Why Every Small Business Should Look Seriously at Advertising

Advertising is a vital part of your marketing mix. After all, if your customers don’t know that you exist, how will they ever find you? Having a great product isn’t enough. The old saying “build a better mousetrap and people will beat a path to your door is only partially correct. If they don’t know that you have built that “better mousetrap,” and where to buy it, you’ll spend many unhappy hours waiting in vain for the phone to ring. Moreover, if you are tempted to say – I don’t need to advertise because I’ve got a website, then think again.

You have a great product and a nice website. Good job ! Now, you have to advertise if you want customers to find you.

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Having a website is an essential part of your marketing, but it will only work if people can find and visit your site.

There are so many competing sites that your chances of ranking in the first few pages of Google, or the other search engines, are slim. This is especially true if you have just launched your business. Unless you are proficient at digital marketing, it can take months for your website to rank for the terms you want it to. That’s why so many businesses rely on online advertising via Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to drive traffic to their site.

So, what's the secret to successful small business advertising?

That’s what you want to know right? You want a 100% guaranteed, fail-proof, formula to ensure that your advertising spend generates significantly more revenue than it costs. Now I bet you can guess what I am going to say next, don’t you – this holy grail doesn’t exist.

But you’d be wrong, at least up to a point. You see there are a few simple principles which, if followed rigorously and consistently, will ensure that your advertising will work more times than it fails. And that’s what I want to share with you in this article. It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t need to cost the earth either, but you do have to follow it!

There's no magic formula to create the perfect advert which will be 100% profitable. But you can follow few principles to make a good one.

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I’ve written about this at length in a previous article, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. Failing to complete this first step is the number one reason why so many small businesses fail! If you don’t have a clear, well thought through, up to date marketing strategy, then don’t bother to read on. Stop and go back to the link above and spend time on your strategy. Trust me it’ll make a big difference to your results. To find out more information, you can download the free marketing guide on the right side of this page. You'll find exercises to help you and a few guidelines.




If you have done step one, then you’ll know, your business goals, your target customer personas and your key messages. These will drive what you say in your advert, and they’ll also help you choose the best places to advertise. There are many different advertising opportunities out there. More than you can possibly imagine. Each one has a different price point and is perfect for reaching a different audience. All you have to do is decide which one(s) to use.

Please don’t rely purely on price! There is absolutely no point in advertising in a place where your target customers don’t go, just because it is cheap (or expensive!).

The best place to advertise is not the cheapest or the most expensive. It's where your target is.

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Here is a list of some of the advertising opportunities that have proved profitable for some small businesses. Use it as a starting point and highlight the ones that you think could work for your business.




Anyone can write a bad advert. You just need to look in Yellow Pages to know this! It takes skill to write a good one. In fact, the top advertising copywriters can command extremely high salaries because they can prove that their copy can generate thousands, if not millions of pounds in revenue.

You probably can’t afford to pay a fortune for a top copywriter, however there are many good copywriters out there who don’t charge an arm and a leg. If you’d prefer to take the DIY route, here are some proven tips to help you create a good advert.

Focus on what makes you different from the crowd:

One of the most common advertising mistakes small business owners make is to copy what their competition are doing in terms of the format and wording of their adverts. They say the same old things like…

Been in business since XXXX

We offer amazing service

We offer amazing service

We offer reasonable prices

High quality service

Great value

Blah, Blah, Blah…

This type of approach won’t differentiate you, and so your advertising spend will bring disappointing returns. Instead follow this four step formula to create a compelling advert that generates sales.


Write a compelling headline - Grab the reader’s attention by drawing their attention to a problem that matters to them which your product or service can solve. The purpose of your headline isn’t to sell your product or service; it’s to get them to read the next paragraph!


Create a strong subhead that hints at how you can solve their problem.


Explain briefly what the reader can expect to get.


Include a call to action. Tell them what you want them to do next. Many people forget to do this, while others go for the jugular by asking the prospect to call, email or buy now. The intention behind this latter approach is positive but often fails because the reader is not yet ready to take what feels to them to be a significant step. Well-designed adverts ask for a smaller commitment such as clicking on a web link. This approach has been shown to have a much higher conversion ratio.

To create a good advert, be original, clear, adapt the message to your target and include a call to action. 

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The metrics you use to measure this will, of course, depend on the nature of your advertising campaign. Adverts that drive visitors to an online “property” can be easily measured with a high degree of accuracy. Adverts that drive people to call, visit or email you, require you or your staff to log those enquiries and their triggers, manually via a spreadsheet or CRM system.

Measuring advert effectiveness takes a level of skill and time that you don’t have. In that case, consider outsourcing this task to a qualified expert.

Advert effectiveness metrics:

Compare sales before, during and after your advertising campaign (N.B. there may be a lag period depending on the nature of your product/service/market.)

Link your advert to a specific landing page designed only for that advert, and not accessible through your website menu. Then, use Google Search Console to                    measure the traffic to that page before, during and after, the campaign. Customer          footfall (if you are a retail business.)

Ask customers how they heard about you, and remember to record the results in a spreadsheet or CRM system.

Include a coupon code in the advert and require people to quote it to get the offer. Use a different code for each advert so that you can compare the relative              effectiveness of various media.

Assign a dedicated telephone number to your ad that automatically redirects calls to your usual number. Then analyse the redirect stats provided by your                            number provider.




The methods listed above provide hard, objective data which will allow you to assess the relative value of the different forms of advertising. As well as enabling you to decide which forms of advertising to keep and which to drop, you can also use this data in a more sophisticated way to fine tune the adverts that work for you to further boost their effectiveness.

Since most small business owners don’t take the time to measure the effectiveness of their advertising objectively, I won’t go into how you can do advanced advert optimisation here. Watch out for a future article on this topic. In the meantime, implement the guidelines in this article and let us know how you get on.

Did you find this article useful? If you want to share your experience about advertising with us please leave your comments.

About the author


Hi, I’m Gavin, I’m Scottish, and I’m a hands-on digital marketer and online content creator. I have a passion for finding what works and then writing about it for the benefit other entrepreneurs like you. As a regular contributor to Venus Voice I am honoured to have been christened ‘the only other man from Venus’. A title I am immensely proud of.

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