Why Small Businesses Must Advertise Or Perhaps Die!

There is an ageless axiom in advertising that states when business is good it pays to advertise, but when business is bad, well then one must advertise!There is certainly no arguing that spreading the word about your business, products, or services is necessary no matter how great a value or benefit your products and services have to offer.Let’s say for example that you had the cure for the common cold. No doubt virtually everyone would be interested in your product. However if no one knows about your product or knows where to get it, then most likely no one will find it. In other words, the quality or the benefit of the product is not enough to make the product a success. The marketplace has to know what the product can do and, maybe more importantly, where to get it.Simply that’s what advertising does. Today consumers are bombarded with messages every minute. The challenge is to make sure your potential customers remember your message.For generations throughout most of the 19thand 20thcenturies, there was little need for small business owners to advertise much. Word of mouth, a solid reputation, and an established customer base usually were enough to maintain a sufficient revenue stream that generated some profit. Small business owners knew most of their customers well enough, personally or professionally, to maintain their business. Competition was present, but often not intense enough to cause too much concern. Usually there was room enough in the market for everyone to make a living.Advertising – if it was done at all – was mostly done around special events or time of year. Small business owners did the traditional and necessary stuff. They relied on newspaper ads, radio, signs, and maybe television.Some of the advertising was effective, but for the most part advertising was not necessary for survival. Of course there were exceptions then and there are exceptions now.Certain businesses have always had to advertise regularly. These include vehicle dealerships and retail stores particularly. But for the most part, most small businesses – and particularly B2B (business-to-business) enterprises didn’t advertise much at all aside from the occasional ad in the trade journal. The latter was usually perceived as mandatory or obligatory. It may not have been much of a sales generator.Things began to change in the decade of the 1990’s when the world began to shrink thanks mostly to great advances in electronics and communications. The Internet and the World Wide Web brought us all closer to things far, far away. The changes were gradual at first, but momentum has increased steadily and continues today. Frankly, there will be no stopping it any time soon.Direct-to-consumer small businesses have responded well. The market expanded well beyond the neighborhood for them thanks to E-commerce. Shopping on line has become routine for millions of consumers. The smallest of businesses can ship its product to almost anywhere in the world.The small B2B enterprises have not responded as well as their direct-to-consumer counterparts. Competition for the B2B enterprise has increased from outside the traditional market and from outside the country. It is a global economy, not just a neighborhood anymore. What was automatic is no longer automatic. Long established customers are courted from afar by new competitors. Established business contacts are no longer present. Buyers and decision-makers are far away, not down the street or across town as they once were. The company headquarters down in Dallas is calling the shots for the Wisconsin location. The contractor from Phoenix is looking for a masonry contractor in Ohio. That’s the way of B2B commerce today.To survive in the new world economy, both the small direct-to-consumer business and the small B2B business must now do something that hasn’t been done very often or very well for generations. The small business owner must now advertise effectively. Advertising effectively is not just advertising more of the same, but advertising by using methods outside of, instead of, or in addition to the old traditional ways.Patience is not a typical trait of entrepreneurs and small business owners. The lack of patience on their part is particularly true when it comes to advertising. Most entrepreneurs and small business owners have tried one form or another of the established forms of advertising including newspaper and journal print ads (display advertising), radio or television (media advertising) or direct marketing at least one time.Consequently, there are many small business owners that will swear that advertising is a waste of money.Advertising specialists and Marketing experts measure everything. Nothing is left to chance or luck. These specialists and experts know that repetition is essential to any effective advertising program. While it is possible to get lucky the first time, almost always advertising will take time and repetition to be effective.Signs are a perfect illustration. Advertising professionals know that signs have a very high percent of Recall. Billboards, yard signs, and vehicle signage can have as high as a 96% Recall factor. In other words, people remember the message or important information that the sign provides.Recall is not Recognition however. A person will drive by an outdoor billboard 20-22 times on average before noticing it. We know this because marketing experts have measured the traffic.What does this mean for the business owner? There are 21.75 work days per month for the average worker. Large outdoor signage contracts are monthly, but the basic outdoor package is ninety days or more. In other words, advertising experts conclude that there is a statistical probability that the population of drive-by traffic will view and recall an outdoor sign at least once in a business month or at least three times during the three month period of a basic contract. How many people drive by? That depends on the location of course, but the sign company will know how many will pass and the particular demographics of the passerby at various times of the day. Once again, the demographics are measured.Similar or identical measuring principles apply to all other ad media. Since advertising stimulates people to call or to visit the place of business and advertising encourages the visitors to become customers who purchase products, then it is understandable why frequency and repetition are keys to advertising success.Speaking of other media, the advertising efforts of any business cannot rely on one method or media. Using one method of advertising is rarely successful. The company’s advertising effort must be a combined and coordinated program with a singular purpose and message. Seeking the advice of advertising or marketing professionals before launching an advertising program is highly recommended and very beneficial.Furthermore, advertising must be viewed as an investment aimed to generate new customers and new opportunities. In other words, advertising should increase or otherwise benefit sales revenue. How will the small business owner know it is working? You guessed it. The business owner will measure the results and compare the revenue to the investment. How much a business owner spends on advertising depends on the nature of the business and the return on the investment expected or sought.Advertising can be expensive, but I have identified in the following paragraphs some inexpensive and effective advertising methods that will stimulate product awareness and that will generate the desired results for both direct-to-customer and B2B businesses.Web site: An effective, commercial web site is essential for any small business in our present economy. Searching the web for information is now the method of choice for not only direct customers, but also business-to-business customers.Signage: Whether a permanent or portable outdoor sign, yard or street corner signs, vehicle signs, or company uniforms or clothing, signs are very effective. Every piece of moving equipment and every employee is a potential moving sign. An employee in a uniform becomes a walking billboard.Direct Marketing: Direct marketing whether by mail, email, fax, flyers, canvassing, personal delivery, or other methods remain as solid advertising choices with good return on investment. Frequent and repetitive contacts with targeted customers or market segments are essential however. Once is just not enough!Cable TV Advertising: Cable TV advertising is the fastest growing medium in advertising today. It is a great way to reach consumers directly so this medium is better suited for the direct-to-customer business, but there are exceptions. Unlike advertising on the local stations of the major Television networks, the cable television providers offer very diverse and highly targeted advertising packages to the local markets at very affordable prices. Often cable providers will produce the commercial for a small fee or include the cost in the advertising package. If Cable TV advertising is a viable advertising option, it is without a doubt the best value and the best return on investment in the market today.Print Collateral: Color printing is no longer the expensive venture it was in the past. The days of printing 10,000 copies of a brochure to assure a low price per piece are gone. Thanks to direct-to-press digital printing and on-demand printing, the cost to produce a small quantity of company brochures or flyers is reasonable. Additionally, thanks to the ease of editing digital and small quantity printing, revisions or updates are easily applied to keep the collateral piece current. Additionally, thanks to computer hardware and software technological improvements, and affordable, high quality printers, brochures can be produced internally. The business owner must weigh the possible savings compared to the message that a less than professionally prepared collateral piece conveys. Like all other advertising, printed material conveys not only the message, but also conveys the quality image of the company. If your message is printed on a low quality printer using economical printer paper, then that is likely the message you send to your would-be customer. On the other hand, if your message is printed on a higher quality paper stock at the highest quality setting, then the message you send will be quite different. The brochure or print collateral must have the feel of quality.Additionally, since printed materials are such powerful communicators, then absolutely every piece of mail, every package, and every shipment that leaves the company should have an advertising piece included. Everything! You can’t send your message too many times or to too many customers.

Future High Tech Marketing – Going Mobile (Digital Marketing)

Most people today have a mobile phone by their side most of the day. This is the most personal platform available for customer calls to action. People are out and about these days and have a lot on their minds; the ability to easily use mobile whenever desired combined with today’s increased device functionality streamlines the purchasing process, which leads to greater conversion rates compared to any other method.Marketing strategies should include the mobile channel to engage customers and drive sales. This is true even for the home-based business. On the local level, brick and mortar businesses implementing a mobile campaign will just about be able to lead people right through their front doors and to specific products of interest.Digital marketing is the practice of promoting products and services using digital distribution channels (Radio, TV, Internet, Mobile) to reach consumers in a timely, relevant, personal and cost-effective manner. There are 2 different forms of digital marketing. Pull digital marketing in which the user seeks out and selects (pulls) the content from a site and. push marketing, which involves both the marketer (creator of the message) as well as the recipients (the user). The marketer has to push (send) the messages to the user in order for the message to be received. Examples of push digital marketing include Email, SMS, MMS and RSS. For a very effective marketing campaign push and pull message marketing should be used in concert along with traditional channels that promote calls to action.MMS (Multimedia Message Service) mobile marketing enables streaming video, flash, and advanced capabilities and can contain a timed slide show of images, text, audio and video. This technology enhances the users experience and will lead to more click-through rates.Blue-tooth systems which offer “hot spot” areas are also being deployed. These offer content-management system with a Blue-tooth distribution function. This technology has the advantages that it is permission-based, has higher transfer speeds and is also a radio-based technology and can therefore not be billed. Geo-fencing is another technique that can also be used to trigger mobile ads and special messages to users as they enter or exit an area like a stadium.The migration into the mobile advertising market has been highlighted by Google’s acquisition of Ad Mob and Apple’s purchase of Quattro Wireless. Brand names are in hot pursuit of this personal technology medium.The Rapidly Increasing Mobile Trend There has always been a demand among consumers for more technologically advanced products that simplify our lives and facilitates the delivery of information as evidenced by mainstream media methods that have gone from print materials to radio to TV to computers to laptops to cell phone and now to smart mobile devices.Why mobile needs to be in your in your arsenal of marketing resourcesGoogle’s new mantra is “Mobile First”
Mobile device use is already 5 times more than the Internet
Apple recently sold more than 2 million iPhones
160,000 Droid smart phones are activated every day
$6.2 Billion were spent by consumers on apps this year (Gartner)
The US Mobile Web has been growing over 2% month over month. (Nielsen)
More than half of all Internet connections today are through smart phones
91% of Americans keep their cell phone within 3ft of themIncreasing Usage of Handheld DevicesEmail, mobile web browsing and social networking are increasingly seeing usage on handheld devices. Over the past few years SMS (Short Message Service) that is a one-way text message sent via cell phone has become a legitimate advertising channel and it is the most popular branch of the Mobile Marketing industry. In fact data indicate that people favor receiving timely opt-in text messages. These messages can be 160 characters in length and include links to mobile optimized websites or application downloads to help create more effective and measurable calls to action.E-mail can also be used to inform customers about opt in text message programs. Or an email can be triggered as a result of a text message, to provide additional details around the call to action or fulfill an information request.Mobile Programs also often include desktop and mobile web use that enables customers to directly provide their permission to receive text message communications by completing forms on-line. Web visits could also be triggered as a result of a text message announcing specials, prizes or incentives for completing surveys and questionnaires.Mobile programs could also include social networks (Twitter, Face book, Linked-In, My-Space) where businesses can utilize their company’s profile to promote mobile programs and initiate opt-in permissions for text message communications. Incentive marketing promotions can also be listed to encourage people to forward texting programs to their contacts.Mobile and Main StreetMany cell phone networks are starting to offer Location-based services (LBS) as a way to send custom advertising and other information to cell-phone subscribers based on their current location. Laser focused tracking is possible down to the block and demographic targeting down to the make and model of the phone your prospect is looking at as they click your ad. Companies such as Foursquare, Gowalla and even Google Place pages are all developing innovative ways to connect with potential local customers.Augmented reality systems are also in development that combines the physical real world with enhanced computer generated imagery. When combined with GPS and the cell phone camera people will be able to just point their phone at a specific location and get real time directions or other information like local restaurant reviews. Battery manufactures are also hard at work using nanotechnology to improve run time and recharge times. They are also developing alternative charging methods all in an effort to support the increasing demands placed on batteries.Mobile presents an amazing opportunity for “main street” businesses because it will be as if they were walking around town with the prospect and leading them right into their business and right to the very product, service or meal they are looking for.Revenue Producing BenefitsBusinesses can now stay in touch with mobile users through various techniques resulting in improved efficiency with revenue producing benefits. We are on the crest of an exponentially increasing trend of mobile use and marketing through this channel is still new so there is little competition out there. There are simple very cost effective, turnkey systems available right now for anyone who wants to promote their business or who may be interested in starting one that easily lends itself to mobile commerce, such as an affiliate marketing program.Small businesses can quickly kick off a simple mobile strategy almost immediately by using ultra cheap mobile ads utilizing specially designed “squeeze pages” that fit on a mobile device screen and only allow the user to either check out the product or exit the offer. They cannot “surf” around for alternatives. There are also very new mobile only CPA marketing networks and special You Tube for mobile video applications. All this combined with a targeted email campaign is generating skyrocketing conversion rates for those using them. Businesses that seize the moment will be riding this hi-tech tsunami wave straight to the bank.