But you can’t take a scattershot approach. According to small business expert Ramon Ray, in order for your advertising efforts to truly work and deliver results, calculation is required. Ray, who educates small business owners about using technology to strategically grow their businesses, recommends the three Ts:
Although it’s tempting to rely entirely on social media and your website to drive folks to your business, especially if your advertising budget is slim, this is big no-no. “You also need to reach people when they’re not online,” explained Ray. “So, think flyers, billboards—I always read the bus and subway billboards—radio, and newspapers and magazines. You need to use a combination of social media and traditional advertising.”
Your customer often defines the approach. An example from Ray was the owner of a martial arts studio in Boston who wanted to reach the parents of younger children. Instead of traditional advertising, she went to the various elementary schools in the area and handed out flyers directly to parents as they were dropping off or picking up their kids. It was a huge success.
With time and ad dollars at a premium, tracking how well your advertising is working is essential. And tracking results doesn’t have to be a complicated effort. According to Ray, it can be as simple as asking customers where they heard about you or including a promotional offer that allows for tracking. For your online efforts, he recommends tracking via Google Analytics. The free (basic) service provides detailed statistics about website traffic, and can help measure conversions and sales. You can use the data to figure out where people are coming from and enhance advertising for these channels.
Utilizing a variety of advertising vehicles and tracking the results allows you to test which tactic is right for your unique business. But remember, it’s important to give advertising initiatives enough time to hit home. Although you don’t want to let it go on too long, especially if you’re not getting the desired results, don’t pull the trigger too soon. For the most part, advertising is about repetition and consistency.
Finally, don’t forget one of the best, least expensive, and most old-fashioned forms of advertising available to any small business—word-of-mouth. “Network every chance you get. If appropriate, ask people for referrals. Join your local chamber of commerce and small business groups. Go to community events. Hand out cards. Word-of-mouth is invaluable.”