How To Develop A Successful Small Business
Advertising Campaign

by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom Egelhoff

In case you missed it the single key word in the above title is "successful." It's no problem to develop an advertising campaign for any small business.

Anyone can do it. What separates success from failure is doing it correctly. That's what we want to explore in todays article.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; and if you're a regular reader of this site you may get tired of hearing it.

In order for adverting to be successful it must be an investment, not an expense.

That simply means that advertising must produce more potential customers who buy something than the advertising costs the company.

Advertising cannot create a financial drain on your business.

One of the major problems most small businesses encounter is that advertising often takes some time to work and we live in a world of "immediate gratification."

We are entirely to impatient to let the advertising seeds grow our customers. We want to plant the seeds in the morning and have a full crop by mid-afternoon.

That rarely happens in business. Customers need time and exposure to your business before making the decision to do business with you.

The other part of the advertising time equation is that your competitors are also advertising to your customers. Some are going to decide to shop there instead of with you based on the competitive advertising message.

Others may not need your product today but are planning on it down the road. They may begin looking at ads far in advance of their actual purchase.

If you aren't there they are going to miss your message. A consistent advertising message must be available to your customers.

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Begin By Reviewing The Basics

The basic essentials of marketing and advertising are defining your products or services and matching them up with customers who will benefit by using those products or services.

These customers are generally referred to as your "target market." The people most likely to buy your product because they fit a profile of your ideal customer.

To begin, make a list of every product and service you offer. If you own a hardware store you don't need to list every nut and bolt.

Use category listings if individual products are too numerous to list. Next what are the benefits of each product or category?

The benefits should suggest a type of person or persons who should like this product. What is their age group? Male or female? Education? Income? Lifestyle?

You're product benefits should appeal to some of these groups.

Next try to construct a profile of your ideal customer for each product. (See: Target Marketing: Who They Are; How To Find Them) which will give your some guidelines for doing this.

In addition, if you are a small town or small market business;

See: "How To Find The Real Target Market In A Small Town."

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Capitalize On Who And What You Are

Here is another advantage small town businesses have over their big city counterparts. That advantage is that people get to know you.

You can probably call most people who come into your business by name. You know them and they know you.

When customers are comparing identical products the decision of where to purchase often comes down to the person they feel most comfortable dealing with.

To take further advantage of this take a page from some of the bigger advertisers. Dave Thomas of Wendy's Fast Food Hamburgers seemed like a plain ordinary guy like us in his commercials.

McDonald's couldn't do the same thing with owner Joan Kroc.

Often the "personality" of your business is one of its strongest assets. Use it to the fullest.

Next, I'll explore some of the most important essentials of a successful advertising campaign.

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Go To School

No, I don't mean go down to the local college and get a marketing degree. What I mean is become a student of your business or industry by observing the things that come across your desk on a daily basis.

For example, start a "swipe file." This is a file of advertising ideas that you like. They can be for any type of business.

If you like the layout, or the typefaces, the colors, type of paper, specific wording or whatever; save it in your swipe file.

When the time comes to construct your advertising message pull these out and use the best of what you've been saving.

In addition, collect all advertising you can that is done by your competitors so you'll always know what they're up to.

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Stress The "Bennies"

Here is the other statement you are probably sick of hearing over and over. "When logic and emotion come into conflict, emotion always wins."

We buy based on emotion -- then create a logical argument to support our decision. If you don't believe that's true go down to the local grocery store and find the "mouse flavored" cat food.

Isn't that logical that cat food should be made out of raw mouse? Or birds? Logical yes.

But most people who do the shopping would be repulsed by handling it.

Benefits sell products and services. See: "Understanding Why Customers Buy."

People don't buy 1/4" drill bits to own them and display them over the fireplace. They buy them because they want a 1/4" hole.

They want the benefit of the drill bit. Find and stress your benefits in all your advertising.

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Use The Pros If You Can

Most small towns don't have advertising or marketing agencies; and many small town business owners couldn't afford the services even if they were available.

But if you fall into the category of those who can then give them all the ammunition you can for them to work with.

They know the advertising and marketing game better than you do. You know your business better than they do.

It's a give and take exchange of information. The more help you can give them about the benefits of your products and services the better they can design a campaign that will be successful.

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You Must Test But You Must Not Test Everything

The real expense of advertising comes in finding out what works and what doesn't. Some times this takes a series of ads over a period of time with different offers to different target markets.

This expense makes the identification of your target market crucial. You must keep testing to a minimum so your costs don't get out of control.

The larger your market is the more mainstream media you can advertise in.

For example if you are in a rural area and sell farm machinery; why advertise in the city newspaper that reaches the entire town who are not your customers?

Direct mail or farm machinery magazines might be less expensive and more effective.

Never advertise anywhere unless you have a reasonable expectation that your target market will see it.

If they won't its not a test it's just a waste of capital.

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Build Your Business On Satisfied Customers

Some to the very best advertising you can ever hope to get is word-of-mouth advertising. This is one satisfied customer telling a friend or relative how good your business is.

When you have a satisfied customer ask them for the name of someone else that might benefit in the same way they did from your products or services.

For how to ask for referrals. See: "How Your Customers Can Build Your Business"

Your current customers are the most powerful advertising tool you have. Use them to the fullest.

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What Belongs In Your Ads

Most ads are composed of the same basic parts.

First; the headline -- this is designed to attract the attention of the reader and hopefully suggest they read further.

Second; a subhead -- usually a re-enforcement of the headline further defining the information to come and stressing the benefits to the customer.

Third; the copy or body of the ad. This is the meat and potatoes of the ad. Don't overdo this part by being too wordy.

This part should also have a "call to action" by the customer. Make a phone call, come down to the storefront, bring in a coupon.

Something that will cause the customer to make contact with you.

For more on designing a winning headline. See: "Ads That Sell: It All Starts With The Headline"
For 10 tips that great ads have see: "What Makes A Great Ad."

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You Must Be Able To Track Your Advertising

How can you possibly know if your advertising is successful unless you have some method of tracking the number of people it brings into your business?

You must be able to track or "key" where the advertising was placed.

For example: a newspaper coupon might have the initials of the paper and the date as a small code in one of the corners of the coupon.

A Bozeman Daily Chronicle ad running the first week in August 2000 might be BC 8/1/00. The Billings Gazette during the same time period might be BG 8/1/00. The code would be the "key."

If it's not a print ad how do you track it?

Have them call a specific number. Ask for a specific person. Ask for free information. "I'm calling to have you send me your free report on Montana Real Estate Law."

Always ask each and every customer how they found you. If they come in with an ad for a product make a note of it.

If you can cross reference your invoices with your advertising "keys" you can tell how much in real revenue your advertising is really producing.

Then you will have a base reference for the "cost of advertising to produce a customer."

Once you have established that cost you can refine the ads to produce more revenue and you'll have a comparison to evaluate it against.

Each time the business revenue grows the cost per customer should drop slightly.

Why? Because, by testing and refining your ads, you are reaching more of your target market with less advertising because you are doing all your advertising in the right places with the right offer.

Fewer ads in the right places will produce more customers than a lot of ads in the wrong places.

With proper tracking you will know very quickly if that coupon is being returned, or the phone is ringing.

With that information you can refine the ads and the message in the correct media to produce a higher return.

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The Last Word On Developing A Successful Advertising Campaign

Advertising can truly make or break a business. It's money going out with an expectation of return.

When it goes to the wrong place there is no return -- it's an expense. But when it is in the right place then it becomes and investment. And just like a strong stock it makes more than it costs.

In review, it all boils down to three important points.

One, know your product benefits and promote them in your ads;

Two, define your target market and how to reach them; and

Three; Know how to track and evaluate your advertising.

Developing a successful advertising campaign is not always easy but it can be done.

Do your homework and learn about your products and customers and your chances of success will be much higher.

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