How to pick your shots when advertising a small business

advertising a small business

Almost every small business and startup faces a single problem and it’s one that gets very little attention in articles like these: How can you compete against bigger or more established businesses?

If you only pay attention to the conventional wisdom that is most often articulated in advice articles, it will make marketing or advertising a small business very frustrating and expensive. Let’s look at some strategies that will make advertising a small business more successful.

Study the competition

The first thing you need to do is to discover where advertising a small business won’t work. You need to know where your competition is focusing its marketing efforts and judge their success.

With a little research you should be able to identify the areas where your competitors are spending most of their time and money. Look for consistency and effort. Just because your competitor has a Twitter account, for instance, doesn’t mean that it’s being used successfully.

A great place to begin this research is on SimilarWeb. SimilarWeb offers a free and paid service. You might get by with just the free service, especially if your competition depends on the Internet for a lot of advertising and marketing.

I just looked up a site similar to mine and discovered that nearly 50 percent of the traffic to this site comes from organic searches and this site doesn’t do any paid search advertising. This might present an opportunity to explore.

If your competitors do a lot of traditional advertising – print, radio, television, etc. – you’ll probably have a fairly good feel for this.

Do the basics

Look for the low-hanging fruit first:

  • If your competitor is not getting organic search volume, then make search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing a priority.
  • If your competitor is not getting a lot of traffic from the social media, concentrate some of your effort there.
  • If your competitor is not buying any online advertising, pull together a small budget and start advertising your small business on this avenue.

These are very standard ways of marketing and advertising a small business today and it’s fine to invest time and money in one if you sense your competitor is not very active in it. But avoid the areas where your competitor has a significant presence; you don’t want to wage a scorched earth battle for the advertising and marketing turf where your competitor is strongest.

Advertising a small business in other places

If your competitors seem strong in these areas, start looking to non-traditional avenues for advertising and marketing:

Trade shows. While these aren’t really non-traditional, you might find they are ignored by some of your competitors. They can be excellent venues for advertising a small business.

Public relations. Become an expert at promoting yourself to the local media. Get free publicity and whip up interest in who you are and what you’re doing. When it comes to advertising a small business, nothing beat “free.”

Compete for awards. If your industry or community gives awards, get into the contests. You’ll meet people, make a positive impression and you might actually win sometimes.

Business development. Where are new places that your business can “plug in”? Brainstorm strategic alliances with related businesses.

Direct mail. For some local businesses, targeted direct mail campaigns are the most powerful weapon they have in their marketing arsenal.

Outdoor advertising. If you’re primarily a local business, consider renting billboard space, wrapping your vehicles and even designing a better sign at your location.

Text message advertising. You don’t need a very long list of people willing to receive text messages from you to have success in this area.

Geotargeting and geofencing. With near-field communication as well as hyper-local advertising options, you can appeal directly to prospects near your place of business.

Print ads. Many owners discover that print is an excellent avenue for advertising a small business in a local market.

Education-based strategies. You can hold seminars at your business or do online webinars. Find ways to reach out to the public and tell them about what you do while you provide them with valuable information.

Sponsoring community events and groups. It always helps to have your name associated with a beloved community event or group. Also, join or participate in community events and groups.

Write a book. Publish a book on your area of expertise. If it becomes the go-to reference in your niche, even if you don’t make money from book sales – which you probably won’t – you’ll make money from increased business.

These are just some of the “less-done-to-death” tactics to market and advertise a small business that can give it a big boost. And before you leave, what would you add to this list?

Image: Gebhard Fugel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons