Advertising Your Business

Recognizing the importance of small business to a strong economy, Yellow
Pages Publishers Association (YPPA) has joined with the U.S. Small Business
Administration (SBA) to help meet the information needs of existing business
owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. This Focus On The Facts discusses the
fundamentals of advertising planning.

Advertising Your Business
Advertising is an investment in your business, similar to other investments
to improve and expand your business. The return you receive depends on the
planning and thought that precede the actual commitment and expenditure of
advertising dollars. By first developing an effective advertising plan you
increase the likelihood of a positive return on your advertising investment,
regardless of the amount of money you spend.

Four Basic Questions
The basic premise of an advertising plan requires you to thoroughly analyze
the answers to key questions before you can make effective advertising
decisions. There are four key questions to ask yourself:

1. What do I want my advertising to accomplish?
2. Who should my advertising speak to?
3. What should my advertising say?
4. What advertising medium should I use?

In a specific business situation, each question has any number of potential
answers. As you think about each question do not accept any answer until you
have considered and explored the full range of possibilities.

What Do I Want My Advertising To Accomplish?
The first step in developing your advertising plan is to specify your
advertising goals. Be as precise as you can as to why you are advertising and
what you want to achieve. Everyone wants advertising to increase business,
but for your advertising plan to work it requires you to be more precise.
Some possible goals for your advertising are:

– Increase awareness of your business.
– Attract competitors’ customers.
– Increase the likelihood of keeping current customers and developing
their loyalty.
– Generate immediate sales or sales leads.

It is possible you may want your advertising to achieve all of these goals
plus some others. What is important is that you prioritize your goals.
Advertising works best when it is developed to meet one specific goal at a

Who Should My Advertising Speak To?
Once you determine your advertising goals you can then select the target
audience for your message. Advertising that tries to reach “everyone” rarely
succeeds. Successful advertising is written with a specific customer in mind.
Try to picture the person you must reach in order to achieve your advertising
goals. Try to describe your target consumers in each of the following:

– Demographics: such as gender, age, income, location of residence or
business, etc.
– Behaviors: such as current awareness of your business; the
products, services or vendors they currently use; loyalty to
either you or your competitor’s business, etc.
– Needs or desires: such as what benefits consumers look for, the
basis on which they will decide whether to use your product or
service, and how your business can fulfill those needs, etc.

What Should My Advertising Say?

Once you know who your target audience is and what they are looking for in
terms of the product or service you offer, you can decide what your
advertising will say.
Advertising should always be written to communicate a message that will be
seen as important by your target customer. Your advertising should clearly
and convincingly “speak” to your target audience, explaining the important
benefits your product or service offers.
In deciding how to discuss the major benefits of your product or service in
your advertising keep “AIDA” in mind: attract Attention, hold Interest,
arouse Desire and motivate Action.

Where Should I Place My Advertising?

Every month new advertising options become available. Beyond “traditional”
media you can place ads in airports, on ski lifts and on television monitors
in the front of grocery carts. Where you place your advertising should be
guided by a simple principle: go where your target audience will have the
highest likelihood of seeing or hearing it. Many advertising media work well
to reach a diverse range of target consumers. There is no single medium
inherently good or bad. A good medium for one product or service may be a
poor medium for a another. As you consider media choices look for one that
fits your advertising goals, reaches your target efficiently and cost-
effectively and is with your advertising budget. Based on, these
considerations, the following summarizes the relative advantages and
disadvantages of the advertising media most frequently used by small


Television provides a means for reaching a great number of people in a short
period of time. Small businesses will typically use either spot television or
cable television. A spot television ad is placed on one station in one
market. The number of target audience who see your ad depends upon how many
viewers are tuned into the television station at a specific time. Cable
advertising is placed either on a local cable television channel or on a
cable network. The number of people reached by cable advertising depends upon
the cable penetration and cable channel/program viewership in a given market.
Beyond television’s reach, an additional advantage is its ability to convey
your message with sight, sound and motion. The disadvantages of television
advertising are: relatively higher cost – both the terms of airtime and
production, limited length of exposure, short airtime (making it difficult to
present a complex or detailed message) and the clutter of many other ads.
Television ads may require multiple exposures to achieve message retention
and consumer action. Also, many commercials are considered intrusive,
prompting viewers to switch channels to avoid them.


Radio, like television, has the ability to quickly reach a large number of
consumers. The major advantage of radio lies in its ability to efficiently
target narrowly defined segments of consumers. The vast array of radio
program formats lets an advertiser gear ads to almost any target audience.
Beyond this advantage, radio is commonly used by small businesses because it
is relatively inexpensive (both in terms of airtime and production costs) and
because deadlines for placing radio advertising are relatively short,
providing an advertiser with increased flexibility. The disadvantages of
radio are: an advertiser is limited to an audio message so there is no visual
product or service identification, ad clutter can be high and exposure to the
message is short and fleeting. Finally, similar to television, multiple
exposures may be required for message retention and consumer action. Also,
listeners may change stations to avoid commercials.


Newspapers permit an advertiser to reach a large number of people within a
specified geographic area. Newspaper advertising has several advantages for
the small business. An advertiser has flexibility in terms of ad size and
placement within the newspaper. Exposure to the ad is not limited, so readers
can take their time with your message. Short deadlines permit quick response
to changing market conditions. Disadvantages of newspaper advertising
include: declining readership and market penetration, ad space can be
expensive, clutter of competitive advertising and a relatively short life-
span (newspapers are typically read once, then discarded), thus requiring
multiple insertions.


Magazines provide an advertiser with the means to reach highly targeted
audiences. Specific groups can be reached by placing an ad in a magazine
whose editorial content specializes in topics of interest to that target.
This is true of both consumer and business publications. Audiences can be
reached by placing ads in magazines which have well-defined geographic,
demographic or lifestyle focus. Beyond the ability to reach specific
audiences, the advantages of magazines include relatively long ad life and
re-peated ad exposure (magazines are typically looked through several times
before discard), excellent reproduction quality and pass-along value. The
disadvantages of magazines include: long lead time, limited flexibility in
terms of ad placement and format, and the potential for high costs in
production and placement.

Outdoor (Billboards)

Outdoor advertising is typically used to reinforce or remind the consumer of
the advertising messages communicated through other media. The advantages of
outdoor advertising are: ability to completely cover a market and high levels
of viewing frequency. The disadvantages of outdoor advertising are related to
viewing time. Because target consumers are typically moving, an outdoor
advertisement must communicate with a minimum of words. Messages must be
simple, direct and easily understood.

Direct Mail

Direct mail advertisers use targeted mailing lists to reach highly
specialized audiences. In addition to low waste in ad exposure, direct mail
provides an advertiser with great flexibility in the message presentation.
The disadvantages of direct mail include: relatively high cost per contact,
obtaining updated, accurate mailing lists and difficulty in getting the
audience’s attention (direct mail is often considered “junk mail”).

Yellow Pages

The Yellow Pages are an advertising medium that share many of the strengths
of other advertising media while at the same time avoiding some of the
limitations or disadvantages. As such, the Yellow Pages are best used to
complement or extend the effects of advertising placed in other media. Like
other media, the Yellow Pages permit an advertiser to select a well-defined
geographic area, ranging from a neighborhood to an entire metropolitan area.
Once the geography is defined, a Yellow Pages ad has permanence: Yellow Pages
are kept as a regular reference. In addition, Yellow Pages support your other
advertising by providing a convenient way for consumers to contact sources
and obtain information on the products or services they desire at the time
they are ready to “take action.” Also, the Yellow Pages are relatively low in
cost in terms of both ad production and placement. The disadvantages of the
Yellow Pages include: lack of timeliness (ads can be changed only once per
year and, as a result, there is no opportunity for “price advertising”),
potential clutter in some classifications and not as much creative
flexibility as other print media.

How To Get More

Television Bureau of Advertising, Inc. (212) 486-1111
Radio Advertising Bureau, Inc. (212) 254-4800
Newspaper Advertising Bureau (212) 921-5080
Magazine Publishers of America (212) 752-0055
Outdoor Advertising Assoc. of America (202) 371-5566
Direct Marketing Association (212) 768-7277
Yellow Pages Publishers Association (313) 680-8880

U.S. Small Business Administration

Consult your telephone directory under U.S. Government for your local SBA
office or call the Small Business Answer Desk – 1-800-8-ASK-SBA. Also, you
may request a free copy of The Small Business Directory, a listing of
business development publica-tions, from your local SBA office or the Answer

The SBA’s participation in this publication does not in any way constitute an
express or implied endorsement of the cosponsor’s opinions, products or
services. SBA Auth. No. 88-1250. All SBA programs are available to the public
on a nondiscriminatory basis.

About author

SMB Reviews
SMB Reviews 473 posts

SMBReviews is committed to providing small and mid-sized business owners with the information and resources they need to select the best service or product for their company.

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