If you were to ask me that question face to face, I’d probably do a double take and say something stupid like, “You have an advertising budget?”
You see, most small solo operators that I know begin business on a shoestring and a prayer.
They spend as little as possible on their business in the hope that they can begin to grow revenues and extract operating income from that stream.
It usually makes more sense than maxing out a credit card with the hope that the new business revenue will service the monthly debt until the card is paid off.
Often, a business owner will have no specific marketing plan in mind. In fact, he may simply try to get the largest bang for the buck that he can buy.
He may budget X dollars for advertising and shop around a little to see what kind of reach and exposure he can get for his allotted budget amount.
Here is a quick and dirty overview of offline advertising venues for the solo business owner and how you can determine which, if any, of these sources make sense for your business.
1. Television advertising. Television appeals to mass markets – to a wide range of ages and interests. Television ads are very expensive and generally employed by companies with large marketing budgets. In almost every circumstance, TV ads should not even be considered by small online businesses. Why?
Online businesses deal best in narrowly defined niche markets. TV ads appeal to just the opposite markets – those that are wide but not too deep. TV is best left for consumer markets where the message could hit the hot button of almost anyone at any time. Cars, home improvement, restaurants, and clothing sell well on TV because everyone that watches is a candidate for the product.
2. Radio advertising. Radio also appeals to mass markets – but is able to focus on certain portions of the market depending upon the location and make-up of the listeners. Radio is less expensive than television as an ad venue, but radio has its limitations. If a product needs a visual image (for instance, it’s unique looking or brand new) then radio may not be the best choice. Radio listeners are off and on customers. They are on the move and only have short spurts of time when they can tune in. Therefore the message needs to be short and too the point. Unless the product you sell has very wide appeal, and you have plenty of money, forget radio advertising for an online business. (However, it may pay handsomely for a small business owner to become an interviewed guest on the radio where his business can be spotlighted or at least mentioned.)
3. Newspaper advertising. Newspapers are mostly local (sometimes regional) in scope so you may want to test a little advertising in this medium to see if the ads appear to be able to pay for themselves. You certainly don’t want to spend big until you’ve determined that your spending will be overtaken by your earnings. Newspapers appeal to homeowners, students, and local business owners but can lead to some local online subscribers depending upon the type of product you sell. If your niche is confined to the local geographic area, you might want to test this medium; otherwise, you will not have a concentrated focused audience. Give it a try if you want, but start out very small as you may never see your investment return once you sign up.
4. Magazine advertising. I like this offline venue because magazines can very specifically target your chosen audience. Sometimes this platform is quite expensive though, so be sure to understand your audience. A small ad could both sell a product and offer further information for those who want to subscribe to your web site.
5. Display advertising like billboards and large signs. Much like newspaper advertising, this platform is mostly local in scope. It might work for certain businesses of wide appeal, but do some serious testing before you blow your wad on a large display ad. You will have to be able to create a very short, condensed, and to-the-point message since the viewer is here and then gone again in seconds.
6. Direct mail can be a very effective offline ad venue if the mailing list is very current and targeted to the proper niche. Broadcasting mail to every home in town won’t usually produce good results. You need to be more selective by only mailing to those that will have an immediate and direct interest in seeing what your company has to offer. Direct mail’s downside is the 3 P’s: the rising cost of postage, printing, and time spent in preparation for the mail out. But certainly give it a try when you have sufficiently narrowed your list to those who will likely buy.
7. Mini-media, as it is sometimes called, includes brochures, door hangers, fliers, business cards, circulars, leaflets, free samples and local classified ads. This can be a cheap and effective source of leads, again, depending upon the type of business and products you offer. You won’t generally have the space you need to show everything about your product in this type of ad, so think about offering something of value for free in return for a name, address, and email of the respondent. Then followup with the prospect in another mailing or email offer.
8. Telephone advertising (soliciting.) You probably won’t have the budget to employ a large telemarketing firm to do your bidding, so this may simply be you getting on the phone and calling particular prospects. Often cold calling fails miserably because people don’t want to be bothered in the middle of their favorite TV show, dinner, or bathing the kids, etc. A better approach might be to save your telephoning for the follow-up of specific leads you gained from your mini-media campaigns. In other words, when someone responds to your classified ad for a free gift, that may be the time to employ a telephone call thanking them for their trouble, their inquiry, and seeing if they have any questions. These “qualified” leads are typically warmer than regular leads.
Does offline advertising work for new online businesses? This is one of those “yes and no” or “it all depends” answers. What type of business do you run, and can you find a way to contact targeted prospects? If so, you may want to give offline a try!
To your online business success,