I have talked to hundreds of small business owners throughout my career. I have broken them down into two simple categories:
- Businesses that spend money on advertising and grow sales and profits
- Businesses that never grow, or just plain fail
At first glance, this may seem an oversimplification. But it highlights a basic fact: to grow your business, people need to know who you are, where you are, and why they should do business with you rather than your competitors.
Occasionally there are articles in the news about start-ups (usually in the tech or online sector) that manage to launch their business without paid advertising. They get articles published about their innovations and get thousands of followers on social media. But all of these businesses have one thing in common: they’ve built a better mousetrap. Their product or service is so unique that it can completely remake a product category or industry.
But here’s the catch. This is almost certainly not a description of your business. You have competitors who are established and serve the customers you want. Your product or service may be new, but you are still competing for the dollars people spend now for a similar product or service. People need to find you.
I know business owners that spend several hours a day on Facebook trying to build a following. This is a great way to stay in touch with existing customers, but a terrible way to find new customers. Facebook is primarily an inbound platform; people have to be looking for you. If they don’t know you exist, Facebook doesn’t help. You need outbound advertising to make yourself visible to potential new customers. Facebook has warned businesses that they will get very little organic reach through posts shared with friends and followers. Facebook is not a charity, they want you to buy advertising to get your message out there.
There are many types of outbound advertising, both digital and traditional. The most important things to remember are:
- Don’t spread your ad spend too thin, doing a little bit of everything. It won’t have the impact you’re looking for.
- Be consistent with your messaging. Keep it simple and focused.
Research your market and identify your target audience. Then use your ad budget to target them on the media they use. Targeting Millennials? – Go all digital, maybe add some Cable TV if your budget allows. Targeting Boomers and older? Use print, direct mail, radio and broadcast TV. Don’t waste money sponsoring little league teams, using Groupon or buying a single billboard. You won’t get the results you need.