You’re ready to bring in business, and the array of options for advertising feels staggering. Radio? TV? Billboard? Social media? The good thing is that once you have a strategy, your path becomes clearer.
“Business owners should never be advertising for the sake of advertising. That just doesn’t make sense because it’s like throwing money at something and hoping for results,” says Taylor Aldredge, the “ambassador of buzz” at Grasshopper, an agency that provides services and information to small businesses.
“Local business owners need to think about the goal of their advertising,” Aldredge says. “Do they want to add customers, raise awareness for an event, create a branding identity, or introduce a new a product?”
These are things you should consider when you’re thinking about advertising locally, as well these tips:
Set An Advertising Budget
In order to understand how much you can spend, you need to know your revenue cycle first. Calculate how much it costs to add customers, the customer lifecycle and their buying patterns, how much advertising options cost, and how much it costs to retain your customers.
“Once you understand these costs, it makes developing a budget for advertising spends much easier. You’ll get a baseline number that you spend less than or more than moving forward depending on your risk tolerance,” says Aldredge.
Learn About Your Customers
“Think about how the customers want to be spoken to. Learn about their needs, wants, and goals,” advises Aldredge. “When business owners understand everything about their customers, then advertising and marketing to them will become much easier. This can be done through social media and getting out in the community.”
Don’t underestimate the value of customer surveys, research, and testing products before you do a full-blown campaign. For example, “Whenever a consumer buys a product on Amazon, the seller of the product has an opportunity to email that person and thank them for the purchase and ask them follow up questions,” writes Murray Newlands in an Inc. story about customer research.
Create Quality Copy
Tone is critical when you’re trying to reach customers. “Businesses don’t have to be robotic and separated. There are so many ways to directly connect with your customers and so many tools to make it happen,” Aldredge points out. “There’s more to starting a social media presence than asking somebody in their 20s to manage a Facebook page, and asking somebody who just writes well enough to write marketing copy.”
To find a true professional, pay close attention to local advertising you like. Ask those businesses who did their ads, and see if you can get a consultation and compare bids. It’s also important to listen to advertising professionals—you may have an idea of what you want, which is good as a starting point, but generally those in the business are experts about what works and what doesn’t.
Go Where Your Customers Are
Social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp help people find you and learn about what you have to offer. Social media, says Aldredge, is the only option where your customers can actually engage with you. “This human-to-human connection between business owners and their customers can give local businesses an edge over their national competitors because the larger businesses aren’t on the ground and a part of the community.
“Social media can really help local businesses gain an edge in this respect,” Aldredge points out.
Other channels that have their benefits and drawbacks include:
“One additional strategy I would tell local businesses to take advantage of is to sponsor small/local meetups or start their own meetups,” Aldredge says. “From personal experience, this is a great way to bring a group of like-minded people in the same industry, or like-minded group of customers together to establish your company as a thought-leader in the community and industry.
- Paid search, which helps people looking for your product see your business ranked higher in search results. You might need to continually refine your key ad words, but it’s generally a smart investment when it’s done correctly.
- Print advertising and mailers that are great for getting information out about a one-time deal or event.
- Radio advertising that usually have great CPM (cost per thousand impressions) rates and allow for direct advertising into the community around your business.
- Event sponsorships that help with your reputation and can be a good opportunity to connect with the community—though you might not realize the benefits immediately.
- Local television ads, when done correctly, is a good way to reach thousands of people, but it can also be costly. Inc.com has a great article on how to do it on a budget and stretch your ad dollar.
- Billboard effectiveness depends on the location and what you’re selling. It’s good for awareness, but difficult to connect immediate sales to billboard advertising. Grasshopper advises to wrap a car instead—it’s often cheaper than a billboard and people will notice.
“I think that goes a long way.”