How to Do Small Business Advertising that Doesn’t Suck

Small business advertising has always been a challenge. There’s the matter of taking an idea sketched out on a piece of paper, and turning it into a living, breathing product that you hope people will want to buy. There’s another challenge now for small-business-owners: understanding digital advertising.

When you’ve decided to start a company, it’s no good if only you and your friends know about it; you need a marketing strategy. What are the challenges for advertising a small business, and how do you overcome them? Let’s take a look.

The Challenges: Overview

Bruce Mars via Unsplash

Why are you starting a small business? That’s a question you’ve probably asked yourself before now, and if you haven’t, you probably ought to do so. The chances are you’ve found a gap in the market, and you want to exploit it, or you’ve got a market where there aren’t many competitors. Maybe (hopefully) you’re passionate about the product you’ve developed.

Here’s the problem you, and everyone who has ever started a business, has: unless you find a way of telling people about what you’ve created, nobody will care about it. That’s where marketing comes in. We’ll take a look at some of the questions you ought to be asking of your business when you get going on the road to making something special.

What is Your Marketing Strategy?

Before you even begin marketing your business, you need to work out what your strategy will be. Who will you target with your marketing? How will you do so? There’s a lot of questions you need to ask before you begin. 

My advice: whiteboard it. Brainstorm it. And do plenty of market research on your potential customer base. That way, not only will you ensure that you do not have a product ill-suited to the people you’re selling it to, but you’ll gain insight into the people you want to buy what you’re selling. 

For example, Dollar Shave Club, a business we have mentioned before now, performed very careful market research on who would, potentially, buy disposable razors for a discounted price every month, through a subscription box service. They found that millennial men were being marketed-to by the majority of manufacturers in a very samey manner, and so they decided to do the kind of marketing they’d respond to.

Cheeky, Low-Budget and Scrappy

Their early ads were cheeky, low-budget, and scrappy, and they worked, because they were the polar opposite of the pompous, self-absorbed ads from larger companies. They even sent subscribers a fun monthly magazine, designed to be an archetypal ‘toilet read’, with content that could be read quickly.

Combined with sponsorship of leading YouTube channels, this has turned out to be such a perceptive use of marketing that Dollar Shave Club has since been bought by Unilever.

What does this tell you? It says that you don’t need to behave like the leading players in your industry – in fact it might be advantageous not to. You don’t need limitless resources – just make the best of what you have, and make what you do different from anyone else.

This all depends on who you are aiming your products at. To take another example, the sorts of people who buy a protein bar – people who enjoy keeping fit – are very different to those who enjoy a more conventional chocolate bar, and both of those groups have different age ranges and will react very differently to advertising. 

Which Digital Advertising Platforms are Best for Your Business?

Another key question is the method by which you will advertise. Ought your focus to be mainly on content marketing on your website, maximising searches? Will you buy space on news websites? Maybe you’ll decide to market a regular newsletter to your subscribers? Whatever you decide, you have to use platforms that your potential audience is using. 

For example, everyone uses Facebook, or at least the majority of people online do. But do they engage with it, or just use it for messaging and for viewing occasional family photos? It’s common for companies to spend money on Facebook ads, and it can be a very good use of a small amount of funding, as Facebook advertising can be targeted at certain age groups, geographical locations, and so on. 

What Are the Alternatives?

For consumer products, there may be a better method of advertising, though. Instagram works similarly to Facebook, except that rather than your ad being lost in a mess of menus, it’s given pride of place in a scrolling feed, or between Stories.

As scrolling through Instagram is often something people do for pleasure, and the Instagram ad experience is incorporated into the platform in what feels like a pleasantly non-intrusive way, it means that your ad, provided it has eye-catching visuals, may be more likely to be viewed as a pleasant surprise than an annoyance.

There again, there is another way: LinkedIn. What was once considered a one-dimensional portal on which you would post your CV and wait for the nonexistent offers to come rolling in is now the place where business leaders, and in fact anyone, posts their thoughts about how to build a successful workplace.

If your marketing is designed more with businesses than customers in mind, you can find great engagement using LinkedIn. Of course, you have to use it in the right way, not being pushy, selling the benefits of your business, going perhaps for the subtle sell rather than shock value, but if done with care and thought, LinkedIn advertising can be effective in selling your product to a corporate crowd.

You also need to pick an ad network that you trust, and that works for you. Remember there is a world of websites outside of social media, and your ads will need to appear there. There are issues with Google Chrome and adblockers restricting ad reach – to get around this, you’ll need to choose a light type of ad.

When your ad gets to your audience, you also need to ensure that it gets the reaction you’re hoping for from the people viewing the page. That means making something interactive, moving, and meaningful. Oh, and you might want your digital advertising to be light enough to show, and eye-catching enough to make an impact…

What Can Make Advertising Easier For a Small Business?

There are a few ways you can make your life easier. One is by focusing on platforms that suit your brand. We’ve highlighted a few social platforms, but another thing we want to mention is how easy it is to create your own ads. You might think you need to work with experienced agencies, and while that’s an option, if you’re a small business you might not have a big budget for marketing.

This means you need another option – you need to be able to create your own advertising that stands out alongside content from more established companies. This has been possible with website design for years; there are many easy website builders these days, most of which use a drag-and-drop interface, but advertising has taken a while to catch up.

If you want to be able to build your own ads in as little as five minutes, making them fully interactive and also distributable through all leading ad networks, you might want to try Nexd Campaign Manager

Why is Nexd Campaign Manager helpful for small business advertising?