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New Math: Using Numbers in Marketing for Your Small Business

The following is a guest post from Carol Wilson. 

Numbers are reassuring.  They quantify and organize our experience of life in a way that words can’t, and generally make things seem more manageable.  It isn’t surprising, then, to see such a wide use of numbers and figures in advertising—just think of how many commercials, posters, billboards and other forms of marketing you’ve seen that utilize numbers in some way: disinfectant sprays that kill 99.99% of germs; refrigerators that are x percent more efficient than the other leading brands; trash bags that are x times stronger, and so on.

With all these numbers flying around, you might be wondering if there is a place for numbers in your marketing strategy.  The answer to whether you can use numbers effectively in your advertising campaign will be determined largely by three factors: the nature of your product or service, current available research figures, and your own creativity.

Easy as 1, 2, 3

Some products lend themselves to the use of numbers in advertising.  In ad campaigns for cleaning products and anything associated with health or cleanliness, for example, you’ll often find a strong emphasis on numbers and figures.  The reason for this is both psychological and scientific.  Cleaners are tested in a laboratory, and the results from those tests are recorded and reported to regulatory agencies, such as the FDA.

So there are inherently volumes of research information that go along with products that are tied to health and hygiene.  But why rely on those numbers to sell a product?  Because people want to believe that their health is an objective reality, something predictable, measurable, and controllable.  When they hear that a particular brand of mouthwash kills more germs than another, and by a quantifiable differential, they will be more inclined to buy the more powerful mouthwash.   Who wouldn’t want their mouth 99.98% free of germs that cause gingivitis?

If your product is one that requires lab testing and federal approval, then it adds up for you to use numbers in your ads.

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2 is bigger than 1

Probably the most common use of numbers in marketing is comparing one product to another similar one.  Cleaners, toothpastes, mops—they’re all trying to vie for first place (first place being the closest to perfection as possible).  But in order to compare your product to others, you need data on the other products in addition to your own.  This may seem obvious, but if you’re releasing a new health product, using numbers may not be a smart, or even feasible, option for you, as your numbers will be less credible than others that can say “this product is 20% more effective than all the others, and we know it, because we tested it against them.”

2 + 2 = 5

While the above are some very basic rules about using numbers in marketing, there’s nothing to say that these “rules” can’t be broken, and with some very positive results.  Your own creativity and daring are the only limit.

Remember that marketing, above all else, is a way to convince people to buy your products, and a way to get them to remember it over the others.  More and more, the most successful ads are those that make people laugh the hardest.  If you can turn the standard use of numbers in advertising on its head to make people remember your product, go for it!  I would be at least 50% more likely to buy a shirt that made me 50% cooler than I am.  It might not be scientific, but it all adds up in the end.

About Carol Wilson

This is a guest post from Carol Wilson who writes for business insurance. She contributes articles about a variety of marketing, business, stock market, small business topics. She can be contacted at: wilson.carol24 @

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