It’s tempting for a small business on a tight budget to play safe and rely on a simple Yellow Page listing and the occasional local press ad. At the other extreme, it’s all too easy to splash out on expensive but unproductive advertising. Choosing the most appropriate advertising media is essential to achieve cost effective advertising.

Targeting the Customer

Choosing the right media demands a clear picture of your customer base. A simple DIY market survey will tell:

  • Who are your target customers?
  • Where do they live?
  • What media do they read, listen to or watch?
  • What are they looking for?

Choosing your Advertising Media

To attract “pro-active customers” – those who are actively looking for what you have to offer – a permanent Yellow Page or local newspaper listing or internet web page saying who and where you are, what you offer and contact details is normally enough. Only if you have many competitors should it be necessary to spend on more prominent advertising.

Attracting passive customers– those who need to be persuaded – or to advertise a special event or product, higher profile advertising is necessary; choosing the most cost effective advertising medium is critical.

The main options,in broadly ascending order of cost, include;

Newspapers and Magazines Advertising

The local press is normally the first advertising priority for a small business except for one with a national catchment area, like for example a hotel or mail order business.

The cost will relate directly to the size of your ad and the circulation of the publication. Advertising beyond your catchment area, except as part of a planned expansion, is money wasted.

A specialist publication whose reader profile matches your target customer, may well prove cost-effective even though its circulation is smaller than one with a broader reader profile.

It’s normally better to concentrate spending in one or two publications, and not spread your advertising too thinly.

Advertising on Roadside Signs and Billboards

In some countries and areas authorities are pretty hostile to wayside advertising except on your own land and even there impose strict rules.

Commercial billboards can be very expensive, especially on high profile sites.

Nevertheless, they can be extremely cost effective, especially on arterial routes through rural areas and for “venue” businesses, like hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and retailers.

Leaflet and Flyers

An invaluable way into hotels, tourist information centers and other visitor attractions if tourists are part of your target market. They’re also an easy way to waste advertising money unless well-designed and carefully distributed.

The design must be really eye-catching if it’s to be noticed among all the other leaflets. Your key message – who you are and what you offer – must stand out boldly when displayed in a rack.

Advertising through an Internet Website

Can any business now afford not to have one? Over 60% of UK households now have access to the Internet and around 80% of Internet users shop or look for goods and services on the net – and these figures increase every year.

Unless you’re into mail order, a simple, informative, one-page site giving contact details, is enough to start with. This is quite easy to set up yourself, or a computer-literate friend can do so, and the cost is quite small.

Local Radio Advertising

Expensive, particularly as a one-off ad is no use and you’ll need to run at least 15 or 20. Nevertheless, for a major sale, launch or event the potential return may justify the expense.

Professional production and a simple memorable message are vital.

Television Advertising

Even more expensive, and with the same caveats. Nevertheless it has huge impact if you have an exciting visual image to offer.