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Online Advertising Demystified

The biggest reason most advertising doesn’t work is that people use the wrong type of advertising for the goals they have or the phase of the buying cycle their audience is in.

Fortunately, you don’t need to make that mistake!

Your first step is to fully understand what phase your audience is in and what they’re doing!

There are 3 distinct customer phases your advertising can influence.

Awareness (Branding)

With this type of advertising you can make your audience aware of your company, offerings, and, ideally position your company as the best provider of your product or service.

This type of advertising can work well although it requires patience and a rather huge commitment. 

Success with Awareness advertising is dependent on doing a great job identifying your audience and making sure to reach the same people repeatedly over time with weekly ad impressions. 

The goal is to get enough well branded impressions with the individuals in your audience so that you are their first choice when they move to consider a purchase.

This type of advertising is usually done with:

  • Social Media ads
  • Carefully curated Google Display ads
  • Traditional advertising (radio, print, etc).


As the name implies, with this type of advertising you want to be in front of audiences when they are at the point where they are considering investing in your type of product or service.

In short, as your audience is researching a purchase you want to be considered.

This type of advertising is usually done with:

  • All the types of advertising mentioned above
  • Intent/engagement based targeting and retargeting
  • Search Ads

Your success in this type of advertising is usually dependent on:

  • how adept you are at soliciting interest/inquiries from consumers in this phase
  • how good you are at managing an advertising or marketing funnel to “convert” these people from consideration to purchase (a topic for another post!).


The distinction between Consideration and Action can be very subtle. During Consideration, the customer is looking at different options and thinking about making a purchase. In the Action phase, the customer has already decided to make a purchase.

Success in the Action phase is influenced by how much Awareness and Consideration advertising you’ve done. 

However, if you have a product or service that solves immediate challenges or emergencies, Action-based advertising is the most critical type of advertising and can often even stand alone.

Customer examples include services like:

  • Healthcare and wellness
  • Trades and automotive
  • Legal and accounting.

These are all examples of industries where people have a problem and if they don’t have a vendor that’s “top of mind” they go to Google and search for one.

The top types of advertising for this phase include:

  • Search advertising
  • Retargeting (Search & Display)
  • Direct communication with leads (who made contact with you during their Consideration phase).

Success in this phase is dependent on:

  • Targeting high intent searchers who are ready to buy
  • Having highly relevant ads and highly relevant/compelling landing pages.
  • Excelling at converting leads from the consideration phase into customers.

The Wildcard: Discretionary Purchases

 Discretionary buyers are a different type of buyer that is somewhat separated from the above phases.

Discretionary purchases are generally defined as purchases that someone would consider even if they are not currently in the market for your product. They are generally:

  • Not overly expensive (allowing folks to make a snap decision to buy)
  • Highly related to your target audiences interests
  • Easy to understand.

Examples of these types of purchases might include:

  • Books
  • Novelties (pet toys, kid toys, funny shirts, etc)
  • Anything else that doesn’t cost too much that someone might buy on the spur of the moment.

Social Media advertising is usually the best type of advertising for Discretionary purchases.

Curious what sort of advertising makes sense for your type of business? Get in touch and we’re happy to have a friendly, no obligation brainstorming chat with you!

Interested in learning more about how you can succeed in advertising? Check out our free webinar we’re hosting on October 27: Advertising in 2023 – How To Succeed And What To Avoid

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