How do I advertise my small business?

Online advertising is one of the most powerful advertising mediums available today and yet it is also one of the easiest and least costly to use. When you want to reach a large, highly targeted audience in a short period of time there is no better choice. Online advertising is powerful and immediate with the ability to not only create brand awareness and improve positioning in customers’ minds but to entice direct action such as a web site visit, a newsletter subscription, or a sale

Directory listings are some of the best places to get listed. Having your site listed in directories helps to increase your traffic, as well as boosts your search engine rankings.

How do I advertise my small business?: 6 tips

Q: How can I ensure that my new ad campaign will hit my target audience and have some traction?

A: The problem many small businesses have is that, while there are plenty of advertising choices available, those choices tend to be expensive, and mistakes can be costly. So how do you avoid that and create an ad that succeeds?

Here is a six-step process:

Brainstorm: There are two types of advertisements, so the first thing to do is decide what type you need.

The first is an ad campaign that is more intended to build your brand than for making an immediate sale. This type of ad gets your name out there so that people will recall it, for instance, the ad in the paper that says “Divorce for fathers.” By being placed in the paper again and again, this ad is designed to infiltrate people’s subconscious so that some day down the road, a father who is getting divorced will remember whom to call.

Branding ad campaigns are long-term undertakings. It’s an ongoing process that pays increasing dividends as time goes by.

The second type of ad campaign is intended to create an immediate reaction — a sale — now. The ad may be used to let people know about a special next week or that a shipment of Chinese lanterns just came in. Typically, this campaign is of shorter length and may use several media outlets.

So the first step is to decide what type of ad you want to run.

Budget: The Small Business Administration suggests that you earmark 2% of your gross sales towards advertising. Others believe the amount should be 5%. Either way, the important thing is to make a commitment and earmark the appropriate percentage of gross sales towards that figure.

And remember the rule: Repetition is the key to success. When choosing an ad and a medium, you will need to budget enough money to get your message heard or seen by enough people enough times. Your ad rep will help you figure out how many ads that is.

Choose the right medium: Different media outlets have different strengths and weaknesses. Your campaign may utilize only one or it may take several to accomplish your goals. Keep these factors in mind:

Choose media that reaches your demographic. You must know what your customers watch, read, listen to, and know where they are located. Once you know that, you can request the media kits for the various media and compare the information contained therein to your target demographic. When you find a match, you are headed in the right direction.
Choose media used by your target audience. If you sell sporting goods, then your customers likely read the sports page. If you sell to teens, an alternative rock radio station makes sense. Again, you need to know what your customers read and watch to make an informed decision.
Choose media that you can afford. You need to figure out, with the assistance of the ad rep of the media sources you like best, what sort of frequency you will need to penetrate your target market, and then what it will cost you to advertise. Compare costs with several sources, and narrow the field to the sources that best deliver your demographic at the best cost.
Create the ad: Once you know what sort of ad you want to run and what your media options are, you can start to create an ad or ads that both reinforce your brand and/or increase sales. Your ad rep can help with this, as can the right software program.

Test the ad: The best way to avoid making a costly advertising mistake is to test an ad before committing a lot of money to it. Make sure it pulls first, then you can run with it. This could mean running a smaller version of the ad in print and then enlarging it, or it might mean running your radio spot overnight before placing it during peak commuter time.

Roll it out: Once you are convinced (by your test) that you have an ad that works, and once you know which media sources will offer you the biggest bang for your buck, then you can safely place the ad. In fact, once you have found an ad that works, use it in as many places, and as often, as you can.