Common ways to advertise include the newspaper, the yellow pages, billboards, direct mail, radio, and TV. The Internet offers the ability to advertise on other websites. Examples include your local chamber of commerce, the local newspaper, and other local websites that might be seeing a lot of traffic. Still more Internet options are pay per click advertising which can include text, image, and video ads. There’s also email marketing and search optimization of your website. Checkout Houston Business Spotlight.
For many businesses advertising is one of those many things that has to be done but is not given a lot of attention. It’s understandable because often times businesses, especially small ones have so many different things to handle. The business owner can’t be an expert in everything. So they agree with whatever advertising comes along. They do what everyone else is doing. They don’t put much thought into it.
Businesses often look at their competition and do what they do. If their closest competitor advertises in the newspaper they do it too. If their competitor is on the radio they better do that too.
But how much thought is given to what works? A lot of money is spent on advertising. It’s a large part of many businesses budgets. But the return on investment is often unknown. Part of the reason is simply that it’s difficult to track some forms of advertising. Especially when multiple forms of advertising are in use at the same time. If a customer hears your ad on the radio 20 times and sees your newspaper ad 10 times even they don’t know which advertising media was responsible for acquiring their business.
Let’s go through 7 ways to promote a local business. I’ll make the assumption that the business is seeking customers who are local. This means the customers are physically located within about 50 miles of the business. Most businesses fall into this category.
Your local newspaper offers many options with a wide range of prices. Newspapers are still very popular. Many people still read newspapers and will see your ads. This can be a quick and effective method to bring in new leads and customers.
2. Yellow pages
The yellow pages are still being used, but because of the Internet, the hard copy form is not as popular as it once was. The yellow pages are online too. You can have your business listed in both the online and offline versions of the yellow pages. The online version is one of the many online business directories that exist. You can have your business listed in it for free or you can pay for a more detailed listing with added features. My recommendation about yellow pages is to use the free listing.
3. Radio and TV
Radio and TV are certainly effective but usually more expensive than other options. When you think of radio and TV you think of branding your business. Using repetition to get your business branded in the minds of people. But this can be expensive because it takes a lot of repetition to brand a business. You can still use TV and radio to advertise in a more direct response method rather than trying to do branding. This would be more effective and efficient. For example, rather than just trying to get people to remember your business name so that they hopefully do business with you at some point in the future, have your ads directly ask for action. Ask them to call or visit and give them an incentive to do so.
4. Direct mail
Using direct mail is sometimes thought to be outdated. The Internet is the new way to advertise right? Actually direct mail is as good as it ever was. It may be even better now since fewer people are using it because of the Internet. Using direct mail in the right way can be extremely effective. The key is to mail to the people most likely to respond and to have your mail express a clear offer with a clear call to action.
5. Networking and referrals
One of the most powerful ways to acquire a new customer is through a referral. Referrals can be guaranteed sales. They pass trust to you from the person referring you. Local business networking groups are an excellent way to get referrals. Certainly friends and relatives are good examples of people who can refer your business to their friends. Events held by your local chamber of commerce are loose networking events that can result in referrals for business. Don’t underestimate referral networking if you are looking for local customers.
6. Your Own Website and Online Directories
The Internet is another way to generate leads and customers. You don’t need a website because you can still have your business listed in online directories. Some of these directories include the yellow pages, the Google business directory (Google Places), the Yahoo business directory, the Bing business directory, Merchant Circle, Yelp, Four Square, City Pages, and more. There are hundreds of online directories. It’s wise to seek out directories that are relevant to your business. For example there are directories for women’s health so if your business is a women’s hair salon you could be listed there.
I mentioned that you don’t need a website, but it’s better to have one. A website strengthens your online presence and helps your other business listings rank higher in search results. It makes it easier for people to find your business when searching online. In most cases people expect businesses to have a website. It’s a sign of professionalism to have a website.
7. Pay per Click Advertising
Pay per Click advertising involves setting up ads that show online, that when clicked on, bring a visitor to your website. For local businesses seeking local customers Pay per Click advertising is challenging. It also has its advantages. If set up correctly you can use it to target a geographical area. That’s great for a local business! Your ads can be shown any time of day. You can put limits to how much you want to spend per click and per day. You can turn your ads on and off at any time. You can target people who are searching using specific search terms. You can get people who are ready to buy from you to come to your website! That’s very powerful.
The challenge with Pay per Click advertising for local businesses is that it’s difficult to get much activity. Especially if your local area has a low population. Part of making Pay per Click advertising work is testing. It’s hard to test and make good decisions when you don’t have much data to base those decisions on. However, if you can manage to organize your ads so that you’re getting good leads that result in customers you’ll have a great asset.