Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Advertising And Marketing When Starting a Business

Your dreams, ideas and creativity have carried you to the point where you are now the proud owner of your own business. Now is the time when your success or failure will be determined. Your doors are open for business, but do people know that you are here? Take the time to analyze your marketing efforts and make sure that the message is getting to the appropriate audience. Your customers are out there, you just need to find them.

New business owners must find alternative marketing channels, as television commercials and print ads are generally cost prohibitive. Fortunately myriad options exist, each with its own pros and cons.

Many companies use direct mail advertising and its email equivalent successfully. This type of advertisement can be guaranteed to get into the customer's hands (or email box), and may encourage a second look. However, this method has a number of potential drawbacks. First is the expense. Postal direct mail requires a heavy outlay of both money (paper, ink, stamps) and labor (printing, folding, stuffing, addressing).

Electronic direct mail eliminates the monetary costs, but requires an equal amount of labor. Electronic direct mail has less chance of reaching the targeted consumer, however, due to Spam filtering in most email programs. Additionally, much direct mail of either type is simply trashed without the customer ever considering the offer. Due to the significant drawbacks, this type of advertising is not generally recommended for a new business.

For many years, an advertisement in the local Yellow Pages was practically a requirement for reputable businesses. Customers went automatically to their phone books when in need of a product or service, and the Yellow Pages advertisements offered a place for companies to describe themselves to an interested audience. However, in the past few years, the Internet has replaced the phone book as the source of choice for consumers to gather information.

A significant portion of the population no longer maintains landline phone service, which translates into a smaller customer base of people who are even able to access the local phone book. Therefore, Yellow Pages advertising is still an excellent secondary market, but can no longer be used as the sole or even primary means of reaching potential customers.

A more modern source of advertising can be found on the social networking sites. Though appropriate only for products and services aimed at a younger market, certain businesses have found success through creating profiles and sending "friend requests" to a targeted audience. This is a variation on direct mail marketing; however the more personal nature of social networking sites can bring some success. However some sites prohibit this type of advertising, so you must carefully read the member agreements.

Perhaps the best source of advertising for those who provide a service is a lead-generation Website. These sites allow the company access to the personal information of potential customers who register with the site and request information. You will need to pay for the initial account setup and background check, then a small fee for each lead that you accept. However, the ability to directly reach, by phone or email, interested customers is worth the investment. The services generally allow the company to use their logos in other advertising, thus generating an air of reputability.

For better or for worse, the most publicity that you get will come from your current customers. Make sure that you treat them well so that the word of mouth messages about you and your business are positive. As people talk, your reputation will grow, and as your reputation grows, so will the enterprise that you have poured yourself into.

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