Depending on your business’s type, niche, target audience and goals, the way you market and advertise could vary greatly from other small business owners. No matter which channels you find work best for business advertising, the key is to ensure they work together as a whole. Make sure your messaging and calls-to-action are harmonious among channels. For example:
- If someone sees a billboard and later checks your website, they should see the same tagline and similar imagery.
- If a customer clicks on a PPC ad with a seasonal special, they should land on a page that touts the special and directs them on how to take advantage of it.
- If your Facebook page says you’re a jack-of-all-trades handyman, then your website should feature content on various types of work rather than focusing only on installing trim.
As you consider your advertising tactics and overall marketing strategy, start with your ideal customers. Where are they (search engines, various social media channels, listening to the radio, driving down the interstate, etc.)? And what are their preferences and tastes related to messaging and tone? Many small business owners learn this simply by talking with — or surveying — their customers. Once you know the answers, adjust your messaging and home in on the right channels. Below is some guidance for six of the top advertising channels you may wish to include.
6 Types of Effective Advertising for Small Businesses
Getting your marketing just right takes time and effort. Each advertising channel has its own upkeep, so don’t expect to set it and forget it unless you want to waste money and miss opportunities. Prepare to regularly check in on each channel and don’t expect immediate results. Some channels can take more time to get traction. TV and radio, for instance, may need time to build brand awareness before calls roll in. Finally, always keep in mind that your advertising budget must match the scope of your goals. Don’t try to spend too small on an expensive channel if you’re expecting big results.
1. Popular Print Advertising Methods
While digital advertising seems to get most of the attention these days, the old standby print advertising can still be effective. Fewer businesses are using it, which can bring down the rates and create more white space for you. The three most popular forms of print ads are classified ads, display ads and direct mail. Small business owners use print media to promote products, spread the word about local events, or announce new products, services or discounts.
Using print advertising can benefit local businesses that want to target specific communities and small businesses with specialized B2B audiences. While you should certainly fold digital tactics into your business advertising recipe, consider whether your customers interact with any print media like community newspapers, complimentary coffeehouse publications or trade publications specific to your industry.
2. Paid Search Advertising for Your Business
Paid search advertising, like pay-per-click (PPC) Google ads, is a type of digital advertising and an important part of search engine marketing (SEM) which also includes search engine optimization (SEO). It has the potential to generate new customers relatively quickly. Plus, this form of advertising provides small businesses with a cost-effective way to market their business to people who use search engines to find services and products — which, let’s face it, is nearly everyone these days.
By using paid search advertising, you can focus your advertising budget on key search terms related to your business — ones your customers would use to search for your products or services. With PPC ads, the only time you pay for the ad is when someone clicks on it and follows the link to a landing page on your website. So, make good use of that landing page! Be sure it relates directly to the ads you’re posting and that it has a strong call-to-action to drive sales or capture lead information. As potential customers click on your ads, your set budget gets used up. So, plan to monitor your PPC campaigns. Adjust your budget, search terms and landing pages based on performance and outcomes.
3. Using Social Media to Advertise Your Business
About 70% of American adults use social media, and 70% of Facebook users visit the platform every day (many do so several times a day). For better or worse, social media continues to be a regular part of daily life. It has cemented its place as a great way for small and local businesses to reach potential customers. In fact, some entrepreneurs launched their small businesses solely via social media marketing.
As smartphones (and their various apps) find their way into nearly everyone’s pockets, businesses not only have a chance to meet potential customers wherever they are, but also whenever they’re needed. Essentially, our miniature computers become mini mobile advertising platforms whenever a user unlocks their phone to find help with a problem.
Wondering how much of your marketing budget to allocate to social media marketing? While it will largely depend on your target customers’ habits, it may be helpful to get a benchmark. The CMO Survey found that the average allocation to social media spend is expected to grow to nearly 25% of total marketing budget within the next five years. Businesses most often advertise on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Most social media platforms offer targeting options to advertisers, helping you narrow down your target customer and spend your budget wisely. Always remember to set up tracking by channel and by campaign, so you can figure out which channels and campaigns bring in the most cost-effective quality leads and, ultimately, the best ROI.
4. Using Online Display Advertising to Tell Others About Your Business
Like paid search advertising, online display ads allow advertisers to target their ads to relevant audiences based on geography. You can also set a specific budget for each campaign and monitor how it’s being spent. Unlike search ads, though, display ads serve your content to people even if they aren’t actively looking for your type of product or service. This can help you increase your brand awareness and spread the word about services or products you offer.
These ads are also a more visual form of online marketing. Think splash ads, banner ads and skyscraper ads that appear around content on a news website with images that can include product photos and ad copy. While users can click through to your website, you may want to consider including your URL or an easy-to-remember phone number in the image as part of your brand awareness efforts. After all, not everyone will click right away, but they might remember a good ad and contact you later.
5. Using Traditional PR and Media Relations to Advertise Your Business
Public relations (PR) is often considered “free” marketing. While it’s true that you don’t pay for the coverage you get, this type of marketing does require an investment of time and money if you want someone to do media relations. Media relations includes writing and publishing press releases, actively pitching you and/or your business for media coverage, and scheduling interviews. Of course, your media relations PR expert needs to get paid, but in successful cases, their services can pay for themselves in the form of “earned impressions” that lead to marketing success. When PR is done well, it builds your business’s credibility in your market.
Ensure that whoever is focused on your PR efforts understands your business goals, your ideal audience, and how to plug your name and contact information whenever possible. Their efforts should match up with your business strategy to build awareness with relevant audiences. As you establish yourself and your business as a credible source for the media, you can get your name out to more people. As recognition increases, you can reach wider audiences who may want to learn more about your company and services. This way, your business will be in the minds of potential customers from trusted, third-party sources.
6. Using Broadcast to Reach Your Audiences
Broadcast advertisements on radio and television aren’t quite old as print ads, but they’re certainly dinosaurs compared to digital channels. Quite a few advertisers have begun to move away from broadcast advertising due to its one-way nature. The term broadcast relates to mass communication from one source to a wide audience — an audience who can do nothing but receive the message unless they actively use a separate device to follow up on a call to action.
While they may not be as interactive as other types, that doesn’t mean broadcast channels are irrelevant, especially when you consider cable and streaming channels with niche audiences. Plus, many of these channels are bundled with their digital properties for advertising. Broadcast ads that are high quality can deliver emotional and compelling stories that would be difficult via most digital advertising methods. So, if your target customers are listening to local TV or radio stations, consider which ones they’re most likely to enjoy and try folding this tactic into your advertising strategy. Just don’t forget to write a way to contact your company into the script!
Don’t Focus on Just One — Diversification in Advertising is Important
There are many ways to advertise your small business. And when you’re small, you need to be smart and scrappy. Growing your knowledge and experience with several forms of advertising will help you achieve success now and in the long run.
The most effective advertising channels will vary by business type, customer profiles and desired outcomes. Most often, the best solution is a combination of several channels that work together toward various goals. One might be great for brand awareness, while another drives most of your leads or sales. Try a variety of advertising channels and track their success with key performance indicators (KPIs) like cost per lead and cost per customer sale. Remember, if you only choose one form of advertising, you are leaving money on the table. Diversification using multiple integrated channels is the key to a good advertising strategy.
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