Advertising is a difficult subject for most small businesses, because there are many choices, but most of them will not be right for you.
If you have a shop or any sort of retail premises, then in advance of your opening your doors you might try handing out flyers along the lines of “Grand Opening” stating the date and any special offers. Of course do not lose money with any of your special offers in case you keep the habit later on.
There are other ways to advertise for both retail and service businesses, but you do have to think about these carefully.
Soon after you register your business you will get calls from the traditional paper directories which now have on-line presence, by which I mean mainly Yellow Pages and Thomson. For a small business these were fairly ineffective ten years ago and I believe have very little value now.
It is true that if you have a plumbing business your advert might be the first one someone sees when they have an emergency such as a burst pipe, but even then, they will probably call the firm with the biggest display advert, which is one you cannot afford. I think that even for someone as valuable as a plumber, the paper directories will not bring enough business to pay for your advert, let alone contribute towards your profits.
If you are going to advertise on paper you need to target your audience. If you have a specialist business such as in fishing equipment then you should advertise in fishing magazines or whatever publication attracts your potential customers.
If you have a business anyone might need, such as carpentry or decorating or accountancy, try advertising in one of those booklets that go out to your area once a month with the free newspaper. You could try advertising in the free newspaper itself of course.
One good lesson about local advertising is that you need to be in the publication regularly. If publication is once a month, you need to have an ad every month. That is because people will have noticed your ad and remembered something about your business, but will not look to call until they have an immediate need. They might have thrown the last booklet away so will look for you in the next one. You need to make sure you are there.
Of course you need to monitor your success from this sort of advertising, so always ask when someone calls where they found your name, or the name of your business. You do need to know how effective your advertising is, but give it a few months to start working and pull the plug if it does not. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback from people you know and alter the wording in the next edition.
One point to make about paper advertising, and also web advertising and marketing which I will cover later on, is to say what your business does and how you will make your customer’s life better. Don’t sound as though you are patting yourself on the back with “We maintain a proud tradition” or “We have the highest qualifications”. That sort of thing is not what will make people call you. They may ask about qualifications if relevant when you have met them and they are in a mood to buy from you, but none of that will get them through the door in the first place.
Remember that customers will buy because you have something they want which will make their lives better. So:
- Target your ad to specialist magazines and / or to small local directories and pamphlets.
- Sound attractive and welcoming.
- Tweak your advert as necessary.
- Always ask where a caller found your name.
- Place regular ads for a few months, but make a change if they are not working.
I have had and still get good business from this traditional advertising. I am sure you will too.