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One of the best quotes about the importance of advertising is by Stuart Henderson Britt and goes like this: “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.” If you want your advertising to resonate with prospective customers, it’s essential that you appeal to their emotions in some way. Fail to do this and you might as well be throwing money out the window….or winking in the dark.
As a small business more often than not, you may not have a budget set aside for marketing, or you may not have limited to work with. Maybe you’ve been sticking with the free advertising that’s available to you (like for example, your business has a blog, a twitter page, and a facebook fan page). Those are good outlets for promoting your business and you should definitely keep those up, we’ve put together some points below that will persuade you to consider making a monetary investment. A little bit of money in the right marketing campaign can go a long way. That’s exactly why you need to spend your advertising dollars wisely and be very strategic with your campaign. You need to ensure a return on your investment and you need to generate new or repeat business.
First things first, you should start off every campaign with a little research. What’s the message that you are trying to deliver? “We are the best at….” or “10% your order…” A clearly defined selling point is important. Perhaps even more important is Who are you selling to? And your answer shouldn’t be “anybody” or “everybody.” You should be targeting specifically your ideal or potential customers and clients.
Here are some more questions you need to answer to help further clarify your advertising options:
- How does my target customer/client receive information? If they are online a lot, targeted internet advertising might be money well spent. Do they read the paper or any local magazines?
- How old is my target customer/client? What attracts the baby boomer generation may be way over the heads of generation Y.
- What appeals to my customer/client? How can I connect with them? Are they looking for a sale, to support or care for a cause, maybe a human connection?
- What makes my business unique? What can you offer your ideal customer/client that no one else can? Price? Service? Something unique? These elements should be echoed throughout the overall packaging of your campaign.
- What am I trying to sell? There is nothing worse than a confusing message that doesn’t make sense to the end-user. That’s wasting money!
The answers to these questions may not come overnight and that’s okay. You are investing money into whatever direction you choose, so its important not to rush into a campaign, investing your money without thinking it out first. Once you have the answers and a clear direction, now its time to put your plan into action. As promised, below are some cost effective options for advertising your business.
Really Direct Mail: Maybe you don’t have the budget to do a mass mailing to a particular region. Goodness, some of those mailings NEVER get opened by your potential customer/client and go straight into the recycling bin. But what if you made a list of 10-50 potential customers/clients that you would love to do business with? Suddenly, you have drastically cut the cost of a massive mailing and are beginning to zone in on your target audience. Now what? You have a couple options. You could send out a postcard or a brochure, but it needs to be very clever and eye catchy to end up in the right hands and not in the bin. Or, you can abide by a very important rule of thumbs – you can send a package. It can be small, because what curious person doesn’t want to rip open a package and see what’s inside? Get creative with what you would send with your printed marketing piece. In addition to your brochure or selling point, can you send a free sample? Can you send a branded promo item that the end user would actually use?
Really Direct Marketing: This is to piggyback off of the above suggestion. If you know your target customers/clients read a particular local or trade magazine, consider running an ad in there. Does your target customer/client frequent a particular tradeshow or event? See what it costs to get a booth or table there. You don’t have to go to all the tradeshows as this may not be cost effective if you are on a budget, but if you can target one and then work within your budget for that, this could be effective.
Showing Love to Current Customers/Clients: Sometimes the best business is referral business and repeat customers. How do you show your current customers/clients that you are thinking about them? If its just an email newsletter then you could most definitely be doing more. What if you offered a discount for your current customer/client and then one to pass along to a friend? What if you included a personal note with someone’s order or tossed in a free promo item (something useful with your logo on it, of course). No matter what it is, in most cases, people are happy to receive something extra, and if they are really happy with your product, they will spread the word. Anything you can do to help make that “spreading the word” easier on their part would be very beneficial to you.
Speak Up!: Is there anywhere you can go to give a presentation? Not a selling presentation where you say “you should buy my product because…”, but how about an event where you can be the expert and speak from your knowledge and experience. With all the business expos, groups, networking events, seminars, and so forth and so on, there’s got to be somewhere that you can step into the lime light. And if you are a business in any particular field, you’ve got to have professional knowledge that will benefit others. Do a little research and see where that takes you. If you come up empty handed organize the lecture yourself, all you need is a venue and light refreshments, then advertise for it locally or online (EventBrite is a free event-organizing service you should check out if you decide to go this route). The costs are minimal for presentation materials. You could include a brochure, handouts, business cards, and a free item for your audience taking part in the presentation. After you talk, you can pass around a form where your audience members can volunteer their email addresses and contact information.
Get Behind A Good Cause: Sometimes having your business name and logo associated with a positive cause locally can go a long way. This may require a monetary donation or a donation of goods/services, but in return it yields brand recognition. Even better if you are present on the day of the event, visible and talking with participants, handing out your business cards. Depending on the organization, if they were not set up to provide you with your company name/logo listed as a supporter, there may be some wiggle room for offering it as a suggestion. Something along the lines of, “I would be happy to provide my services of [insert your amazing service here] in exchange for maybe my logo on your mailer and marketing material as a supporter of this cause/event.” The possibilities and arrangements here are endless and the cost is minimal.
The above suggestions should definitely put those wheels in motion and have you thinking about what else you can be doing to promote your business. If you have additional ideas feel free to comment on this article.