Advertising on the Cheap

Writing and launching an advertising plan that's small on costs, big on rewards
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the July 2002 issue of Teen Startups. Subscribe »

( - Can you hear me now? Good. Can you hear me now? Good. Can you hear me now? Good.

OK, stop for a moment and think about the picture that just appeared in your mind's eye. Might it be of a Verizon Wireless employee who travels to the ends of the earth to make sure there's not a location anywhere that the company's service doesn't reach? Pretty good , huh?

Why do you think this company's message sticks with you and millions of other people across the country? Is it the repetitive phrase? The fact that it airs frequently? Probably a little of both. Now, take this quick quiz to see if you can name the companies associated with these slogans:

1. Just Do It.
2. They're Grrrreat!
3. Obey Your Thirst.

Chances are, you named , Frosted Flakes and Sprite right off the bat. So why are these phrases--some that you may not have heard for quite a while--so easy to remember? Some advertising marvel made sure they were pounded into your subconscious by way of frequent repetition, frequent repetition and frequent repetition. (Did we mention frequent repetition?)

Day and night you see these ads on TV, in magazines, on billboards, wherever you go. Coincidence? Think again. These companies have shelled out billions of dollars in advertising to make sure you--a member of their --get the message.

While your likely doesn't have the budget these companies do, you get an idea of what you need to do to commit your product or service to potential customers' memories: Step 1: Broadcast it everywhere you can. Step 2: Repeat Step 1. To accomplish this, check out these key components:

1. Know your target market. The first item on your list is to identify your target customers. Find out where they live, shop or hang out. For example, if you sell dog sweaters, your target audience, of course, would be dog owners, particularly those who live in cold-weather regions.

2. Decide how best to reach them. You know your product or service better than anyone. Now it's up to you to convey to your customers that it's something they simply can't live without. Before you begin writing your ad, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What's the product's benefit to the consumer--what need or desire does it fill?
  • How is the product superior to that of your competitors? Is it higher quality? Less expensive? More convenient to buy or use? One of a kind? Could you stress those advantages or conveniences in the ad as reasons for consumers to choose you over a competitor?
  • Could you include a testimonial or indicate that references from satisfied customers are available?

3. Choose your media. Decide if it would be best to advertise in your local newspaper, community bulletin, on your local cable station or other mediums. Consider which one will best reach your target market. If you are only trying to attract people in your community, try a local magazine. If you have a product that can be sold anywhere, like that dog sweater, try newspapers in other cities, or consider building a Web site.

And don't forget what can be one of the least expensive and most effective ways to get free publicity: writing and distributing a well-written press release to the media.

4. Spend your money wisely. Don't throw your whole advertising budget away on one week of hard-hitting advertisements. After that week is over, if your target customers don't hear your company name for months, they'll likely forget it.

It's OK to start off with a small bang, but keep some money in your pocket to spend on advertising in the weeks and months following the initial launch. If you know your audience reads a particular magazine, check out the cost of ad space. And don't take the sticker price as gospel; many times, you can work out a discounted rate if you commit to running an ad for several months in a row. Here are a few low-cost suggestions for getting the word out:

  • Circulate your slogan. Whether it's an e-mail to a friend or an order confirmation, the recipient will notice the business logo or catch phrase that follows your signature and may possibly forward the message to others.
  • Capitalize on word-of-mouth. Have friends and family members mention your new business to anyone they talk to. Nothing sells your biz like a customer's praise.
  • Barter. Exchange your goods or services for advertising space. For that pet sweater business, you could make a deal with local veterinarians or pet groomers. Ask them to let you post your ads or leave your business cards in their offices/shops in exchange for, say, a free dog sweater for every five customers they send your way.

These tips should get your business off and running in the right direction. Keep in mind that, when it comes to advertising, the key is to tell your customers all about your products or services, then tell them again...and again...and again.

Next Step
  • Spread the word about your company by giving away your services for free? Find out how one 'trep turned a healthy profit by doing just that.
  • Looking for some tips on creating ads that get results? Click here.

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