Small Business Advertising Secrets for Serious Business Owners

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Many business owners are surprised when I tell them small business advertising doesn't usually work. I'm pretty sure most of them don't believe me, either. After all, if it doesn't work, why does everyone do it? Well, that's a good question. And part of the answer of why it doesn't work is precisely that: because everyone does it. But they all do it the same way... and that's the wrong way. And they all do it the wrong way... because... that's the way everyone does it. See, business owners copy their ads from other business owners... who are copying in turn from them. The fact is, though...

Small business advertising

Does work and it can work incredibly well... IF and ONLY IF you do it the right way. Let me show you that now.

How To Make Your Advertising Pay

First, stop all your advertising, unless you know beyond reasonable doubt it's making you money. The only way to know this is if you can track purchases to the ad. If you can't, then stop doing it, right now. I don't care how good a deal you've got or how "cheap" the ad seems: if it's not making you any money, then it's a very expensive piece of small business advertising indeed. Every ad must pay its way.

The second thing to do is cut the cost of your advertising and increase the responses you get from it. In fact, a much-overlooked way to increase your Return on Investment (ROI) is to pay less to run the advertisement.

The third thing you can do is...

Choose Your Battles Carefully

Your ad being seen by thousands of people is not by itself a good enough reason for placing it. Some years ago a client of mine placed a full-page ad, against my advice, in one of the British national newspapers. It was likely seen by (literally) millions of people, and cost over £15,000 in fees.

From it she got 35 responses and no sales. Not one. There were several reasons for this: first, the ad was rubbish; and secondly, she totally misunderstood her target market. She was, in effect, advertising sausages to vegetarians. Metaphorically speaking.

So bear in mind your local newspapers and media might not be suitable for your business to advertise in. For example, most business-to-business small business advertising is wasted in local newspapers because while your readership might be high, the blunt truth is eyeballs are not buyers. You can make much more money with a publication having a vastly smaller circulation but with a much more tightly defined demographic.

Learn What Makes an Ad Successful!

And, of course, what doesn't.

Your ad should follow the AIDA formula: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Seems like a very simple formula (and it is!), but it's one even the great copywriters and marketers use -- because it works. And to get the attention people you're interested in doing business with, all your small business advertising should start with an attention getting headline. It's the first thing the reader sees. Your name and logo will just bore them.

Once you have their attention, you've got to get their interest. A list of services and product features won't do that. They have problems they want solving. So get their interest by telling them what you can do for them.

Arouse Their Desire!

Interest alone won't prompt them to dig their hands in their pockets and give you their money. It's not even going to be enough to make them call you or visit a website to get more information from you. To arouse their desire, small business advertising has to really drive home that knife and twist it. It's not enough to tell them a fire alarm will save their home!

You've got to make them imagine what it would be like to lose their family - wife, kids and the family dog! You have to engage their emotions to make them desperately need what you have to offer.

Get Them To Take Action!

Finally, you've got to get them to do something. Just ending your ad with a pathetic "and perhaps come in and see us if you think we can help you". If you're feeling especially ineffectual, you can promise you won't be beaten on price. Clue: virtually no one really buys on price all the time (and the few who do make lousy customers and clients).

So your small business advertising must have a specific thing you want them to do. Go to a website, call you, post a coupon... what? Generally, the more ways to respond you give them, the better your response will be.


Small business advertising works. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of businesses prove this every single day. BUT the difference is the business owners whom it works for have gone out of their way and put in the time and made the effort to learn the essential skills they need to make it work -- marketing is a learnable skill, and not a particularly difficult one to master, especially in a local market.