Look, everyone in the advertising/marketing industry has good ideas on how small businesses should advertise. So I’m gonna throw my two-cents in and give you some ideas…with their possible downsides. When it comes to advertising, knowing the whole truth can save you money—and then make you money! So here goes:

1) Billboards
Man, I cannot begin to tell you how many start-ups have come to us wanting a billboard. I love billboards! But I generally don’t recommend them for start up companies unless there are certain factors that indicate a billboard is a good expenditure. Why? Billboards tend to be expensive. Depending on the size and the location (and the area you live in), a monthly billboard can run anywhere from $600 on up per month! That does not include the cost of the vinyl. The other possible downfall is that the message is static… after a short amount of time, it becomes “invisible” to the driving public, since they’ve most likely seen it day in and day out. Billboard advertising is best when you have the budget to “rotate” your message on a regular basis, say every two or three months (this rotation feature is what makes digital billboards attractive—it’s always changing—unfortunately, it’s changing to someone elses’ message). If you have the money you should rotate the vinyls; or have two or more billboards the same size so that you can have the billboard company rotate your vinyls from one location to the next every so often. That keeps your message fresh for the driving public.

2) Yellow Pages
Wellll, here’s the scoop on this: I haven’t recommended this form of advertising for quite some time. As we move more and more into the digital world, more and more people are using the internet to not only find the business they’re looking for, but to get their location and phone number (if not buy directly from their website). Forget the fact that “phone book” advertising takes a lot of trees to produce (no, I’m not a tree hugger!), but if you’re going to print something, print something that highlights only YOUR business. And, I’ve always been surprised on how expensive phone book advertising is. My advice would be to use the money that might be spent on phone book advertising making sure you have a rockin’ website and great SEO… or a targeted direct mail campaign. Which leads me to…

3) Direct Mail
We’ve found that direct mail is a super effective medium for small business advertising. But let me be completely frank: don’t do a mass mailing of one 4×6 postcard with type in seven point and goofy pictures. You’ll be disappointed with the lack of results and your now reduced advertising budget. A good campaign strategy includes a good mailing list, an oversized mailer (you’d be surprised on how big you can get!), and at least three different designs/messages to mail out at one-week intervals. This can actually be done very cost effectively, and it lets your audience know who you are, the services you offer, and reinforces your branding. A weekly (or bi-weekly… or even monthly) reminder in the mail with a different message is VERY effective—especially if you can have compelling graphics and catchy headline that takes the message straight to the reader.

4) Magazine Advertising
One of my favorite advertising mediums, magazine advertising can also be very expensive so having a marketing strategy is über important. Like anything else, the more you advertise in one publication, the less expensive per insertion it gets… but don’t get too excited over it: it doesn’t get THAT much cheaper! The size of your ad is essential; I rarely recommend that people buy a business-card sized ad. The publication that you choose to advertise in is critical as well. Additionally, your ad content is all important: it has to be concise and compelling (you want them to read it!). Like a direct mail piece, a catchy graphic and headline are a must. And also like a direct mail piece, you can’t just advertise just once: you need to advertise regularly to build brand recognition so that when the time comes, they’ll remember your name and look you up on the internet for your location and phone number. Do you see where this is going?

And finally (at least for this blog!) there’s your…

5) Website
Unless you’re an absolute recluse, you already know that in this day and age a website is probably the single most important thing you can have to promote your business. It’s really not even an option… you MUST have one. Whether you’re business-to-business or business-to-consumer, you can’t afford NOT to have a good, informative, up-to-date website. If you’re thinking of starting up a business, this should be your first marketing expense. Even if you have a gigantic storefront on a major thoroughfare with great signage, you will still literally be “invisible” without a website. But don’t be fooled: just because you have a website doesn’t mean that the search engines can see you. How many gorgeous websites have I seen done by talented designers—one just recently here in Granbury!—only to find out that the website is completely unseen by the search engines. Wow… when I see an example like that, it breaks my heart—and if the business owners realized it I kinda think they wouldn’t be too happy, either. Don’t trust this aspect of your advertising budget to just anyone…make sure they know the business of the internet!

There are obviously more things you can consider when it comes to advertising your small company, and I’ll address those one of these days in another blog. But suffice it to say that if your advertising is not driving people to your website or to your doorstep, you’re not doing something you should be doing. Good advertising is not rocket science, but it does take a budget and a plan. And knowing all the positives and negatives of all the advertising options you have is paramount. That’s my two cents…