the sky floor

The $1000 Secret: The Ad Campaign Strategy Your Business Needs

May 12, 2023

What if you could remake your advertising plan with a straightforward exercise? Whether you are starting up or have been in business for 20 years, this is for you.

Here is a thought experiment: please pretend you are a startup and have $1000 or less for all your advertising. I mean everything – not this month or even year. You have less than one thousand dollars to get the word out about your business, or you must close shop. What would you do? Who would you target? How would you say it? How agile would you be with iterations and testing?

Then there is the big question: do your current marketing efforts reflect the answer to those questions?

If you are having difficulty answering, I want you to head over to Google Ads, Facebook Ads, the newspapers and magazines you have ads in, and press pause. You are probably wasting money. 

You might object, “But we are an established business; everyone knows who we are, and we don’t need to introduce ourselves. Plus, we have way more than $1000 in our ad budget this year; how can this help us?” 

Or you might have a new idea and a prototype, thinking, “$1000 would be nice; I need to spend as little as possible to start selling, but where do I start?”

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Here is a condensed version of the questions above: If I could only do one advertising campaign, what would it be?

Asking this question does a couple of things:

  1. It forces you to drill down your audience.
  2. It clarifies the message.
  3. Most of all, it adds urgency.

Drill Down Your Audience

When you ask yourself the above question, it should narrow your audience. Why? If you have $1000 or less to spend, you aren’t going to send ads to anyone in the US who is willing to click them. You will target the people in your tribe (or who are like them or are who you want them to be.) 

I suggest focusing on those ready to buy now and those who will buy next. In other words, target your current market and those who are problem-aware and researching solutions. That will give you access to around 40% of your target market. 

Clarify the Message

Advertising should be as straightforward and immediate as possible, especially digital ads. You have a couple of sentences to transmit your message and explain why the user should care. Your soft-sell language that everyone uses will not do the job! 

What is the job anyway? The role of a digital ad is to get a click, not to sell the full product or service. How often have you bought something after reading a headline and description alone? Please don’t treat your potential customers like they are different from you; they aren’t! Ads are inviting them to learn more, not to buy. Think elevator pitch that leads to the boardroom meeting. 

And remember, you know who you are talking to because you have drilled down your audience. Use that in your short pitch. 

Additionally, if you limit your imaginary budget, you must clarify your message because it can’t fail. You also will have to iterate faster and track results directly. If you aren’t doing these things now, start. Even a business with a million-dollar ad budget should know how it works. (And let me soap box here quickly: if you run awareness campaigns, are the ads raising it? There are ways to measure. Don’t let any dollars go unmeasured just because the ROI doesn’t result in direct dollars!!)


A little urgency helps you create an emphatic message where the user should take action now. 

You aren’t asking for their hand in marriage on the first date, but if you are on a date with someone you think you could marry, you will act differently. You want the potential customer to become a real, paying customer, so you treat them that way. You can’t afford not to; remember, your business closes when your $1000 is gone if no one has paid you. 

When I say this, I am not saying to be extra pushy; I am saying to treat every chance to get paid like it is crucial. You do this by creating value and treating your customers well, not tricking them. Ultimately, it may be a subtle shift, but having a sense of urgency will hone your message and bring a tangible passion to your interactions. We can all use more of that startup energy in our businesses!

Use this simple strategy to hone your advertising. Nothing will replace creative and clear thinking, but we need tools to spark both as we advertise and market – whether you are just starting or have millions at your disposal.