2 Reasons Print Ads Don't Work

Copyright 2010 Deah Curry PhD, updated January 2015


It’s almost a physiological reflex…we go into private practice and immediately think we must take out a bunch of display ads in newspapers, and magazines. Online versions of phone books pressure us to buy ads too.


Don’t.  It’s a waste of money.


We all have gotten seduced into running display ads. For the most part, these never work for therapists or coaches, and don’t work that well for NDs.


The reason is two-fold:


(1) The theory of mere exposure explains that people need to see an ad at minimum 7 times before taking action on it — that is, assuming they perceive a need for your service and judge you to be the best person to fill that need. Now in the 2015 mobile device, constantly plugged in climate of the age, that minimum is probably a lot higher.


Part of the failure of print ads related to this theory is that the ad is placed where your ideal client is not likely to see it. People rarely select a therapist from the YP online directory, or from your 7 year old's dance recital program, although they are more likely to intentionally visit a service-specific locator such as Psychology Today when they are ready to engage in therapy.


Another piece of this reason is that you’ve made the wrong assumptions about where your ideal clients can be found. For example, it seems logical to think that people interested in health in general would by extension be interested in mental health.


But folks who handle their emotions by going to the gym or seeking pharmaceutical solutions may not believe their depression or anxiety can be better treated by sitting and talking about it. Advertising in athletic related publications or trying to get referrals from general practice MDs could be the wrong venue for connecting with your prospective clients.


(2) The second part of the reason ads fail is when the ad itself is all about you, and doesn’t speak compelling enough to the ideal client about their problem. If your display ad is only announcing your existence and credentials, it’s unlikely to connect with people’s suffering.


If your ad doesn’t connect to their suffering, and its viewed when they aren't of a mind to be thinking about getting help, the ad won’t be memorable, and hence, YOU won’t be remembered as someone who can help them with their pain.  You will have poured your limited funds right down the proverbial rat hole.


Can your intended print ad look prospective clients in the eye, name their pain, and imply a solution by contacting you? Yes, although it may take a fair amount of creativity to do so in a limited, affordable space. Is it 90% about a problem & 10% your contact info? It must be for it to have any chance of working.


Plan to run your ad as often as possible for as long as possible. It will get expensive, but with display ads, it's frequency and the right placement media that makes it work -- if it works at all.




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​I ​​do two basic things when I work with people:

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