Small business owners need to be realistic about their advertising campaigns. Typically, of course, they’ll be looking for effective, low-cost solutions, but typically, too, you can have just one or the other; you’re unlikely to find a simultaneously effective and inexpensive channel for your ads.
That’s why you absolutely must budget for advertising, not just play with the money you have left over. By assigning the right amount of money to the right channels, you can get the results you want, or at the least, improve the results you have, based on the data you gather along the way. Since your monthly spend will be consistent, you’ll be better able to measure overall efficacy, too.
Given your need to optimize your advertising efforts, then, here are the best advertising strategies for small businesses.
1. Target your audience.
Sorry, but that particular product or service you’re touting does not match the needs of anyone who currently walks the Earth. Many small businesses don’t run adequately targeted campaigns, despite the fact that targeting is one of online advertising’s primary advantages.
Indeed, you should be able to create an accurate target customer profile based on the data you’ve collected. With this information in hand, and what you know about your current clientele, you can begin to target similar demographics and psychographics with your campaigns to attract more customers.
Whether you’re advertising online or off, make sure your copy and imagery reflects the kind of customers you want to work with. This is key to targeting well.
2. Measure and track your advertising.
Many small businesses simply have no idea whether their advertising is actually working. This simply won’t do.
Online advertising platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook provide you with extensive stats related to your ads, and will help you determine what is working and what isn’t. This doesn’t mean that you won’t need to test and experiment, as it can take time for you to create an ad that resonates with your target customers, but it does mean that you can make faster decisions about what to try next.
If you’re advertising offline, and you have to set up a specific email address or phone number to gain a clearer understanding of how your leads are finding you and what’s working, then that effort is worth the hassle. Stop making guesses.
3. Know when to advertise.
At first glance, advertising year-round and spreading out your budget equally month-to-month may appear to be a wise and commonsense approach.
But if you think back to your business launch, odds are you did a lot of things that can’t be scaled. There’s no way for you to sustain a similar marketing and advertising initiative throughout the entire year.
If you sell seasonal products, you should be advertising in your highest-performing seasons. You may even want to start a little bit early and hold some of your advertising until a little after.
Black Friday and Christmas tend to be high-performing seasons, depending on the type of business you’re running. It may be advantageous to set aside some extra ad money for these days and/or other holidays.
Finally, it can also be worthwhile to keep an eye on when your competitors launch their own big promotions. If you have an advertising budget set aside, you may be able to keep pace or even outmaneuver them.
4. Brand well.
Can your customers immediately identify your ads based on your copy, color choice, imagery, logo or typeface? If that question seems absurd, just look at what the major brands and companies are doing. Oftentimes, you can recognize their ads just from the colors they’re using.
Over time, your customers will come to identify with and respond to your ad layouts. The temptation may be to change your branding every time you create a new ad, but that could be confusing and ineffective over the long haul. Your goal should be to show up in expected places, with familiar-looking ads that consistently resonate with your target customers.
Bottom line: Brand well, and stick to your image. Build loyalty through resonance.
5. Use your resources well.
You know the importance of ranking well in search, but you may simply not have the resources and time to consistently create new, informative content for your website.
In an instance like that, your best bet is to take advantage of services like Google AdWords and Bing Ads, so you appear higher in SERP results without having to optimize posts for your chosen keywords. If you have the budget to advertise, but not the time to create content, this is a good use of resources.
If you only have a small budget to allocate to advertising, it may not make sense to take out an expensive magazine ad. A Facebook ad campaign would be much more practical, since you can control your daily spend.
Make an honest assessment of the resources available to you, and leverage them in a way that helps you grow your business.
6. Show up in the right places.
It’s dangerous to make too many assumptions about your target customer. For example, if there’s a certain radio show that you like, and you assume that your customers like it too,
you may be misinformed about the wisdom of spending money on a radio ad there that could prove expensive and ineffective.
If your advertising dollars are going to the wrong place, you’re wasting your money. Instead, you need to get to know your customers. So, survey them. Get a sense of where they like to hang out online, what books and magazines they read, what podcast and radio shows they listen to and so on.
When your advertising is matched with the right understanding of your customers, you’ll begin to attract more worthwhile leads to your business.
There are plenty of opportunities to monetize through advertising. The key is in knowing who your target customers are, where they like to hang out — and thus where to find more people like them — and allocating your resources to those specific channels.
“What are you doing to create targeted demand in the marketplace?” is a question I ask a lot of my clients. I think it is an important question to ask as a digital sales rep, and as a business owner because it can make you rethink your strategy.
Last year, I had a meeting with a disgruntled prospective client, who specialized in dental implants. For anyone not familiar, dental implants are permanent replacement teeth. It is a very competitive industry, as there is a ton of profit margin, and the implants are fairly easy to produce and install, with some promising “new teeth in a day”. Pricing options vary between $1000/bridge – $10,000/bridge.
During the needs analysis with the client, we uncovered their frustrations with their current full service advertising agency, as they were only averaging 2 implant procedures per day, and wanted to triple their production. They felt as though their marketing dollars were being misappropriated, and were looking to generate better ROI, as well as trim a lot of fat off their current advertising budget. Lean and mean. What we also discovered was that the client’s primary audience was an older (50+), affluent individual, HHI $100k+, who had dentures, and their agency felt the best way to target this audience was with print media. I get it. Older, affluent people still read the physical newspaper.
More than half of their budget was allocated towards dailys, weeklys, glossys, local community magazines and papers, and sadly, the yellow pages.
The other half of their budget was allocated towards Google paid search (their SEO was handled by their web provider, and built into monthly maintenance costs). Their PPC wasn’t performing well for them, and they wanted to eliminate higher funnel keywords and only wanted to focus on bottom of the funnel, high intent keywords.
One of those keywords that they really wanted to be found for was the term “all on four”, which was a revolutionary procedure in the industry. I told the client that we could absolutely ensure that they were found every time that keyword search was conducted on any search engine, but I asked the client, “What are you doing to create targeted demand in the marketplace for that particular keyword/procedure? Are you featuring this revolutionary procedure within any of your print ads?”
The client’s print ad creative didn’t feature a call to action, was more branding and awareness oriented, but more importantly, didn’t feature any copy pertaining to “all on four”. As a result, this extremely important keyword didn’t have any track-able search volume tied to it, so it wasn’t converting for them, which was evident after conducting an audit of their AdWords campaign.
Our strategy was to pull ad dollars they were spending on print, and from their bloated, underperforming PPC campaign, and reallocate some of it towards a programmatic campaign that was going to target their primary audience; A50+, HHI $100k+, who were shopping for denture products within a 20 mile radius of their location. Those programmatic ads featured copy pertaining to their unique selling proposition, which was “all on four”.
The other part of the remaining budget, was used to build a special landing page with an informational video about the procedure, testimonials, before and after pictures, and a call to action encouraging visitors to sign up for a seminar to meet the doctors. By registering, they would receive $250 off each bridge, if they moved forward with the procedure. This is where people who clicked on the
Lastly, we leaned their PPC campaign down to only focus on more long tail, high intent, bottom of the funnel searches, as well as brand related keywords, eliminating the higher funnel searches. We built a call to action featuring the $250 off each bridge promotion within the copy of the text ads, along with call extensions, site link extensions, and location extensions.
The results were noticeable immediately. Within the first week, the client received two conversions tied to keyword searches for “all on four”. After the first month, the number of conversions increased to 16. After month two, that number was 34. After month 3, that number was 75. After 6 months, the client opened up a new office to meet increased demand.
We were creating targeted demand in the marketplace and influencing search volume for “all on four” related searches. We capitalized on that demand by ensuring that our client was found for those searches. If not, we would’ve been creating demand for a competitor to capitalize on. Search Engine Marketing
As you probably already know, Facebook ended the tests on Canvas, and launch it recently at a global scale, offering a full screen of creative real estate, customised with video, images and text, in a fast-loading and mobile-optimised experience.
Experience tell us that a good product or service has also a great story behind it. But not everyone is a good storyteller, and a lot of ideas, start-ups, or businesses of any kind failed, because that extraordinary story behind it was either untold, or dry, without enough juice for its the potential customers.
Canvas meets businesses with an immersive and expressive experience that help them to tell their stories and showcase their product, without taking the audience out of the mobile application, providing the advertisers unprecedented creative control on mobile, in-app experience.
How exactly Canvas works?
Canvas offers marketers a large area to experiment and explore innovative ways, using creative elements to achieve their targets. There are six components for brands to visually tell a story: photos, videos, carousels, texts, buttons and Tilt-to-pan, a feature that allows users to tilt the phone to the left or right, to reveal more of the image.
Using a combination of of text, images, and video, brands can deliver an experience that drives its business objectives and promote the creative assets, leveraging Facebook’s targeting to connect to the people that matter most.
For example, a tourism agency might use a combination of video and photos, next to a feed with the latest offers and promotions available. A city mall might use videos in order to distribute the cinema schedule, using movie trailers, and end this user experience with a «buy now» button.
Here is a good example for Carnival Cruise, the company testing Canvas to target a broad audience of potential newcomers to cruising. See video and full case study here.
Ads with the canvas experience perform better when the creative both tells a story and promotes a product, featuring, for example, a collection or attributes of a product rather than a long list of products.
The interactivity can be stimulated by including horizontal scroll elements for users to explore more deeply in the story, depicted in a collection or attributes of a product that resonate the most with them, rather than a long and boring lists of products, widely distributed on e-commerce websites.
When can I start?
Contact us and let’s talk
How do you go about solving problems? My father grew up playing chess in his native Philippines, where the game is hugely popular. He became fairly skilled, and even won a few tournaments after immigrating to the U.S. Of course he was eager to teach me, his firstborn son, the rules of the game. As a young child, I had a great interest in strategy and problem solving–and I firmly believe the love for chess that my father instilled in me contributed to that. Recently, I came across the following video. It beautifully captures a moment in New York City’s famed Washington Square Park, where a trash-talking older man realizes he’s been beat by an international grandmaster:
Maurice Ashley, the gentleman who won the game, just happens to be the first African-American International Grandmaster inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. Ashley is passionate about sharing with others how the principles of chess can help on the larger stage of life. “Chess changes lives,” Ashley says in a documentary he filmed for Mashable. “I see it in students that I teach. I’ve coached kids in Harlem, in Brooklyn, in circumstances that are not easy…I’ve watched those exact same kids take the benefits of chess, the character building effects of chess–whether it be critical thinking, better problem solving, better concentration, better focus.”
Maurice Ashley, the gentleman who won the game, just happens to be the first African-American International Grandmaster inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. Ashley is passionate about sharing with others how the principles of chess can help on the larger stage of life.
“Chess changes lives,” Ashley says in a documentary he filmed for Mashable. “I see it in students that I teach. I’ve coached kids in Harlem, in Brooklyn, in circumstances that are not easy…I’ve watched those exact same kids take the benefits of chess, the character building effects of chess–whether it be critical thinking, better problem solving, better concentration, better focus.”
The Trick: Working Backwards
The game of chess is a great metaphor for life and business, if nothing else because of the sheer possibilities for variety. For example, there are over 300 billion possible ways to play in the first four moves alone. There’s a myth, explains Ashley, that Grandmasters can see up to 20 moves ahead. But it’s only a myth. Kind of.
“What you do with retrograde analysis,” says Ashley, “is that in order to look ahead, it pays to look backwards.” Why is this so useful? In chess, as the game continues forward after those initial four or five moves, the position of the pieces begins to get simpler. Pieces start to disappear. Eventually, when good chess players compete, the game progresses to a relatively “simple” position–one in which only a few options remain. “[Grandmasters] like to study things like this,” explains Ashley, “so that if we get to them, we know how to play them ‘cold’…but also, so that we can steer the position that’s in front of us…to something this easy.” “So, in this way, when you’re dead, I already knew like 10 moves ago. Because I knew where we were going.” In essence, working backwards doesn’t just solve problems–it helps prevent them from appearing in the first place
Putting It into Practice
Ashley’s advice isn’t new. As he himself points out, retrograde analysis is used in fields like law, science, medicine, and even the stock market. So, how do you apply this to your work? Here are just a few possibilities: Plan your project backwards. Many are in the habit of planning a project beginning with step one. But this often leads to a problem: More time and money are scheduled for initial steps than are really needed. Then, the latter–often more important steps–become rushed or under-funded. Instead, plan your project by working backwards from the final steps. This enables you to allocate proper time and resources to help ensure a better end result. For example, by creating a stricter budget and set of deadlines for beginning steps and allocating “extra” time and money for more important areas, you attain a more realistic view of the work and can eliminate the tendency to waste precious dollars, along with days and even weeks. Simplify. We are taught that more is better. But in business, that’s not usually true. Having too many choices is often paralyzing when it comes to decision making. Instead, aim to narrow things down whenever possible. It may be possible to sell a thousand varieties of a product, but how many will be truly interesting to your customers? Of course, there is a place for flexibility and “tailor-made” solutions, but you should also try to simplify these as much as possible. Steer things to your advantage. Every organization and individual have specific strengths and weaknesses. By identifying these, you can often steer circumstances to work for you, instead of against you. For example, if you’re a great presenter and have an infectious personality, find a way to get that to as many people as possible. Maybe you can invest in making a professional video that will help you spread that enthusiasm. Or maybe you’re introverted, but you happen to be very creative or an excellent writer. Work towards finding opportunities to use those strengths–for example, reach out to guest post on popular blogs or find another platform to showcase your work. Similarly, if you know you’re weak in a certain area, steer the ship to avoid situations where those weaknesses could be exploited.
Making the Impossible, Possible
Retrograde analysis is a vital problem solving skill, but it works like any ability: You don’t become great overnight. In life, just as in chess, the following holds true: Practice, practice, practice.
Mobile has created more ways than ever for marketers to connect with consumers. But it can be a challenge to figure out which micro-moments are the best opportunities for your brand. Matt Lawson, Google’s director of ads marketing, shares some ways to identify moments that matter. While micro-moments create countless opportunities to meaningfully connect with people, many marketers have one simple question: Which moments are worth going after? Identifying the critical micro-moments for your brand is an art and a science. It means figuring out why people turn to mobile and when your brand can be most helpful. There are a range of methods—both quantitative and qualitative—that can help you focus on the most important moments. Here are five ways to find micro-moments your brand can win:
#1. Find the top mobile-centric searches
You can start by asking your agency to look into the mobile-centric searchesfor your brand or category. These searches—which happen at least 75% of the time on a mobile device—can reveal powerful consumer insights about what your audience wants when they’re using smartphones.
#2. Analyze the most popular questions asked of your brand
Another clue to finding out what people want in the moment: Look at their questions. Ask your Google team or agency to find out the most common queries—beginning with words like “what,” “when,” and “how”—for your brand or category. Each of these queries is an opportunity for you to be there with useful answers. You can also look at whether these queries vary by device. For example, say “how to apply mascara” is a top beauty search that also indexes particularly well on mobile. This might lead an eye makeup brand marketer to invest in mobile video content and advertising so their brand can be helpful in those particular “how-to” moments.
#3. Reframe consumer surveys
Surveying consumers is a tried-and-true technique that can generate useful micro-moment insights. And, with tools like Google Consumer Surveys, you can see responses to online and mobile surveys immediately. Instead of asking classic questions about brand perceptions and product features, zero in on when, why, and where your customers turn to mobile for help and answers in the moment.The results of a hair care survey, for example, might reveal that a large percentage of women turn to their phones for how-tos while doing their hair at least once a week. If you’re a hair care marketer, this would be a clear indication that there’s value in creating mobile videos with styling tips.
#4. Get customer journey insights from your entire team
Consumers want a seamless experience as they move between devices and channels. To make sure your brand delivers on those expectations, encourage all members of your team to work together to think about how to be there and be useful in very specific, everyday moments. Establish a series of guided brainstorms with team members from a range of disciplines—from in-store merchandising to customer service to e-commerce—to kickstart this moments-based thinking. Immerse yourselves in what you already know about the customer journey with data from existing campaigns, journey maps, and research studies. Then move on to what you hypothesize about the specific moments when consumers turn to their devices, especially mobile. It may be helpful to start with the four primary types of micro-moments—I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, and I-want-to-buy—and brainstorm the more nuanced consumer scenarios that fall within those categories. After you generate these ideas, ask yourselves: Is this a moment we should be winning?
#5. Experiment with in-store interviews
If your brand has retail locations, you’ve likely seen people using their mobile phones in store aisles. Talk to these consumers to find out what they were seeking in those moments, and how satisfied they were with the results. For marketers, time of day can be as important as the seasons of the year. Read story The beauty retail brand Sephora uncovered actionable insights through consumer conversations. Managers noticed that more and more shoppers were searching on their phones while in stores. At first this seemed like a threat; they assumed these consumers were comparing prices. But, shoppers said they were looking for product reviews or trying to remember which lipstick shade they bought last time. Eureka! As a result of the insight, Sephora created new app functions to make sure it was useful for consumers in these moments. For more insights and ideas on how to be there and be useful to consumers in their micro-moments, call AdVantage, your guide to “Winning the Shift to Mobile.”
If you own and operate your own small business, you most likely started out handling all aspects of marketing it by yourself. At some point, however, you may need to hand that job over to a professional advertising agency. To determine whether your business needs a professional agency, analyze your business’s finances as well as your goals. Below are some things to consider before making a decision.
1. Determine whether you can afford to pay a marketing agency. Advertising agency fees can be expensive. Look at how much you’ve spent on advertising in the past and estimate how much more you can spend.
2. Get quotes from advertising agencies. Determine what the going rate is for marketing services. You can choose from full-service agencies to more limited services according to your needs. Most full-service agencies charge a considerable sum for their services, and some will only keep clients who agree to a lengthy contract. Working with a boutique ad agency will allow you to pick and choose what you need and only pay for certain services. Along with a smaller price, you’ll have a greater voice in the overall marketing scheme.
3. Think about the advertising cost as an investment. Set a goal to determine how you want your advertising dollars to translate into sales volume. Weigh the costs of an advertising agency against the return for your money. In general, your advertising budget should account for 2 to 5 percent of your business’s gross sales. You may want to spend as much as 10 to 15 percent when launching a new service or product. Most ad agencies won’t guarantee results, but they should offer you a way to track advertising success. The easiest way for you to manage this yourself is ask your customers where they heard about your company or product.
4. Determine how much your time is worth. Decide whether the amount of time and effort you need to spend on advertising outweighs the financial cost of hiring out the job. By leaving the burden on an advertising agency, you can focus on increasing your sales volume, expanding into different markets and focusing on customer service.
5. Evaluate if your current advertising is effective. Think about the message you want your target audience to hear. Advertising works when the audience is enticed into buying or at least intrigued to learn more. If you find that your creativity is waning or you’re having a difficult time coming up with the proper resources to promote your business, it might be time to bring in fresh ideas by the hiring a professional advertising agency.
6. Consider hiring an ad agency if you are developing a new service or product. Ad agencies can also be particularly effective in helping promote a new service or product, or a major event connected with your business. Other major changes, such as switching names or locations or undergoing a significant expansion, warrant a marketing campaign that may be beyond your scope to do alone.