There is an awful lot of information out there about how to advertise your small business. But as Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, would ask, how do you put First Things First?
Let's talk about a few things to consider when starting your first advertising campaign.
Reduce Your Cost
The first advertising many businesses do comes at a time when money is tight. Few businesses are overfunded and looking for ways to get cash out the door. That being said, the question is, "How do you minimize your cost when advertising?" The best answer to that is to look for advertising that is highly targeted and is not being bid up by everyone on the planet. That is one of the challenges for small business and online advertising. The space for your ad is in direct competition with Amazon, Samsung, Toyota, and more. Look for advertising that is not dominated by the biggest players if you want to maximize your return.
Look for Something Proven
Well, risk comes in two parts: Cost and Expected Return. Obviously the less you pay, the lower the risk, all other things being equal. Expected Return is a little more tricky since anyone who guarantees a result in advertising will most likely try to also sell you a lovely timeshare next to some swampland in Florida. So, what you really want is an advertising medium that has a long history of delivering results for your type of business. Talk to owners of similar businesses to see what has worked and what hasn't. When talking to ad agencies, ask if other customers are willing to talk about their experience. Does the company have a track record of success in your business or would you be their "guinea pig?"
There is no Silver Bullet
The subservient chicken aside, the chance of getting a home run on a single viral video is pretty low. Advertising isn't the big lottery some people make it out to be. It is much more like an investment. When you invest in the stock market, some of the best advice is to be disciplined and stick to your plan. In advertising, that means you can't run an ad for a week and make a decision about its performance. Look for someone to help you define a program that brings experience from your industry, sets the right expectations, and helps you monitor what you can and what you can't know about your performance.
Let Proven Advertising Pay for the Risky
There is no doubt there is a lot of opportunity on social media and other trending forms of advertising. In fact, it is a $40 Billion industry. But it is also the newcomer to town and while everyone is scrambling to figure out the right formula to make online marketing profitable for the advertiser, there is a lot of money going down the proverbial drain. Other forms of more proven advertising don't have the same shiny glow on them, but that is really because they are so predictable. Consider the analogy of investing again. If you have $1000 to invest and are just starting out, would you put everything into a high-flying, high-risk penny stock or do you invest in a good market fund which will spin off dividends every quarter? The beauty of the proven plan is that you can have your cake and eat it too, simply by letting the proven plan pay for the riskier form of advertising.