When you are creating an advertising plan the first thing to consider is budget. The budget amount you come up with will determine the rest of your options. Small businesses in general have a very limited budget for advertising their product so finding affordable options is key.

INTERNET OPTIONS

The internet is a wonderful advertising source for small businesses because it provides affordable advertising options.

1. EMAIL FLYERS

are a cheap and quick way to advertise your product. The problem here is generating an email list for the flyer’s distribution. It is very important that you don’t SPAM. SPAMMING is when a person or business sends out unsolicited emails. This offense is now grounds for lawsuits so don’t do it. Instead provide opportunities for potential customers to opt-in.

This can be accomplished by having a guestbook on your web page that a viewer can sign and request more information, put your email address on all of your print material including stationary and business cards, and leave sign up sheets in your store for customers to sign and leave their email address for special promotions. You can also set out an email sign up sheet at special events hosted by your company or at community events.

2. Set up a WEBSITE

for your business. If you want a custom address like YourCompanyName.com, then a fee will be charged for hosting and domain name registration. However if the cost is a concern there are companies that offer free hosting and also provide web page design software. The drawbacks to the free sites are that you don’t have a custom address, and you often have to host other sponsor company’s advertisements on your web page.

On your website you will want to post the vital information that your customers generally want to know: company name, address, phone, email, fax number, business hours, supply list, and price list. If you have the capability also put an order form with electronic shopping cart software on your site. This will help generate impulse purchases and increase your after hours sales. You should either apply for a merchant credit card account or sign up for a credit card processor like Paypal, so you can accept credit card orders online. This will dramatically increase the number of sales you are able to process. This also gives your store legitimacy.

3. BANNERS and POP UP ADS

are annoying and often not worth your investment. However you may want to create these types of ads to place on your own website or on associated websites that you are familiar with. It is not a worthwhile investment to buy banner ads or pop-ups from a vender you are not familiar with or from a site without a good reputation.

PRINT OPTIONS

Even though Internet advertising is a great way to get the word out inexpensively, print ads are still the most productive for generating buzz for your company. Print material should give reference to your website and online store, but it should also give information about your physical store (if you have one) as well. This establishes an identity for your business as well as creating traffic for your online advertising efforts.

1. FLYERS

are easy to create and can be printed inexpensively and quickly for sales and special events. You can use a word processor or graphic design template to generate a flyer with clipart and event information. With the advantages of desktop publishing you can size and print the flyer at your own desk. If you use a LaserJet or have an industrial size copier/printer you can print a full sheet flyer for about $.07 per page. If the amount of fliers is over 500, then taking the order to a print shop may make more sense.

Again the price will vary by shop, but should be about the same. Look for printing sales or promotions, and ask if they have a quantity discount or special discount for local small businesses. Asking for the discount is sometimes the only way you will get it so don’t be afraid to be a little bit forward. To save money you can always create flyers that are half page or even quarter page and then cut them apart.

2. BROCHURES and BUSINESS CARDS

can also be made with desktop publishing software and even with common word processors. You can buy special paper at a local office supply shop or through mail order catalogs. I have found that a better price can be found through mail order companies that offer free shipping to their business customers than those prices found at local office supply stores. Companies like Viking, Quill, and Cascade all have online sites where you can compare prices and place orders.

They also have flexible payment options like credit card, check, or store credit with payment due within 30 days. They also offer generic brands of form paper that can save you as much as 50% on certain items so look for the bargains. These types of companies often offer discounts on the first order you place with them and have monthly specials that will save you even more money.

3. MAGAZINE and NEWSPAPER ADS

are another option for companies with slightly larger advertising budgets. The rate for these types of ads will vary depending on the popularity and size of the publication. Local newspaper ads may be more affordable than magazine advertisements. Quarter page ads can run from $350 up.

If you want to advertise an affordable option may be to place an ad in the classified section of the paper or magazine as opposed to the main body of the publication. Brevity is the key in these types of advertisements. So make your message clear and catchy to get your money’s worth.

4. PHONE BOOK ADS

usually are provided as part of your business phone bill. This is a small listing in the yellow pages of the phone book. If you want a larger ad in addition to this you will have to pay an additional charge. This is a good investment. It will make your company stand out on a page of listings of your competitors.

VISUAL MEDIA AND AUDIO MEDIA

1. RADIO

is an option for advertising services. This can be done by purchasing airtime and playing a pre-recorded advertisement or by giving a live broadcast ad. Another way to use the radio is to invite the radio station to broadcast live from a special event hosted by your business. There may be a fee involved but the exposure will span the duration of the event as opposed to: 15 or: 30 spots that play once or twice a day.

2. TV

advertising is based on when the ad airs and on what channel. The popularity of the program also plays a part in how expensive the time slot is. Advertisements aired during the Super Bowl go for over a million dollars, so research the slots and channels for affordability and benefit.

OTHER INFORMATION

When you are putting together an ad campaign try to tie all the elements you have selected together. Have one give reference to another to draw in more attention to your other advertising efforts. Talk to other businesses in your area or colleagues you may have gained through professional meetings or community associations and see if they would like to go in with you on a collaboration advertisement.

Other options for inexpensive advertisements are: buy advertising space in yearbooks produced by local high schools, print coupons to distribute during parades, to give to the tourist organizations and information booths, or to post at local supermarkets. Try to think of all the places that you go during a week and where advertisements catch your eye. This process is also good for spotting places not to post your advertisements.

Think community when you are advertising. Get other people involved in your efforts and utilize your community’s resources for generating customers. Be your own walking billboard. Have T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, etc. printed with your company logo and slogan and don’t forget to include contact information so the new customer will know where to go. Be creative, conscious, and captivate your audience with your advertisements. Good luck on your venture.

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