Once you decide you want to advertise, consider what media are available and how they can benefit your business:
- Online advertising includes banner ads, pay-per-click search engines, as well as online classified and standard ads. Online advertising is most effective when your ad appears on Internet Web sites that are compatible with your products and services and reach the same audience you want to reach.
- Newspapers, particularly local and regional publications with smaller circulations, can be an affordable and effective advertising medium. If you want to reach the largest audience, Sundays offer increased circulation, but that day will probably cost more. And if you sell a food or grocery product, you might select the day the paper publishes its food section.
- Yellow Pages advertising is particularly effective when a prospect in your community looks for a business in your category. Appearing in the Yellow Pages can put you top-of-mind with a prospect.
- Magazine advertising can provide a very targeted audience. Where newspapers provide general information, magazines can be more focused. (Sports, fashion, electronics and the like all have dedicated magazines.)
- Direct mail-brochures, postcards and mailers-can be very effective if you target your audience and mail your brochures or postcards frequently. Lists are available by demographics and geographic locations from professional list brokers. If you open a small retail establishment, you may want to send a mailer with dollars-off coupons to all households within a 2 mile radius of your store. You can easily measure the effectiveness of the mailer when customers come in to redeem their coupons.
- Radio lets your message reach a larger, more general audience. You might want to buy several radio spots and group them together to ensure that the listener retains your message and name. Radio stations can also help you produce a spot.
- TV reaches a larger audience than any other medium and is usually the most costly. For small businesses, network television advertising can often be prohibitive. However, small businesses can reach a targeted market by advertising on local cable channels. Just remember that repetition is the key. You want your TV spot to run at least five to seven times, but preferably more. And since producing a TV spot can be very expensive, cable systems usually have production capabilities and can offer small businesses the advantage of a professionally produced spot at an affordable cost.
Promoting your business is not just about advertising. Marketing the right product at the right price to the right market segment at the right time, in addition to public relations, are both important elements to your overall business mix. Conduct your advertising research first and then set a realistic budget. Make certain your media choices reach your target markets, meet your business objectives and fit your budget. Get the message to your customers that you have products and services that will meet their needs. Communicate that you want their business. The most effective methods and media depend upon your products, your target customers and your creativity.
Cardservice International Senior Vice President of Sales John Burtzloff is in charge of sales strategy and execution and thus is responsible for managing all aspects of the company's marketing, communications, telesales, check guarantee, new accounts and sales support activities.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.