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Ideas for Advertising on a Budget

For small businesses, especially those just starting up, every cent of the advertising budget needs to count. Whether your business is locally focused or has a national (or global) reach, thanks to the internet, your customers need to be exposed to your product or service in order to buy it. Advertising isn’t optional — it’s a must. You say you don’t know the first thing about advertising? Not to worry, this article has you covered.

Get to Know the Data

Before you spend any money on advertising, you need to learn everything you can about the people who might spend money on your product or service. A great way to get insights and ideas is by browsing consumer and market data. If you think this research is expensive and out of reach, you’re wrong! Federal agencies regularly collect an enormous amount of statistical information. It’s all available through fedstats.sites.usa.gov/showcase/. Dig around long enough, and you’re sure to find something helpful. A great place to start is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual Consumer Expenditure report because it can help you identify overall trends and changes in spending. You can find it here: www.bls.gov/cex/.

Online Advertising Basics

If your advertising budget is only a three- or four-digit number, online advertising is a great idea. You’ll often have access to powerful targeting tools as well as the latest analytics. These tools allow you to experiment and quickly figure out what works and what doesn’t. Here are the terms you should know to get started:

  • Paid Search: Your website’s link will appear above the list of a user’s search results when their search term includes a keyword you designate. Your link will be labeled as an advertisement.
  • Search Engine Optimization: SEO is activity that causes your website to appear near the top of organic search results that are not labeled as advertisements.
  • Display Advertising: These ads are images or banners that attract attention and also serve as links to your site.
  • Social Media: A rapidly growing sector of online advertisment, social media platforms allow for highly specific control over demographic targeting.
  • Pay Per Click (PPC): You pay for an advertisment each time a user clicks on it.
  • Pay Per Impression (PPM): You pay each time your ad is shown to a user.

For a Locally Focused Business

If your business is focused locally, there are a few other great ways to connect with customers:

  • Underwrite your local college radio station: Underwriting spots have language restrictions and limited reach, but they’re usually extremely cheap compared to commercial radio spots. College radio listeners are often excited to support their listening habits and will be all too happy to frequent your business.
  • Sponsor a community or charity event: Is your city hosting a public celebration anytime soon? Setting up a booth and getting your logo on event T-shirts and posters is a great way to drive word of mouth and customer relationships.
  • Live your business: Be passionate about what you do and network everywhere you go. Get to know other local business owners and work out cross-promotions that cost you nothing and build traffic for your business.

These days, it can seem like you need a multimillion dollar budget for anyone to take notice. However, with a knowledge of modern tools and a little creativity, your shoestring budget can go a long way!

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