The bottom line of all advertising efforts is an obvious one: to attract customers and bolster sales. But often small business advertising is wasted on a shotgun approach that doesn't focus on the company's best prospects - those who are ready, willing and able to purchase the product or service. In an attempt to reach "everybody," these advertisers either miss their true market or spend far more than necessary to reach it.

Once you've targeted your market, and know exactly who and where your prospects are, it's important to clearly identify what you want your advertising to accomplish. Specific advertising objectives include:

Generally, the most effective ads focus on customer needs or wants, and emphasize the most desirable benefits of the product or service, such as convenience, style or durability. Other tactics include comparisons with competitive products, two-for-one sales, special one-day discounts, and offers of free information.

The tactics you choose in your advertising will help determine the media you select and the exact message you communicate. One of the best ways to become familiar with the tactics in your field is to collect your competitors' advertising materials and use them to stimulate your thinking.

The most important things to take into consideration in any ad are the audience and the offer. Who is the ad trying to reach? If the ad isn't presented to the right audience and addressed to them in their own language, then it isn't going to get noticed. And if the offer isn't something that interests them and gets them excited, then they're not going to take any action even if they do notice it.

Finally, make it easy for customers to respond to your ad. Tell them what action to take and include (depending on the advertising medium) coupons, an "800" number or business reply envelopes. And be sure to stand behind what you sell.

Deciding Where to Advertise

The mediums in which you choose to advertise will depend on the audience you're trying to reach, the geographical range of your business, where your product or service can be most effectively presented, and your budget.

In deciding where to advertise, keep the following considerations in mind:

A final point is that advertising does not need to be brilliant or highly creative to be effective. The secret of successful advertising lies in its continuity - sending an informative, consistent message over time that motivates existing customers and prospects to turn to you when they are ready to buy.


"Most entrepreneurs think that if they have a good product, people will buy it. They don't understand that promoting their business is key," advises restauranteur Adolf Dulan, co-owner with his wife Mary of Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch in Marina del Rey, California. "This does not mean just putting flyers on windshields, however. You need to be more sophisticated." The Dulans decided to specialize in "authentic American home-style food and traditional Southern hospitality" after being in the fast-food business for 10 years. "We saw the trend towards healthier eating styles," he recalls. In addition to advertising in a local newspaper ("as most restaurant clientele comes from a three to five mile radius"), the Dulans give each customer a hand-out that details their 18-year relationship and working partnership, and the restaurant's colorful history. "This hand-out has made Aunt Kizzy's internationally known," says Dulan, who admits that word-of-mouth advertising from customers has been their strongest promotional tool of all.

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