Small Biz Advertising–One Size Doesn’t Fit All

I’ve been following a thread on a non-public forum.  Like most forum discussions, it began with one topic and  morphed into something else altogether.  As I write this, the discussion is about advertising.  The topic is retail store advertising, but it could just as well apply to any small business.

It’s actually a three-sided dialog (trialog?).  On the one hand you have the manufacturer who must put together an advertising program that satisfies the most retailers and generates the most sales to support the overall program.  Then you have the big-city retailers who have one set of issues and small-market retailers who face an entirely different challenge.

Here’s the thing.  At any level the goal of advertising is to drive consumers into the store (or other business) at the lowest possible cost.  Period.  That’s it.  Targeted advertising, that is advertising that reaches only those people who are your potential customers, is the best. At the most basic level, handing someone your business card (or better yet, a gift certificate) is very likely to create a future sale at very low cost.

If you sell lawn mowers, you’re wasting your money advertising to apartment dwellers.  But it’s very difficult to find traditional advertising media that are so specifically targeted.  If you operate in a major market, your job is even harder.  Because local radio, TV, and newspapers are delivered across demographic lines, you’re going to pay for a lot of impressions that are basically worthless to you unless your product or service is something everyone buys.

In a smaller market, the job is a little easier because you’re just not paying for that many impressions.  You can buy several spots on the local radio station and still get change back from your hundred dollar bill.  The same campaign in a major market can run into the thousands yet the number of potential customers for your store (based on geography and demographics) that you reach may be virtually the same.

Newspapers and other mass media are struggling.  Why?  Well, the economy isn’t helping them much.  But their decline has been going on for quite a while.  In fact, the fall of traditional media can be charted against the rise of the Internet.

If you’re reading this, you’re not reading the newspaper.  If you’re reading this, there’s almost a 100% chance that you either own or run a small business or non-profit.  MTS is very short on gardening tips, recipes, or fashion advice.  You can find those elsewhere.  For that matter, I can’t imagine a topic that isn’t covered somewhere on the web.

Web advertising can be done for little or even no money.  Sites like Facebook let you customize your advertising to reach exactly the right market and it’s very inexpensive.  If even that’s outside your budget, start a blog.  Sites like Blogger offer a free platform so your only expense is your time to write something that interests your customers and prospects.

If you’re not ready to commit to regular posting then comment on other people’s blogs.  Let people who might be interested in your business  see that you’re an expert in your field.  And make sure to include a link to your web site.  (You do have a web site, don’t you?)

I’m not going to get into any more specifics here because there are so many sources for information on on-line advertising and promotions, including the archives of this blog.  The point is this.  One size does not fit all.  You have to analyze your particular situation and create your own plan.  Suppliers may provide you with ad slicks, radio scripts, and other tools, but only you know who your customers are and how to reach them.

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One Response

  1. Often you need at least twelve different sizes…

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