To be successful in business, you must stay current with the trends, use your common sense, and invest your advertising dollars wisely.
It is not a good idea to, as they say, "put all your eggs in one basket". Invest in a variety of advertising medium. Research to find how advertising would benefit your company.
Let's take a look at the many different advertising mediums.
- Internet [my personal favorite - which we'll discuss last.]
- Telephone Book [yellow pages, white business pages]
- Radio [ads, promotions, donations, etc.]
- Television [ads, news stories, etc.]
- Newspapers [ads, features, articles, etc.]
- Magazines [ads, articles, etc.]
- Mass Mailings [including flyers, brochures and coupon specials]
- Signage [billboard, flashing movable signs, signs on vehicles]
- Phone solicitation [for awareness, surveys, etc.]
- Booths [county fair, business exhibitions, etc.]
- Bumper Stickers [limited to those who see the vehicle]
Determine Your Target Audience
In any kind of advertising, you need to know the audience you are trying to reach. Are they children, teens, young adults, new parents, baby boomers, empty nesters, or senior citizens? What do they like? Where do they go? Are the outgoing or prefer cocooning? How much money do they have to spend? Etc... Not knowing your target audience results in costly mistakes. Advertising Centrum Silver to pre-school children makes no more sense than advertising expensive RVs to teenagers. Know your target audience.
Telephone Books - The yellow pages are expensive. And yet they seem necessary. When someone is looking for a doctor, a lawyer, a carpenter, a printer, or for that matter any business - where do they look? In the yellow pages. Now as a person gets older [and hopefully wiser] they do not always choose the first business listed or the biggest ad. They may however choose a few to call and your goal would be to be one of those that they call. You should invest in a decent [but not full page] ad in the yellow pages. Take a look at your competitors. If there are none, then you won't need a big ad at all. If there are a lot of competitors, you may have to spend a little more to get the customers attention. However, don't go overboard and spend all your money on your yellow page ad. As far as readership - everyone who has a phone gets a telephone book, but I have known people who received no business as a result of their telephone ad. All of his new business came from satisfied customers and referrals. [He was in the janitorial business.]
Radio - Let's take radio first. Many people listen to the radio. They listen to it on the way to work, school or just traveling. Some are even allowed to listen to the radio at their job. There are many different considerations. You must know the audience you want to reach - do they even listen to the radio, what time of day they are most likely listening, what station and format they prefer [rock, easy listening, jazz, talk radio, country, etc.] Obviously, it wouldn't be wise to invest your advertising dollar trying to reach someone who buys western-style clothing by advertising on a rock station.
The radio station should have statistics relating to their listening audience. Check this data before signing any contract. Their price per ad will go down with the number of ads you choose but be careful not to commit to an extended amount of time on an advertising medium that might not work for you.
Television - Television is an excellent way to reach people. They not only have verbal stimuli they can get a picture, too. This increases the memorability factor. The challenge is putting on a television commercial that looks professional, is memorable and doesn't use up your whole year's advertising budget [or more]. With television [as with radio] the time of day will determine the cost of running the ad [this is in addition to the cost of making the ad]. Forget advertising during the Super Bowl. I've never met anyone who can afford the 1.5 million dollar per 30 second price tag. Besides, we are discussing the best use of your advertising dollar and a one shot - one million dollar ad is just not it. They too will have statistics on viewership, including times of day and numbers, and quite possibly the ages of the audience. But remember, while statistics give you good information - they are not a guarantee of results. [We'll discuss results later.] Another consideration with television ads is that now we have hundreds of stations and it will take some research to find the one that serves your target audience.
Newspaper - Newspapers probably reach the most people since their circulation is high and they do have statistics on the number of papers printed and bought. However, their is no way for them to guarantee that someone perusing the newspaper will read your ad. If your ad is large it will be more noticable but the cost of an ad in the newspaper is considerably higher as you make it larger. Ads going into the paper are supposed to be "ad ready" which means that if you do not have it printed and ready to go - complete with pictures and words laid out - you will pay their graphic department extra to do it for you. This is a fair request for the newspaper to make. You are paying for your advertising space not for the time it takes to compose and layout an ad. You may also want to request a certain section. If you are running an ad for an "Apartment Rental Company", you shouldn't put it in the National News section. In fact, except for the Real Estate or Classifieds there is probably no other place appropriate for an apartment rental company.
Classifieds have also gone up in cost in our local paper. Instead of 3 lines for a set price, it is based upon your selling price for a car and if you own a business, you will pay a higher rate, even though it costs the newspaper no more to print a business ad as compared to a personal ad.
One particular idea that is sure to bring in new business is that of being a featured company or having an entire article dedicated to your business. However, in order to achieve this goal, you would probably have to have a very unique business or a friend writing for the paper.
Magazines - Your circulation can be huge or considerably small depending on which magazine you choose. But circulation is not as important as hitting your target audience. Don't advertise in a computer magazine if what you are trying to do is sell cosmetics. The prices for advertising in a magazine are as varied as the number of kinds of magazines there are. If you are trying to promote your local business [and it is not a mail order business, but a service-type business] you do not want to advertise nationally. There may be a magazine printed that just covers your local area. Or try an area trade magazine or newsletter. For instance: Rockford Apartment Association newsletter is an ideal place for service-type businesses trying to secure contracts with local landlords. Again, a feature article [as in a newspaper] would bring added attention to your business.
Mass Mailings - These would include those coupon-filled envelopes, such as Valu-Pak, or if you choose just to send your information out on your own. The companies that deal in the coupon packs let you choose the area [usually by zip code] that you wish your information to go to. If you run a video store on the east side of large city why spend your advertising dollar on the west side? Or for that matter - the north or south sides either? Since they send the mailings out bulk rate, you cannot single out only certain streets unless you choose to address them yourself. The post office also has a minimum number of pieces you must mail to get the discounted rate.
If you want to hand deliver your flyers or coupons, it certainly is permissible, albeit very time consuming. However, if you plan to leave anything in other people's mailboxes - one word - DON'T. It is against the law. The mailman [woman] is required by law to take anything that hasn't gone through the postal service [and paid to do so]. They take it back to the post office and fill out a postage due form. The postage due form is then left in the recipient's mailbox. There is nothing that will guarantee you NOT getting someone's business more than requiring them to pay for the advertising. You can, however, legally, put it outside their mailbox.
Signage - Billboards are large and therefore effective in getting the attention of the customers who are traveling in that area. In order to determine if your advertising dollar is well spent, you will need to get road counts [the number of vehicles traveling in the exact area per day]. Daylight hours are more beneficial than night because of the ability to see the sign without distraction. There is a great cost to billboard advertising and it is higher for a prime area. You must pay for the design, layout and mounting of the ad onto the sign. They are generally long-term contracts.
Flashing Movable Signs are generally used to call attention to a business, election, event or specials. They are mobile and can be moved to different areas. You can rent them for short term at a fairly inexpensive cost. If you use one of these make sure it is in good shape. You don't want to send the message that you don't care about your business by using a dilapidated sign. Spell the words correctly and completely. You may know what the abbreviations are but your customers may not. Do not leave this kind of sign up for extended lengths of time. They lose their attention-getting effect if they are used constantly. And some local ordinances don't permit extended use of this particular kind of sign.
Vehicle Signs - A vehicle painted with the company logo is very effective in spreading the company name. Don't overdo the information but make sure it says the following: company name, address and/or phone number, city or area you service, and certainly if you have a company logo, use it. If you have a company jingle and there is room without overcrowding, use it. Unless you are stopped at a traffic light or parked in a lot, your potential customers do not have time to read a book's worth on your vehicle. Keep it short and sweet. Two samples of jingles I've observed are: "We'll find your shorts".... [an electric company] and "When six inches isn't enough" ... [an insulation company]. The first I'd call - the second will never get my business. Do not offend your customer by trying to be too cute or suggestive.
It is also possible to buy the magnetic signs that attach to the doors of vehicle. They are a less expensive way to advertise your business and better than nothing but often look cheap so look at examples before ordering one.
Phone Solicitation - This is a good way to get some personal contact and feedback from potential customers. It is also a good way to annoy the customer. In our day of financial burdens and single parent homes, most people are unavailable during the day and, quite frankly, want to be left alone in the evening. They are trying to fix dinner, catch up on chores and enjoy their families. Many customers see evening phone calls as an intrusion on their families. If you still choose to do phone solicitation, do it quickly and offer to mail the customer more information or offer to call back at a more opportune time.
Booths - County fairs and business expos often have booth space for rent. Ron & Terry's Photograpy business has run a booth at the Boone County Fair for years. Terry says a large percentage of their yearly business appointments are gathered during this one week period of time. She believes it is a good investment. Businesses that offer entry into a drawing for a free item or service in exchange for filling out an information card are more successful. The cards turn out to be a list of potential customers that may generate income for [as in Ron & Terry's case] an entire year.
Bumper Stickers - Cute, short and to-the-point. What exactly do they say? If I had a bumper sticker made it would say simply: www.comportone.com For Internet users it would be easily understood, yet for non-Internet users it would make no impact. But if you are trying to reach Internet users - it works. There isn't any room to put an explanation so if the name of your business doesn't convey the intended message, bumper stickers won't work for you.
Frankly, I saved the best for last - Internet advertising - Web Pages
I will cover this briefly and put in a link to take you to another page if you want to know more. It's 24 hours a day - 365 days a year. Information is there when the customer wants it. They can print your information out and read it later. You can explain all about your company in detail [and in color]. You can display your company logo, hours of operation, pictures of employees, products [and pictures of products], services, email [so they can contact you], application forms, inventory, apartments for rent, cars for sale, and more and more. On ComPortOne, we have added FREE INFO PAGES for businesses. In fact when it comes to the Internet, the sky is the limit. [You can even put a background of a sky!]
Who reads the Internet? Apparently, you do. At last count it was estimated that over 70 percent of Americans now access the Internet and the numbers are growing. In fact, someday the question will be - who doesn't use the Internet?
The cost of having a web site designed varies greatly. I know someone who was involved in designing a $45,000 site. [yes, the amount is correct] I know of others who can get a 5 page, very detailed and wonderfully laid-out site for less than a newspaper ad. Okay, okay. Your saying where's the catch? They couldn't be making any money designing a site for less than $500. Oh, but they do. After you get your business site designed, you must still have it hosted. That means you must have a server rent you space on his server. These prices also vary but the most reasonable I have found is about $20 per month [more if you have your own domain name] but still far less than the cost of a comparable ad in the telephone book.
An advantage to putting all that information on a web site is two-fold. It makes all your business information available to the public when they want to see it and that allows them to be more informed when they talk to you. They don't have to ask the basic questions. You have already answered them on the web site. It will save you considerable time in answering only those questions not on the web site.
While I would not recommend "putting all your eggs in one basket" by only advertising on the web, I would recommend it as one of those that you choose to seriously consider. Be sure to read " How to Get the Most Out of Your Website".
Now, that we covered most of the basics - both pros and cons - you should be ready to narrow your list down to a few of the preferred advertising styles that would best benefit your own company.
Good luck. May your business prosper and grow into everything you dreamed it could be.
Connie Eccles, CEO of ComPortOne