ADVERTISING FOR THE PROFESSIONAL, TRADES PERSON AND SMALL BUSINESS

This article deals with the more usual and efficacious forms of advertising for a small business. The "small business" could be a self- employed professional or trades person, employing no staff, and operating from home. Or it could be a small business employing up to half-a-dozen persons. Lord Nuffield, in an oft quoted saying, remarked that half of his advertising expenditure was wasted but that he could not tell which half. The point that he was making is that it is notoriously difficult to measure the efficacy of advertising expenditure.

Most people in business these days register a Business Name and indeed this is desirable. The Business Name should succinctly state the nature of the business. The shorter the Business Name, the better. The ideal is a unique, easily remembered, descriptive name of one word.

Let us assume that you are opening a ladies' wear shop in a suburb or town. What kind of advertising or promotion should you undertake to kick off the business? The first thing to do is hit on something that will draw the crowds on opening day. Offer "specials" i.e. sell some items at near cost price. Also, if possible, try to arrange an event like a mannequin parade, modelling the latest fashions. Having decided on your draw-cards, you must now advertise them.

The first advertising medium will, of course, be the local newspaper. Buy some display advertising for the day preceding opening day. Contact your largest suppliers of stock and ask them to advertise on the same day on the same page. Now, armed with your own and your suppliers' advertising orders, you approach your local newspaper and ask them to do a feature on the opening. They will most likely do one at no additional cost to you. You give them all the news stories that you can think of including the mannequin parade. They take pictures and a full- page spread duly appears in the local paper on the day preceding opening- day.

Have about 5,000 "flyers" or handbills printed by your local print shop. These will give details of the opening, the "specials" and the mannequin parade. Have these distributed in your catchment area by a commercial distributor, Australia Post or the Boy Scouts.

If your advertising budget will stretch that far, consider advertising on the local radio. You could have a number of spaced adverts announcing the opening. An even bigger impact would be created by having the radio station broadcast live from your shop for a few hours on opening day.

Once a business has been opened and is up and running, you will have to consider on-going advertising. Dating from antiquity, the time- honoured method of advertising a trade or business is a sign of some sort. A shop should have its trading name emblazoned on large lettering on the outside. Additionally, it would be a good idea to have an "open- plan" style of shop-front with as much stock as possible on display to the public. If the shop is on a major highway, then the sign should be large and high up. Thus, it will be seen by motorists from a long way off and it will give them time to slow down and do some shopping.

All small business people, including shopkeepers, tradespeople and even professionals, will benefit from having their vehicles sign- painted. This can now be done cheaply using the latest technology of computer-controlled vinyl-cutting machines. Have 1,000 business-cards printed. Give these out at every opportunity.

For tradespeople, professionals and specialist shops, one of the major forms of advertising will be the phone-book Yellow Pages. When people need a service which they do not often require, the first place they look is in the Yellow Pages. For example, if a drain gets blocked, a householder will immediately look in the Yellow Pages for a plumber. Often, prospective customers will look for the business with the largest advert and then contact that person. For some trades persons and professionals, the Yellow Pages will be the biggest source of new business. Specialty shops, for example fishing-gear suppliers, will also benefit from Yellow Pages advertising. However, for run-of-the-mill shops in a shopping centre, the Yellow Pages will have little relevance. Some businesses try to maximise their chances in the Yellow Pages by listing under a number of different names in the same category and using the same phone number. It is also common for businesses to list under a number of different categories. The key to advertising in the Yellow Pages is to compete head-on with your competitors. When a person consults the Yellow Pages, he already has made up his mind to buy. He is just trying to decide from whom to buy. He looks for 1) the largest supplier, 2) fast service, 3) availability (e.g. 24-hour service), 4) professionalism (e.g. qualifications), 5) specialisation (e.g. agent for manufacturers), 6) guarantee, 7) cheapness etc. In the Yellow Pages, you should, at least, take a block advert.

The traditional form of advertising for a small business is, of course, the local newspaper. However, when the market is saturated with advertising, this form of advertising produces little results. It works best when there is some spur to action. A spur to action could be "specials" advertised for Wednesday only. Or an offer open only for a limited time.

There are a number of rules you should observe in newspaper advertising. The first rule is: Always have a Headline. The headline should inform the reader what you are selling. It should promise a benefit to the reader. It should be short. It flags down the reader scanning the newspaper. Never use your business name alone as the heading.

In the body of the advert, use simple words. Use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. Use serif type. Use upper and lower case letters. Do not use block capitals. Use justified text. Columns should be no more than 40 characters wide. You should finish off the advert by giving your business name and address and, if applicable, your phone number.

The pages most read in a newspaper are the odd page numbers and, in particular, page 1 and page 3. On any page, the most advantageous spot for your advert is the upper right-hand corner. Therefore, the spot and page to aim for in a newspaper is the top right-hand corner of page 3. Of course, newspapers also know this and they charge you extra for advertising on page 1 or page 3. Consider placing the advert in the Women's page for items of interest to women, in the sporting page when selling sporting equipment, in the finance page when selling financial services etc.

Advertise in a publication which reaches your target market. For example, a builder's supply shop would be better off advertising in a specialist business trade journal rather than in the local press.

Handbills or "flyers" are a good way of advertising for a small business. They are cheap. Have 5,000 printed by your local print shop. When drafting the advert, follow the rules set out above regarding newspaper adverts. Have some spur to action like "specials" or a special discount on presenting the "flyer" etc. Have the "flyers" delivered to your target customers in your catchment area. Australia Post will deliver them to households at a cost of about $8 per 100. Alternatively, a commercial delivery service will deliver them or you could deliver them yourself. Radio advertising only works if the message is repeated many times in a short while. You are wasting your time by putting on one advert on radio.

If you are a trades person, you may find it to your advantage to wear a neat uniform with your logo embroidered on it. For example, a pest-controller or a mechanic creates a much better impression when he wears a work-uniform.

Professionals such as lawyers, accountants etc. will benefit from producing a periodic newsletter. This could be at quarterly intervals or even yearly. In many professions, a syndicated newsletter can be bought and the letter sent out to clients under your own letterhead.

Shops often have carrier bags made to order with the shop name emblazoned on the side.

If your business is specialised enough, you should consider producing a brochure to describe your services.

Some businesses spend part of their advertising budget in "giveaways" e.g. calendars, pens etc.

A more recent innovative form of advertising is the use of "coasters" in pubs and clubs. The business advertises on the "coasters" which are used to rest alcoholic drinks on.

However, in the last resort, most businesses find that their greatest source of new business is "word-of-mouth" recommendation. You could capitalise on this fact by asking your existing customers to recommend you if they have been satisfied with the service.

DISCLAIMER: See disclaimer on home page.

Copyright 1994




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