The truth about small business advertising

The Truth about Small Business Advertising

And what the Newspapers don't want you to know!

Yesterday morning I was listening to the Sunday Business show on Today FM while out walking my dogs. One of the topics being discusses was Small Business Advertising and the trends for the coming year.

I haven't listened to the radio for 6 months months or more. I spend my "listening time" with podcasts that I can learn from, rather than being distracted by other people's problems and opinions - most of it negative anyway.

Small business advertising

Anyway, the show had an advertising expert on to give his opinion on what small business advertising should look like for us owners. He was an ad agency owner or CEO and his take was that small business owners are doing too much digital marketing and not enough newspaper and radio advertising. 

That annoyed me more than a little bit - but given it was being played out on radio - there is an obvious adjenda... They were hardly going to bring someone like me on to make the case for going digital/online?? Or should they? Just to give a balanced view!

His argument was that if you want to build a brand name, that you should be placing regular ads in the print media (newspapers and magazines) and making use of radio.

Do you want to build a brand name for your business? If you listened to this guy, you may think that you should. However, building a brand takes deep pockets because to get brand recognition you need to repeat your brand ad over, and over, and over. And if you do that, there's still no guarantee that you'll make any money.

Brand advertising and marketing is fine for big companies with deep pockets. They have huge marketing budgets for brad advertising in the print media, radio and television. They can afford to throw money at it. To keep shareholders happy and engaged, sometimes they have to do it.

Small Businesses should not waste money on brand advertising​

It's why many small business owners feel advertising is a waste of money. ​Brand advertising is not measurable. I don't know many small businesses who run an ad in a newspaper and can honestly say that they made a profit from the ad. Most just feel that they have to do it to keep their competitors out. They think that they'll stay in their customers minds by repeating the ads. There is an element of truth, but it's expensive and more often than not - unprofitable. "It's just a cost of doing business"!

There is a type of advertising that you can do in the "old media" that works. Most people don't know what it is or how to use it. Most newspapers don't know - and those that do - would prefer that you didn't know either.

It's called Direct Response Advertising. It used to be very common in the 60's through to the 80's. It has all but disappeared from view and I'll tell you why in a minute.

What is Direct Response Advertising?​

Direct response is a form of advertising that ​calls the reader, listener or viewer to TAKE ACTION NOW! It's immediately measurable which is important for us small business owners, because we can quickly decide if it's profitable or not. You can run one ad and get a response. An example is the 'cut-out' ads that you use to fill in your details and post back, or call a phone number to get a voucher or free booklet, etc.

Modern newspaper and magazines don't like this type of ad. Neither do advertising agencies. ​They don't want their results to be measurable. They'd prefer the very vague idea of brand recognition.

Online or digital marketing is the modern equivalent of the old cut-out ad. It is Direct Response advertising at it's very best. It's way better than the old print form because you can put up an ad through Google, Facebook and other forms - and get an immediate response - ​within minutes or hours at worse.

Should all Small Business Advertising be Online Advertising?​

​Hell No!
If you have an advert that you run in the local paper (or radio, or magazine, etc) and it works, keep doing it. Any advert that brings in more business than the cost of running the ad should be continued until it stops being profitable.

N.B. A little side not is required ​at this point. Lets say you run an ad at a cost of €500 per week, and each week you get a customer from that ad to pay you €500 - is this ad profitable?... The right answer is NO. At best, depending on your business it is break-even. If you supply a service and the customer comes to you - then it might be considered almost break-even. If you have to provide materials, put diesel in your van to travel to the customer - then you are at a loss. Keep this up and you go broke and out of business slowly!

If you run an ad at €500 and it brings one customer​ that results in a gross profit of €500 then it was just about worthy.

My Kinda advertising!​

The small business advertising that I prefer, is digital marketing (that I can test and adjust immediately to improve response)​ that I can track directly to a sale. It's direct response advertising in it's very best form. You'll know within hours if you're targeting the right market, if you've got your message right and if your offer is appealing. 

Take Google Adwords for example. I can place an ad that targets my customers geographically, use the keywords and phrases that I know my customers are searching for and put my message and offer right in front of them.

It's a simple process - though not just as easy as I've laid out. You need a landing page on your website to send your potential customers to, you need content that describes the problem and your solution. And you need to give the visitor a reason to either call you immediately or fill out a a form on the landing page.

There's also Facebook advertising, YouTube and Instragram, among others. I've written another article on Facebook advertising that you can read by going here.

The principle of online advertising is pretty simple. The mechanics of doing it right are much more difficult​. Do it wrong and it gets expensive really fast and you may not end up with any customers to show for it - just like the newspaper and radio ads!

If you'd like to have a chat about how you could get customers through online marketing, or small business advertising in general,​ drop me an email at or click here to fill out the contact form and we'll set up a time for a chat.

Until the next time, cheery bye. Adrian​