Understanding the What’s and Why’s of Advertising

Have you ever seen an advertisement and thought that something similar might well benefit your small business? Well, it just could. Or, it could backfire and be a complete waste of money.

That’s because advertising is but one element of a business’s overall marketing strategy. True, it has many facets—print, billboard, online, broadcast, direct mail, etc.—but each element and the message it conveys has been carefully developed with a specific purpose in mind. In other words, image is not always everything.

Veteran advertising executive and SCORE mentor Tom Patty says a sound small business advertising strategy is built on three fundamentals:

·      Know what you are trying to accomplish. There are several distinct stages to a customer’s decision process, also called the “Purchase Funnel.” You need to decide what part of that process you want to influence, and the best way to do it.

·      Select a medium. Know who you want to reach, and where they get their information.

·      Know what your message is. That message has to tie into what your target audience values. Is it responsiveness, quality, convenience, or something else?

·      Make sure you can measure it. You need something that you can “see,” such as more calls, greater use of coupons, traffic in store, etc.

Patty adds that entrepreneurs should not waste time and energy on things that don’t matter—stationary typeface, color of business card. Instead, they should focus their message on what truly sets their business apart.

“Orient your message to how your product/service solves someone else’s need,” he says. “Effective messages are also simple and fun, but the focus should still be the benefit to the customer.”

As for finding the most effective medium for your ads, Patty advises against looking to online as a “magic bullet.” It’s best to start small, perhaps with a few keywords on Google AdWords. And don’t overlook “conventional” channels such as print, broadcast, or direct mail. If that’s where your potential customers are, your well-developed ads should be there too.

To learn more about advertising your small business, contact SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 12,000 volunteers who provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. Visit your local SCORE chapter by going online at www.pottstown.score.org.