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Choosing a Method of Advertisement for a Business

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Advertising is one of the most difficult investments a company, particularly a small business, has to make. Choosing a method of advertisement for a business often feels like gambling. Don't do it at all, you get nothing. Roll your dice by investing in one type of ad placement, you get nothing. Roll your dice by investing in the same placement next year, you hit the jackpot.

There's got to be a better way of selecting advertising methods that have the highest potential to work, right?

Here is a radically different approach on how to determine the right ad method to use. Traditionally, people start by looking at all the media venues (such as magazines, direct mail, television, etc.) that they have available. But that is really the endgame of advertising. You need to start with where...

The Where Question

Where are your customers when they are in the market for what you sell? This is not about their ZIP code or city. Where are they physically when they would make a decision to either buy the product? At home? In the office? In the car? Surfing the Internet? Take some time to seriously think about that question because it is quite profound and often overlooked.

For those who might not be familiar with it, P.O.P. (point of purchase) marketing is entirely based on the where question. People waiting in line at a store usually have these things on their minds:

  • "I'm hungry."
  • "I'm bored."
  • "Oh, I forgot..."

So that's why you will see items such as sugary or salty snacks, gum, magazines and batteries marketed near retail checkout lines where they are likely to make a buying decision for these items.

Let's say that you own a fast food restaurant. Typically where are people when they decide to run over to a quick service restaurant? They might be a couple of places. They might be in their cars. So billboard type advertising on roadways near your establishment may be good. Signs and billboards near heavily trafficked (driving or pedestrian) routes near office complexes could also be good placements.

Another example would be heating and cooling contractors who put weatherproof stickers on thermostats, as well as the equipment when installing. Why? Because when people are feeling too cold or hot, what do they do? They run to the thermostat. Next, they might wander over to the unit to see if it's working. (By the way, contractors used to ask homeowners to put their stickers on the Yellow Pages. Why? Because that's where people used to turn to find help. Today, it's the Internet.)

Those are examples for consumer level services. What about B2B (business to business)? Same rule applies. Say you offer computer repair service and parts. What's the most likely thing folks in B2B might do if they don't have an established "tech guy" on call for computer maintenance? Google it! So your best "where" might be Google AdWords or advertising on other search engines.

The major point is that you want to invest a good portion of your marketing dollars in advertising methods that connect with your key customer prospects where they are most likely to be when making a decision to buy what you sell.

Available Advertising Options

After you have figured out some likely "where" scenarios for your customers, it's time to select your advertising methods. While the major methods are discussed here, be on the lookout for new options in the online and mobile space.

  • Television. More interactive features and multi-device Internet viewing are being added which bodes well for advertisers. Direct response advertising (such as infomercials) can be effective for consumer products in particular.
  • Radio. Radio has been touted as being effective for reaching target customers "everywhere" (home, car, work, etc.). But traditional radio listening has morphed into online radio, with monthly online radio listening increasing from 13 percent of Americans 12 and older in 2008 to 53 percent in 2017 (Pew Research). This is good news since listening via the Internet offers more opportunities for clickable online advertising.
  • Podcasts. Being similar to traditional radio, audio podcasts offer a new horizon for advertisers. Podcasts' strength is in their ability to reach highly targeted niche markets. Like broadcast radio, and because many people listen while doing other things and offline, podcasts' downside is that there are no clickable, trackable advertising options. They are more suitable for brand advertising purposes.
  • Internet and Email Marketing. Offers a wealth of advertising placement opportunities, both on desktop and mobile devices. However, Internet advertising must be carefully chosen so that it reaches the right target audiences when they are in a buying mood. In fact, the Internet's downside is that there might be too many options to choose from, making ad decision making overwhelming. Pay per click (PPC), cost per thousand (CPM), sponsorship and social media advertising models are available. Because of its ability to reach people on both desktop and mobile devices with direct response offers, email marketing can be one of the most cost effective and relevant mediums available to today's marketers.
  • Magazines and Newspapers. The Internet continues to topple print media, even though the topical or regional nature of the media still makes them attractive options. Many publications have added online components or have even discontinued print versions altogether. Carefully consider whether prospects would actually be in a buying mood when viewing. May be a better choice for "awareness" advertising and content marketing efforts.
  • Direct Mail. Like print media, direct mail is being challenged as an advertising medium. However, it can offer finely targeted marketing campaigns (by geography, demographics and timing) that can convert to leads and sales.
  • Billboards and Signs. Still an attractive medium for local advertising since, unlike other methods, billboards can't be "turned off" by the user.
  • Promotional Products. Imprinted merchandise has one of the lowest cost per impression investments when compared other methods. As well, if chosen properly to be used where a customer would be in a buying mood (example: on a desk at work to encourage business purchases), promotional products can be effective advertising tools.
  • "Yellow Pages" Type Directories. These publications may still be viable in some communities. But be very aware that the new "Yellow Pages" is the Internet and print directories' days are numbered.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 24, 2014:

Indeed, Suzanne Day, I gotta admit I'm one of those lazy homeowners. :) It's just too much work to research new trade folks. In fact I just had another interesting related situation. We wanted to get our air ducts cleaned. Had it done a couple years back and I was satisfied with the work (they did our entire HVAC system install, too). But we found a coupon for a super low cleaning price and made an appointment. About an hour before the time, they called and said their tech had been injured on the previous job and couldn't make it. Red flags! Was the tech trained right? Did he have improper equipment? Were they properly insured? Ack! So I called the same folks from a couple years back (with their info on our system).

Thanks for adding your experiences to the conversation! Have a beautiful weekend!

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on May 23, 2014:

Lots of tradies here like to put their sticker on whatever they are servicing (eg a washing machine etc). Then, years later, they are getting lots of repeat calls from customers too lazy to compare pricing. I think this is a great marketing strategy. Put your contact details on whatever it is (as a webmaster, I add them to website bums) and then reap the rewards when you've done heaps of them. Voted useful!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 23, 2014:

Just saw the power of location in action! Our garage door opener went on the fritz after several years. When we had a repair done years ago, the repair company had placed a removable decal with their information right by the garage opening button. Guess who I called? Yep, that same group (they're working on it already). That was very efficient advertising!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 16, 2014:

Thanks CraftytotheCore! Indeed, much has changed in the advertisement world over the years. Interestingly, some of the "old school" techniques, such as direct mail, can help cut through the online advertising clutter. Thanks for adding your story to the conversation! Have a great day!

CraftytotheCore on April 16, 2014:

This Hub is packed full of information and helpful strategies. My father-in-law owned a small business for many years. But he never sold online. He did very well placing coupons in newspapers. Times certainly have changed thought and we are always evolving. Great advice!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 20, 2013:

Thank you, lindacee, for checking out my hubs and for your kind comments! Always glad to connect with others who have been in the advertising and small biz game. Cheers!

Linda Chechar from Arizona on April 20, 2013:

Having been in advertising (in a past life), as well as a small business owner, I know the importance of getting the right message to the right people at the right time. Your Hubs are a wealth of information for anyone looking for that edge in today's competitive marketplace! :)

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on February 26, 2013:

Thanks, Janis, for reading and commenting! Totally agree with the potential for healthcare waiting areas for referral business.

Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on February 26, 2013:

I found this information interesting and useful. It confirms for me the "where" in where to send business brochures for potential customers to see: doctor's offices/waiting rooms. Thanks, heidithorne. Good hub.