If you’re like me, it took everything you had to open your small business. Your time, your sleep, sometimes your sanity, and just about all of your money. When getting up and running a business can cost so much, and when staying afloat can sometimes put your finances on the brink, investing in advertising often seems like a luxury you can’t afford. Believe me when I say I get it.
But here’s the truth I’ve discovered after many years of running my own business: even when money’s tight, advertising is an investment that that your business can’t do without. Without your business’s name somehow finding its way into consumers’ minds, you’re dead in the water. Of course, the trick is managing your advertising so you get the most bang for your buck. And I am here to help with that. So read on, for my best advertising tips for small business owners.
What successful ads do
There’s no point spending your money on ads that make no dent out in the real world. So, make sure your ads do each of the following:
- offer consumers an advantage of some sort or a solution to a problem
- be sure the ad’s target audience needs that advantage or has that problem
- your service or product must be capable of conferring the advantage or solving the problem
- your ad clearly communicates the above three points.
Money saving strategy
Your first instinct might be to spring for a big ad in a magazine or newspaper, or maybe for a TV spot on local cable. While those methods can certainly be effective, they’ll cost you. Consider the following ways to be more strategic about how you spend your money:
- Use several smaller ads spread out across many publications rather than one larger ad in one publication
- Use radio rather than TV ads
- Trim down the size of print ads and the length of radio ads to save money; if you can’t convey what matters in a quarter-page ad (rather than half-page) or a 30 second spot (rather than 60), there’s something wrong with your ad message
- Contact local magazines at the end of the month; they often have left over ad space they’ll sell at a discount
- Use the classifieds and use them often
- Investigate any options for bartering the cost of your advertising; after all, you have valuable goods or services to offer
- Share the cost of advertising with your business neighbors through doing joint mailers; if you’re located in a shopping center, any additional traffic can become your traffic
- Sponsor a local charity event; this one does double work: your business name appears all over the event, which helps create a positive association in consumers’ minds between your goods and services and the charity itself
- If your business is located in an area that gets heavy foot traffic, order some inexpensive signs from eSigns to place on the sidewalk to advertise sales. Do the same if your business is tucked away out of view, and be sure to use a compelling image or two to entice consumers
- Advertise in unexpected places: parking meters, grocery shopping carts, taxi signs, etc.
- Sponsor a local sporting team; this works best if you own a restaurant, as the team will typically hold their events at your establishment, which brings in business and encourages word-of-mouth advertising
- Try piggybacking; this means placing your own ad along with another piece of mail like community mailers or bills
When all is said and done, advertising can be very simple. You need a clear sense of your audience, a message that’s compelling to that audience, and venues through which you can get your message to your audience. Use the above tips and you’ll find creative ways to get that message to your audience, effectively and without breaking the bank.