Advertising – Where Do I Begin?

This is one of the first questions you’ll ask yourself when you consider your marketing strategy. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Every business is a little different. So, I’ll take two wide approaches to the questions. This week, I’ll start by exploring the question from the perspective of a small business.

The Small Business Approach

If you’ve just started your new business, you are very brave. Good for you. It’s also likely that you’re in a bunch of debt now. That’s ok. Everybody has to start their empires somewhere. The next step in your advertising revolution is entirely based on your ability to spend or manage debt. So, I’ll go in order of mediums based on cost and performance.

Social Media - You have no choice on this one. You must do it. And, you must do it well. Social media is your best friend if you own a small business. Here’s why.

  • It’s Free! – If you do it yourself, it only costs you your time. I also believe that nobody will do a better job on your social media than you can. Social media is best when it’s truly conversational and real. Your “Big Walleted” competitors will probably hire someone to tweet and post for them. In fact, most of them still underestimate the power of social media.
  • You can outmanoeuvre the big guys - This is a huge advantage for someone with the time to perfect it. Social Media is great because it gives your business a consistent voice. It will be the very beginning of your brand. Don’t worry if nobody chats with you at the start. Just keep sharing. Followers and likes will come. If they don’t talk to you, talk with them. Just make sure your business tweets and posts as a real person. Don’t cram sales BS down people’s throats. People like talking with each other. Use social media to chat. Not to sell. If you make a personal connection, you will gain sales. It will never work the other way around.
  • It’s a great learning tool - Social media is your crash course in branding. You can let your business get through the awkward adolescent stages before you launch a mass appeal advertising campaign. Social media is your businesses “year abroad in Europe.” Let it find out who it is. When you’re done experimenting, you’ll be better positioned to launch your brand in a big way.

Online – Advertising online is a really really really deep media form. There are so many different types of advertising you can buy. For this purpose, let’s discuss Google Adwords. It’s a great place to start. I also think it’s a really good training ground. You can spend as much or as little as you like. You can monitor which ads get more clicks. That means you can discover exactly what speaks to your target audience. It isn’t a good place to build a brand. It is very much a transactional form of advertising. It can be hard to get noticed if you’re in a deep industry. Plus, you only get a line or two to convince someone to buy you.  It’s a tall order. But, it may be another positive step in finding out who you are.

Community event advertising – (Depending on industry) most of your clientele will come from one geographic area. Usually, it’s where your business operates. You should become a big player in your own community before you can tackle a city or a nation. Go out and sponsor a community event. Better yet, make your own event. Make sure that every single person in your local trade area knows exactly who you are, what you do, and how you do it. Become a community hero. That’s your base group. They’ll spread the most valuable advertising of all; word of mouth. Never neglect them no matter how big you get.

Mail Outs – Not my favourite advertising technique. I think its recycling fodder. But, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely useless. If the price is right, and you are ok with a 1% conversion rate, go for it. Just make it stand out.

Mass appeal – Now you’re spending some big cash. Let’s sort this pile out.

  • Print - I’m going to eliminate this immediately. Unless you want to sell cars to seniors you’ll want to throw it out. It’s a dying medium.
  • TV – Not a great landscape either. It’s expensive to make a good local commercial and PVRs are eating commercial breaks alive. Give it a miss unless you have millions to spend. Even then, try to stick to buying live events (sports and news.)
  • Outdoor – I like billboards. Just keep in mind that you will be buying a shallow message. So, you need enough money to blanket a city or a certain area. You can use billboards and bus benches to your benefit in a small community if you buy strategically. The message is tough though. You have eight words or less to do it in. Be concise!
  • Radio – Radio is good for almost anything. I suggest buying small campaigns to start. You’ll have to base them around an event or a sale. Buy a few of them a year until you can afford to buy more. When you can afford more, buy more. Make it your goal to be on one station every single day of the year. When you achieve that, add stations to the mix in the same way.

In conclusion, just get out there and say something to someone. Anyone! The sooner you start to spread the character of your business, the sooner you’ll have people talking about you. Next week, I’ll discuss this from the viewpoint of an established business!