Super Bowl ads aren’t for everyone. If you’re a multi-billion-dollar global brand, shelling out $4.5 million for 30 seconds of airtime may be perfectly reasonable. For the rest of us, there are a few, slightly more affordable options for spending those marketing dollars. And spend them you should. A solid advertising strategy is essential to growing your business.
First and foremost, you must think about marketing and advertising as an investment, not an expense. That said, as a business owner I know how easy it is to define the advertising budget as whatever’s left over after paying the bills. But this shortsighted approach inevitably leads to an annual portfolio of random, quarter-page ads and radio spots that fail to communicate a consistent brand message. If you are disciplined and willing to allocate between 1 percent and 5 percent of gross sales, you’ll be on your way to an advertising campaign you can literally take to the bank.
Creating and maintaining an effective, strategic and budget-friendly advertising campaign may seem daunting but is 100 percent achievable with a bit of up-front effort and some thoughtful reuse of the work you’re already doing.
To get started, adopt these 10 strategies to create a diversified advertising and promotion plan:
1. Be a journalist.
Blogs and publications need content. Take a look at your business and industry with an outsider’s eye: What stories can you tell that would matter to readers? Do you have a particular expertise, a new take on a developing trend, some tips that could help others? Write consistent, meaningful blogs on your company website, or write a well-developed press release for the appropriate media outlets. Garnering name recognition through unpaid, positive media exposure elevates your status.
Tip: When writing content for submission, pretend the subject is about a competitor — would you still be interested in reading it? If it’s too promotional or only interesting to you, it’s not ready.
2. Teach a class.
There are no shortages of organizations, clubs, groups, chambers and events looking for speakers who can offer value to their constituents. You’re already a topical expert, so why not spin it into an awesome class or seminar that will boost your reputation as a thought leader?
Tip: Create a professional, engaging digital presentation. White space, strong branding and powerful visuals are great, while tons of copy, jargon, disconnected images and bullet points distract.
3. Embrace the Internet.
Internet advertising is generally budget-friendly and highly targetable. Boosting a Facebook post that demonstrates a unique story about your business, promoting a timely tweet about an upcoming event or increasing your visibility in a Google search are all easy and effective options for businesses with limited marketing dollars.
Tip: The more targeted your audience, the more cost-effective your investment will be. Never underestimate the value of good ol’ fashioned planning when it comes to identifying your objectives, audiences and timing.
4. Join a professional organization.
There are countless industry and professional organizations in your community, and each has a built-in audience of potential customers. Do your research and join organizations that align with your business interests. Often, these groups will have sponsorship or advertising opportunities for members, but the best promotional strategy is to just get involved and demonstrate your value.
Tip: Get your entire team involved by identifying a variety of groups in which you can demonstrate your expertise, increase your business’s name recognition and help employees grow professionally.
5. Sponsor an event.
Look for charity events that your customers care about and that fit into your own brand story. Guaranteed, the event planners are looking for sponsors. It’s all great exposure for a good cause, and you end up with tons of karma-filled PR cred.
Tip: As part of your sponsorship agreement, be sure that you are provided with an ad in the event program, signage with your company’s logo, a verbal mention during the program, an opportunity to introduce a speaker and/or a reserved table at the event for your staff or clients.
6. Sponsor local sports teams.
It’s perfectly fine if major league teams aren’t in your budget. Look at minor league, college or even high school and little league teams to support. More often than not, you’ll find fans and families who are as much, if not more, passionate about that team and who will be enthusiastic to support brands and businesses that share their interests.
Tip: There are usually a variety of sponsorship packages to meet any pricing or participation level. Do you want a booth at a big game or a program ad at all the games? Think about what suits your brand best.
7. Create a charity campaign.
Create a business-funded volunteer team or launch a brand-run donation drive and market it like crazy. People love to support a good cause and are more likely to engage in a community-focused campaign than one that is strictly promotional.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to brand your effort. Get team t-shirts, create posters, print handouts and update your social media cover images with event-specific graphics. Not only do these efforts create opportunities to share the experience online and off, they also ensure your brand is top of mind as the goodwill spreads.
8. Run email campaigns.
Maintain an online and in-house mailing list that allows customers to engage with your business. Distribute value-focused email marketing campaigns that create consistent communication with your audience and reinforce your ability to meet their needs.
Tip: Instead of pushing a direct sale, share trends, tips and actionable solutions that help your subscribers. Generosity and authenticity are powerful promotional tools.
9. Be less conventional.
Conventional advertising on radio, television and print push a budget. Another option might be to explore environmental placements that would fit your business’s story and goals. Look for placement options on community bulletin boards, parking meters, taxi boards, grocery shopping carts, movie ads and so on. These options tend to be less expensive than traditional advertising and can be more effective if you can directly connect with your audience in their day-to-day life.
Tip: Consumers remember advertising that is unique and surprising. If your service or product can be advertised in a new way that engages a customer positively, make it happen — even if you have to forge the advertising path yourself.
10. Purchase ad space.
Paid advertising can be great. If you can afford a high-quality, full-page ad in your region’s mainstream media, go for it. Alternatively, think about running a series of consistent, smaller ads that reinforce your brand’s message. A well-designed ad that shares a page can be just as effective as a full-page if approached strategically.
Tip: Consider partnering with another brand or organization to share the cost of paid advertising space. Just remember, successful advertising needs to solve a problem or create a benefit for your customer.
Do you have to take all of these steps? Of course not. Whatever your budget, you can create a successful plan for your business. The key is to find a mix that creates consistency, diversity and memorability for your brand. And, like with all your marketing efforts, your plan will be most effective with thoughtful planning and consistent tracking of results.