Branding | Advertising Basics | Media Placement | Online Options | Public Relations | Measuring Results
What if you opened the door to your business and nobody came? It’s a scary thought, right? But without adequate promotion, it could actually happen. Advertising and promotion for your small business can take many forms, and some are quite costly. So before you shell out precious dollars for a full-page newspaper ad or a spiffy direct mail campaign, spend some time determining how best to promote your venture. Then get to work on building a budget for doing it.
First Impressions Count
Your company’s brand should communicate to the public exactly who and what you are. It’s the image you desire to create, your ultimate first impression.
A good logo is the basis of your business identity package. You’ll want to use it on everything — business cards, letterhead, signage, website, boxes, bags, receipts, advertising, etc. It needs to be clean, well-designed and professional in appearance. This is no time to cut corners or shop for the lowest bidder. Hire a skilled professional to design and execute your logo.
Aside from your business “look,” be mindful that the words you use, whether as a slogan, the copy on your website or the recorded message on your answering machine, should reflect and enhance your company’s culture and personality.
One of the most effective types of advertising is free — it’s called word-of-mouth. Happy customers tell three to five friends or relatives about their good experience with your business, and as those friends or relatives tell their friends or relatives, the positive buzz for your business begins to build.
Unfortunately, word-of-mouth advertising has an alternate dark side. A dissatisfied customer will likely tell nine or 10 others about his or her unhappy experience and they, in turn will not only tell others verbally, they might even decide to post it online in a blog or review site. There are two morals in this story:
- Provide the best possible products and services so there’s no reason for customers to complain.
- Don’t limit your advertising to word-of-mouth; take control of your message by creating an actual advertising plan.
Decide WHAT to Promote
Some products and services have greater promotional appeal (money-making power) than others or lend themselves to being promoted at certain times of the year. Check each month’s heavy traffic items and seasonal sales charts; give extra emphasis to new and expanded departments; and take advantage of co-op advertising programs that divide advertising costs with the manufacturer under certain guidelines.
Decide WHEN to Promote
The most effective advertising offers customers what they want, when they want it. Your advertising schedule should allow plenty of time for you to order stock, prepare copy and layout for ads and coordinate in-store display materials before the ad appears. This typically means making time-sensitive decisions a month or two in advance of the date your ad will run and working backward from that date to ensure that all materials are ready in time.
Decide HOW to Promote
Incorporate a combination of as many types as possible: paid advertising, public relations, social media, personal sales, telemarketing. And keep in mind that frequency and continuity are more important than size/length of the ad or the amount you spend on it.
Decide HOW MUCH to spend
The simplest way to develop an advertising budget is to set aside a percentage of estimated annual sales. As a brand new business owner, you may not have that figure, so you’ll need to do some research. Ask local business owners operating similar firms that are not in direct competition with yours or speak with owners in the same business that are located outside your service area. Multiply your estimate by the percentage of sales you plan to put toward advertising, which might be as low as 2% if your business is well-established with a loyal customer base or as high as 10% if you’re brand new and eager to let customers know you exist. Keep in mind that this percentage can vary from month to month depending on cash flow, actual sales and changing market conditions. In a traditionally slow sales month, for example, you might want to boost advertising expenditures in order to increase sales.