Nine Steps to Advertise Your Business the Right Way

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Image by National Library of Scotland via Flickr

So many local business owners think of an ad as a magic bullet.  Business isn’t as good as it could be, so their inclination is to run an ad…one ad.  The concept of an advertising campaign seems totally foreign.

Advertising Campaigns vs. a Single Ad

There is nothing foreign about an advertising campaign.  We see it everyday on the television, on radio, in the newspaper.  It is how Volvo became noted for ‘safety’.  How Mazda became identified with Zoom, Zoom.  Or most recently how Chrysler is becoming known as the car imported from Detroit.  These identifications are not just tag lines.  They are the positioning statements of these particular brands.

It is through repeated communications that these brands are able to position and carve out their niche, develop a following and begin the process of building awareness and trial for their products.

Advertising campaigns are repeated communications.  Not a single ad that runs whenever the small business owner feels overwhelming panic.

A local business owner will typically raise their hands and claim they can’t afford to run a ‘campaign’.  It is too expensive.  Not really.

Not if you plan your campaign

You can be just as smart about your local area advertising as the big boys.  All you have to do is plan for it.  Start small so you can maximize your advertising budget and determine what is working and what isn’t.  Any media that isn’t delivering an acceptable ROI should be dropped.  Concentrate on those media that are delivering.  Here is a quick outline of the seven steps you need to take to create your own advertising campaign.

1. Identify your seasonal slow periods and how much advertising you can afford during this period. Start small. You can always increase your budget as you build momentum.

2.  Determine which media will do the best job of reaching your audience. If using traditional media (e.g. local newspapers, radio, billboard, direct mail, sign-boards), negotiate for better or “off rate card” rates with the media rep.  If they know you are going to run a campaign, they are much more willing to negotiate on price and are willing to throw in other perks as well.

3.   Don’t ignore online advertising. By online advertising I include email newsletters to your customer subscriber list, your blog and/or web site, your online Google, Bing and Yahoo business listings, as well as other social media such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.  A lot of online media exposure is FREE or at a far more attractive cost than traditional media.  By planning your communications, being consistent in your message, you can create a great online campaign that reaches your audience and moves them closer to your door.

4.  Don’t forget to include public relations efforts in your campaign plan. PR has become more difficult to get from local area newspapers cutting down on costs, but it can still be done.  Identify peak times or hot annual events in your community and figure out how you can create a newsworthy tie-in for your store or business.  You’ll want to plan on Public Relations as a fill-in for paid advertising so it helps extend your exposure without eroding your advertising budget.

5.  Stagger your advertising buy. In other words, if you can only afford to run 4 or 6 ads, stretch them to give you 6 or 8 weeks exposure.  Run two, skip a week, run two or three more, skip a week and so on.  That’s how the big boys optimize their advertising budgets and you should to.

6.  Be consistent in your message and in your positioning. Don’t waste your time screaming DISCOUNT.  Not only are discount sales boring and become ineffective, they do nothing to create a strong image and positioning for your company. Use your dollars to create some business equity among your target audience.  Also, recognize that just about the time you begin to tire of your advertising is the time it is ‘beginning’ to register with your target audience.  Don’t stop.  Don’t change your ad.  Just keep on doing what you know will work.

7.  Track results to determine ROI. You AND your staff need to ask new customers how they found out about your store so you will know what is and isn’t working.  Record sales that can be linked to your advertising and evaluate at the end of the month or whatever your advertising period is.  Calculate your ROI.

8.  Collect email addresses from every new customer. There is absolutely no valid excuse not to move to the next level with every new customer your advertising dollars brought you.  Once on your email subscription list, you can begin to build and strengthen your relationship with this new customer.

9.  Create an e-newsletter that does just that. Do not, repeat do not use your e-newsletter as another form of discount advertising.  Instead, use this communications to share your knowledge, your personality and product tips, free e-books or whatever information you believe your customers would value.  The operative word is “value”.  Your e-newsletter is not your bully pulpit.  It is a tool to make these customers become loyal and support you even more in the future.  It should mirror your advertising, web site and messaging.

Bottom Line

Stop wasting your money and time with single ads and start creating a sustaining advertising campaign that builds your brand, brings customers in your door and keeps them coming back for more.





Sheila Hibbard

Sheila Hibbard takes the fluff, hype and confusion out of marketing and social media. She provides small business owners with straight forward, no nonsense marketing guidance and techniques that produce results based on her 35 plus years in advertising, communications, research, strategic planning and social media. Author of Marketing Online Made Simple - WHO.

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