Spring 2008

10 Tips

The goal of advertising is to cost-effectively reach a large audience and attract customers. If done correctly, advertising can enhance the success of your business. Here are 10 advertising tips:

Go after your target audience

An advertising campaign should be geared to your niche market. It is a common mistake to create generic ads that do not speak the language or grab the attention of your potential customers.

Highlight your competitive advantage

One of the keys to all advertising is to accentuate the pros of your company, those factors that give you your competitive edge. Too many ads are clever but fail to sell the benefits of the product or service.

Establish an image

You can recognize the McDonald’s arches while whizzing by on the highway. Likewise, there are plenty of products that you recognize by their packaging or logo. Image counts when it comes to advertising and promoting your business. Too many advertisers do not work to build a consistent image.

You have to spend money to make money

There are ways to save money, but typically advertising is not the place to cut corners. It will affect sales, and that affects the bottom line. Successful advertising may cost some money, but that is because it works.

Advertise in the right places

Your favorite magazine, radio station or television program might not be a favorite of your audience. Know what they read, watch and listen to, and advertise in media that reaches your target market.

Don’t allow your budget to run your advertising campaign. If you budget $5,000 per month for advertising, you’ve made your bookkeeping very easy. However, if at the same time your business picks up or slows down depending on the season, you are spending too much money advertising during the down times and not enough when you want to attract customers. Too many entrepreneurs do not budget according to their seasonal advertising needs.


It is all too common for business owners to choose the best place to advertise based on price and potential rate of return, and then stop. As is the case with investing, you do not want to put all of your eggs in one basket. Spread your advertising dollars around.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone

No product or service will appeal to everyone. Many business owners, including corporate executives, try to come up with ways to reach every market. Typically, this does not work. It can spell disaster for small businesses, who cannot afford to spread themselves too thin. Therefore, find your market and be everything you can be to that audience.

Test your ads in advance

If you have the time or the money to invest in focus groups, you should test your ads on other people. Do they understand and accept the message that you are trying to convey? There are other, less expensive ways to test your ads: questionnaires, for example.

Monitor your ads

It is very easy to ask new customers or clients where they heard about you. As simple as this is, many entrepreneurs do not bother to do so. It is advantageous to know which ads generate business.

Target the market

Make sure advertisements are reaching the business’s target audience, but don’t overbuy. In large metropolitan markets, advertising in daily newspapers and on television can be costly, and companies may end up paying for a much larger audience than their business serves. Find targeted media that focus on a particular service area, such as community or neighborhood newspapers.

Look into regional ad buys

Some publications have regional or demographic editions where you can place an ad for a fraction of the cost of advertising in the regular edition. And cable TV stations offer local advertising that is broadcast only in certain markets.

Check into discount options

Most publications offer an agency discount of 15 percent; if a business acts as its own advertising agency, it may qualify.

Businesses can also get frequency discounts for advertising several times in one publication. Monthly magazines, for example, usually offer three-, six- and 12-time rates. Most publications offer retail rates, and many offer special rates for other types of businesses.

Buy remnant space

When a business purchases leftover space or airtime that a publication or radio station can’t fill, you won’t get to pick your times, but you can save anywhere from 30 to 80 percent.

Consider classified ads

The classifieds aren’t merely for job openings, and they’re available in magazines as well as newspapers. They’re much cheaper than standard display ads, and many publications let businesses run mini display ads in the classifieds. Classified ad categories include a broad range of consumer and business products and services.

If an ad works, stick with it

Run it more than once, or in more than one publication. Repetition is effective, and a business will save money by not creating new ads.

Use co-op funds

Retailers can take advantage of co-op advertising funds offered by vendors. Co-op programs reimburse a retailer for a portion of the cost of an ad that mentions the vendor. Most co-op plans have strict rules, so check with your vendors and follow the guidelines.

Try to barter

Find out whether a publication or radio station will let businesses pay for advertising with goods or services. This may be an option at small media companies.

These deals, sometimes called “trade” ads, often involve restaurants, but it’s possible for any number of businesses to barter.

Reuse ads

Make the most of an investment in creative work by reusing a good-looking ad. Reprint the ad for use as a circular, a handout or a direct-mail piece.

AllBusiness.com provides resources to help small and growing businesses start, manage, finance and expand their business. The site contains forms and agreements, business guides, business directories, thousands of articles, expert advice and business blogs. Material copyrighted by AllBusiness.com.

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