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Small Budget Big Results

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You don’t have to break the bank to make your business stand out from the competition.

By:  Lynn Celmer

The Golden Palace Casino paid South Carolina resident Amber Rainey $4,000 to advertise on her pregnant belly. The SnoreStop Company gave Andrew Fischer of Omaha, Neb. over $37,000 for one month of advertising space on his forehead. While there are plenty of people willing to rent their body parts in exchange for lucrative advertising dollars, there are more effective ways to get your message across.

It’s easier to create a brand when you’re a big business. In 2007, consumer products powerhouse Proctor & Gamble spent more on U.S. advertising than any other company by dropping $2.62 billion on their campaigns. However, no matter the size of your company or your budget, you can afford to effectively advertise your goods and services.

Get Strategic

There’s no wrong time to advertise your business, according to “Mr. All Biz” Steve Strauss, best-selling author, syndicated columnist, lawyer and acclaimed speaker. “There are three kinds of customers: new, existing and customers who leave,” Strauss said. “Almost all businesses at any time have a mixture of all three. You almost consistently have to advertise because you have to replenish that group that’s leaving. Having a small business is not unlike being alone in a dark room. You know you’re there, but no one else does.”
While it is more challenging as a small business owner, the secret to successful advertising is that you have to be more efficient, stated Strauss. “The first thing that I would suggest business owners do is poll their own customers,” he said. “Find out what they read, what they watch on TV, what they listen to, and that will give you a good idea of where you want to advertise. Be really smart about how you use your advertising dollars.”

Strauss added that there are all sorts of inexpensive advertising and marketing ideas. One inexpensive method of building your business that Strauss suggests is overnight radio ads. Many radio stations undersell overnight ads, so you can get them at a significantly discounted rate. You can get overnight 60-second spots for as little as $5 or $10, according to Strauss. If your business is having a big sale or promotion, you can buy $500 of overnight ads and run 50 ads over the course of a week.

According to Tom Egelhoff of SmallTownMarketing.com, advertising should always be an investment, not an expense. “The type of advertising you do will depend on the type of promotion you’re doing or the amount of customers that you want to bring into your business,” he said. “Say you’re having a weekend sale, you might do a large ad in the newspaper and a blitz ad on the radio. Some advertising, however, can be counterproductive. For example, if you offer free food or gifts, people might just come in to pick up the free stuff and not become customers. You really have to think it through.”

Establish a Presence

Big mass media advertising is going to cost a whole lot more and you won’t be able to effectively do any kind of TV or newspaper advertising with a small budget,” said Strauss. As an alternative, Strauss suggests Internet advertising as another avenue worth looking into. “Today, 80 percent of all people spend as much time online as they do watching TV. Advertising online is so much less expensive and you can target your dollar specifically to what you are selling.” More and more people are going online to search for products, and oftentimes, having a great search engine optimization (SEO) website or a small Google ad can really make a big impact at a small cost, he added.
Depending on where you live, you can even do some advertising on your own just by being active in your community, according to Egelhoff. “Get involved in your church and local civic groups and talk to them about your business and the effect it could have on their lives,” he said. “Contractors or those in similar fields can park their vehicles in high-traffic areas when they are closed so that their business will get some exposure. Also, everyone within walking distance of your home should have your business card. Meet your neighbors, tell them what you do and give them your business card, because a lot of times people like to buy from their neighbors. I also include my business card with every bill that I pay, because whoever opens that bill may need my service.”

It also doesn’t hurt to check out what methods of advertising your competitors are employing. “You really have to research your specific industry. Certain industries, such as locksmiths, have to be in the Yellow Pages,” said Strauss. He suggests reading trade magazines and going to a trade website to find out what kind of advertising other similar businesses do. “You can even find a very successful business similar to yours in another city and go pick the brain of the owner to find out what he does. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, just copy success.”

Advertising may not be right for every small business, however, according to Kim T. Gordon, president of National Marketing Federation, Inc. “There are many types of businesses that don’t need to advertise, but they must market,” she said. “They may use public relations, e-mail or direct mail marketing, whereas advertising is generally used to reach cold or warm prospects through media that is surrounded by editorial. For someone that has a retail operation that wants to reach consumers, advertising to their target audience in the target media will work.”

What to Watch Out For

There are some bad advertising moves that all businesses should avoid, according to Gordon. “The single biggest mistake is when the advertisement doesn’t present a strong enough benefit to your target audience,” she said. “The benefit has to be something you know your target audience is eager to achieve and there should be a simple way for them to achieve that benefit. Too often, business owners put up barriers that affect sales. For example, placing an ad, but when customers call during regular business hours, they get a voicemail; or, an online ad that doesn’t go straight to your landing page.”

Another mistake small business owners make is that they tend to fall into old habits with their advertising and they are scared to try something new, such as e-marketing, said Strauss. “I just heard recently that half of all small businesses don’t have a website,” he said. “You really have to have a fantastic website; it doesn’t have to be [difficult]. You can create a free website for your business with Microsoft Office Live Small Business. What you don’t want is a website that looks like your teenage daughter created it.” Strauss added that more and more people are going online to check out a business before they patronize it. “Because of the Internet, any small business can look as professional and big as a major corporation.”

Advertising can’t always save a business either, according to Egelhoff. “Advertising takes time to work. Even if you go out and do some advertising for your business, it may be too little, too late. Every day, somebody needs to purchase something and if you’re not visible, whoever is will get the bulk of the business. The biggest mistake business owners make is when business starts to slow down, they cut advertising when they should keep it the same and keep it consistent.”
Although you may be on a budget diet, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your advertising appetite. If you take time to plan your strategy and make good decisions, you’ll find you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the most advertising for your dollar.

 

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