The digital revolution has opened up a whole new world of business advertising opportunities. Social media now play a significant role in a comprehensive marketing strategy, but this activity by itself is not advertising unless you purchase ads on its platforms. This article focuses on advertising techniques, both old and new, that should be considered in developing your overall strategy
To say that times have changed would be an understatement. The yellow pages and newspaper ads have given way to the Internet and cable television. How you spend your advertising budget will depend on several factors including size of the budget, target demographic, type of product, and the desired advertising footprint.
It all starts with a professional website. All the advertising you do should point customers back to your website. Many businesses now buy ads that don't display an address or telephone number because they want you to see their website first. It will answer most customer questions and save you lots of time. When a customer does contact you from your website, chances are they're more serious than someone responding to a random ad. Keep the information fresh and updated, and consider writing a regular blog to attract more traffic. Reserve a page for customer testimonials.
While you should still have a listing in the yellow pages, most people are doing their business searches online. You should get listed in every directory that's likely to help you, and here are some to consider: Google Places, Yahoo!, Yelp, Bing, CitySearch, LinkedIn, Merchant Circle, Supermedia, YellowPages.com, Local.com, Foursquare, MapQuest, CitySlick, Angie's List, and Yellow Book.
Your website should be optimized to attract generic search traffic through a process known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A well-constructed website will attract visitors without much paid advertising by virtue of SEO techniques that push the website to the top of the free search links. If you don't have the expertise needed to accomplish this, hire someone who does.
Here are some simple tips to aid in search optimization:
• Keep your site relatively simple and easy to navigate.
• Include a site map.
• Include best keywords in URLs, page content, website title tags, and page headers.
•Create internal links that target specific pages on your website, and link to other relevant websites that back-link to yours.
• Equip your website with a referrer log so you can measure the effectiveness of search terms.
• Monitor your results regularly using services such as Google Toolbar and Alexa to determine where your clicks are coming from.
In addition to good SEO, many businesses buy ads through services such as Google AdWords. You pay for these ads each time someone clicks on them, and you control the amount you're willing to pay for each click. Higher click rates push your ad closer to the top of the page where it's more likely to be seen. You can set a daily budget that won't be exceeded and you control the geographic area where the ad will be seen. It's critical that you establish a list of keywords that people are likely to search for because that's what will trigger your ad to appear.
Marketing a small business is a nonstop process, so you need to be prepared to pitch it when you least expect it. It could be an unanticipated phone call, a surprise visitor, or a random encounter on the street that puts you on the spot to promote your company. You want to be ready to grab their attention without fumbling and stumbling for the right words. Take the time to craft a compelling pitch that summarizes what you do and how you do it, in one minute or less. If you can't engage and capture them in that amount of time, their attention span will drift and you'll likely lose them.
While the Internet may be the go-to place for quick and inexpensive advertising, it's passive in nature because it relies on potential customers to notice your ads and come to you. Traditional advertising on cable television, radio, and in newspapers is active because you're putting your message directly in front of a captive audience. While these avenues are more expensive, you can target specific geographic areas and demographics to minimize the overall cost.
Local media can make or break your business, especially when you're getting started. Keep them on your team by updating them about your business, inviting them to special events, and buying ads that help you achieve sales goals.
Never miss an opportunity to leverage your business objectives and marketing message. Brand your business with a logo placed on everything connected with your company. Make yourself visible at community meetings, sponsor a little league team, do some public speaking, write a monthly newsletter with special offers, produce marketing videos and custom calendars, and distribute flyers and other place-based ads. Supplement these approaches by using social media to spread the word.
Demonstration videos placed on your website and YouTube are an effective means of capturing people who don't like to spend much time reading. While you can do this yourself, a professionally produced video is an excellent long-term investment.
It was Mark Twain who said “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” If he had only known how the future of advertising would unfold, he would have pushed the point even further. Today's world moves much faster with far more distractions, so getting the attention of the buying public is more complex and challenging than ever. Selling a great product makes this task easier, but even the best products will struggle if few people know about them.
Step one is to figure out how much you can afford to spend on advertising, then spend a bit more than that in the beginning. Well-targeted and engaging ads will pay off in the long run. That upfront cost will lead to word-of-mouth advertising that all the money in the world can't buy.