Advertising is everywhere. Turn on your car radio and you'll hear an ad for a soft drink, turn on your TV and you'll see commercials for car dealerships and lawyers. Even if you have an AdBlock extension, you'll still see ads on the Internet, whether they're 10-second snippets before a YouTube clip or a suggestive link hidden in text. While advertising is key to building sales and promoting your business, it can only do so much. Here's a look at what you can do with advertising, and what you can't.

What Advertising Can Do

Red Cola CansAdvertising serves two key purposes. First, it must inform prospective customers of the benefits of your product or service. And second, it must remind customers you exist. Think about Coca-Cola. They spend tens of millions of dollars every year on advertising, even though they're already one of the most popular soft drink manufacturers in the world. Their advertising campaigns work to remind customers of their existence by establishing and maintaining a distinct identity. You know every year, come the holiday season, you're going to see Coca-Cola ads featuring Santa and a polar bear, each sharing a refreshing beverage.

Advertising allows you to enhance your reputation by controlling the dialog surrounding your business. You get to choose how your business is portrayed. Are you an edgy clothing store? Then use bold, aggressive advertisements to capture attention. Are you a laid-back yoga studio? Then opt for relaxed ads.

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Advertising also allows you to slowly build sales by encouraging your existing customers to buy more of your products or services. Through ads, you can inform your current customers of any exclusive deals or sales they might be interested in. These deals can also be used to attract new customers, and your quality product will turn new customers into returning customers.

What Advertising Can't Do

No matter how large your advertising campaign budget, you won't be able to use ads to create an instant customer base. Building a customer base takes time – and while ads can help notify customers of your existence, it's no guarantee that they'll be there when you unlock the doors to open up shop.

Advertising is also best used over time – which means you can't expect it to cause a sudden increase in sales. Think of ads as long-term investments. The first time someone hears about your product, they probably won't remember it. But the fifth time? The tenth time? Your advertising is working to help you become their go-to choice when they need a particular kind of product.

Of course, advertising only works if you're offering a good product. No matter how much you advertise, if customers don't want what you're selling, you're not going to make any sales. This holds true if you have poor customer service as well – sure, you might be able to get people in the door, but it'll be next to impossible to turn new customers into returning customers if they don't like the service they receive.

Finally, don't think of advertising as a cure-all to solve your business's financial problems. Throwing a bunch of money at marketing won't make you an overnight success. Remember – it's a long-term investment, not a short-term fix.