Advertising BasicsAllotting money for advertising is a big step for a small business. When done right, advertising can help a business owner attract new customers, make existing customers feel appreciated (and in turn more loyal), and promote new products and services. While it may be true that you need to spend money to make money, there are many creative, low-cost ways to advertise.

Traditional Venues

Print and radio ad space is still the first thing that comes to mind for most business owners when they think of advertising. And, rightfully so. Print and radio ad space is a viable way to reach a targeted market. Most small business owners start out buying print ads in local, community newsweeklies. These smaller publications are a great way to get your advertising feet wet, but they may not reach as many people as larger, daily newspapers or even glossy, monthly magazines. To gain exposure in those more widely distributed publications, business owners can buy remnant space through an advertising dealer. Remnant space usually becomes available right before the publication is about to go to print and the publisher is desperate to fill an extra page or two, which means they will sell the ad space at a much lower price. Some publications also offer long-term contracts for businesses in exchange for a reduced advertising rate. For example, if you sign a long-term contract, you may be able to get a few months’ worth of advertising for free.

Radio stations also have opportunities to advertise for at a reduced cost. Like publications, radio stations may also have remnant space available, but may only make it available to their regular advertisers who spend about $5,000 to $10,000 a week on advertising. Some radio broadcasters may be willing to set up a bartering arrangement where a business owner offers a certain amount of products or services – maybe excess retail inventory – in exchange for air time. In most cases, the radio stations can use the product or service as a giveaway for listeners or as in-house sales incentives.

Advertising Online

Online advertising offers endless options for reaching a target market, a wide range of price points, and easy-to-understand metrics. It is also easy to assess the success of each ad since you can measure the click-through rate on each ad unit to compare where you ads receive the most page views.

Spend Wisely

Wherever you choose to advertise – print, radio, or online, spend your advertising dollars wisely by choosing ad space where your target market is most likely to look. By knowing your target market – where they look when they want to buy what you sell and which media they use most often and when – will help you lower your advertising costs and see a greater return for each advertising dollar you spend. If you are trying to reach business-to-business prospects, for example, consider which industry publications and web sites they turn to most often. Also consider which type of advertising will have the most impact. Rather than choose several small ads to place in various publications and Web sites, purchase a larger, more effective ad for one popular publication.

The important thing to keep in mind is that advertising dollars should not be the first thing on the chopping block when finances are tight. In fact, businesses that cut back on advertising tend to drop out of sight and suffer a decrease in sales. Instead, spend your advertising dollars wisely and look for creative solutions to reach your target market.

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