What Advertising Can and Can't Do For You
Mostly, advertising is misused and misunderstood. A lot of people confuse "marketing" with "advertising." Advertising is a part of marketing, but not whole thing! The downside of "misunderstanding" is that small businesses look at this as their only means of getting sales for their business. Many times, result is miss-spent money with little to show in return.
Advertising can be most effective when you are selling a mass-market product like laundry detergent or coke. However, many small and home owned businesses sell more of a specialized product or services that appeals to a much smaller "niche" market. To understand what can work for you, lets first clear up a few myths about what advertising is:
Myth 1: Advertising is what you have to do to get business. Advertising is simply purchase of time or space in order to promote a product or service. There are many other marketing methods available such as publicity, promotions, signage and referral programs that could work better for your business.
Myth 2: Advertising is too expensive for small business. It doesn't have to be. You can find very cost effective advertising methods through local community papers, classifieds, "zoning" in your main papers local section (to hit certain zip codes only), industry newsletters and small ads that are placed repeatedly in same spot of paper. Cable TV can be targeted and cost-effective as well.
Myth 3: There is only one best advertising method. Just like investing in stock market, it is important to diversify. You don't want to put all of your eggs into one basket, at least until you find what works best for you. There can be a lot of trial and error, which means that it's crucial to have some type of results mechanism in order to see what works and what doesn't. Sample several approaches all at once, once you have narrowed down field to those you feel worthy. You will then find best one or two methods that work for you. This also tells you to avoid any long-term contract with any media outlet until they have been proven a good source. You can even sometimes strike a bargain with a particular media source that you are interested in to allow you to "test" response at a reduced rate.
Myth 4: You only have to advertise on a limited basis. The success of advertising is all about "frequency." It can take up to 5 times before anyone notices your ad, then 10 or more times before they might act on it. Therefore, you have to have enough money in your budget to test ad over time. Remember that we are exposed to hundreds of ads a day. As a result, we act like "screeners", filtering out any information not useful to us. So, blowing your advertising budget on one 1/2 page ad in your local paper will surely not produce results you are looking for.