There are many crucial processes you need to carry out when starting up a new business, from writing your first business plan and hiring staff to choosing company premises and setting up a website. One aspect of launching a new company you simply cannot ignore is how to market and advertise your business.
According to researchers at Constant Contact, 66% of small business owners say that finding new customers is their top concern. After all, there’s a huge sea of competition out there, and it can be incredibly difficult for new companies to stand out and find success.
Like it or not, that’s where advertising comes in – and to help you understand all the basics, we’ve crafted an expert guide that will walk you through how and where you should market and advertise your business.
What is a marketing plan and how do I write one?
Before you get to work advertising your company, you need to create a marketing plan.
Simply put, a marketing plan is a detailed document that outlines everything there is to know about the marketing strategy you’d like to use for your business and what you want that strategy to achieve. Marketing plans are often timestamped strategies that focus on a specific period of time. For example, marketing plans for new start-ups generally cover a 12-month period.
Just like your company’s business plan, it’s worth pointing out that a company’s marketing plan is not designed to be a static document. Your marketing plan needs to evolve as your business grows and new marketing trends develop. For example, the primary marketing tactics you envision deploying before starting your business might give way to more effective methods.
No two companies are alike, and so you’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of marketing plans that are identical. However, there are a few crucial details that each and every marketing plan should include.
First, your marketing plan needs to include details about your business and its current situation. You may have already compiled this as part of your business plan – which means you might be able to copy and paste some of that information into your marketing plan. But your plan needs to address who your company is, and should include a list of all your key products or services.
Next, your marketing plan needs to spell out a clear definition of your target market. Just like your business plan, your marketing plan must include a breakdown of who your business needs to reach to generate sales. What sort of people are going to be the most likely buyers of your goods or services?
Next, you must include a detailed list of the marketing tactics you plan to use. A lot of this will be dictated by who your target market is. For example, the social media platforms you choose to use in a business capacity should depend upon the age group you’re trying to sell to.
Finally, one of the most crucial aspects of any marketing plan is the inclusion of measurable goals. After defining your target market and coming up with a list of tactics you’ll be using to reach them, you need to be able to clearly state what it is you expect to happen. How many new products do you hope to sell by sending out a weekly email newsletter? How many sales leads will you need to generate to make a magazine advert good value for money?
By creating specific goals, you’ll be able to stay focused and figure out which aspects of your marketing plan are and aren’t working. A common pneumonic device business owners use to ensure they’re coming up with useful goals is the acronym “SMART” – which reminds you to create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
What is advertising and why should I do it?
Armed with your new marketing plan, it’s time to start thinking about what advertising actually entails.
Advertising is the process of working to influence the purchasing behaviours of would-be consumers or clients. This is normally done by creating and actively promoting a persuasive selling message that paints a positive portrait of your company and its products or services.
By defining your target audience and reaching out to those individuals through a strategic campaign of advertising activity, the end goal in advertising is to generate new sales leads – and ultimately, convert those leads into paying customers.
As a new business owner, landing sales and securing new clients needs to be a top priority. Developing a coherent marketing campaign and advertising strategy as part of your wider marketing plan will be absolutely crucial in order to make sure you’re generating enough business to keep your company afloat.
Should my business use print advertising?
In this day and age, plenty of business owners start trading under the assumption that print is dead. That’s why, according to the Content Marketing Institute, two out of three marketing professionals now ignore print media as part of their company strategy. But the truth is, there’s a whole lot of evidence suggesting print media is actually one of the best and most cost-effective ways for a small business to launch an advertising campaign.
In 2015, a study conducted by Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making found that print advertising leaves a more positive impression in people’s minds than digital advertising – and that impression lasts longer. This is because print media is viewed for longer periods of time, and it’s because researchers find that consumers enjoy tangibility. They like to see, touch and interact with a print advertisement.
Print advertisements also continue to offer small businesses more credibility and legitimacy than digital ads. Although most of your consumers will spend huge chunks of time online, they will also have been trained to inherently distrust a lot of things they see on the web. By associating safe print adverts with your brand, you’ll be able to establish a trusting relationship with your target market that can translate over to your company’s online presence.
How does a business get started with a print campaign?
It all starts with lots of forward planning. First, you need to think about who your target audience is, and where you’ll be able to reach them. Do they tend to read the local paper? Are they constantly waiting in hair salons or takeaway restaurants? Do they purchase glossy magazines on a regular basis?
You should already know a lot of this information based on the market research you conducted for your business plan and your marketing plan.
After you’ve figured out where you’re likely to reach consumers, you need to craft a message. What exactly do you want to advertise? You could promote your headline product, a wider range, special offer or even your company more generally. But you’ve got to have a clear, concise advertising message with a sensible call to action.
From there, get in touch with your print platform of choice to negotiate a reasonable rate for a reasonable service. If you’re considering your local paper or printing fliers, you’ll most likely encounter a list of set rates. That being said, you may run into some wiggle room with certain publications or poster opportunities.
Should my business use email or mobile marketing?
Once you’ve got a list of potential clients or existing customers, one of the best ways to reach those individuals to increase business is to develop a targeted email marketing campaign.
According to research compiled by Hubspot, 86% of customers want to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with on a regular basis. What’s more, 15% of consumers would like to get daily messages from brands they shop from. Bearing that in mind, your company will be doing itself a disservice by failing to capitalise on that sales potential.
To craft a promotional email advertisement campaign, you’ll first need the contact details of potential or existing clients. More important still, you’ll need consent from those individuals indicating you’re allowed to use those contact details to approach them with marketing messages.
For more information on data protection rules and guidance on how you can and cannot use customer data, you should consult the Information Commissioner’s Office.
But if you’re confident the details you’ve collected were secured appropriately and can be used for advertisement purposes, there are loads of fantastic email marketing services you can use for free to reach those individuals. One of the most popular ‘freemium’ services is MailChimp, which includes a range of analytics that will help you hone in on the sort of emails your customers do and don’t like to see.
In terms of messaging, you’ll normally want to email leads with a clear call to action. So, you could share an upcoming event, new sale, details on a new product or a competition your business is hosting. Because two-thirds of all emails are read on either smartphones or tablets, it’s also worth thinking about developing a wider mobile advertising strategy for your business.
Widely used mobile apps like Facebook Messenger now support a range of affordable advertisement opportunities for small businesses that will enable you to reach a tightly defined target audience. These are normally display ads with a large photo, and a line or two of text that links directly to your company website.
There are also a range of platforms in which you can design one advert that will be syndicated across a huge number of various smaller apps – however, you might not get great analytics or feedback on how your campaigns perform.
Mobile advertising isn’t often the cheapest advertising option, but it’s incredibly effective. Bearing that in mind, and depending upon the type of business you’ve started, establishing a mobile campaign may need to be a second-tier marketing activity. It all depends on what you’re looking for in terms of ads and how much you’re willing to spend to reach your customers.
Market and advertise your business on the internet
No advertising guide would be complete without covering the basics of web marketing.
It goes without saying that your company absolutely needs a website. It’s crucial to your overall visibility and credibility as a business. But beyond that, your company website forms the foundation of any and all online advertisement potential. After all, when you create an online ad, you’ve got to point your target audience somewhere.
Assuming you’ve got a website to direct traffic towards, your company will have a dizzying number of online advertising opportunities to choose from.
A huge number of businesses are now choosing to start on mainstream social media. According to researchers at the Social Media Examiner, 96% of all marketing professionals have integrated social media into their overall marketing strategy. That’s because social media advertising can be cheap, is easy to use and offers great analytics to tell you how your target market is or isn’t engaging with your ad.
Big names in social media like Facebook and Twitter offer a range of affordable plans in which you can specify precisely who you’re trying to reach with your company’s ad – right down to the area of town they live in or what they do for a living. In turn, you can rest assured that your chances of generating a return on investment for your ad are far higher.
What’s more, the vast majority of social media platforms charge advertisers using a Pay-Per-Click model, which means that you won’t be charged for your ad unless somebody clicks on it.
As always, you need to do your research before investing in an ad campaign. Communicating with users on social media can be a case of trial and error, because these platforms are often dominated by varying levels of colloquial language and modes of communication.
Beyond social media, the single most popular method of web advertising for small businesses has become Google AdWords.
Even if you haven’t heard of Google AdWords, you’ll already be familiar with the programme. On most Google searches, you’ll notice the first few results have a small ‘Ad’ icon displayed next to its URL. That means a business has paid Google to bring its listing ahead of all organic results for a select keyword – and like many social media ads, that company will pay Google a tiny amount of money each time somebody clicks on that ad.
Beyond search ads, AdWords also has a popular display ads programme that will syndicate an advertisement your company has created to more than two million websites – effectively reaching 90% of all people on the internet.
How is that possible? Google pays website publishers to join its advertisement network and choose from a range of ad shapes and sizes those publishers are willing to display on their own websites. That means your small business ad can reach a huge number of people without you needing to input a lot of effort.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to market and advertise your business. No two companies are alike, and so you shouldn’t always expect to find success by promoting your company on one website or magazine just because another company did well. You need to do your homework, learn about your audience and research what will be the most cost-effective way to reach the largest number of sales leads.
All that matters is that your business is advertising somewhere. As a new company, one of your top priorities needs to be to get your business name out there – so, what are you waiting for?