Dear Friends & Colleagues:

This week’s excerpt from my new book, How To Win Client Business, is from Chapter 16: Why Advertising Doesn’t Work For Us. In this chapter, I discuss why advertising doesn’t work for the professional services in the same way it does for products. As we’ve learned over the previous weeks, prospective clients need to respect and trust us before they become ready to hire us. And, unfortunately, advertising will not earn you or your firm respect or trust. This can only be built one day at a time, one relationship at time, in doing great work for clients and demonstrating your expertise to the world. Whatever promotional approaches you dream up won’t make the cash register ring.

In addition to the text excerpt below, I’m providing a short 5 minute audio version as well – narrated by me. So, if you’d rather listen to a sample from Chapter 16 in lieu of the text excerpt, simply click here. (Note: If your preferred format is audio, the audiobook is now available on Amazon and is beautifully narrated by Barry Abrams – one of the best in the industry.)

Here’s this week’s excerpt. I hope you enjoy it!



Chapter 16: Why Advertising Doesn’t Work For Us

Leveraging Your Firm’s Brand Reputation and What to Do When You Don’t Have One


I received a call yesterday from an exasperated CEO of a product design and

engineering firm headquartered in the Midwest. The firm is 20 years old and

includes many blue-chip companies among its clients.


CEO: “I’m at my wits end with advertising.”

Me: “I can tell you’re frustrated.”

CEO: “We’ve tried everything I know to do. I have hired two of the best

advertising firms in Chicago, and have spent hundreds of thousands

on advertising. We’ve rebranded our company, redesigned our website,

and launched a PR and promotion campaign.”

Me: “Did you see much improvement in your lead generation pipeline?”

CEO: “Not one bit. We haven’t earned a dime on the money we’ve invested

in any of our advertising.”

Me: “Well, you’re doing something right – you’ve got some great clients

and have built a successful company. Where does your business come


CEO: “Our work is practically 100% repeat business and referrals. We have

great clients that have been with us since Day 1. The others have been

word of mouth.”

Me: “That’s impressive. What is your biggest challenge?”

CEO: “I don’t want to have to rely on repeat business and referrals. I want

our brand to be known. It would be great if the phone would ring

because people know that we do great work. It would be very inspirational

for my team to see that others recognize that we are doing great


Me: “What’s wrong with repeat business and referrals? That seems like it’s

working well for you.”

CEO: “I’d like to grow faster. Our goal is to double in the next five years.

I think we need more inbound inquiries from prospective clients in

order to achieve this. You would think that an advertising firm would

know how to do this.”


I empathized with this CEO’s pain. I, too, once spent heavily on advertising

my company’s brand. Like this frustrated CEO, I also came to realize that advertising

didn’t work in growing our firm’s revenue. Unfortunately, we both learned

the hard way after a significant withdrawal of our company’s cash resources.


Recognizing the Limits of Advertising


If we’re in the market for a new smart phone and we see an ad for the new iPhone

11 – sure, we may run over to the Apple Store and try one. Unfortunately, advertising

won’t accomplish this for you and me. Whether direct email, banner ads,

billboards, magazine ads, TV ads – you name it – these approaches won’t sell your

services in the same way it will for products.


There is some value in advertising, but the benefits are not what you might

imagine. And for most of us – unless we’re Merrill Lynch or Accenture – we can’t

afford it. According to research by the advertising industry, roughly $1 billion is

spent on advertising in the U.S. each business day. (That’s one billion with a B.)


If you were to spend $1 million in advertising annually to promote your firm’s

brand, that amounts to less than $5,000 each day. Spending $5K won’t get you

much attention in a noisy world deluged with $1B in daily advertising. Your money

will disappear faster than a single drop of rain in the Sonoran Desert, with about

the same impact. Besides, most of us can’t and won’t spend $1M on advertising.

And even if we could afford it, I’d say the money would be better spent in other

ways. In our world, advertising does one thing: it can bring awareness to your firm,

but it’s an expensive tool.


After years of advertising, a prospective client might say to you, “Yeah, I’ve

heard of you guys before. Tell me again, what is it you do?” That’s about it. Advertising

won’t cause a prospective client to pick up the phone and call your front desk

to say, “Hey, I’d like to buy some consulting. Can you put me through to the person

in charge of that department, please?”


Advertising can’t earn you respect and trust. This can only be built one day

at time, one relationship at a time, in doing great work for clients and demonstrating

your expertise to the world. Whatever promotional approaches you dream

up won’t make the cash register ring.


When was the last time you clicked on a banner ad? How many times this

week have you pored through your emails, credit card in hand, cruising to find a

good HR consultant or M&A advisor? It may work for selling Caribbean cruises,

but for us this is pure fantasy; far better to invest the time in doing the things that

work than wasting our precious time pursuing quixotic dreams.


This may be alarming news if you’ve just become the chief marketing officer of a

services firm. If you’re a new CMO and have a $1M advertising budget, then go ahead

and spend it like a drunken sailor and enjoy every minute of it. Just don’t delude yourself

– or the firm’s partners – into thinking that it will grow revenue. It won’t.


Click here to order your copy of my new book, How To Win Client Business, today!