Effective advertising reaches potential customers and informs them of your products or services.
Ideally, advertising should capture the prospective customer’s attention and entice them to use your product. Regardless of the method, your advertising should be clear and consistently reflect the unique positioning statement of your business.
Remember that advertising is communication that can be intended to
- Remind individuals of your product or businesses.
Advertising must work with other marketing tools and business elements to be successful. Advertising must be interruptive — that is, it should make you stop thumbing through the newspaper or thinking about your day long enough to read or hear the ad. To work, advertising must also be credible, unique, and memorable. Like all effective marketing support, it must be built upon a solid positioning strategy. Finally, for any advertising campaign, enough money must be spent to provide a media schedule for ad frequency, the most important element for ad memorability.
In this article, we outline best practices for an effective and successful advertising campaign.
Have the right name for your business
Your company name is a valuable asset. It defines your brand and helps customers find and remember your business.
When you select a name for your business that is different from your personal name or the name used on your company’s articles of formation (legal business entity name) you must file a “doing business as” (DBA) registration. For example, if your LLC’s legal name is Jones and Barrett LLC, you can file a DBA to do business as “Best Plumbers for the Job.” If you offer diverse lines of business – such as plumbing and HVAC – you can file multiple DBAs. All DBAs (also known as trade names) will remain tied to your entity’s legal name.
For more information, see How to name a businessand What is a DBA (and how to register one).
The most effective advertising is still word-of-mouth
Word-of-mouth advertising is considered the most effective form of advertising. Satisfied customers are your best advertisements.
Word-of-mouth advertising passes product information to many other potential buyers (and may even include promotional trial demonstrations and free sampling), at little or no cost to the business. Whenever possible, your business should build an advertising program that results in word-of-mouth advertising.
Guidelines for successful advertising campaigns
Here are some guidelines for creating memorable advertising that really sells:
- Make sure your ads are "on strategy" with your business positioning. A good positioning strategy ensures the identification of the correct target audience for your advertising, along with a listing of meaningful features and benefits. It can provide reasons why the product is superior and unique, along with an advertising "personality".
- Go to where your customers are. Research the best advertising platforms to reach your target customer. For example, if your consumers are younger then mobile advertising platforms might be a good fit. Whichever platform you choose – especially traditional ones like print, broadcast, and radio – request a media kit. This will include information about the outlet’s audience demographics.
- Communicate a simple, single message. People have trouble remembering someone's name, let alone a complicated ad message. Use the "KISS" principle for ad messages: "Keep It Simple, Stupid". For online and print ads, the simpler the headline, the better. And every other ad element should support the headline message, whether that message is "price", "selection", "quality", or any other single-minded concept.
- Stick with a likable style. Ads have personality and style. Find a likable style and personality and stay with it for at least a year or more. Changing ad styles and personality too often will confuse potential buyers. It also fights against memorability.
- Be credible. If you say your quality or value is the "best" and it is clearly not, advertising will speed your demise, not increase your business. Identifying and roasting the competition should also be avoided. It is potentially confusing and distracting and may backfire on you by making buyers more loyal to competitive products, not less.
- Ask for the sale. Invite buyers to come to your store, visit you online, send for more information, or call for information and orders in the ad. Provide easily visible information in the ad for potential customers to buy including website URL, location, telephone number, store hours, charge cards accepted, etc.
- Make sure the ad is competitive. Do your homework. Examine competitive ads where you are planning to advertise. Try to make your ad stand out from competitive ads. You can use personal judgment, ad test exposures to a small group of target buyers (i.e., qualitative research), or more expensive, sophisticated quantitative test methods. Compare ads for uniqueness, memorability, credibility, and incentive to purchase.
- Make sure the ad looks professional. If you have the time and talent, stock images, templates, and image editing apps and software can help you create professional-looking ads and posts. Consider obtaining writing, artistic, and graphics help from local agencies or art studios that have experienced professionals on staff with advanced graphics and video capabilities in-house. They may save you time and money in the long run, with better results. You can leverage design tools such as Canva or Adobe Express to create different types of marketing collateral, though you may want to employ a professional for large campaigns. Other electronic ads (e.g., TV, podcast, radio) and outdoor ads are usually best left to professionals to write, produce, and buy for a fee or percentage of media dollars spent (i.e., generally 15 percent of gross media spending).
- Be truthful.Whatever advertising medium you select, make sure your message is ethical and truthful. There are stringent laws regarding deceptive practices and false advertising.
Take full advantage of low-cost and free advertising
There are many things you can do in the way of advertising, promotion, and publicity that cost little or nothing. Examples of low or no-cost advertising include
- Organic social media posts: Organic social media content is any content that you share on your company’s social media profiles, such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. This content can include posts, stories, videos, reviews, and more.
- Paid social media: This form of advertising involves paying social media channels to share content with targeted audiences on their platforms.
- Email marketing: Email marketing is still considered one of the most effective forms of advertising because your audiences has opted-in to receive your updates and offers. It is also very cost-effective, easy to segment different messages to different audiences and highly measurable.
- Google Business Profile. By creating a free Google Business profile, complete with photos, offers, reviews, and more, you can convert people who find you on Google and Google Maps into new customers.
- Encourage customer reviews: Reviews are vital to driving word of mouth sales and building trust in your brand. You may run the risk of receiving bad reviews, but no reviews at all raise more alarm bells. Just be sure to monitor your reviews and diplomatically respond to any negative write-ups.
- Create engaging content. Great content is a must if you are to convert any leads from your advertising, search engine listings, and social media efforts into paying customers. Content can include videos, how-to’s, blogs, images, Q&As, and more.
- Have gift certificates. Gift certificates are a great way for your customers to introduce you to new customers. They are also cash-flow friendly since you get paid upfront.
And when you become successful enough to be able to afford more sophisticated ad techniques, there are ways of measuring, to some extent, just how effective these methods are in terms of your business growth. As always, the chief concern is that the advertising does what it is intended to do: encourage more people to purchase more from your business.
Look into paid search and display advertising
Paid search advertising, also known as search engine marketing (SEM) or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, is a form of advertising that involves paying for your ads to be featured in search engine results – usually near the top. This is a powerful way to attract new customers who are searching for local products and services.
Paid search and display advertising can also be cost-effective since you stipulate how much you want to spend up-front. However, it is a competitive form of advertising, and you may face stiff competition or high costs for in-demand keywords.
Display ads are ads that are embedded within websites and social media based on people’s online browsing activity. These ads are typically used to promote brand awareness or retargeting (where a brand’s ads are displayed on future web pages that a person visits).
Cultivate referral business
Effective advertising does not need to cost a fortune, provided you spend your money wisely. As we noted earlier, word-of-mouth is not only the oldest form of advertising, but is still one of the most effective. To help encourage word-of-mouth advertising, ask for referrals consistently. Depending upon the nature of your business, staying in contact with your customers can help generate referrals by keeping your name top-of-mind. Many personal services businesses, such as accountants and real estate agents, send birthday and holiday cards to their customers. Other businesses, such as hair salons, offer discounts or gift certificates to customers who provide a referral that brings in new customers.
Good advertising is consistent in look and message. This means that you should develop a simple logo and use it on all printed material to identify your company. Printed material includes items such as business cards, letterhead, brochures, flyers, and gift certificates. Your logo should also appear on your website.
Leverage business cards
Business cards continue to be a direct and simple way to share information about your company.
Print attractive and informative business cards that include your logo and hand them out everywhere, consistently! Add a QR code so that prospects can scan it and be redirected to your website or app.
If appropriate for your business, you use your card as a discount certificate or other incentive. Another option is to have some cards printed on a magnetic backing so that it can be put on a customer's refrigerator.
Brochures can sell customers on your business
Brochures can be an effective form of advertising, providing details about your products or services. When designing your brochure focus on keeping it simple, yet eye-catching. Make your headline stand out. Use graphics. Give your customer as much quality information as you can pack into this identity piece. Keep it up to date and personalize it when possible (by writing in the margins or underlining specifics that might interest a particular prospective customer).
Flyers are the thrifty entrepreneur's dream
You can create flyers inexpensively on your computer, or your local print shop can do them for you. You can use as much color as you like, with either a color printer or old-fashioned colored paper stock. Pack them full of information and post them on every bulletin board you can find.
Easy to distribute in bulk, these handy attention-getters can also be used as bag stuffers or inserts to put in with billings or to include when mailing payments to your suppliers. In fact, don't mail anything out of your business without including some little sales piece. Take advantage of piggybacking on that postage stamp. Placing stacks of flyers in building lobbies, for example, but you must be willing to alienate some people if you use these methods of distribution.
Door hangers remain effective
Door hangers are widely used by fast food and home delivery and service businesses. If you choose this medium, don't scrimp on the stock. Make it heavy so it won't blow off door knobs and litter the neighborhood. Add a coupon or some other incentive to the hanger—in fact, many businesses use the door hanger itself as a coupon.
Door hangers are a good way to focus in on a specific target market that is defined by their geographic locale.
A toll-free number can increase calls to businesses
Toll-free 800 numbers continue to be an effective marketing tool since they give customers direct and convenient access to the business and its support team – especially important if your customers live outside your local area. 800 numbers are in high demand and new numbers have been added, including 888, 833, 855, 866, and 877.
To obtain a toll-free number, contact your phone service provider or shop around for the best rate.
Create your own email newsletter
Newsletters are a great advertising vehicle since you can include business updates, promotions, and information about events and employees. You can also track who reads your newsletter and what content they interact with. Make sure your newsletter (and subject line) is not overly long and entices the reader to open, read, and engage with your content.
Importantly, your newsletter should be written for your audience, not for you. You'll increase the value of your relationship if you make it interesting and relevant to them.
Signs and displays convey your identity
Signage is a key component of establishing and perpetuating your identity. Billboards, blimps, searchlights, and skywriting are exotic and expensive; you'd be better served by concentrating on more down-to-earth signs. Matchbooks or boxes with a logo and vital information were always the thrifty solution, but nowadays smoking is on the wane. So try something different such as boxes with little toothpicks instead of matches. This has been successful in several markets, particularly with upscale restaurants. Key chains, pens and pencils, and calendars are premiums and ad specialties. If they are appropriate for your kind of business, they're worth their weight in ad dollars. People use them. They don't usually end up in drawers or waste baskets.
Stickers, balloons, buttons, and even T-shirts are examples of ad-specialty signage that works. Print your name, logo, and message on anything you can, on all sides. Don't miss an opportunity to get your word out.
Also consider "branding" your vehicles. Cars and trucks are great traveling billboards. You can readily find a magnetic sign supplier who can fashion a flexible rubberized sign to attach to your company truck or your personal car. When not in use for company business, simply remove the sign. Employee uniforms are another form of signage. Your logo and identity must carry through all possible aspects of your business. T-shirts are great signs that even your customers can wear.
Point-of-purchase displays trigger sales
The importance of point-of-purchase (POP) displays cannot be overemphasized. Impulse buying accounts for a huge amount of product sales. Service businesses can also use some POP techniques, especially when going to add-ons to a regular service such as "wax my car and as long as you're going to keep it, change the oil too" type of last-minute decisions. But it's in the product realm that POP is king.
Often it's manufacturers who pay the cost of POP advertising. Providing a retailer with an attractive display is money well-spent by any manufacturer if it entices a retailer to feature the product and the consumer to purchase it on impulse.
POP can take the form of danglers, signs, posters, banners, custom display racks, special lighting, or video monitors with promotional loops playing all day long. Register tape coupons (printed on the back of the cash register receipt) are good to give at a POP location to stimulate customers' return to your business in the future.
Catalog marketing efforts can drive sales
Catalogs remain popular, despite the rise in online shopping. The demographics of your mailing list (database) are the key to success. If you hope to get started in this arena, our advice is to start very small and narrow your niche to a needlepoint.
There are other hazards of direct mail, beyond getting the right list and creating a sharp, concise, attractive print piece. You have to maintain a flawless 800-number service with customer-centered operators who are your first line of contact with your customers. Then you must make sure your delivery services are prompt, your warehouse is well-stocked, your order pickers are mistake-free, and your merchandise return policies are correct. On top of that, you must have truly superlative inventory management. Initially, you may want to consider using a fulfillment house. These companies can take the calls, handle the customer credit process, and even ship the product if you wish. The fee is stiff but might just be worth it until you build a base.
Trade shows and tie-ins offer specialized advertising opportunities
Trade shows are essential to some types of wholesale and manufacturing businesses, as well as businesses that provide goods and services directly to other businesses. Display design, booth location and pre- as well as post-show mailings are carried to high degrees of sophistication (and expense).
Tie-ins with another business, co-op ad reimbursements from suppliers whose products you sell, and frequent buyer clubs are all becoming more prevalent in the current advertising environment
Keep other traditional advertising options in mind
Direct mail marketing via mailbox inserts and free-standing inserts can be very effective at reaching customers. However, this method can also be expensive. If you think that inserts could successfully reach your market, call one of the big distributors and learn how much it would cost you to try this kind of program. The industry leaders are Vericast and Val-Pak. If you're just starting out, you may want to wait a bit before venturing into this zip code math contest, but keep it in mind as an opportunity for the future.