One of the most common questions I get as a teacher and consultant is, “Where should I advertise?” It’s an important question, but it’s not the first question we should be asking.

Too often businesses, try to find success by testing short-term advertising tactics. For example, have you ever invested in any advertising once and were disappointed that it didn’t bring in all the new revenue you hoped for?  You’re not alone, I continually hear “I tried _________ and it didn’t work”. Why do many businesses find sustainable success with their advertising while others have tried and quit?

The reason is that the first question is not where to advertise. Your first question should be: What should I advertise?”


One of the most important marketing lessons I can share is to consider strategy first, then tactics. Your strategy is a plan to achieve an overall goal. Tactics are actions to achieve that goal. Let’s face it, cutting is more fun than measuring. But, not carefully measuring twice before cutting is like running one ad and hoping it’s going to be successful.

Assuming your overall goal is to grow, or at least maintain your revenue and profitability, let’s first determine your “benefit pillars.”  Your benefit pillars are the “what” you should advertise. Creating your benefit pillars takes planning and thought, but it’s a vital part of your marketing success – some or all of your benefit pillars will be used in all your marketing.


Here’s a list of pillar objectives that will help you select your benefit pillars.


First, create a list of all the product categories and services you offer. Then, determine which ranks the highest in all of the following statements.

  • Our customers benefit from it
  • We generate a fair profit from it
  • We are good at it and can do more of it

In creating your list of benefit pillars it’s helpful to include your staff. Create a survey or have a staff meeting to get their input. None of us is as smart as all of us, and since you’ll be focusing your marketing resources on these pillars, it’s great to get staff input and buy-in. Another great reference for building your benefit pillars is your Mission, Vision, and Values.

If possible, look at your sales data. What categories are growing and provide a fair profit? You can also talk to a few of your most loyal customers and see what they value most about your products and services.

At this point, you should be able to rank your list of products and services on a scale of 1 to 10 using the pillar objectives mentioned earlier. From that list, choose 4 to 8 and write a brief description of each. Now, you’re well on your way to defining “what” you should be advertising.

Here’s a sample of benefit pillars from a community pharmacy client, each benefit pillar links to a webpage that includes features, benefits, and a call to action.

I was recently talking to a friend who helps businesses with buy-sell planning, I asked, “What is the most common way your clients achieve marketing success?” The answer was “They pick a few services and market them consistently year after year.” I couldn’t agree more.

Reach out if you’d like to discuss your needs and opportunities to see if we can help you be more successful. or call me at 608.849.1984