Small Business Advertising
So, there’s only one rule you need to follow with small business advertising. Just kidding. It’s a nightmare out there. You’re being told to do this and do that…and one thing seems to contradict the next.
Oh. My. Goodness Gracious. Mary Joseph and the Baby! It’s so confusing, right? What can you do? What is the answer?
You can go ahead and do everything that a so-called “advertising guru” tells you to do. But they better be informing you about what matters. What matters, you say? What is it that will make your ads perform? Is it social media? Is it online ads? Is it TV? Is it Radio? Well……..where you put your ads doesn’t matter as much as you think it should. Your decision on where to invest some ad dollars ranks pretty far down on the list when it comes to whether or not you’ll get a decent return on investment.
Hang on a second though. Let me just share this little stat with you regarding online ads. Verify it for yourself if you wish, but “82% of online ads are ignored”. Of course, statistics always tend to get twisted. But this one seems about right to me. 82% ignored! Duh, right? Didn’t we already know that? Didn’t we know it deep down in our bellies? A brilliant colleague of mine put it kind of like this the other day… “How many small business advertising success stories have you heard of where digital advertising was the epic hero?” None? Me too. I clicked on one the other day, just for fun. It was for a local realtor. First, it was a coupon for a free market analysis. Free? Really? When’s the last time a realtor told you they’d come out and take a look at the home you wanted to sell…but it would cost you $149? Then, it gave hum-drum info about the realtor. Something that was just about as cookie cutter as you can get. This realtor is going to get zero return on his online advertising investment. And the majority of all the other online ads out there are just as bad…or worse. Or money-making scams. Yuck.
Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.
But the truth is…no matter where you advertise, if you’re not saying anything that people might actually care about, then your frustration will continue.
Let’s get back to what matters when you’re thinking of pumping money into some local advertising options…
It’s the guts of the ad itself that matters. It’s the feelings you stir in a person that matters. It’s the connection you make with your carefully chosen words, pictures, sound, etc. Oh, but you think if you slap an ad out there in front of 20,000 people, that “someone just has to bite”, right? You’d think so…but it doesn’t work that way. If you feel that WHERE you put an ad is the most important part of advertising…you’re going to be let down.
Is there a Small Business Advertising formula?
That would be super fantastic. You plug in x dollars and get y in return. If that was the case, an ad writer like myself would be out of business. I better call Dad and see if he has room on the family farm for me! But wait! There’s hope for my career in local advertising! Why? Because small business advertising is a little bit of an art. Plus some strategy. Then, sprinkle 0n some repetition; Stir in a handful of emotional hot buttons; Plus some passion for success; A desire to improve and innovate; And then a competitive spirit as a garnish to your “formula”. Ta-da! Boom! ROI here we come!
Oh my gosh. Seriously? That’s what it takes? Kind of. But you don’t “get it” all at once. You just start with one improvement at a time. You should honestly look at your advertising and ask yourself if anyone would really give a hoot if they encountered it. Better yet, grab someone off the street and ask them. You need an unbiased opinion. Someone who can give you un-sugar-coated advice for the greater good of your business success.
Heck, shoot your ads my way. I’ll give you the what-not on your current advertising. I won’t hold back. And I’ll tell you why something is good…or why something isn’t so good. Or completely rotten and ridiculous. Don’t take it personal though. You probably don’t even know me. Hey, maybe your advertising is superb and you’d just like to verify it. : )
Small Business Advertising No-Nos
You can start saying better things in your ads to improve performance. But maybe the first step I would suggest is to just burn all the bad stuff first. The bad stuff is anything that seems to be all about you. All the flim-flam that’s kind of bragging about what you do or sell. Don’t be alarmed, we can maybe add a few of those dopey things back in later. Start there though. You might not have any copy left in your ad after you do that, maybe you will. So, what’s left, I’m assuming might be verbiage about the person you’re trying to communicate with – your potential new customer – your target. That’s the stuff you want the majority of your ad to be. It needs to be about THEM. It needs to talk to your target directly, like you’re face-to-face with’em. It needs to get their attention, engage, entertain, and offer a solution for when they need your product or service. I don’t care if you need a branding type of ad or an overly abused direct-response ad. It better be about THEM – not you.
Has anything really changed over the years regarding how to make advertising work? Not really. It’s always been about engaging your target audience and getting them to fall in love with your company before they even meet you. The major thing that has changed in small business advertising is that we’re stretched thin. We’re busy. We’re distracted. At least 2000 other companies in your area are trying to get a consumer’s attention these days. We’re bombarded with advertising crap. And one of the big reasons your average little local ad isn’t working is because we’ve all been burned or are sick and tired of dishonest and misleading advertising claims. We’re super skeptical! You say you’re a quality business? Ha! So, does everyone else. And their service sucks. But yours doesn’t (right?), so you have the potential to relay your awesomeness to the public.
I’m just trying to get you to understand why the content of your ad matters. You have to make some kind of emotional connection. You have to get across your trustworthiness…without saying, “We’re the people you can trust.” Or maybe you hang your hat and bet the farm on your ultra-witty slogan, “For all your blankity-blank needs.” If you do, that slogan isn’t doing you one bit of good. But you’re in luck! Because we can make big things happen for you in a hurry. When your advertising is so bad (don’t think it’s you? – look again)… you’ll see faster dividends when you start saying things in your ads that people might actually care about.
Another no-no in my opinion, is not investing in the power of sound when it comes to your local advertising. Our eyes can flit away from an online or print ad in a hundredth of a second. But sound is much more intrusive. I prefer radio myself. You can do wonderful things if you put 90% of your budget into radio. Or maybe 60% radio and the rest into a couple other things (maybe some direct mail if you can get someone’s attention before it goes in the trash). That brings us to another no-no…
Don’t start spreading your budget around to 20 different ad mediums. That’s 5% of your budget here, 5% there, and so on. You think a good “Media Mix” is what you need…but when you sprinkle your budget around so thin, nothing will ever stick or sink in.
What do you do next? I don’t know. I wrote a book. You could download it for $6.49 (quick, cheap sales pitch).
Where to put your ads? That’s up to you. As long as there’s an audience there…then there is potential for ROI. But you have to engage your target. It can’t be like the national brands that we’re all familiar with. I’m assuming your small business doesn’t have the level of top of mind awareness like the big companies who have multi-million-dollar ad budgets. Start somewhere with a smaller audience if you have to. Win them over first. Start on one or two radio stations. How about some TV spots in a few popular shows? You don’t have to reach everyone. You start where you can afford to air your ads enough times each week so that people will start to remember you and trust you. Maybe you’re already doing something now. Do you know if it’s working? Maybe some small tweaks can jumpstart some response for you.
Better yet…I’d rather get a few detailed questions from you about your unique situation. I’ve got some time here and there outside of my daytime marketing job (not really, but I’m twitchy and need new challenges every once in a while) …and I kind of just like to help people out. Or it least head you down a better path.
You can start making your small business advertising a lot better, almost immediately, with only a few small changes.