Over the last few years I have witnessed home business owners go about advertising their products and services in the wrong way or not at all. Not only are mistakes made in the ways that ads are written but, also, many people have unrealistic expectations of their advertising, especially when an ad campaign has not been put together properly in the first place.
Advertising is a natural part of growing and expanding your business. You cannot expect your business to grow to its utmost potential without some sort of advertising involved. This does not mean you need to break the bank to advertise.
You don't need to use expensive advertising to promote your business and see results. But you do need to be smart in how you advertise and need to be realistic in what you are expecting for results. Most importantly, you need to be consistent and repetitive.
Many businesses fall into what I call the "now you see me, now you don't" syndrome. This is a scenario I see which happens over and over with home business owners. They pull their ad after a one time or very short run in a newsletter, magazine, newspaper, direct mail, radio or website.
This is one of the largest mistakes a business owner can make; a mistake that happens with many new business owners and even some veterans. Studies show that a consumer needs to see your ad (product or service) anywhere from 6 to 12 times before making a purchasing decision. Not only does the repeat of your ad and company information give your company recognition with the consumer, it also gives your company creditability. All you need to do is put yourself in the consumer's seat. If you saw an ad only once, from a company you have never heard of before, for a product that you might be interested in, would you make that purchase right then and there? Probably not. But when you see a product/ad over and over, you begin to recognize that company AND begin to subconsciously trust that company as one who is legitimate and who is successful.
Think about this: You are a subscriber to a magazine. You are reading thru the current issue and notice a variety of ads. You spot one that perks your interest. You read it, and you go on to read the rest of the magazine. The following month you receive the next issue of the magazine. You read it and then you remember an ad you saw in the last issue, but cannot quite remember the name of the company or all the information about the product. You assume it will be in this magazine as that is where you saw it in the first place. You can't find it. You don't have a copy of last month's issue, so you forget about that ad and the company and the product you were a bit interested in. What does this mean? It means a lost sale to the company that only advertised in that one issue. A potential customer may not be ready to make that purchase when they first discover your product, but two or three months down the road, they ARE ready to purchase. If they can't find you, there is no sale.
Learn from the example of one company's very expensive mistake. An internet company decided to throw all their money into a one-time advertising shot during the Super Bowl. They hired extra people to man the phone center, expecting huge results. C'mon - this was the Super Bowl with millions upon millions of viewers! Guess what happened? The phone barely rang. They sat dumbfounded AND now broke. You cannot expect great results with a onetime shot at getting your word out, even when it is to millions of people.
Think of the big companies. How do you think they GOT to be big companies? Almost every company starts out as an idea of just one person or a handful of people. They grow and become successful from advertising and getting the word out about their products and services. Why do you think you know the names 3M, Fischer Price, Old Navy and so many more? It's because you consistently and repetitively see their name and ads everywhere. No, not everyone wants to be the next 3M, but a company WILL not grow if you don't advertise it. Word of mouth is great, but can and will only get you so much business. Networking is great, but again will get you limited business. You cannot solely depend on word of mouth and networking.
Advertising is essential for your business to grow, but it doesn't have to make you go broke to do it. If you aren't doing so already, you need to allow yourself an advertising budget. No matter how big or small, each month there should be money allotted for advertising. If you haven't been including advertising in your budget up to now, it is best to save up for a few months to run a good campaign. While you are saving and putting money aside, you can do your research as to where you will be spending your advertising dollars. Always find your target market for your product or service. It makes no sense to advertise the baby products you sell to a readership of auto mechanics. Find advertising options that are affordable for the exposure you will get. While advertising in a large magazine sounds tempting for the exposure, if your ad is tucked away in the back, in very small print, it might not be that beneficial. While you could spend $1000 a month to have an ad in that large publication, you could find better exposure in a smaller publication for a lot less money and therefore reap better results. That $1000 could last for 6 to 10 issues in a smaller publication as opposed to just one issue in the large publication. Make your exposure last so you can gain the recognition and credibility that your company needs.
Do your research and plan ahead. If you are going to contact other advertisers from a publication you are interested in advertising in, be sure to ask them the following questions: How long did you run your ad? How large was your ad? (Size IS important as ads that are too small can be lost and if someone has a lot of information to put in a small ad, it may not bring good results) What type of product or service did you advertise? What kind of results were you looking for? (Again, an important question, and listen to their answer. They may have had unrealistic results themselves, hoping for quite a bit of sales from only one or two ads.) How were you tracking the ads from this publication? (Many people, in all reality, have no way of knowing HOW their ad has succeeded with certain places because the ad it too generic or does not have special coding for them to track where a sale is coming from.)
While the thought of paid advertising may frighten you, don't let it. Yes, it is something that you do need to include in your business plan to grow your business but, if researched, planned, and executed properly, you will see results that you wouldn't have dreamed to be possible. Maybe, and probably not immediately, but in the long run, your business will prevail and grow.