It’s the age old conundrum for business: you need to advertise to bring in new custom, but you need paying customers to pay for advertising.
Asking friends and family for referrals will only take you so far, and organized networking events are either full of new business owners like yourself looking for customers not services, or old hands trying to sell the newcomers something.
So, just how do you navigate the advertising minefield and avoid wasting your precious marketing budget on overpriced gimmicks that don’t bring in any business?
Here’s our handy plan:
Learn from your competitors
Look at long running ads in your industry from your competitors and consider applying what you learn to your own advertising. Do they use social media over radio or TV? Door drop over personalized mail campaigns? Are you in a service industry where users search for you when they need you (such as a plumber, electrician etc) or one where you have to actively intercept them (think fast food delivery) to tempt them into an impulse buy? Adapt your advertising and media focus accordingly.
As a bare minimum, you need a website to act as the hub of your online presence. This can be a bespoke site, or a WordPress blog, so long as you apply a professional template to create a unique brand. The spokes from this hub are your social media profiles, such as Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and other platforms, all of which should point back to your site while offering direct communication from the point of access. That means monitoring your accounts and responding quickly to comments and queries.
Also build a web of backlinks to your site using online directories, so those people who do search for you outside the major search engines can find you, and the search engines can see your site is not an island. Customers referrals are a very powerful marketing tool, they can be used as testimonials added to your site or through social media channels: Facebook and Twitter are brilliant for this, there is no better advertisement than one friend recommending to another how good your service was or product is.
If you’re just starting out, a lot of offline media, such as TV, radio, newspaper and magazine advertising, can be priced out of your budget. Fortunately, print media, in the form of direct mail, is not only the cheapest, but also the most effective offline medium for advertising.
Direct marketing includes any activity where physical promotional materials are delivered directly to the consumer, cutting out advertising agencies. That means fliers, leaflets, in house magazines and catalogues. Whether these are delivered through leafleting companies as a door or blanket drop hitting every household in the target area, or through the post to selected addressees, direct mail is highly effective at intercepting your audience and getting your message in front of them.
The beauty of direct mail marketing is that you can roll out campaigns on a small scale, test the results, tweak the ad and try again, ensuring when you roll out to a larger scale, you’ve got the most effective ad possible working for you. Now that’s a clever use of a limited budget to get the maximum ROI.
Track, test, tweak
Whatever activity you do, learn how to track your advertising’s effectiveness using promotional codes, unique URLs and other marketing industry tricks. It’s simple, if you don’t know where your leads came from, you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t, and you can’t cut the unproductive advertising to divert funds to better channels.
Split test two ads, and the one that performs best becomes your control. Change one thing at a time and compare the results of the new ad to the control. If it doesn’t do as well, change something else, if it does, it’s your new control.
Dean Williams is a design and marketing blogger working for Print-Print Limited, promoting business and building brands through quality print marketing. If you’re interested in small business promotion then please get in touch email@example.com