Skip navigation

It is so easy to get caught up in all of the latest and greatest marketing strategies that you might forget the tried-and-true. Sure, social media marketing is powerful and affordable, and yes, mobile marketing is the “Next Big Thing.” But that said, digital marketing is not the only game in town. Plenty of small businesses still use good, old-fashioned advertising to get business.


That’s because it works. Whether it is an advertisement on television or radio, a billboard, or an ad on a website, advertising remains one of the great ways to get people in the door.


However, that’s only true if you do it right. If you don’t, it can be a big waste of time and money. I once consulted for a company whose Director of Marketing put a full-page ad in a national magazine – without consulting his partners. That $100,000 ad almost put them out of business.


So, let’s avoid avoidable mistakes. Here are the top five:


1. Not properly targeting the market. Who is your target customer? If, for instance, you own a skateboard shop, that is an easy question to answer. It might be tougher, however, for an auto body shop.


But both still have to answer the question. Many small businesses have a vague notion of whom their customers are (age, income, schooling, and so on) but without really knowing the answer, all advertising efforts will be nothing but a crapshoot.


On the other hand, if you know that your desired demographic is, for example, new moms aged 24 to 39, then that gives you a huge advantage. You can then find media sources that cater to that exact demographic and advertise there. The likelihood of getting your message in front of the right person dramatically increases the more you can specifically identify that person and then zone-in on the media outlets that target them.Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png


2. Not having a large enough budget. One of the great things today is that there are many ways to advertise on the cheap. Pay-per-click ads are a perfect example.


But, if your strategy is to advertise in more traditional media, then let me tell you the key to success: Repetition is the key, repetition is the key, repetition is the key.


The only way to get that repetition in advertising is to buy it. It is a waste of money to play small ball in this case. You simply must get your message out there often enough that it sinks in.


The other thing to consider is that there may be other, “hidden” costs when it comes to advertising. For instance, you may have to hire a graphic designer to create the ad, or employ a photographer or videographer. So the important thing is to budget appropriately.


3. Having a bad headline. Make your headline pop. This is, of course, the first thing that people read, hear, or see.


So, you have to come up with an initial pitch (the “headline”) that is catchy and clever, and makes people want to know more. That’s its job. Just think - “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Riches” would have a lot more pull than “The Expert’s Guide to Direct Marketing Success.”

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


4. Creating a bad ad. Once your headline pulls them in, your ad must create some sort of desire on their part; a desire that your business can fulfill. That is why “Sale!” is so effective in advertising; people have the desire to save money. Or eat organic peaches. Or go to Hawaii.


A good ad will make people seek out your business, product or service.  


5. Having no compelling call to action. A great ad makes people do something – check out the website, find the store, make a call, etc. That comes from the so-called “Call to Action.” A call to action can be found almost anywhere in the ad, be it the headline or in the last line. Whatever the case, the point is the same: It makes people take action. For example, a call to action might be


  • “Quantities are limited.”
  • “Mention this ad for a 15% discount.”
  • “Sale ends Sunday.”


I think the best way to remember what a good ad looks like is to remember “AIDA”: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. First you grab their Attention, then you get them Interested in what you are selling and get them to Desire it. Finally, you have a call to Action.


If you create an AIDA ad and avoid these five mistakes, the results should indeed be profitable for you and your business.

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

Outsource_Social_Media_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.

Social media is an increasingly important and effective marketing tool to connect with today’s customers. But is it better to handle this function of your business in-house, relying on your team’s creative and communication skills, or is it better to bring in a third party to handle the job?

Answering that question depends a lot on your business’s needs and your team’s capabilities. Here are some factors to keep in mind while you’re making your choice:


Advantages of outsourcing social media

One reason to outsource your social media marketing is to get better results. “Business owners don't always understand how to leverage social media to grow their businesses,” says Susan Payton, president of Egg Marketing & Communications, a content marketing and social media management firm based in San Diego. “Outsourcing means these businesses get professionals who understand the medium and can build a strategy around it.”

Crystal Dempsey, owner of From The Hip Communications, a content and social media marketing company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, says that as a small business owner, she realizes she can’t do everything herself. “I use contractors to do my taxes and to handle graphic design,” she says. “A smart social media marketer will put the small business owner on the right channel and develop strategies and use tactics that will increase sales, enhance customer loyalty, and grow brand awareness.”

One of the most common reasons business owners choose to outsource social media is the lack of time to devote to the job. Managing social media can be incredibly time consuming, explains Julia Campbell, founder of J Campbell Social Marketing, a nonprofit communications and digital marketing consultancy based in Beverly, Mass. “It involves research, writing, editing, formatting, finding photos and videos, developing content, posting, monitoring, measurement, and reporting,” she says. “If you are a small business owner overwhelmed with the day to day of running your business, you may want to trust an outside person to manage this for you.”

Outsource_Social_Media_PQ.jpgAdvantages of keeping social media in house

The three primary advantages of keeping social media in house are creative control, cost savings, and responsiveness. “No one knows your business better than you do,” says Dempsey. “Also, doing it in house allows for nimble moves. Say, you own a dog grooming salon and on Tuesday afternoon, you notice that you have a lot of openings and plenty of staff on hand for Thursday. You can use social media to try to fill that appointment book with a special offer for that day.”

When it comes to posting something fun about your business on Instagram, you might find that it takes an outside person 24 hours to post a photo, even though it's always best posted in the moment, says Campbell.

Try a mixed approach

One thing the experts do agree on: Social media management doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor, where you either do everything yourself or hand off all responsibility to a social media management company. “There's always a middle path,” Payton says. “I know business owners that want to Tweet when they have something to share, but rely on social media professionals to maintain consistency and stay on point for strategy.”

One area to consider keeping in house is customer service, according to Dempsey. “If you have a social media presence, customers will use it to praise, ask questions, or criticize. The business owner and employees know how to work with their specific questions.”

Do your homework before hiring a social media professional

If you choose to hire a company to handle some or all of your social media management, be selective and take the time to research the company before you commit to a working relationship.

“You should never hire someone who says they are an ‘expert’ or a ‘guru",’ warns Campbell. “Social media and online community managers realize that the field is changing so rapidly that none of us can seriously be experts. We can have expertise and experience, and we can know what we are doing.”

Another important aspect of hiring is making sure the person has social media expertise in your industry. “Different industries use different platforms, and the ways they use them may vary from one field to another,” Payton says. “It's one thing to get people to follow you. It's another thing entirely to get the right people following you and then visiting your site.”

Make sure your prospective social media management company is capable of listening to you. “You want someone who is asking you a lot of questions about your business, your customers, your long term and short term goals, successes, challenges, and competition,” Dempsey says. She also recommends getting three references. “Call these people, don't email them,” she says. “References provide more information and nuance in a phone call.”

Filter Article

By tag: