The value of advertising in today’s crowded communication cosmos

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Every day, business owners ask themselves questions about when, where and how much to advertise their business. The questions range from the general (“Why should a business owner spend money on advertising?” and “Why is advertising important?”) to the specific (“What medium is best?” and “How do I measure success?”).

Let’s tackle the general ones first.

You advertise to reach your customers and prospects. Who are your primary customers? Are they millennials? Baby boomers? Or of the silent generation, born before 1940? Knowing your target client market is the first consideration as to why you should spend on advertising.

The consumer world today is made up primarily of baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, and millennials, born since 1985. Baby boomers like tactile experiences such as actually reading newspapers and magazines. They will see your ad if they are the demographic who reads the publication. Millennials are digital natives who are uncomfortable if data are not readily available on some type of electronic device. We’ll get into this more later.

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By investing in advertising, your business maintains “front of mind” position. What does that mean? Advertising is paying for the space, airtime or digital exposure to guarantee that your messages tell your customers and prospective customers who you are, what your business can provide and why they should come to you to fulfill their needs.

Yes, it’s important that your ad is memorable, simple and relatable so that it attracts more attention and connects you and the customer or prospect appropriately. However, advertising is important because it’s the only way that you control the message. Period.

As to what media to select, it depends, as I noted, on the customers and prospects. The range broadens every week.

The internet has become a prime source of advertising for many businesses. With a wide variety of social media tools such as Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and others, many millennial generation customers will see you there and there alone. In fact, nearly all of us know to “Google it” to find out anything that we need to know. With shopping on line and door-to-door delivery important for many millennials, you’ve got to speak their language. And their language is digital.

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I’d like to mention your website here. Remember to assure that your site is mobile friendly, meaning easily viewed via a smart phone, laptop or tablet computer. If your ad is driving folks to your website but your website is not mobile friendly, customers will struggle to find your business and most probably go elsewhere to find the service or product they are seeking.

Print media are still viable and important. In print media, the message lingers, with extended shelf life for newspapers, magazines, printed newsletters and journals. Secondary audiences will find them in the reception area at the doctor’s office, in your personal magazine rack, or on the family kitchen table. And they will see your ad, too. Not necessarily so with digital.

If your customers and prospects live in a primarily commuter society such as we have in North Texas, consider, also, outdoor advertising (both static and digital, large board and bus benches, as well as transit) and radio, the key ways to reach drivers during the (too many) hours we spend going to and from work, school and recreation. As well, there is screen advertising at movies, event advertising such as performing arts playbills, and others.

Finally, television and streaming video opportunities await your ad spending, too.

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There is also specialty advertising — promotional products such as pens, tablets, cups, calendars and magnets are all tools to reinforce your advertising message every day.

How do you measure success? First, it’s a bottom-line driven business, so watch your bottom line. Next, consider incentives in your ads for very direct tracking. Digital will do it for you. Be careful, though, that you don’t equate online views with success, unless you determine that that is all you want – to be seen. And that can be ok as a goal. But how beneficial are 68,000 eyeballs on your ad if no one clicks through to purchase your product? It’s obvious that you must be very clear and deliberate about your messages. Our experience in working with a wide variety of clients in a host of different industries is that it is best to have a strong, compelling message that is easily portrayed in both digital and print fora. The message is then consistent, strong and represents your business in the way you desire.

As you can see, thinking about advertising quickly becomes a complex endeavor. You may need a sidekick whose business is devoted to knowing all about this. Reputable ad agencies and marketing companies can help. We use a local public relations firm for our advertising guidance.

Yes, it costs money. Yet you’ll get a valuable viewpoint from professionals who have experience with a variety of media and who know the industry thoroughly. The firm can take an idea, provide several approaches on how to present the theme or idea to your client base, and working with you, create a dynamic, compelling advertising product to tell your story in a way better than you can. And they help determine the best medium for that outreach effort.

Advertising is an investment, not an expense. And like any investment, if you don’t spend the money, you won’t see a return. To guarantee that your audiences think about you the way you want them to and not the way someone else might characterize you, invest in advertising. Begin today. Help your business break through the crowded consumer cosmos and shine brightly for your customers.

Joe Michels, Ph.D., P.E., C.P.L., is the managing principal at Solomon Bruce Consulting LLC. He founded Solomon Bruce Consulting in 2007 to help businesses optimize their organizations by providing the same level of strategic thinking and business processes that Fortune 500 firms receive.