Learn the ABCs of Advertising

This article is provided by the Greater Scranton Area SCORE Chapter.

For a small business, taking the first steps into advertising can be an intimidating and mysterious process. Even though we see advertising everywhere, creating and using ads ourselves can seem alien and expensive. Understanding how the medium works and what it can and cannot do for a small business is tougher than it seems. And there is always uncertainty over results. 

Think of advertising as one element of the broader area of marketing. You recognize it in many forms, including magazines, newspapers, directories, online search engine ads, Web site banners, radio spots, TV, billboards, flyers, direct mail and others. Before you spend your hard-earned money on advertising, you’ll want to investigate what to realistically expect. Only then should you draw up a plan for moving ahead.

Ads can do the following:

• Attract new customers, prospects and leads.
• Encourage existing customers to spend more on your product or service.
• Build credibility, establish and maintain your “brand” or unique business identity, and enhance your reputation.
• Inform or remind customers and prospects of the benefits your business has to offer.
• Promote your business to customers, investors or others and slowly build sales.

But here’s what advertising probably cannot do:

• Create an instant customer base.
• Solve your cash flow or profit problems by producing an immediate sales windfall.
• Cure poor or indifferent customer service.
• Create benefits that don’t really exist or sell products and services that nobody wants.

In short, advertising won’t guarantee quick sales for your product or service by itself, but it will get you noticed, if you do it right. That means you must know, as precisely as possible, the demographics of your target audience and craft a precise message about your product or service that will touch them. You must give customers a compelling reason to call, visit your Web site or stop by your business.

Your ad must also stand out in some way. If it fails to grab your potential customers, they are not likely to respond. Frequency is also key. A single ad in one place won’t do much. Getting people to see your ads as often as possible in different places will deliver better results.

To learn more about advertising your small business, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.”  SCORE is a nonprofit organization of more than 10,500 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to small business owners.  Call (570) 851.1608 or visit to contact the Greater Scranton Area SCORE Chapter.