The most popular and accessible way for small businesses to advertise is online, particularly through the Google Search and Display Networks, which includes its sponsored text ads, as well as online banner adverts.
This allows you to closely target customers based on demographics and types of content viewed. You can even choose only to show ads on the network to people who have previously been to your website.
Social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn also accept advertising, which can be closely targeted to age, location and profession. The good news is that you only pay for the ads that get seen by your target market.
Only use direct response advertising
Small businesses need to avoid the ‘brand advertising’ practised by large organisations to raise awareness. Concentrate on ‘direct response’ campaigns, these are ones that that persuade customers to order a brochure, fill in a form on a website or place an order. They are measurable and instantly inform you of the campaign’s success.
Test and measure
Measuring the campaign’s success will illustrate the responses or sales achieved and the value to your business. Various methods can be used to do this, from unique web pages to dedicated telephone lines to deal with responses. Ensure that customers record where they first heard about the business, if it’s the advert, carry on. If it isn’t, target spending elsewhere.
The headline is the most important part of an advert It needs to grab the customer’s attention and make them read on (or click through to your website if it’s online). A common mistake is to include the business name in the headline: adverts should be about the reader, not the business.
Use the AIDA formula
This is a classic tried-and-tested formula used by advertisers, it stands for:
- Attention: grab the reader’s attention; a good headline will achieve this
- Interest: get them interested in your offering
- Desire: convert their ‘interest’ into a desire for your offering
- Action: adverts should close with a ‘call to action’ – tell customers what to do and make it easy for them to do it.
Focus on the benefits
Advertising must communicate the benefits you’re offering with your product or service. Will it save customers time and money? Will it make them look more professional or give them more time to spend with their families? Remember, you can get these messages across in the kind of images you choose, not just the words you use.
Don’t advertise on a left hand page
Time after time, studies have shown that advertising on left hand pages in publications is less effective than on right hand pages. Always insist on adverts being placed on the right hand page – if they can’t guarantee it, advertise when they can.
If you’re buying advertising space direct, you should be aware that advertising rate cards often over-inflate prices. Negotiate and, if possible, leave it until the last minute. You’ll be surprised at the discounts you can secure.
Don’t just follow the competition
Just because your competitors advertise somewhere doesn’t mean you should. A well-known sales trick is to convince you that you’ll lose out if you fail to advertise alongside your competitors. Your competitors aren’t necessarily advertising successfully – they’ve probably been convinced by the sales person and have little measurable proof of their advert’s success.
Don’t believe advertising is essential for business success
Many businesses advertise because they think they have to. This isn’t always the case; your money may be better spent on other marketing techniques, or you could save money by using free techniques. Below are ten other strategies to employ – many of which will cost the business nothing to implement.
Why not try a combination of:
- Telephone marketing
- Direct mail
- Internet – including social media and SEO
- Email marketing
- Direct sales
- Affiliate marketing
- Referral systems