If you’re just starting out with a new business venture, your business is in a slump, or you’re looking to expand your business, whether it’s a bricks and mortar establishment, a home-based service or you’re in network marketing/direct sales, you need to get the word out to your target market. As any business owner knows, if you don’t promote your offering in a variety of different ways, regularly and continuously, you won’t be in business for long.
Five percent of revenue is generally considered the approximate investment to allocate on marketing to maintain a business, but it should be closer to 10% if you’re looking to expand and may be a lot higher if you are just starting out (since you don’t have any revenue yet), but of course this amount varies by company and business type.
As with any marketing, the number of methods used to communicate your message and number of times your business is exposed to your target audience is key to a successful marketing campaign but may be limited by your actual budget. Determining which marketing tools to use will depend on cost, business type, who your target market is, where they are located and your marketing message (among other criteria).
Most small businesses at some point invest in a website and print materials such as business cards, brochures or flyers to communicate their marketing message, and almost everyone these days is using social media or some kind to promote their business. But there are a number of other marketing tools that can be used to generate exposure for a new or expanding business, drive traffic to your website or business location, and ultimately help you get more customers. Below are five marketing tools available to generate exposure for your new or expanding business.
Note: for the purpose of this blog post, I will not be including online marketing, such as search engine marketing, social media marketing, email marketing or online advertising.
Although TV and radio commercials have the potential to reach the largest audiences, a substantial budget is needed to maximize exposure to your business. Generally, TV commercials are for big consumer-based businesses with large marketing budgets that can afford regular, peak airtime over a long period of time, whose target audience watch TV. Similarly, radio commercials can be expensive for the amount of airtime you receive and tend to be used by consumer-based businesses whose target audience listen to the radio in the car, at home or at work. Most small or home-based businesses cannot afford to promote themselves this way.
However, you may wish to consider advertising with a small local station, advertising off-peak or on an ad-hoc basis. Although you will not reach as many people, you will receive more airtime for your buck. Another option is to offer to provide some useful information on a TV or radio show, perhaps in an interview format. Often times, the show will be recorded and uploaded to the internet and will receive additional viewers or listeners over an indefinite period of time.
The main drawback with TV or radio commercials, other than cost, is there’s no way to know how many people saw or heard your commercial. The number may be a lot lower than estimated since many people often skip commercials or switch to another channel. You also need to know when your audience is watching or listening so you know when to advertise. A long, costly campaign may be needed to create enough exposure for potential customers to remember your name and look you up on Google and ultimately become a customer.
Note: TV/Radio can also be found online, but for the purposes of this blog I am referring to terrestrial TV and radio.
2. Digital Signage
You’ve seen them on the corner of intersections, you’ve seen them at sports arenas and in pubs, bars and restaurants. They come in various forms, shapes and sizes, and the more affordable digital signs usually rotate between a select number of advertisers who have paid for a spot. Again, digital signage requires a substantial budget and exposure to your ad is limited to those who are facing the screen or passing by as your ad rotates into view.
If considering digital signage, consider where it will be located. Will it be where your target market spends time or is likely to pass by? If it’s on a street, will passers-by have enough time to view your ad? Will they have enough time or the ability to write down your web address or contact information?
The biggest drawback of digital signs, especially street signs, is that the same person may pass by several times a day, week or month and still never see your ad if there are too many ads in the rotation. At best, if they drive by regularly, they may see your ad but not have time or the ability to write down your information. Again, a long, costly campaign may be needed to maximize your exposure and result in a potential customer contacting you.
3. Billboards & Roadside Signs
Billboards and road side signs are a great way to create exposure for your business or awareness for your charity or not-for-profit organization. Billboards and other fixed signs (on bus stops, fences or the sides of buildings) can require a large investment as these generally take time to create and erect and need to be in place for a long time (a year or more) to create enough exposure or awareness.
If you’re a bricks and mortar business, you would of course erect your own store front sign with your business name, and if located in a plaza, you’d also have your business name on the sign board at the entrance to the plaza. But if you’re not in a plaza, where permitted you could also draw attention to your business with a road side sign. These come in various forms, sizes and cost and even for a home-based business can be a very affordable way of creating exposure for your business.
Small corrugated road side signs (you know the ones – you stick in the grass) are great for short term events – such as a sale, auction or fundraiser. Since they will be on view for a shorter time and are also much smaller, they will work more effectively when there are several of them strategically located in close proximity – i.e. close by or on the way to the event venue, on or close to intersections where cars stop to wait for traffic or other locations where people hang around on mass. If using these signs, keep them simple—text as large as possible and no graphics—so they are easy to read as cars drive by.
The drawback of billboards is that traffic is often driving past too fast to read them or they are too far away from the road to read. Another drawback of fixed signs, such as those on roadside fences, is that there are often several others at the same location and only the more vibrant, eye-catching, larger signs stand out. You need to make sure you use imagery or colours that stand out and keep the verbiage on your sign concise, to the point as well as large and bold. The drawback of temporary roadside signs, especially the corrugated one, they often cannot be reused or they may be removed by the municipality if you did not get permission to place them.
4. Vehicle Wrap, Magnet or Decal
Another great way to promote your new or expanding business offline is with a vehicle wrap, magnet or decal. If you decide on an elaborate vehicle wrap, it can set you back a pretty penny, but a simple sign with your logo and phone number and web address is an affordable way to generate exposure to your business. A door magnet or window decal are more affordable options and can be replaced more easily if you change your branding, offering, or you need to replace your vehicle.
This kind of advertising does require that you drive your vehicle to places where your target market hangs out to maximize exposure, unless you live or work on a busy main street where they drive or walk by. It is a great way for contractors or mobile service providers to gain exposure everywhere they go.
The biggest drawback of using vehicle signage of any kind is, if you are a small or home-based business owner and your vehicle is being driven for personal use as well, and especially if you have other drivers in the family using your vehicle, anything negative or offensive you or they do in your vehicle may reflect badly on your business. Be careful to keep the road rage and offensive driving to a minimum. The other drawback is the increased cost of your vehicle insurance. Once you add a permanent sign with your business name to your vehicle, your auto insurance will increase or be voided should your vehicle be involved in a road accident.
5. Proximity Marketing on the GO
This is a relatively new method of offline advertising that can create tons of exposure for your business, charity or not-for-profit. For those that are unfamiliar with proximity marketing on the GO, it is a service that includes a programmable message with clickable link that is broadcast via a GO beacon to any Android device within 300 feet of it as long as it is Bluetooth enabled and has location services switched on. The basic version of this service includes a message and trackable link and the upgrade version includes an ad with graphic or video, more details, address & phone number plus call to action. With a variety of clickable buttons the end user can download the ad to their Android Wallet or Apple Wallet, visit your website, social media post/page or YouTube video or immediately share with friends and family on Facebook.
Unlike TV and radio commericals, the GO broadcasts your message or ad 24/7 so there is more chance of your message being viewed as long as your GO is strategically placed. The service is subscription based, there is no contract so it can be cancelled at any time. It is very affordable, and like other marketing tools, the more GOs you purchase the lower the cost per unit. Unlike TV & radio commercials, digital signs, billboards, most roadside signs, and vehicle signage, messages and ads are quick and easy to setup by the business owner, can be edited or switched at any time and instantly change on the GO, making them much more affordable for those that need to promote more than one offering at the same time or in multiple locations.
There are some drawbacks with this marketing tool however. Your reach is limited to a 300 ft sphere and, for the basic service, only those with Android devices who swipe to view their notifications will see your marketing message unless iPhone users have a Physical Web Beacon app installed. However, if you place your GO in a high, slow moving traffic area where your target audience hangs out, since most people are on their phones, the cost per exposure is substantially lower than almost all the other marketing tools mentioned above.