happy little biz

A short lesson on advertising for those who don't like advertising

This week's topic was prompted by a post in a Facebook group for Registered Massage Therapists. Folks were talking about all kinds of business topics, and one of the questions that came up was how to do effective advertising. So let's dive in to that for this week, shall we?

As small biz folks most of us tend to not be huge 'fans' of the idea of doing advertising. It might feel overwhelming to us, since it's outside our area of expertise. Or it might feel strange, since we're not big fans of 'selling ourselves'. Or it might be concerning because no one likes to throw money at something and just hope they'll see results - we like to know it will be effective!

In this internet-filled day and age we often find ourselves scattered on where to put our energy. Should I use Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest? What about google ads? What about Facebook advertising? Do I need a newsletter? Should I do them all?

Obviously this is only going to result in stressing you out and your attention being scattered. No one wants that! And really, if your focus is all over the place, that's not helping your business.

Before I go on, I want to clear up something: Advertising vs Marketing. You can think of marketing as being a big pie, and advertising as being one slice. Marketing is your whole plan for promoting your business, from learning about your potential clients to branding to all the customer service stuff you do to keep your clients happy. Advertising is the specific promotional aspect of marketing. It's not just traditional ads, but it is a format where you show what you have to offer and why folks should choose you. It can take the form of videos, blog posts, podcasts, Facebook ads, newspaper ads, and so on.

So let's talk advertising.

The first rule of advertising is you need to know who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach? What's your target group? If you say to yourself 'my services are for everyone!' you need to think a bit more about this. Is there a group you really click with? Are there aspects of your career that you're really good at? Who are your ideal clients? I talked about this from a massage therapy perspective last week, and from a more general perspective a few months ago.

Once you've got a handle on your audience, then you can think about your advertising. The two main things to look at are this:

  • Where your audience is and
  • What you're comfortable with.

Where does your audience hang out? Are they tech savvy? Are they more the types to use phone books? Do they read the newspaper? Blogs? Listen to podcasts?

If you don't know the answer to these questions, it's an easy thing to research! Just ask people in your target audience where they go for information about new businesses, if they bother with more old-school things like phone books, and if they're twitter/facebook/etc users. Do this however you like - email or call people you know, ask current clients, try asking on Facebook groups or on twitter, and so on. Wherever you already interact with people in your target audience works fine.

This will give you a list of places you can potentially advertise that folks you want to work with actually pay attention to.

Once you've got that down, it's a whole lot easier to decide where to focus your energy (and spend your hard-earned money).

Next, take that list and look for anything that feels right to you. For example, let's say your audience loves Facebook. If you're already a Facebook user and feel like you could try to build a Facebook page and use Facebook advertising, this is a great place to spend your time. Or, if your audience is super into YouTube videos and you feel comfortable with the idea of creating some, that's another good match. Whatever already feels really doable to you, that's where you try to start.

It's also ok to try to branch out! If your audience love Snapchat and you're willing to give it a try, that's great! Test the waters and see how it goes. The same goes for any other kind of advertising, online or not.

What I wouldn't bother with is any medium where you just don't feel comfortable, or is way out of your price range. It all comes back to advertising your business in a way that feels comfortable for you. If you're uncomfortable with something, that will show in your advertising, and your potential clients will pick up on that. So don't bother with Google ads if they feel weird to you. Don't do twitter just because some of your potential clients are on twitter. If it isn't for you, don't do it. There are many ways to advertise a business.

So now you've got a plan forming! You know where to advertise based on where your audience likes to get information and hang out, and you know which of those areas you'd like to focus on, based on your own experiences and what feels right for you.

So what do you do now? I've run out of time for today, but in brief, you need to compose something that will appeal to your audience, and then experiment to see what works (and change things if they aren't!). So for example, set up a Facebook page for your business, get some interesting content on there, and then set up a Facebook ad. It doesn't have to be expensive! Then, make sure you ask all of your new clients where they heard about you. If some say they saw your ad on Facebook, you know things are working. Or, if you start getting inquiries from potential clients who saw your ad on Facebook. It's important to track if your ads are actually drawing people to your business.

I'll write more on this in the future, but in the mean time, happy advertising!

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