One of the most difficult business issues a small business owner has to deal with is advertising. A whole raft of thoughts cross our mind when we think of spending our valuable dollars promoting our business. The one that worries us most is “does it really work, or am I just throwing my money into a black hole – is it like owning a boat – really nice to have but an expensive luxury?”.
Well, that all depends. It’s definitely easy to waste a great deal of money if you go with your heart, rather than your head; or are easily swayed by smooth talking advertising reps. I suppose it’s worth revisiting a few of the basics of advertising, or at least the basics as I see them. I’m no academic, I’d rather trust all the mistakes I’ve made, to scare me well away from the strategies that will sap my advertising budget as quickly as running an Olympic marathon in a desert.
Display advertising; you know, the little, or maybe not so little, boxes that are supposed to excite potential buyers to drop everything and run to your store, or to your website, can be effective, but (why is there always a but?) just placing one ad and expecting people to line up at your door is, I am afraid to say, somewhat delusional.
It’s not that display ads don’t work, it’s just that your potential customers aren’t likely to fall in love with you on the first date! The key to successful advertising of this type is to budget ads for at least a year of issues in whatever magazine or newspaper you think your target market reads.
So, longevity can assist you in building an awareness of your company name. However, a lot will depend on the impact your advertising has on your target market. If you can afford to hire professionals to develop your campaign that’s the way to go, if not then look at your circle of friends and acquaintances and get them to help you develop something eye-catching that will also have a high ‘stickiness’ quota.
Another approach to long-term advertising is to use ads to educate your market. These ads will be far wordier than those that simply ingratiate your brand with readers. By educating your market you develop a relationship of trust and familiarity with them – this can be powerful in building market share, but can of course be expensive.
Magazines with longer shelf lives are another option and can offer a cost effective way of eking out a less than generous marketing budget.
Can a one-off ad work though? Yes, in certain circumstances. The key is that it will need to elicit an immediate response on behalf of your target market. Imagine this scenario. A couple at breakfast, two cups of coffee, perhaps some toast and marmalade, and the daily newspaper – I digress – Julie is flipping from page to page and spots an advertisement for a furniture store, “We really should get a new sofa Tom – this Bentalls’ store looks as if it has some really nice stuff, we should check it out.” Breakfast continues and Julie continues to meander through her newspaper, “Hey Tom, look at this, property taxes are going up.” Breakfast finishes and they both leave for work. What do you think the chances are that they will head off to Bentalls anytime soon? The ad prompted a passing thought, a fleeting blip on their memory. If Bentalls doesn’t continually reinforce their name and message, several weeks, or months later when Julie and Tom start to shop for their new sofa they are no more likely to visit Bentalls than any of its competitors.
So, how do you make Julie and Tom take action with just one ad? Let’s spy on their breakfast again. “Hey Tom, we really need a new sofa, we’ve been talking about it for ages – that Bentalls’ store is having a one-day sale today, they’ve got sofas at 50% off – what do you say we meet up after work and check it out?”
The second ad required Julie and Tom to take immediate action, or simply ignore it if it wasn’t relevant. The ad could equally have had a coupon which needed cutting out and retaining for future use – again demanding immediate action; commitment being the first step to getting a sale.
Knowing the type of ad that you can afford, and what will work for you, will only get you so far though; the real key is choosing the right message and the right medium. Advertising snowboards in a seniors’ magazine is obviously not going to be highly successful. How well do you really know your target market? Who is your best customer? What do they read? What excites them? What will be the catalyst to make them decide to buy what you are selling?
The key to successful advertising is to be very clear about who you are selling to; know everything about them, understand them, relate to them. It doesn’t matter how good your advertisement is, if no one sees it and it doesn’t effect them on a basic, emotional level.
When it comes right down to it, you have to be able to excite the Julie’s and Tom’s over their morning cup of Darjeeling, and you have until the toast pops up to make an impression; so it had better be a lasting one.
Trenval Business Development Corporation is Bay of Quinte’s Community Futures Business Specialist, financing business start-ups, expansions or successions in the Quinte region for 35 years. Trenval can help with small business support including small business funding and small business loans.