It Pays to Advertise

by Sheila Millar

Few would claim that advertising has been the sole reason for the success of their business. Yet many would agree that it has been one of the many tools available to help sell what their company has to offer. We know that advertising sells - that is after all its ultimate goal!

Over the last two decades, there have been steady improvements in the development of advertising -- taking it from being a method of information to being a form of cryptic entertainment. It is often all too easy for us to think of advertising in terms of the "big money" television or glossy magazine ads. The special effects, the superb graphics and the use of famous personalities are often what we think of when we consider this whole area. If this is so, then it is no wonder that the whole concept can be somewhat disconcerting to the person with a small business! But in order for those of us in small businesses to think of advertising as of significant benefit to us, where do we begin?

Take Irene Murphy as an example. She runs a book shop on a busy high street in a town in Ireland. Just around the corner, there is competition from a branch of a national chain store, but Irene's shop is well established enough to cope! Because of its prime location, she gets a lot of passing trade which is in itself a form of advertising. Yet she allocates less than one per cent of her annual takings towards advertising to attract people from the outlying areas in the district, to draw attention to special 'book-buying' times of the year and to maintain public awareness of her shop's existence - an important factor in view of the competition. Most of this is done through ads in her local newspaper. You can see that it doesn't take a lot of excess spending to "keep your name out there" to encourage increased business.

Why Bother?

I think it is important that we establish clearly in our own minds the objectives of advertising. Some of the main reasons might include:

I'm sure you can think of many more, and indeed our reasons might include a combination of these. We would probably agree that in this day and age, whatever type of business we run, it is fool-hardy to think that a good product or service will sell itself... maybe some will but without some sort of advertising we would probably not be reaching our full sales potential.

So if we have thought this far ahead, where do we go from here? There are all kinds of ads available but for the purposes of this article, let's just list a few. We have already mentioned press advertising which appears in a newspaper or magazine and can be used for just about any kind of product or service. Or we could use brochures or flyers which can be anything from just a one-sheet leaflet to a 32-page catalogue listing one or all the products available. Then there are posters seen everywhere - in the street, on the back of a bus, in railway stations and more. We could make up an endless list, but one thing is sure, we could not go through a day without seeing an ad somewhere. It is just up to us to discover which ones that we could use to advertise our small business.

An Example

One area which I think is extremely simple yet important to any business which is in the view of the public, is the area of window displays. This is a form of advertising particularly for any retail business. Our shop front is the first thing that any passer-by sees and it is here where we can clinch the possibility of a sale or where we can lose it completely. Just think how often something catches your eye in a shop window as you walk along. It is of course where the phrase "going window-shopping" originates from. I know of a retail shop in central London, which has three large windows which have the potential of being attractive window displays but instead are used as if they were just a wall. So from the inside, there is a lot of retail space being used well but for the person looking in, all they see are the backs of the packages hanging up in those areas. These three glorious windows are not at all being used to encourage curious passers-by to come in -- potential sales lost? Then my mind flashes back to a very small chocolate shop in France which has in their small window a fountain with real chocolate gushing forth from it. It's a novelty and a real eye-catcher for all who pass by - it certainly made me and my friends go back to that shop! Window displays are the entrance to your palace and a definite ready-made advertising technique if used effectively.

Business can be an exciting game because it involves all your creative powers and energies to make it work better. There are all kinds of ways to advertise and we need to simply choose what we think best suits us and our situation. In our next issue, we'll look at some of the other ways to advertise and evaluate their benefits. Experience is the best educator! If we don't get it right the first time, then we'll just try again. Experience going hand in hand with an open mind and endless curiosity - that's what makes for an exciting business!

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