What Works Better Than Advertising in Small Business Marketing?

Charlie Cook   |   © In Mind Communications, LLC, all rights reserved.

Is advertising the best way to generate more leads and sales and grow your business?

You might be surprised to know that in most cases, the answer is NO. You could generate ten times the business you’d gain through advertising by using the three small business marketing strategies detailed below.

Yes, advertising should be part of your overall marketing strategy, but don’t make it the centerpiece of your strategy when there are more effective – and more cost effective – ways to generate leads and sales.

What are the limitations of advertising in small business marketing?

Advertising is expensive – The high cost of advertising can sink a new business before it has a chance take off. TV ads can cost millions, print ads in magazines with national reach like Fortune or Forbes cost tens of thousands, and radio spots can run you thousands of dollars. Even a micro, pay-per-click ad in Google can cost four to five dollars per click, depending on your keywords.

Advertising disappoints – Ever run an ad and get only a handful of leads and even fewer sales? Many small businesses spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on ads that don’t pay off in increased sales – or just barely do. Has this ever happened to you?

Advertising doesn’t get noticed – The average American is exposed to thousands of marketing messages every single day. Advertisers compete harder and harder to get our attention, with more ads in more places every year. The result of this increasing abundance of advertising is that it’s harder and harder to get people to pay attention and respond to your ad.

Advertising isn’t believable – Not only is your audience saturated with ads and information, they’re sophisticated and skeptical. Most people dismiss the claims made in ads. Even if your ad is completely factual, your prospects’ tendency is to not trust it.

Advertising is touted as the miracle pill for growing your business. You pull out your checkbook or max out your credit card and pay for your ad campaign. But for many small businesses, the results rarely justify the cost.

Don’t get me wrong, advertising can work, if you know when and how to use it but there are better ways to generate leads and sales that you should be focused on first, before you turn to advertising.

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What works better than advertising to grow your business? Here are three strategies you’d be nuts not to use:

1. Give Away Something For Free
People love getting something they want and need for free. I use a free 20 page marketing guide. Financial planners give away free seminars. Pfizer gives away free samples of drugs to doctors and some auto dealers give away travel certificates to motivate prospects to visit their showrooms.

Business Week ran an article on March 12th about Chipotle’s successful give-to-get marketing strategy. The fast food restaurant chain has handed out tens of thousands of free burritos and tacos as way of building a loyal clientele. In just one day Chipotle gave away 6,000 burritos when they opened a mid-town location in Manhattan.

This customer-satisfying strategy cost them $35,000, just about the same amount they would have spent for a half page black and white ad in the New York Times.

Let your prospects sample your ideas or your products. It’s the fastest way to help people understand the value of what you provide, to trust you and to want to do business with you. Chipotle has leveraged this strategy to become one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the country. Imagine what this marketing strategy could do for you!

2. Get Free Publicity
When your prospects read an ad you wrote, they tend not believe it. When they read an article by you in a magazine or newsletter that is published and distributed by a third party, you have instant credibility. Write and distribute your articles widely and people will see you as the expert to turn to.

3. Use Email To Build Profitable Relationships
Once you have a lead, write and send series of emails that give your prospects information they can use. Demonstrate the value of your products and services. This simple strategy can convert a high percentage of prospects to new clients within one or two weeks.

I’m not suggesting that you stop advertising altogether. But use advertising as a supplement to the three small business marketing business strategies above, not as the mainstay of your marketing. Here’s why:

Spend $12,000 on advertising online, and if it works perfectly, you could generate up to 2,400 leads and convert those to 1,000 sales. Spend the same amount implementing the three strategies outlined above, and you could generate ten times the business; that’s 24,000 leads and 10,000 sales.

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