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Advertising is a proven way to market your small business and gain customers and revenue.

But there are so many ways to advertise a small business, it can be confusing and overwhelming.  To get the best return on your advertising spend, we compiled the insights and advice from a number of sources. The guide includes insights from experts to small business owners, along with our Editors’ guidance.

In this Small Business Advertising Guide, we walk you through how to advertise your business. We answers questions such as what advertising is and what types of advertising are out there to choose from. And we show the relative costs for each and even places where you can advertise for nothing or for very little cost.

We also walk you through a simple step by step process to set up a small business advertising campaign.  And if you need some idea starters, we’ve got those too.

Business Advertising is Thriving

You hear lots of things online about how about how this type of advertising or that type of advertising is supposedly dying.  The reality is, the advertising market is growing every year, as the Standard Media Index shows:

small business advertising guide

Even banner advertising and display advertising has been predicted to have died years ago. But to roughly mimic the words of Mark Twain, rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.  

The Online Advertising Revenue Index, tracked by Ezoic, shows that online advertising is also showing strong healthy growth.

“As for small businesses interested in advertising, there has never been a time in history when it has been easier to reach your audience. Digitally you can find the exact type of person you want to target, understand the cost to reach them, and objectively measure the impact of that ad on your business goals. In the history of advertising, we’ve never had this granularity of data. It only makes sense to take advantage of it,” Tyler Bishop, Head of Marketing for Ezoic told Small Business Trends.

Despite wild fourth quarter swings each year due to budget cycles, the overall trend line is going up as this index shows:

small business advertising guide

And projections show that growth will continue. Business advertising is expected to grow about 4 percent during 2018, according to forecasts from Zenith Media and Magna.  

In other words, even in today’s world of content marketing, social media marketing and more, advertising is still a thriving way to reach out and draw in potential new customers.

As you can see, a good deal of growth in advertising spend is coming from digital advertising. This includes online advertising and mobile advertising.  

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But don’t be too quick to ditch your ad campaigns in local newspapers, print magazines, cable TV and the like.  Print advertising, radio advertising, TV advertising and other forms of traditional advertising are by no means dead – they still account for many billions of dollars of ad spend each year. Traditional forms of advertising will continue for years to come.  

It’s just that they are not growing the way digital advertising is.  Digital advertising, especially display advertising, is where all the growth is today.

Advertising Type Growth Status Comments
Online Advertising Strong Growth Online advertising is thriving with the ability to reach specific audiences.
Traditional Advertising Stable Traditional forms like print, radio, and TV remain significant but show slower growth.
Digital Advertising Highest Growth Digital advertising, especially display ads, is where the most substantial growth occurs.
Business Advertising Expected 4% Growth Projections indicate business advertising will grow by around 4% in the current year.

Small Business Advertising Guide: How to Advertise a Small Business

Navigating the Challenges of Small Business Advertising

While the advertising landscape offers abundant opportunities, it’s not without its challenges. Small businesses often face specific hurdles that require thoughtful strategies to overcome. Here are key challenges and tips to navigate them:

  • Limited Budgets: Small businesses typically operate with tight budgets, making it essential to allocate funds wisely. Consider cost-effective advertising options and focus on strategies that provide the most bang for your buck.
  • Targeting the Right Audience: Identifying and reaching your ideal audience can be challenging. Utilize data-driven insights, conduct market research, and refine your customer personas to ensure your advertising efforts resonate with the right people.
  • Competition: Small businesses often contend with larger competitors with more extensive resources. Differentiate your brand by highlighting what sets you apart, such as personalized service, unique offerings, or local connections.
  • Adapting to Digital Trends: The ever-evolving digital landscape can be daunting. Stay informed about the latest digital marketing trends, invest in professional development, and consider outsourcing digital advertising tasks to experts.
  • Measuring ROI: Tracking the return on investment (ROI) for advertising campaigns can be tricky. Implement analytics tools, set clear goals, and regularly assess your campaign’s performance to make data-driven adjustments.
  • Maintaining Consistency: Consistency is key in advertising, but it can be challenging for small businesses with limited resources. Create a content calendar, automate social media posting, and establish brand guidelines to maintain a cohesive presence.
  • Ad Fatigue: Overexposure to ads can lead to ad fatigue among your audience. Rotate ad creatives, experiment with different formats, and focus on providing valuable content to keep your audience engaged.
  • Adapting to Change: The advertising landscape is dynamic, and what works today may not be as effective tomorrow. Stay adaptable and be prepared to pivot your strategies when market conditions or consumer behaviors change.
  • Legal and Compliance Issues: Ensure that your advertising complies with legal regulations and industry standards. Seek legal counsel if needed to avoid potential pitfalls.
  • Data Privacy Concerns: As data privacy becomes a growing concern, prioritize transparency in your data collection and usage practices. Communicate your commitment to safeguarding customer data.
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Challenge Tips to Navigate
Limited Budgets – Allocate funds wisely. – Focus on cost-effective options. – Maximize ROI.
Targeting the Right Audience – Use data-driven insights. – Conduct market research. – Refine customer personas.
Competition – Highlight unique offerings. – Emphasize personalized service. – Leverage local connections.
Adapting to Digital Trends – Stay informed about digital marketing trends. – Invest in professional development. – Consider outsourcing digital tasks.
Measuring ROI – Implement analytics tools. – Set clear campaign goals. – Regularly assess performance for data-driven adjustments.
Maintaining Consistency – Create a content calendar. – Automate social media posting. – Establish brand guidelines.
Ad Fatigue – Rotate ad creatives. – Experiment with different formats. – Provide valuable content.
Adapting to Change – Stay adaptable to market conditions. – Be prepared to pivot strategies when needed.
Legal and Compliance Issues – Ensure advertising complies with regulations. – Seek legal counsel if necessary.
Data Privacy Concerns – Prioritize transparency in data practices. – Communicate commitment to safeguarding customer data.

Small Business Advertising Guide: How to Advertise a Small Business

Effective Advertising Metrics for Small Businesses

Measuring the success of your advertising efforts is crucial to optimizing your campaigns and ensuring a positive return on investment. Here are key advertising metrics that small businesses should track:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): CTR measures the percentage of people who clicked on your ad after seeing it. It’s an indicator of how engaging your ad is and whether it resonates with your audience.
  • Conversion Rate: The conversion rate reveals the percentage of users who completed a desired action, such as making a purchase, filling out a contact form, or signing up for a newsletter. It indicates how well your ad converts leads into customers.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): ROI calculates the profitability of your advertising campaigns by comparing the revenue generated to the costs incurred. It’s a fundamental metric for assessing the overall success of your advertising efforts.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC): CPC represents the price you pay for each click on your ad. Monitoring CPC helps you manage your budget effectively and optimize your bidding strategies.
  • Cost Per Conversion (CPCo): CPCo measures the cost associated with each successful conversion. It provides insights into the efficiency of your advertising spend in generating valuable actions.
  • Impressions: Impressions count how often your ad is displayed to users. While not a direct indicator of success, tracking impressions can help gauge the visibility of your ad and its reach.
  • Quality Score: Quality Score is a metric used in Google Ads that assesses the relevance and quality of your ad, keywords, and landing page. A higher Quality Score can lead to lower CPC and better ad placement.
  • Ad Position: Ad position indicates where your ad appears on search engine results pages or websites. It’s essential to monitor your ad’s position to assess its visibility and competitiveness.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): CAC calculates the expenses incurred to acquire a new customer. Understanding CAC helps in determining the cost-effectiveness of your advertising campaigns.
  • Click-Through Conversion Rate (CTCR): CTCR measures the percentage of users who click on an ad and subsequently convert. It highlights the effectiveness of your ad in driving immediate actions.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): CLV estimates the long-term value a customer brings to your business. It’s essential to consider CLV when evaluating the impact of your advertising on customer retention and loyalty.
  • Ad Engagement: Ad engagement metrics include likes, shares, comments, and social media interactions. They reflect the level of engagement and interest your ads generate within your target audience.
  • Mobile Performance: Given the prevalence of mobile users, tracking mobile-specific metrics like mobile CTR, mobile conversion rate, and mobile ad engagement is crucial for optimizing mobile ad campaigns.
  • Geographic Performance: Analyzing ad performance by geographic location allows you to focus your budget on regions with the highest return and tailor your messaging to local audiences.
  • Time-of-Day Analysis: Examining when your ads perform best throughout the day and week helps in optimizing ad scheduling for maximum impact.
  • A/B Testing Results: Conduct A/B tests with variations of your ads and landing pages to identify which elements resonate most with your audience. Use the results to refine your ad creative.
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Small Business Advertising Guide: How to Advertise a Small Business

Small Business Advertising Guide

In the following sections of this small business advertising guide, we bring you an overview of advertising options for a small business.

We also explain each of the options and how they work, along with cost estimates and benchmarks of what other small businesses spend. You’ll also find practical tips and how-to advice specifically for small business owners and marketing managers.  After all, what Fortune 500 companies do and spend — while it may be instructive in some ways — is often not relevant to a small business with 5, 10, 20 or 100 employees.  Instead, we try to make the information relevant to your size business.   

In this Small Business Advertising Guide, we walk you through:

Photo via Shutterstock


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