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Advertising for Small Businesses

Advertising for Small Businesses

Dr Thommie Burger is the Founder of JTB Consulting
Advertising for Small Businesses

Advertising and the concept of establishing your brand as a new Start-up Business is one of the most important methods of attracting new customers. But, it can either be a great success or a disastrous failure. Advertising can be an extremely expensive exercise, so therefore the effort and message you wish to translate need to be carefully considered. In the next month we will look at some strategies you need to keep in mind when embarking on your advertising campaign Following is the first installment of this series:

If your Advertising isn’t working…Stop It!

Let’s start with the simple stuff. If you are running advertising that is not working, please Stop It immediately! This applies to you whether you’re running ads in newspapers, magazines, or on radio, billboards, posters, taxis or buses. I know it sounds obvious but here’s what often happens…people run advertising because they feel they have to. They’re not really sure if it’s working but they are hesitant to stop it because it may be one of their main forms of marketing. You need to either learn how to produce and run great ads that produce great results, or you need to spend your marketing money elsewhere.

More Advice and Guidance (Read): 12 Months A Year = 12 Free Marketing Tips

Only use direct response Advertising

There are basically two types of advertising: direct response advertising and brand advertising. Understanding the distinction between the two will immediately save you a fortune. Brand advertising is used by companies like Coca Cola and the large car manufacturers like BMW to build and increase awareness of their brand.  Unless you have huge amounts of money which you are happy to lose, you should avoid brand advertising at all costs.  These companies as a rule have millions of Rands at their disposal to run advertising campaigns.

For a small business it is a complete waste of money.

The only type of advertising you ever want to consider is direct response advertising. The only purpose of direct response advertising is to produce a clear response. The type of response may vary depending on the type of business you are in and your overall marketing strategy. You may want the response to be an immediate purchase. You may want the response to be for someone to contact you to ask for a brochure. The great thing about direct response advertising is that you can instantly tell whether it is working. It either produces a response or it doesn’t. One of the reasons that most small business advertising does not work is that it’s a combination of halfhearted direct response and highly ineffective brand advertising. Fortunately, you now know the difference. In the land of the small or medium business, direct response is King!

Testing and measuring

It is absolutely essential that you test and measure all of your advertising. If you don’t test and know how to measure your efforts, how will you know whether you campaign is successful and more importantly, whether you are wasting money.  If we are going to engage in direct response advertising we obviously need to be able to measure that response, otherwise we are not going to know if the ad is working.  At the very least we need to know how many people responded, how many of them were converted to a sale and what that is worth to you. Then you need to compare that figure to the cost of the ad and you can immediately work out how profitable the ad was, or whether you should stop running it.

So many businesses just allocate a certain amount of money to an advertising budget, spend the money every year; with only a vague sense of whether the ads are working are not. This is crazy. If your ads are working, you want to roll them out on a larger scale. If they’re not, Stop and use the money on one of the dozens of other marketing strategies that can bring you a 100% or 200% return on your investment.

You will obviously need some sort of system for asking people who contact you for the first time where they heard about you.  If you have a larger business, you may even want to set up a separate phone line with a number that only appears in your ad. If you’re directing people to a website, you may want to set up a special web page that also only appears in your ad. This will ensure that you can clearly identify when people are responding to your advertising. One of the reasons that Radio and TV advertising can be so high risk is that it’s very difficult to test it on a small scale. You should never invest in Radio and TV Advertising unless it’s money you can afford to lose.

Your headline is the most important part of your advert

In the ad itself the most important element is the headline. The headline is either the heading that goes at the top of the ad or if there’s no heading it’s the first words of the ad. If you’re on the radio it’s the first thing people hear. If it’s TV it’s the first thing they see and hear. The headline needs to grab peoples’ attention. One change in a headline can produce a 50% plus increase in response. Arguably the biggest challenge that any print advertiser face is getting people to read their ad, let alone for the ad to produce a result.  

So the main purpose of the headline is not to sell your product – it’s just to get people to read your ad!

The headline should be about your readers and not about you. If your headline has the name of your business in it, you are probably losing out. Imagine you owned a company selling R500 fire alarms. Which of these headlines do you think would be most likely to get the reader’s attention?

Jason’s Fire Alarms “Your Guarantee of Safety” 


Is your family’s life worth the price of one evening’s restaurant meal?

Be adventurous with your headlines. Test different versions to see what works best. There are no rules. The most important is that it must work!

Established in 2006, we have successfully written hundreds of bankable and world-class Business Plans for clients across 25 countries. As South Africa’s Leading Business Plan Company, we are confident that we would be able to assist you too. Kindly note that we also offer “Investor Pitch Decks”, “Excel-based Financial Models”, and “Proposal/Tender Writing Services” in addition to our Custom Business Plan Writing Service. Please visit our Services page for more information.

We look forward to being of service to you. Please feel free to contact our Founder, Dr Thommie Burger, on +27 79 300 8984 should you have any questions. He is also available via email and LinkedIn.

JTB – Your Business Planning Partner.

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