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An Introduction To Advertising for Small Businesses

Written By McKenna Neef


Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash


Small businesses run on tight budgets – from employees, to resources, to finances. And when they’re trying to stretch their dollar, the first thing to go is typically the same: advertising. While that may seem like the obvious choice, it’s certainly not the most beneficial.


Contrary to popular belief, advertising isn’t just for the big dogs. Marketing plans aren't limited to the Walmarts and Apples of the world. In fact, the business growth that advertising provides is arguably more important for small businesses than it is for anyone else. As explained by Yelp, “Advertising works to amplify your small business marketing efforts and helps you reach the right audience with positive, targeted messaging that converts potential customers into paying customers.”


So before you scratch advertising off of your yearly budget, hear us out. Check out our take on small business advertising that the up-and-coming restaurant owner, local bookseller and everyone in between should know about.

Affordable Advertising Is Out There

First and foremost, let’s confront the elephant in the room – affordable advertising exists. You don’t have to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into your advertising plan in order to be successful. So the question remains: how much money should you set aside?


It depends on your business type, target audience and goals. However, in order to establish a jumping-off point, you can take a look at what other small businesses are doing. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, if you're making less than $5 million in yearly sales and your net profit margin falls within 10-12% after all expenses, you should spend 7-8% of your gross revenue on advertising and marketing.


Now before you run off to build your entire budget (tempting, we know), it’s important to recognize that advertising spend should fluctuate based on your business’s age, objectives and industry. For example, you may want to up your ad spend as you launch a new product or during a weekend when you anticipate the potential for higher in-store traffic. Chron offers a slightly different perspective, stating, “Some marketing experts advise that start-up and small businesses usually allocate between 2 and 3 percent of revenue for marketing and advertising, and up to 20 percent if you're in a competitive industry.”


Find Your Audience and Go Where They Are

Before you run a single ad or draft any social media posts, you have to figure out who you’re talking to. This can be done by building a buyer persona – a description of an individual who represents your ideal consumer. This should be pretty in-depth, typically including age, gender, economic characteristics, family status, habits and interests.


There are lots of ways to determine this target audience. Take a look at industry consumer trends, consider the population characteristics of your area, think about what unique benefits your business provides and, if you have a brick and mortar, simply take a look at your shop’s foot traffic.


Now that you’ve nailed down your buyer persona, allow this character to guide every marketing move you make. Figure out where your consumer is and meet them there (metaphorically, of course). Luckily, the digital age makes it easier than ever to learn about your target audience. For example, if your buyer persona is a 30-year-old woman, it’d be best to place your advertisements on Instagram. If your buyer persona is a penny-pinching college student, it may be smart to promote discounts in the areas surrounding nearby campuses.


Focus On One Goal at a Time

No matter how big or small your business may be, you can’t take on every marketing method – well, at least not at once. For small businesses focused on keeping costs low while increasing their impact, it’s crucial you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Test out one form of marketing at a time, analyzing what works and what doesn’t.


Take Advantage of Organic Content

Thanks to the internet and the ever growing number of social media platforms, it’s easier than ever for small businesses to promote themselves.


By creating an informative and visually appealing site, you provide a place for interested customers to get to know your company, learn about your location and hours and possibly even shop online.


If you’re looking to get your company into the minds of your community, social media is a great way to begin generating word-of-mouth marketing. This is a place where you can keep customers updated on your newest products, share promotional deals and answer customers’ questions in real time.



Moral of the story? Advertising is way less intimidating and out-of-reach than it seems. By implementing these strategies, you’ve already put your business on the map!



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