Small Business Advertising 101

A sales rep from your local newspaper just approached you. She’s running a special on ad space for the summer months. The price is right, and you’ve always wanted to do more advertising. Seems like a perfect opportunity for your small business, right? Not so fast. It depends on what you want to accomplish. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers these guidelines to help draw a blueprint for your business’s advertising plan:

Start with a foundation

What are you trying to accomplish? Advertising can help small businesses in a number of ways: establishing your local reputation, attracting new customers, replacing lost ones or encouraging repeat sales from existing customers. Be sure your expectations match your goal. For example, if your objective is to build your brand, you are looking at a long-term campaign whose results will come over time. If your goal is to increase sales over the holiday weekend, the campaign will be more concentrated with short-term results.

Fill in the details

Clearly define the “who, what, when, where, why and how.” Start by creating a profile of your best customer (and be specific). For example, a restaurant might want to target adults who dine out frequently on weeknights. Then identify the specific offer you want to promote. This restaurant might promote a 2-for-1 entrée special. Where? At the downtown location. Why? To increase sales during the week. How? Through newspaper ads, email blasts, Facebook posts, etc.

Evaluate media choices

Now that you have a goal and a message, select the media type that best reaches the target audience you identified. It can include print, online, broadcast and social media options, to name a few. Ask the media representative to provide you with a profile of the people they reach, which will help you determine the likelihood that your target customer will see your ad. You may find that a combination of media is more appropriate for your situation.

Combine with other promotion tactics

Advertising extends beyond media placement. It can be combined with other marketing tactics. This might include direct mail, email, community sponsorships, etc. It could even be something as simple as a promotional item (such as a pen) with your business’s name, a contest on Facebook to name your new product or a promotional message on your invoices. These items help increase the frequency that your target market will get your message.

Advertising can be an effective way to let potential customers know what you have to offer. But before you start, be sure you understand what you want it to accomplish so you are more likely to achieve your goal.

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