happy little biz

So... how do I advertise my business?

I'm a member of several business-related Facebook groups and probably the main question I see people asking is:

What's the best way to advertise my business?

As you might expect, this has changed a lot over the last few years. With the rise of ye ol' Internets, we aren't stuck with advertising on billboards, lawn signs, newspapers and the Yellow Pages.

But are those methods still ok to use? Should we completely abandon them in favour of new methods?

Here's some food for thought*.

  • 86% of people skip over TV ads
  • 44% just throw out direct mail (without even reading it!)
  • 200 million people in the US have opted in to the National 'Do not Call' List.
  • 84% of 25 to 34 year olds have left a favourite website due to an intrusive ad

Do these stats surprise any of you?

We now live in a world where people want things immediately and don't like to have their time imposed on with something they didn't ask for. Maybe you've done some of the things listed above yourself. Probably all of us have been on a website with an annoying ad, or have gone to the kitchen to get a snack when the commercials come on during your favourite TV show (because who watches the commercials, anyway?).

These types of marketing, where your message is put in front of people without them looking or asking for it, is called Outbound Marketing. It tends to be pretty expensive (imagine what it costs for a 20 second radio or TV ad spot!) and since a lot of people ignore it anyway, it just doesn't make sense for most small biz folks out there.

What does make sense for many of us is Inbound Marketing. That is, marketing methods that seek to gain a person's trust and interest. These methods are things like:

  • Posting to social media (and replying to people who reply to you!)
  • Writing blog posts with interesting, useful content
  • Creating podcasts that are educational or entertaining
  • Writing free articles that provide valuable information that people will actually want to read

As you can probably tell, these methods are low cost, but they do take some time to produce. But even when you take that into account, the return on investment for producing Inbound Marketing content is much better than with Outbound. Remember, with these methods you are offering something to people for free, that they can choose to engage with or not. People reading your blog or downloading your free article are doing so because they wanted to, not because they were forced to. That means they are far more likely to buy your product or book an appointment with you, because they were already interested in the content anyhow.

So us small biz folks should probably rethink posting ads online or putting flyers in neighbourhood mailboxes. It's probably going to be a big waste of time, energy and money.

Instead, we should spend time creating focused content that appeals to our target audience, that they'll want to seek out and read.

Exceptions to the rule? If you know your audience actually reads the Yellow Pages, ads in the newspaper, and looks at those magnets that get put into our mailboxes, then yes, this could be a good method of advertising for you. For example, many seniors and retired folks tend to pay attention to these things.

What's your experience with this? Have you had a good return from either type of marketing method? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

* All those stats are from this article on Mashable. They're US statistics but I suspect the Canadian situation isn't much different.

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