Small business marketing has changed a lot in recent years. From pay-per-click advertising and social media to content marketing and search engine optimisation, there’s a lot to get your head around if you want your small business to rise to the top.
However, while new forms of marketing have made promoting your business easier than ever, traditional marketing techniques still dominate small businesses. These techniques remain especially common in businesses whose owners have been slow to adopt to digital, or who have found success through traditional marketing techniques in the past and want to replicate their successes again.
Below, we’ve put together the pros and cons of some of the most common traditional small business marketing techniques, and offer digital alternatives to help save you money and make your marketing more effective.
Newspaper and magazine advertising
It’s no secret that newspaper circulation is dwindling. Over the past ten years, the internet has swallowed up almost every traditional printed media outlet, and transformed the way we consume news and entertainment. Think about it – when was the last time you bought your local newspaper and read it from cover to cover, checking out the business pages and advertisements as you did? It’s no longer worthwhile to advertise in printed media.
Sure, you might be able to pick up a block at a reduced rate, and you may even be able to generate some business out of your promotion if you advertise locally, but newspaper and print media advertising will only reach a limited audience. In fact, as this report from The Media Briefing confirms, the average age of a newspaper reader is 51, so depending on the audience you want to reach, print media advertising may bypass your demographic entirely.
There are benefits to traditional print media advertising that should not be overlooked, though. These include the fact that you can target your campaigns to a particular section of the newspaper or magazine, the ability to scale and personalise your adverts depending on the publisher and time of year, the trustworthiness of seeing a printed advertisement over a modern banner advert, and the options that you have as an advertiser. You could, for example, use a traditional printed ad, or opt for a pull-out, an insert, or target your advert in a particular geographic location to reach a local audience that could be interested in you.
Contrast this to banner advertising using pay-per-click. After designing an attractive banner for your website, you can then customise and personalise your campaign depending on the website your banner appears, and even use retargeting to capture the attention of visitors who were close to becoming customers. Pay-per-click advertising also offers in-depth and up-to-the-minute analytics as to how your campaign is performing, allowing you to tweak your advert so that you can maximise its effectiveness. As soon as you’ve sent your artwork to a print publisher, on the other hand, your advert is finalised and you can’t make changes to your campaign. What’s more, unless you advertise with a specific promotional code, you won’t be able to accurately monitor the effectiveness of your campaign.
Leaflets and flyers
There are three main benefits to using leaflets to promote your business. The first is that leafleting is cost-effective. You can pick up new customers for just pennies per household, and you can find companies to distribute your leaflets or deliver them with newspapers and magazines if you don’t have time to hit the streets yourself. The second is that leafleting is a direct form of promotion – your brand will literally appear on the doorstep of potential customers and expose you in a way that no other form of marketing can. The third is that leafleting is direct – you’re asking people to engage with your business, and you can ask them how they found out about what you do when they get in touch or make a purchase.
Make sure that you have your leaflets professionally designed, and ask for help if you don’t know how. If you’re spending money on promoting your business, you need to make sure that your promotional materials look as professional as possible – and that means double checking contact information and proofreading for spelling and grammar.
Although leafleting is one of the most effective forms of traditional marketing, there are still some drawbacks that you need to consider. Flyers are common, and homeowners will get hundreds through their doors every year. Because of this, they’re quick to dismiss flyers and leaflets, and may choose to put yours in the bin before they give it a chance. Another drawback is that flyer marketing lacks the long-term impact that other marketing techniques has; unless the consumer is specifically looking for/interested in your product or service at that time, they’ll dismiss your marketing messages and are likely to forget about it by the time they’re ready to purchase. You’ll, therefore, need to post multiple leaflets if you want to increase brand recognition and your chances of landing a new customer.
Ever considered promoting your local football club or community club in exchange for some promotion for your brand? For local businesses that want to get involved in the community, sponsorship can be an incredibly effective promotional tool. Not only can it raise brand awareness and support your sales and promotional campaigns, but it gives your business an emotional tie to an event, and promote relationships with clients and potential customers.
There are some drawbacks to sponsorship. Such promotion is typically expensive and can be competitive. And, depending on the event or organisation you’re looking to sponsor, there may be a limited audience and they may not be interested in what you do. If you want to sponsor a charity fun run, for example, but operate in a business-to-business market, you most likely won’t enjoy additional custom from your sponsorship, but will enjoy increased brand awareness and positive PR, cementing your business as charitable and wholesome.
Business listings and classifieds
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, and for a long time it worked. Business listings and classified ads allows you to get more eyeballs on your brand and reach a local audience, without spending a small fortune and denting your profit margins. But the days of such ads bringing any return are over – at least in newspapers and magazines.
One similar method of promoting your business is to add your website to a business listings directory. HubSpot has put together the ultimate business listings guide, packed with useful resources for promoting your business. These directories are similar to the classified ads and business directories you’d once find in your local newspaper, displaying information about what services you offer and details on how to get in touch.
And, although these listings probably won’t bring you any new customers, you will get backlinks, which will boost your website’s domain authority and help you climb search engine results pages more quickly. It makes sense to sign up for as many directories as possible as part of your search engine optimisation strategy, but make sure that you do your research and avoid listing your site on questionable websites that could damage your SEO.
Radio and TV
In similar vein to printed media, traditional forms of broadcast media are no longer as effective as they once were. Even broadcasting giants like ITV have suffered a drop in profit in recent years because of falling advertising revenues, with people spending more of their time consuming music and TV shows on services like Spotify and Netflix.
There are some benefits to advertising your local business on TV and radio. The first is that multimedia content is generally much more effective than text, as people are more likely to remember your brand through images and videos. Another is that broadcast advertising is usually shown more than once, and repeated exposure to a brand can lead to recognition.
But when it comes to downsides, there’s one that overrules them all. Broadcast media is incredibly expensive, and can consume your entire marketing budget if you want to appear on TV or radio. Therefore, for small businesses, this marketing technique is usually out of reach and should be avoided.
A great alternative to TV and radio is to invest in visual content marketing, by producing podcasts, YouTube videos, GIFs and graphics, and using them on your blog and website to promote your brand. Content marketing is the most effective form of marketing for small businesses, so it makes sense to invest everything you have into it.
While digital marketing has changed the way we promote our small businesses online, there’s still a market for traditional promotional techniques. Don’t underestimate the power of a leaflet drop or newspaper advert if you’re looking to capture a local, niche audience, but remember that digital techniques such as social media, content marketing, SEO and pay-per-click will prove more cost-effective in the long-run.