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17 Advertising Ideas for Small Businesses

Small Business Advertising Beyond Word-of- Mouth

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Two business colleagues conducting an interview with a young woman at a table

Brainstorming advertising ideas

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Word of mouth is excellent small business advertising – but it’s slow, and may be practically non-existent for new businesses. If you want to grow your customer base more quickly, you have to advertise.

This collection of small business advertising ideas presents both the tried and true and some you may not have tried yet – advertising ideas for your small business to effectively reach your target market and attract new customers.

Tried and True Small Business Advertising Ideas

1. The Yellow Pages.

Although use of the printed yellow pages is on the decline, there’s still a lot of people who use the yellow pages to find the businesses they’re looking for – and they won’t find you if your small business isn’t listed there. Get the biggest printed yellow page ad you can afford; the more visibility the better.  As a more modern alternative consider the online version.

2. Newspaper advertising.

Besides box ads and advertising inserts, local newspapers also often offer special advertising features showcasing particular businesses – all powerful small business advertising opportunities. Don’t overlook special interest newspapers as an advertising idea if they exist in your area. They may be delivered to exactly the audience you want to reach.

3. Direct mail.

Direct mail can be very effective small business advertising – and is much more favourably received than other direct marketing media, such as email or telemarketing. And even if you don’t have a mailing list, you can still geographically target your mail.

4. Magazine advertising.

This advertising idea can be a very effective way of reaching a target market. The trick is to choose the magazines or e-zines that best match the market you’re targeting.

5. Business cards.

Sure, they’re advertising. Every time you hand one out to a prospective client or customer, you’re advertising your small business. But why not take this advertising idea further and Make Your Business Card a Marketing Vehicle?

6. Joining professional/business organizations.

Every professional or business organization offers exclusive advertising opportunities for their members, ranging from free promotion on the organization’s website through special section newspaper advertising. And being a member can be good small business advertising in itself.

7. Vehicle advertising.

The reason you see so many vehicles emblazoned with advertising is that it works; vehicle advertising is very visible small business advertising. If you’re not ready for custom graphics or a magnet quad sign that sit atop your vehicle, go for a magnetic sign that you can take off when you want.

Advertising Ideas You May Not Have Tried Yet

8. Sending promos with invoices.

Little advertising ideas can be powerful, too. If you’re sending out an invoice, why not take the opportunity to include some small business advertising? To draw new customers, try something such as a “bring-a-friend” promotion.

9. Cable TV advertising.

So you can’t afford to advertise your business during the Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the household reach of TV. Cable TV companies offer advertising ideas within the budget of small businesses, from advertising on the TV Guide Listings or Real Estate channels through running infomercials.

10. Radio advertising.

Another advertising idea you may not have thought of is radio advertising. Running ads on a local radio station can be both effective and relatively inexpensive.

11. Bench/bus stop advertising.

Looking to reach a mass audience? Then transit advertising may be the best advertising idea for you. Contact your local transit company for information on bench, bus and shelter advertising possibilities.

12. Local website advertising.

More people are spending more time online than ever before. Cover all your small business advertising bases by ensuring that your business is listed on websites providing business information for your local area. Many municipalities, for instance, offer business listings on their sites.

13. Trade show participation.

One of the main reasons to participate in trade shows is to be seen and get known. While participating in big trade shows can be quite expensive, there are a lot of smaller opportunities that may work well for your business, from trade shows put on by local business associations through trade shows focused on particular industries. See Trade Show Marketing for how to make the most of your trade show experience.

14. Email advertising.

If you already have an in-house mailing list or are able to develop one, email advertising can work for you. I see this advertising idea as more of a way to communicate with current customers than to bring in new ones because of the ever-growing hostility to spam.

15. Community involvement.

Visible, tangible involvement with your community is more than good PR; it’s also very effective small business advertising. So choose a charitable event or community association to get involved with and let yourself be seen as a business that cares.

16. Cross-promotion.

Joining forces with other businesses can greatly increase your advertising power and your marketing reach. Kare Anderson explains how this advertising idea works and how to jump-start your cross-promotion efforts in Attract More Customers through Cross-Promotion.

17. eBay listings.

eBay can be a fast and inexpensive way to make your potential customers aware of your products. When you list an item for auction, you’re also advertising your business to whoever views the listing. Get started selling successfully on eBay with 7 Tips for Selling on eBay.

Will all of these seventeen advertising ideas work for your small business? No! But by choosing several of these advertising ideas and focusing on them, you’ll be able to grow your customer base much more quickly than you would by relying on word-of-mouth alone. Like any kind of marketing you do, of course, your small business advertising will be most effective if you plan your advertising campaign and track your results.

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