So you think it might be time to advertise your business, but you don’t have a massive budget that can be wasted on something that might not work. Sound familiar? You’re not alone, a lot of small businesses are afraid to spend precious dollars on an ad campaign that they aren’t sure will bring in the business. Here are a few things that you can do to manage the risk.

1. Decide what type of advertising you need to do - a branding campaign or a sales campaign.
A branding campaign is designed to create awareness within your target audience. This type of advertising doesn’t have a big call to action, but starts to carve a position in the consumers mind over time. The end goal here is to be thought of first in the event they may need your services in the future. This is done through repetition, the consumer must see and hear your message repetitively in order for your message to “stick”.

A sales campaign is designed to drive business now. It uses a strong call to action: “Buy Now!” “Free!” “3 Day Sale!” These are short term campaigns used to bring money in your door immediately. Beware though, using this approach over and over will become desensitizing to your audience. They will come to expect this type of message from you and over time will put off buying.

Determine what kind of business you have and which campaign would serve you best. If your business is a service that isn’t used regularly, like emergency water damage cleanup, you wouldn’t offer a weekend sale would you? But you do want your consumer to think of your company first in the event a water pipe breaks in their home or business, so a branding campaign would be best for you.

2. Choose the right medium. You may think something is really clever and memorable, but you must think of it through the eyes of your consumer. Get the medium wrong and you can waste a lot of money. (Settle in for a quick personal story…)

I once was working for an ad agency when a local Roto-Plumber business owner called in. He wanted to know if we could create an ad campaign for him. He was in Las Vegas and saw a company that projected their ad onto the side of the building next to it, it was brightly colored and really caught his attention. He wanted to do that for his plumbing business.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “You want to project your message on the side of the building next to yours?
Roto-Plumber: “Yes. It’s blank and has a lot of space.”
Me: “Did you ask the owner of that building for permission?”
RP: “No, it’s a reflection, not paint, why would he care?”
Me: “OooooK. Well, let’s talk about your target audience. Are you targeting people who own homes that need roto-plumbing done?”
RP: “No, I mostly do plumbing for commercial buildings and restaurants.”
Me: “So you are targeting housekeeping management personnel and restaurant owners.”
RP: “Yes.”
Me: “And the projection would only run at night when it’s dark outside, correct?”
RP: “Yes.”
Me: “Do you have the data that tells you how many housekeeping management personnel and restaurant owners are traveling down this street after dark that would support you putting money and energy behind this?”

Hang up.

This guy was about to waste thousands of dollars on a campaign that wouldn’t have worked. It was ridiculous.

The moral of the story - just because you think it’s clever doesn’t mean it will work for your business. Find the medium that works best with your consumer by using your data. Is it radio? Is it tv? Is it newspapers, facebook, magazines, bus shelters, etc.? Using the research you’ve already done, you can match the demographic of your target audience with the target audience of the medium. A radio station, newspaper, tv station, etc. will be able to give you a breakdown of their audience by age, gender, income, etc. Do these match up with your demographic’s information? If so, you’ve found a fit, if not, move on.

3. Creating the ad. The medium you choose will most likely be able to create an ad for you or point you in the direction to do so. Newspapers, radio and magazines typically have on staff people that will work with you to create an ad. You’ll need to define your messaging first.
4. Run the ad often. Don’t expect to run an ad once and expect to see huge results. That’s like saying going for a run once will get you in the best shape of your life. It’s unrealistic. If you need to start small, do so until you can gain the momentum to run more often or with a bigger reach. Each media outlet should be able to work with you on any budget restraints you have. Let them know you’d like to test it for a while in order to tweak the campaign if needed. And don’t forget, all media is negotiable!
5. Track the campaign. If you are running a branding campaign, you can compare sales from this quarter to the same quarter last year to see if there is an improvement. Or even if sales are up this week from last week when the ad wasn’t running. If you have a sales campaign, you can ask consumers to bring the ad with them or mention the radio ad they heard. If you are running a few different mediums, you can see which worked better and use it as negotiation ammo.



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