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Bob is excited about his new business. He secured funding. He leased the building. He stocked it full of new gadgets. He hung the sign. He posted a banner on his window that reads,"Grand Opening!". And now he stands behind the counter, waiting for customers to come flocking in. And he stands there. And he stands there. And he stands there.
And then it hits him: No one knows about his shiny new store!
I've seen new and even established businesses make this same mistake over and over again. Advertising is the last thing they think of. They assume that since their doors are open and the merchandise is on display, customers will come running in. But they won't come. Not until they know how great your new business is! And to do that you need to plan and execute an advertising budget and strategy.
Many times I've been called in to consult with a new business to help plan their ad strategy well after their stores have opened when in fact, this is something that should have been done during the initial planning stage.
So is it too late? No, but sometimes it's a major sticker shock to those who did not put a realistic plan together from the start. Remember that advertising, like your store and your merchandise, is an investment towards your profits.
But let's say you're like Bob and your business is already up and running. How do you put together a realistic ad budget? Well most people use a percentage of gross sales as a means of figuring this out. If however, you're a new business owner with no prior sales, you can base it on industry standards. Use the web and search out other related businesses for a guide. Once you've figured what your gross sales should be, think about using 3 to 5 percent as a starting point for your ad budget. Another factor to consider when planning an ad budget is that it should encompass all aspects of your advertising from media placement to creative costs and production of your ads.
And remember: advertising must be done with consistency. Let me write that again. Advertising must be done with consistency. When planning your ad budget, make sure you allot enough funding to allow it to last throughout the year whether your sales will be spread out evenly or are cyclical. If you spread your budget too thin, chances are your ad campaigns may not be heard or seen enough to stay in the minds of consumers. And if your business is brand new, you'll want to plan on spending more at the beginning for your initial start up campaign.
Some businesses make the mistake of advertising strong for about three to four weeks and then they stop. Keep in mind that consumers have very short memories and with 3000 plus advertising messages that pummel their brains everyday, it's no wonder! That's why you have to stay in the public's eye consistently. Oh, and it also helps to have a clever message but we'll talk about that in another article.
Once your ad budget is established, the type of advertising you use will be based on your specific business but normally if your business is consumer based, even in these modern web based times, traditional media such as radio, television, print, billboard and direct mail should still play major roles.
Many times I've helped clients put together an in-house survey for their customers to fill out. This can be helpful in determining what type of advertising they'll need as well. Questions like, "What radio stations do you listen to?" "Do you subscribe to the newspaper?" and "Do you shop on-line?" can be useful in getting to know your customer's habits as well as how to attract more like them.
Consulting an advertising agency is a very good way to get started as well. To find a good agency, try contacting other business owners you know for a referral or perhaps an established business whose advertising style and creative appears to fit your goals.
Remember: planning your advertising budget and strategy is as important as the products your trying to sell. Think about your advertising now and you'll never end up like Bob: standing behind the counter waiting for customers that never come.
Hal Eisenberg is an award winning copywriter, voice over talent and producer, as well as owner of The Eisenberg Agency, a full service advertising agency specializing in creative ads that get results. Visit his web site at http://www.eisenbergagency.com. Mailto: email@example.com.
Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard
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