, but since I didn’t receive a single call let alone someone try a class, it’s difficult to justify spending any more money with you. Had I gotten a couple of people to walk in the door, sure I’d run it again, but without a single call I can’t”, I told him.

“Well, see how it goes. If you get some calls over the next couple of weeks, maybe you can run it the following month”, he suggested.

“Ok, I’ll let you know, thanks”, and I hung up the phone.

Saturday afternoon the phone rang. Finally I received a call!

The voice on the other end of the phone in broken English wanted some information, asked how much class was, etc. I explained everything clearly and he asked me again some of the same questions he just asked. I explained again and to my understanding he understood and made an appointment to try class for the following Monday (last night).

Of course he didn’t show.

Then it hit me like brick in the head falling from the sky what the problem was all along. And I’m mad at myself I didn’t realize this until I’d spent the money as I’m acutely aware of it.

Just like running a successful web site, it’s all about quality traffic. Unless you enjoy flushing money down the toilet the people you’re advertising to need to be people who fit the demographic who are going to buy from you.

And I advertised in a coupon magazine! Who typically looks in a coupon magazine?

Usually the demographic who wants a discount on everything. And that usually means lower incomes, and often those who can’t speak the language. These are not the people I want as students as I can’t help them. This may sound harsh, but what’s the point spending dollars on advertising if I can’t communicate with them, and they’re going to have a hard time paying for class?

This is a great way to go out of business!

So the moral of the story is this…

Spend your advertising budget wisely. Target those who want what you have and have the money to pay for it… and if someone comes selling you ad space in a coupon magazine, avoid it like the plague!

Until next time…

– Jason

6 thoughts on “Flushing money down the toilet…”

  1. good advise. I turned one of these down recently just on the cost. Even if it is located in a good place the people that would pick it up are the bargain hunters.


  2. Congrats on trying something new, and for not sticking with it after it proved to be a dud. I once got into a coupon book that people PURCHASED. It was no cost to me, and it has generated thousands of dollars in revenues over the past three years; the students I still have from the book continue to bring in hundreds of dollars a month.
    People who buy coupon books are much more likely to have disposable income; coupon clippers don't.

  3. I have to agree I advertised in several different types of womens magazines that are handed out to local businesses mainly restaurants. I only got one or two calls and noticed all of the martial arts that were listed eventually seemed to fade away. I found linking my web site to listings on the Web was a much better way to advertise. Point and click works.

  4. If you want to increase your student base, dont waste money advertising. Talk to people in person, let them know what your MA has done for you. Let them know that they can do it. You are your best marketing tool.


Leave a Comment