Advertising on a shoestring budget isn’t tricky if you can invest a little time. From free social media posts, to old school newspapers and radio, efficient and effective advertising can be as simple as ticking off the famous “Five Ws” journalists rely on: who, what, when, where, and why.
Who – Know your customers! Companies waste millions advertising to people who will never buy their products. How many commercials for dog food are reaching cat owners? Do the math and find the media hitting your target market for the least money. Paid ads on Facebook can be targeted by age, sex, zip code, interests, and more. Buy them on a cost-per-click basis and you only pay for people who respond to your ad. Most media representatives can provide you demographic breakdowns of their audience.
What – Marketers call it the USP, the Unique Selling Proposition. What do you do better, faster, or cheaper than your competition? Tell people! Lead with it. Promote it. Leverage it. It’s the reason people want to buy from you. Make sure your USP is viable, real, and makes a difference to your customers. If it doesn’t, you may have larger business issues than your advertising. A great USP means you don’t have to fall back on promotions, discounts and coupons to bring in customers.
When – Selling seasons range from the Golden Quarter of the holiday season, to summer sales season for back to school. Be ready, because your competitors are looking to bump business, too. Plan ahead to buy space before the best positions are gone. Don’t discount the impact of election seasons to suck up all of the available ad space. Foster a good relationship with your media reps so they think of you when good spaces or deals open up. Use social media to stay visible in the off-season without spending money.
Where – Anyone can sell online today. That’s why you have a website, right? Get more people to your site with regular updates and solid content, promoted through social media. Fresh copy with relevant keywords helps your site show up in search engines like Yahoo and Google. But think of social media as a friendly nudge – don’t expect it to deliver sales by itself. Your advertising goal isn’t to generate page views, Shares, Followers or Likes, it’s to sell your products.
If you have an email list of your existing customers, you’ve found the most effective means of reaching them for the least money. Value that relationship – don’t spam them. Other forms of social media get a lot of press, but they haven’t proven to give the return of a well thought out email with a solid offer.
If your trade area is close to your shop, reconsider that radio commercial reaching people miles away. Some newspapers and cable TV companies do zoned advertising, delivering your ad to specific areas. Direct mail is the best for precise geographic targeting, hand delivering your ad to your customer’s mailbox. Outdoor advertising like billboards or bus benches target geographically as well, but keep those messages simple. A billboard should never have more than 11 words. If you can’t read it in a few seconds, neither can somebody driving by at 50 miles an hour.
Why – Do you really need to advertise? If you have a good word-of-mouth reputation or a strong referral program, then you might not even need to advertise. Make it easy for people who like your products to evangelize about them.
Don’t forget PR. If you have some legitimate news, a cool new product or an event like a blood drive or a charitable function, send out press releases to the media. It’s as free as email and you might make the evening news.
Above all, keep it simple. Advertising is merely education. When you run an ad you’re providing valuable information to your potential customer about why they should be buying from you. And those customers will see thousands of advertising messages this week, so clarity and simplicity go a long way to cut through the clutter.