It used to be, the only way to win at acquiring customers was to buy as much advertising as you could afford. The more you spent, the higher the results. That is and was the traditional advertising model that worked for a bricks & mortar business. Today the game has changed, yes traditional ways still work, not because it’s effective, because it’s what older generations prefer it, and they still have the money.

It’s easy to reach a traditional buyer, just run enough ads on traditional advertising vehicles, and you’ll get their attention. Today the customer with money is getting younger by the minute, and we need to market to them differently. We have to make offers that make us extremely uncomfortable. It used to be, if you wanted to get the greatest reach, you ran radio & television ads, newspaper has never had the same reach. You could run 30 second ads on radio for $30 a piece, but to get the frequency for it to be effective, you had to run more than 3 spots a day. The minimum would be 10 spots a day, because the life span of a radio ad is much like a Tweet on Twitter, about 20 minutes. So to have a successful customer acquisition campaign you had to spend significant amounts of money. The same held true for television, but at a much higher cost, not to run the ads, but to make the ad. Customer acquisition campaigns can also be considered branding campaigns, but they are different.

Today we have the Internet, we can reach more people via the NET than we could with radio & television together, for FREE! I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, I am wondering why there is still such resistance to it. The resistance has the power to kill your business, and you the business owner must guard against it, not succumb to it.

The challenge with having such great reach on the Internet isn’t the cost, it’s being found, and being heard. Hence, we have a new kind of advertising vehicle like Google, Yahoo & Bing. These powerful search networks have really just adopted the traditional way of advertising for the Internet. If you want to be found, land on the first page, you now have a sufficient budget to have that desired result.

Today you can purchase qualified traffic, which, if you speak to them the right way, will become newly acquired customers. The same challenge you had with traditional mediums, holds true with digital ad networks, you need to dedicate resources to get the desired results you’re looking for.

The secret to customer acquisition today, is by leveraging and Open & Free Business Model, where free is the driving force. Like the resistance, free has the same problem, for reasons unknown to me, entrepreneurs and business owners can’t seem to wrap their brains around free. We understand loss leader concepts, but not free, I suspect the fear of giving something away and not getting paid is far greater than we would like to believe.

Companies that have figured out how to use free, have also figured out how to generate revenue because of it. Companies like Google, Spotify, Skype, Vimeo, Twitter, Evernote, Grooveshark and many more. These companies have proven free works, and they have mastered acquiring customers, they have mastered list building to the 9th degree. It does work, but we seem to have more reasons not to use the model. Whatever the excuse is, it’ll work.

You want to get more customers, give them something they want….for free, and then figure out how to monetize your new customers. The old business models are in the genre of win-lose, the open and free business model is about win-win, where everyone benefits. Mater giving products and services for free, and you will have an entirely new market to sell to. The concept makes sense, it just sounds and feels foreign.

FREE is not the enemy, free is your best friend, learn to embrace free, figure out where free fits in your business, because free is the secret to customer acquisition.

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When considering what a business of the future looks like, I had to wonder what might happen to traditional ways of marketing, branding and advertising. Some of it’s obvious, but some of it not so much. As a business owner, would you know where to look to leverage Ad Networks online? Internet Marketers have had the inside track on them, but that’s another change taking place. Ad Networks are becoming more and more mainstream, can you name a few?

When thinking about these networks, you can’t help wonder the impact they have, or will have, on traditional modes like Radio, Television, and Newspaper. Will it even reach the Direct Mail way of acquiring customers. The short answer is, yes. I’m not suggesting traditional methods will disappear entirely, but the revenue generated will make a shift to the Internet.

One problem with preventing Radio, TV & Print from disappearing entirely is a thing called NET Neutrality, but that’s another problem for another day, I’m merely mentioning it because it will at some point protect media from extinction. Traditional modes will and are moving to digital subscription models to prevent the declining revenues, as a matter of survival. On October 18, 2012, editor Tina Brown announced that Newsweek would cease print publication with the December 31, 2012 issue and transition to an all-digital format, to be called Newsweek Global. These kinds of moves are not new, but they are becoming more and more common place.

If and when this happens on a much bigger scale, what does that mean for advertising? It means, Ad agencies will have to learn a new way of marketing traditional businesses. If 60% of all commerce is moving online, that should tell you one thing…that’s where the people are and you better find a means to connect with them. Why? Because they aren’t watching TV, reading Newspapers, and listening to the Radio the way they used to. They are doing these things online, over 2.4 billion of them as of this writing, and another 3 billion coming!

Marketing, Advertising online do things different, ad networks monitor similar metrics, but they are digital now. Sure there are free ways of advertising, ad networks are digital forms of a traditional method of generating revenue online. Media buys online are not that different than offline, but they are different. How? You don’t need an ad agency to handle it for you for one, it’s actually a simple process. As business owner you can do it yourself, there’s a small learning curve, you will need to learn some of the lingo, maneuver a mouse, and fill in some blanks. I’m over simplifying of course, but you can buy media online yourself.

Keep in mind, these ad networks are setup for you to advertise, or publish, they sound like the same thing, but they are two different trains of thought on the Internet.

To help you get educated on ad networks, I’m going to list a few here for you to investigate, there are hundreds of them online so this is just sampling. Most of these are traffic generators, and we all need traffic, PPC is a digital way of getting access that you couldn’t get out of a traditional ad agency.


ZEDO Ad Network is a traffic source for Advertisers and Affiliates who want to reach specific audience segments at the top of the impression chain.


The adMarketplace Pay Per Click advertising platform delivers Search Engine performance across large content networks.


700 Million monthly search impressions, they have been around for some time.


Adoori’s network covers more than 250 countries, a massive reach with reasonable rates.

If you haven’t investigated online ad networks, now is the time to start, eventually you will end up using one for your business. Why? Probably because Radio, TV & Newspapers are failing you and your customer base has gone online looking for you, are you there?

This subject matter runs long and deep, and I’m merely poking a stick at it, I couldn’t possibly cover every aspect of it. But if current trends continue, online ad networks will over take traditional modes of advertising. It’s conceivable that one day, they will replace them entirely, but probably not in my life-time : )


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The future of business is really quite simple, pay attention. I’ve been writing and talking about this secret sauce for a few years now, and it seems that most businesses are missing the point. We will spend thousands, no, millions on traditional advertising, because there is a perception that it works. It some cases it still does, but the world has gone into a state of flux, it’s not paying attention to traditional ways of advertising like it used to. Today, you have to pay attention, but not in a the way you think.

For years, OK the last 300 years it seems, we could merely hang a shingle, yell from a soap box, run an ad on Radio or Newspaper, and get the kind of attention we wanted. That’s true, but something has changed hasn’t it? We are no longer within ear shot of those types of ads anymore, we’ve been driven indoors by technology, we don’t get out much like we used to.

Social Networks have become the new place to hangout, it’s where everyone is spending their time, their money, and it’s where they share almost everything their lives. The new advertising model is sharing, and we don’t have to pay for it! So how does one get found, get the attention one needs to generate revenue, or a living. It’s simple, you have to pay attention. You have to pay attention to what is being shared, what is being said.

There’s only one way to do this, grow bigger ears! Learn how to listen, pay attention and look for the buying signals. It’s what we do in traditional sales, why are you looking for something different? The process is the same, it’s the tools that have changed. Because the tools have changed, the world is suddenly confused, and isn’t sure what to do.

Money is being left on the table because most have yet to learn the new tools, haven’t taken the time to use them, and or taken the time to harness the power of growing bigger ears. Many business owners still haven’t bought into the power of listening in Social Networks, there is a huge misunderstanding of what’s happening in these networks. But if you pay attention long enough, and are looking for the right signals (keywords), you can add thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to your bottom line. So far, it hasn’t happened, at least not in my area, the world is still waiting for something, waiting for something to happen so business owners don’y have to do anything. They are looking for the next radio & Television, the next newspaper, well…’s not coming, you will have to do something to find the fore mention dollars that are waiting for you.


I shared an example of what I meant a couple blog post’s ago, the example is me, with 20 thousand in hand, no one was paying attention to me as I shared on social networks. I shared what I was looking for, I am doing improvements to my home, bought a new fridge, and I’m still not done…but no one, not one business was listening, so they missed out on making that money. In fact, 5 other people in my circle of friends are doing the same thing, imagine, 100k at your finger tips and you missed it, you weren’t paying attention.

This is the new way of finding customers, you must be paying attention by growing bigger ears, by listening. This is where the people are, online, waiting, searching, and buying products and services, every hour of the day. Business owners, the future of business is… attention.

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Brands built without advertising, it sounds impossible right? I can’t imagine anyone saying you should never advertise, and when is not a good time to advertise? It’s a mystery for sure, but there are some huge brands out there that indeed did not advertise, and you know them very well. What a concept, that’s like saying, let’s give everything away and we will make money. Well, that is true also, competing with major companies by giving away core product and services is hard to walk away from, it’s even harder to compete against FREE.

But I’m not interested in talking about free, I want to talk about free from advertising, as in not advertising and still making billions. Imagine that, no advertising and creating a huge cash machine at the same time. How you ask, that’s the 64 million dollar question isn’t it? I mean, if you knew the answer, if we all knew the answer, we would have these mass fortunes ourselves. It’s not as simple as not advertising, but it’s close, it’s called Word Of Mouth, sound familiar? We practice it everyday on Social Networks.

Have you heard of Wayne Gould? He is the creator of Sudoku, the secret of Sudoku’s success was this, he offered the Times an endless supply of puzzles at no cost, there’s that FREE again. He offered the free puzzles with one request, that the times put a tiny credit on each puzzle, his website URL. Mr. Gould never purchased any advertising, it was a barter of sorts. The rest as you know it, is history.

Imagine this, you can’t just walk in a buy this car, you are selected. That’s right, no matter how much money you have or the position you hold will get you in the door. This brand has yet to purchase advertising, not one dime. Why? Because their customers are their marketing. They rely on word of mouth, special events and Social Media. The car? Ferrari.

With over 90 Billion in sales, this company has yet to purchase advertising, and you most likely are a card holder. COSTCO. Imagine gaining 66 million members that pay $55 or more for the privilege to shop, access to the COSTCO buying power is at your finger tips too.

This next one surprised me, The Body Shop. You’ve seen these stores everywhere, in every mall, and they don’t buy advertising. With no marketing department, they relied on one thing, a clearly stated purpose that the public could align their values to, not too mention word of mouth. With over 2,500 stores in over 60 markets worldwide, the business model seems to be working. I love this quote, I grabbed it off the Body Shop website:

“The business of business should not just be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”
-Dame Anita Roddick. Human Rights Activist. Founder of The Body Shop.

As crazy as it sounds, using FREE and Word Of Mouth can build a massive brand, maybe even an incredible way of life for you and the many being served by your business. It’s all possible, it also comes with a price tag called work, lot’s of it. In building anything there is always some level of risk, but these are examples of how a simple idea can lead to something far bigger than you ever dreamed of.

You don’t have to build a business of this magnitude, but you can build a legacy that provides a modest living. What’s your dream dynasty, what does it stand for and against?

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I don’t get all in a flap very often but, while driving into Vancouver one morning I was listening to CBC Radio, I’m not sure who the host was but it was during Rick Cluff’s time slot. The interview was with the Executive Director of the Coquitlam Chamber of Commerce, the discussion was about all the construction parallel to United Blvd. How the new Port Mann Bridge and the freeway construction was hurting business on the boulevard. Now I’m not sure what prompted the host of the show to suggest this but it got me, he asked the Executive Director of the Chamber if the government was going to bail these businesses out or help them out in some way. Say WHAT!

Why is it that everyone believes the government should give people money when most of the businesses could have done something to at least minimize the damage. Hell, I’m certain these businesses in question knew for months if not years this construction was coming, that it was going to happen. The perception now is that they did nothing to prepare, they figured we’ll wait and see how it goes, and if it doesn’t go well, we will put pressure on the government to give us money. I can with all certainty tell you that the future of business will not tolerate this model, in fact, this entitlement thinking will keep our country broke and even bankrupt if allowed to continue.

I would love to know what crazy ideas came to the table behind the closed doors of these businesses, to help get through the next 12 weeks, how many ideas were shutdown and squashed due to fear. There is a huge Casino on this boulevard, the Red Robinson Theatre too. There is much that could be done to partner all these businesses with their hands out, they could work together, now there’s a concept. I’m willing to bet my lunch money The Red Robinson Theatre¬† & The Casino will do just fine, why, people will do anything, go anywhere to feed the need of entertainment and gambling. If that’s the case, then these businesses on United Boulevard should work together to strategize how to work through the next 12 weeks, the big anchors could lead the way.

As you can see, my perception of this dilemma, this was a marketing agencies wet dream, the opportunity is/was huge, but did anyone approach this group of businesses. I suspect not, to my knowledge there has been absolutely no marketing to my neighbourhood, I haven’t seen, heard a Radio or TV ad, not a Tweet about anything to entice me to shop United Boulevard. With all that is availabe to these businesses to market themselves during this construction, I have yet to find any ads in traditional media let alone digital, no crazy awesome deals to make me venture into the construction soup. Maybe I’m not looking in the right place, maybe I don’t care, or maybe they haven’t reached out to make me care.

I shared this story with a group of marketers, the look on their faces was enough for me. So is construction an excuse, is it really the root problem. Or is being prepared the real issue at hand, if you have read this blog regularly, you would know that the future of business has the upper hand. The problem isn’t construction, it isn’t the business, it is however, the owners of those businesses, how they think, and it possibly reveals a lack of foresight. I would like to give the business owners the benefit of the doubt, but, in times like this, businesses need to grow up!

I know, I’m ranting a bit, but this is a great case study don’t you think? So how could these business help themselves, what would you do if you had the opportunity to help these businesses? What crazy marketing ideas would you bring to the table? Would you let road construction be the reason the doors closed your business?