How To Know When, And
When Not To, Advertise
Your Small Business

by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom EgelhoffOne of the major problems facing most small town business owners is advertising.

Who is my target market? Where are they? How much should I spend on my advertising?

Will my advertising work? What should my ad say?

The questions are endless.

But, except for a sale, the one question seldom asked is WHEN should I advertise.

Are there times a business shouldn't advertise? Yes.

Always remember that advertising must pay for itself. It must generate enough sales to pay for itself and produce a profit for the company.

If that doesn't happen then advertising becomes an expense and creates a drain on the business bank account.

Sooner or later this drain with put the company out of business.

So, when are the times to advertise and when are the times not to advertise.

Times When You Should Advertise

Advertise when most of the total market is your target market.

A market composed of the same people can change from one period of time to another. A good example is a seasonal business.

You rarely see ski ads during the summer in Montana.

During the winter however it's a different story. Skiers are skiers year around. What makes the difference is winter and snow.

They only become your target market during the winter. It would be cost prohibitive to run many ski ads in the summer. A golf shop might do just the opposite.

Advertise when your target market uses one or two of your only primary media.

Most small towns don't have 20 radio stations or 6 TV stations like major cities do.

Most consider themselves lucky to have one or two radio stations and a single newspaper.

If your target market listens to or reads these two primary media, and your business is not seasonal, then you need to be here as often as you can.

Advertise when its the only way to reach your market.

An example of this might be a home-based business.

You have no store front, no vehicles with signs around town.

Other than word of mouth, there is no other way to reach your market effectively.

Advertise when you need to build your company presence.

New businesses must begin to establish their company name.

Unless your product is truly unique, most businesses promote the company first and the product second.

You'd also want to consider advertising when introducing your company to a new city or town.

The company must stand behind the product.

The most important asset of any company is the companies own good name.

Advertise when you're introducing new products or services.

Your customers have perceptions of the products and services you carry.

It can be very difficult to get a new product off the launching pad without some introductory advertising to alert your customers to the new line.

Advertise when you can afford it.

Please don't misunderstand.

As stated above, advertising must be an investment.

Just because you have some extra money doesn't mean that it's OK to advertise just for the sake of advertising.

Make sure you're in the right place at the right time with the right message to the right people.

Advertise when the competition does.

Have you noticed that McDonalds, Wendy's and Burger King all advertise on every station every day? Why?

Will we ever forget McDonalds? The answer is yes we will.

Take the time to analyze competitive advertising. What are they saying? What's the message? I

f they're running poor ads in the wrong places don't follow blindly and place ads there too.

It you feel their advertising is effective and is hurting your business then you need to make the decision to be competitive in advertising as well as products.

Advertise when the competition doesn't.

Your competitor will stop advertising for two reasons.

One, it isn't working.

Or two, it is working so well it's no longer necessary.

Either way it's a benefit to you.

If it's number one then you have an opportunity to move some customers from your competition because your name is constantly heard by the target market instead of your competitor.

If it's number two, customers who can't get taken care of are going to be looking for an alternative where they can be helped. You should be that alternative.

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Times When You Should Not Advertise

Do not advertise when the available media does not reach your target market directly.

In many rural areas the newspaper is considered town news not farm news.

The farmer may get his news from farm journals or radio.

Your advertising starts becoming an expense if you're in the paper and the farmer you want to reach doesn't read it.

Do not advertise if it's not cost effective.

This is a no brainer but many businesses don't track advertising to see if it really is producing customers and paying for itself.

Do not advertise if you can't do it right.

I can't tell you the number of business owners who have told me that they ran one ad that produced no customers.

So, to them newspaper advertising doesn't work.

You must be prepared to run ads that cover the geographical area you need in conjunction with the proper numbers of repetition.

Do not advertise if your product requires face to face contact or extensive demonstration.

If your product needs to be demonstrated or requires lengthy explanations it is going to be difficult to advertise it effectively. You could do a half-hour info-mercial if you can afford it.

Do not advertise if you can't keep up with your competition.

Many companies are very successful against major competitors simply be being the best at what they do.

Don't use up your budget trying to "keep up with the Joneses."

One more time, "Advertising = Investment not expense."

Most small town grocery or hardware stores would have a problem trying to match Wal-Marts ad budget.

Do not advertise if it doesn't look professional.

Some business owners who have some computer knowledge can create their own advertising.

Some of it is very creative. Most of it is not. This is your image. How important is it?

Seek professional help to create a concept. You can take it over later after learning how to do it.

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The Last Word On When And When Not To Advertise

The overwhelming message in this article is: "Advertising must be an investment."

Do not advertise anywhere it costs you money. Yes, I know there will be a payment for the advertising but that ad must make more than it costs.

If it doesn't....pull it. Stop it.

Don't let people talk you into any advertising that you are not 100% positive will work.

If you can't be 100% at least make sure that it is reaching your target market and that it is effective.

One way to make sure is to key your ads.

An ad "key" is some clue that lets you know where the customer came from.

There should be a call to action in the ad.

"Bring in this coupon.", "Call our toll-free number", "Ask for operator 23" a coupon or free offer returned to your business will let you know how effective your ad is.

As long as it's making you money let it run.

If it is not making money, AFTER A REASONABLE TRIAL, pull it and move on.

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