There’s no doubt that small and independent businesses have been under pressure this past year. There are some businesses that have continued to perform well over the last 12 months, while many others will need to adopt new marketing techniques and find creative ways of advertising themselves in the near future.
In this post, we’ll look at why you need to advertise, while asking what steps you can take to promote your business more effectively in the future.
Why Do You Need to Advertise?
We’re exposed to a high volume of sponsored messages every day, whether we’re at work, home or navigating our way between the two.
This surfeit of adverts highlights the fundamental reason why small businesses in particular need to advertise, as otherwise it’s simply impossible for them to compete or market their unique selling points to customers.
On a similar note, there are also a finite number of viable customers in any potential market, so it’s incumbent on businesses to actively target these individuals and incentivise them to partner with your brand.
In this respect, advertising represents the art of gentle persuasion, as you look to convince target consumers to spend their money with your business and claim a large enough market share to remain profitable.
This is arguably even more important for small businesses that only boast a regional presence, as they have an even smaller target audience that they can sell to at any given time.
So, by advertising within the local area and optimising traffic through regional, limited time promotions (we’ll have more on this a little later in the piece), you can create a viable venture over time.
On a final note, advertising also helps you to maintain an open line of communication with your consumer base, through which you can keep them up to date with new products while building widespread awareness of the overarching brand.
Covering the Basics – Defining Your Objectives
Before we delve a little deeper into the best ways to market your business, it’s important to cover the fundamentals of advertising to ensure that you operate from a solid foundation.
The first step is to define the objectives that underpin your marketing campaign, as while your ultimate goal may well be to increase sales and optimise profitability, you can achieve a wide range of goals as part of the advertising process.
Your core advertising objectives will also influence the nature of your campaign and the precise channels that you use to target customers, as well as the money that you invest in your marketing efforts.
For example, let’s say that your primary (or initial) goal is to build brand awareness. In this instance, you’ll need to utilise mediums that can reach a large target audience, often within specific regions where your small business operates.
Television may seem like the obvious marketing channel to use in this case, but out-of-home (OOH) media may provide a more affordable and effective alternative for regional firms.
There’s also evidence to suggest that OOH media is increasingly effective from the perspective of driving online and social brand interactions, but we’ll have a little more on this later in the piece.
The key is to identify one or a handful of clear objectives that can inform your campaign, while helping you to tailor this and achieve the optimal ROI on your marketing spend.
Once you’ve outlined your objectives, we’d also recommend identifying the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure the success of your campaigns (and your progress in achieving your overall objectives) over time.
With this approach, you can define and monitor tangible and relevant metrics that determine how successfully you’ve been in accomplishing your goals, whether these are represented by new user sign-ups, increased lead generation or a higher rate of conversions.
When laying this type of foundation for your marketing campaign, the next step is to identify your target audience.
This is also an important and insightful process, and one that will once again inform the granular detail of the campaign and the precise marketing channels that you use to target customers.
OK, we hear you ask, but how do you go about defining your target audience? Firstly, you’ll need to understand the precise problems that your brand’s product or service has been designed to solve, as this will enable you to understand who is likely to benefit from your innovation.
While this should be your starting point as a small business, you should also take this opportunity to learn more about your competitors.
This can be achieved through quick and simple Google or social media searches, which will help you to understand your most relevant local (or national) competitors and the profile of their own consumer audience.
You can also undertake keyword research to see how your rivals target customers within specific demographics, as this may create a blueprint from which you can build your own marketing campaigns.
If you’re an established small business that simply wants to embark on a new advertising campaign (you may have a new product or range, for example), your main objective may be to prioritise a body of core customers rather than reaching out to a new audience.
Remember, it’s at least five times cheaper to retain existing customers than acquire new ones, so developing a greater understanding of your most loyal consumers and engaging them more effectively can provide an incredibly cost-effective marketing technique.
Of course, this will require the use and analysis of accurate consumer data, particularly if you want to segment different types of customers and tailor content as part of an overarching campaign.
These techniques are all important elements of the advertising process, especially for smaller firms that want to make the most of their marketing spend.
How to Advertise as a Small or Local Business
At this stage, we can begin to focus on the best ways of advertising yourself as a small business, particularly in terms of identifying the most effective and engaging channels.
So, here’s a breakdown of the key elements that can drive a successful advertising campaign for your SME.
Utilise Billboards and OOH Media
We’ve already spoken about the increasingly influential role of OOH channels such as billboards, but it’s hard to overstate just how effective this type of media is for promoting small local businesses.
This is particularly true for brands that want to build brand awareness, as OOH offers incredible exposure throughout the UK. This is backed up by the numbers, with an estimated 98% of Brits encountering one or more billboard messages every single week, while as much as 71% of the population regularly look at roadside ads and digest their messaging.
As these numbers reaffirm, small and locally-focused businesses can utilise OOH media to aggressively target customers within strategically chosen locations, most likely a viable catchment area that surrounds your local store or entity.
Not only does this offer the optimal level exposure as an SME, but it also enables you to maximise the ROI on your marketing spend.
The latter point is embellished further by the affordable nature of most OOH channels, especially traditional billboards.
Make no mistake; this type of media is considerably cheaper than digital alternatives over the course of a two-week booking (or longer), while unlike digital screens it also promotes a single advert rather than alternating messages every 60 seconds.
Make Use of Reviews and Referrals
While billboards and OOH media may be inherently affordable, it makes sense that SMEs and startups should make the most of free advertising wherever possible.
For example, customer referrals and personal recommendations (along with genuine consumer testimonials) can serve as powerful marketing tools, while they also represent the type of non-intrusive marketing techniques that are highly effective in 2021.
The same can be said in part for billboards; which contrast sharply with the saturated and intrusive nature of online ads and are capable of engaging customers who are simply looking to engage with their natural environment.
In the case of referrals and recommendations, there can be no doubt that the word of mouth remains incredibly persuasive in the minds of customers, particularly when such endorsements come from individuals who they trust implicitly.
Of course, you’ll need to encourage customers to share their positive experiences with your brand, either through subtle prompts and the provision of business cards or the decision to offer a discounted price at the completion of a successful job.
You could also consider launching a referral scheme program, which will offer similar incentives to customers who encourage others to sign-up or spend their hard-earned cash.
Digital Marketing and the Importance of an Integrated Marketing Strategy
Digital marketing spend has embarked on a sustained and upward trajectory over the course of the last decade – and for good reason too, with digital marketing being one of the most accessible and effective forms of marketing for businesses of all sizes.
This has also precipitated a rise in the popularity of social media advertising, with brands increasingly using this medium for the purpose of acquiring new customers as 2021 starts in earnest.
Of course, digital and particularly social platforms can provide cost-effective marketing channels from the perspective of small businesses, especially those that boast a rich diversity of high quality content and can leverage this to engage customers on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
From the perspective of social media, almost three-quarters of marketers have made the “increased acquisition of new customers” as their primary outcome for social media advertising, with this representing a 58% year-on-year increase overall.
This highlights the growing prominence of social media as a tool through which to acquire and convert customers, often amongst large target audiences.
This also brings us neatly onto the role that digital and particularly social media marketing can play as part of an integrated campaign, which connects both on and offline verticals to create an optimised customer journey.
If social and digital channels are increasingly being used to convert and acquire customers, for example, we should note that OOH media has proved incredibly effective at triggering this type of online interaction in the first place.
This was evidenced by a Neilsen report published at the end of 2017, which revealed that an estimated 46% of customers had used either Google, Yahoo or Bing directly after interacting with a billboard or outdoor poster.
Not only this, but OOH is the fastest growing advertising medium in terms of driving social media activations, particularly on Instagram on Twitter. More specifically, the report revealed that approximately 23% of adults had posted a message on Twitter as a result of OOH marketing, while the corresponding number for Instagram was estimated at 25%.
The key takeaway here is that OOH media, when used as part of an integrated marketing strategy, is fast becoming the most effective way of building brand awareness and driving optimal levels of engagement in the modern age, allowing for improved conversion rates through digital and social media channels in the process.
The Last Word
Running a small business can be challenging at the best of times, but by taking the time to plan a marketing strategy using the tactics above, you can quickly and effectively reach new potential customers, engage your existing audience and grow your brand.
Hopefully, these tips will help your small business to grow and advertise itself successfully in the future, while also enabling you to make the most of your marketing spend.