How I Got Burned Advertising My Small Business

Over the past three and a half years I’ve invested in a number of advertising options. I’ve found them in various places like Facebook groups, emails I subscribed to, blogs, and personal recommendations. But across the board they have resulted to very little sales for my company. Which makes me very hesitant to invest in future advertising opportunities. But after contemplating what went wrong I’ve found three places that I messed up and, to save you the heartache and pinch in your checkbook, I want to share them with you.

Getting Burned With Advertising - Jenn Elwell - Mastermind Mamapreneur

The target market wasn’t right for me

Sometimes I get pulled in by good advertising. It’s a once a year offer! It’s got tons of free stuff! This is my only chance! And these marketing tactics distract me from being diligent on making sure that the opportunity is right for me. Then I end up spending advertising money some place where my target market doesn’t frequent. For instance, my target market for miniPeanuts is moms who work, who have disposable income, who love personalized items, who value quality, and who have a strong faith. So if I spent money marketing miniPeanuts on a platform geared toward single women who value organic items and like to go hiking, then I’m wasting my money. That’s a great place to market if your target market fits their audience, but if not, you’re not reaching your target audience by advertising there.

Takeaway Question To Ask Before Advertising: Does my target market frequent the location/site/magazine/etc that I’m considering investing in?

I didn’t know how many sales I would need to recoup my expense

In the past I’ve looked at advertising from the old adage “any advertising is good advertising” and figured if I could even make one sale from the advertisement that the additional awareness in the mind of the audience could compensate for the rest of my investment. Well, for small mama-owned businesses like us who are on a very limited budget, this could not be further from the truth! We don’t have unlimited funds to spend so if we’re going to invest in advertising, we need to know exactly how many sales we need to make to recover that money. While we want to expand our reach, if we’re not making our money back or more, then we need to move on quickly to another opportunity. If you want to invest in a new opportunity that you’re not sure will make you your money back, then you can work hard over the next few days to make those sales ahead of time to offset the advertisement expense.

Takeaway Question To Ask Before Advertising: How many sales do I need to make to recover the cost to advertise? Am I going to make that before I spend the advertising money or am I expecting the advertisement to make the money back for me? 

I didn’t have a marketing strategy in place

In addition to not advertising where my target market was and not having a plan to recoup the money I spent, I also didn’t have a plan for my overall marketing so I would just buy in on an opportunity when it became available. This meant that I wasn’t strategically boosting ads on Facebook at a certain time or always advertising in one location during the non-holiday rush to keep my orders up. My advertising spending was thus erratic and ineffective. I would sometimes have ads running on two platforms and then go months without having an ad anywhere. With no game plan in place I was just throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. Let me tell you, this will not only leave you frustrated and burnt out but you’ll also burn through your money quick! If you don’t currently have a marketing strategy you can be looking out for a new eWorkbook to come to the shop in the next month or so to help you with that. But until then, sit down with a piece of paper, write down each month, and brainstorm how you’re going to market during that month and make sure you aren’t overlapping opportunities too much and you don’t leave any time without something in the works.

Takeaway Question To Ask Before Advertising: How does this opportunity fit into my marketing strategy?

Marketing Strategy Question - Jenn Elwell - Mastermind Mamapreneur


Three Questions To Ask before Advertising - Jenn Elwell - Mastermind Mamapreneur

Before we go I want to give you an example using one of my current marketing strategies. And, yes, these are all products/services that I offer but that doesn’t make the example any less accurate.

Company: miniPeanuts

Target market: Mothers who work, have disposable income, shop online, love personalized and unique items, value quality, have a strong faith, believe in a traditional way of life (close to family, respect, honor, etc), and aren’t fans of mass marketed goods.

Advertising opportunity: Mama’s Black Book

Target Market: Mothers who care about giving special gifts, shop online, support women-owned businesses, and value quality.

Does this match my target market? Yes!

How much does it cost and how many sales will I  have to make to recoup that cost? A shop listing is currently $45 so I’ll have to sell three placemats or two plates to recover that cost.

Is that number of sales feasible and to be expected from this investment? Yes!

Does this fit into my marketing strategy? Yes, before the holidays I ramp up marketing in markets targeted to mamas for Christmas gifts so this along with participation in a number of gift guides and some promoted products on Etsy is a perfect fit for my marketing strategy.


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  1. […] Black Book. I know that advertising dollars are in short supply (that’s why I wrote that blog post earlier this week!) and investing in a brand new magazine seems risky, but I think it’s a […]

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