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Small Business Advertising Advice

© May 2019 Anthony Lawrence

Quite a few of the folks who read this website are small, independent computer consultants, full or part-time. Most of those readers probably have an ad at our Unix and Linux Consultants listings.

Here's the interesting thing: some tell me they do very well with that and get leads from it often, others tell me they've been there for years and have never had a nibble. That seems odd, doesn't it?

Well, maybe not. The points I'm going to bring up here might help explain that, and are just as true for any advertising: newspapers, magazines, Google Adsense, whatever.

You have to ask

People don't always bother to tell you where they found you - usually you have to ASK, and if you aren't in the habit of doing that, you aren't going to know whether any advertising campaign is useful.

With newspaper and magazine campaigns, you'll often see something like "Department M" or "include coupon code Q234GH for special discount". Those are tracking devices so that the advertiser can judge the effectiveness of the ad. With a web ad, you have some built in tracking: if you are advertising a link to your website, your weblogs will show the referrering site. You can differentiate even more: if, for example, your website is "https://xyz.com", using the link "https://xyz.com?ad-one" will work just as well, but that "ad_one" will also be in your weblogs. Doing this kind of tagging can help you judge the effectiveness of web advertising.

Yes, of course I'm happy to add any tags you like to links you may have here.

You have to sell

When I look at some of the listings here, I'm not surprised they don't work. If all you say is "Linux Consultant", do you really expect that to impress anyone and grab their attention? In this particular venue, I offer 200 characters of space, but many don't even come close to using that up. Sometimes "less is more" is true, but probably not for this. You want to stuff an ad like this with information and keywords; if you do MySQL, say so, because otherwise someone who needs that will probably pass you right by if you don't mention it.

Saving money isn't the goal

I think sometimes people forget that goal of advertising is to bring business to you. It's about making money, not saving it. Looking for the cheapest advertising isn't what you should be doing: you should be looking at the most effective advertising, whatever its cost (assuming you can afford that cost).

The same is true for newspapers, Google Adsense and anything else: other people are using those places to find customers - if your ad didn't work, you need to figure out why, not just stop doing any advertising.

Stand out from the crowd

In a crowded niche, the problem may be too much competition. For example, if someone searches for Linux consultants here, they get a very large list. You don't want to be at the bottom of that list, right? Well, in this particular case, the way to stay closer to the top is to update your listing frequently - newer listings move toward the top. In other advertising venues you might have to use tricks like changing your business name (AAA Consulting, anyone?). Or, once again, paying a little more might increase your visibility.

Coughing up more green has the same effect for other placements. The more you pay, the higher up and the more often your Adsense ads will run. More money buys you more space and better pages in a newspaper or magazine.. simple enough, right?

Let the pros help

Advertising, marketing, copywriting: there are people who easily found on the web offering such services./p>

Effective advertising can bring you new business. Making your ads effective and valuable does take some work, but the payoff can be great. Spend the time to think about how your advertising can be improved and you will improve your business.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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Sat Mar 8 16:07:11 2008: 3810   BigDumbDinosaur

The more things change the more they remain the same. Everything that Tony has mentioned about effective advertising has been true for eons. All that has changed is the medium. Nevertheless, the principles behind good advertising and attracting business need to be iterated often, only because they are so often ignored.

The point about cheap advertising not being the best approach reminds me that oftentimes the most advertising effort seems to occur when business is down. That has never made much sense to me. Why wait until you are desperate for business to start advertising? That's almost as logical as installing a sun roof in the space shuttle! Advertising should be a continuous effort, as it is easier to attract customers during good times than bad. If you have a roster of clients who keep you busy, you will be less affected by a business downturn, and will also have opportunities to exploit new areas of work that you may not have previously considered.

More than most other fields, the computer business is one of constant and sometimes cataclysmic change. Adaptability is the key to survival. The technology keeps changing and so must you and your advertising.

Sat Mar 8 18:45:49 2008: 3814   TonyLawrence

Good point - and yet very few people review their free listings here and update them - I have to chase them. I know part of the problem is that I'm trying to be a nice guy by making it free - people sometimes think "free" is not worth much effort on their part - ordinarily they are probably right, but this is a special case.

Mon Mar 10 15:37:40 2008: 3828   BigDumbDinosaur

Which reminds me I need to update my listing, although I'm not sure how to go about doing so since the old links are gone. Did I miss something while I was out of commission?

Mon Mar 10 15:40:10 2008: 3829   TonyLawrence

You just send email following the format shown at the consultants page. Spammers were driving me insane when I had a form there.

Fri Mar 14 03:27:01 2008: 3839   ComputerConsultingKitHomeStudyCours

A lot of people, particularly in the small business computer consulting arena where watching your budget can be extremely important (and especially during the start-up phase and when you are really trying to build a strong client base) underestimate the power of free advertising vehicles. The Web site is possibly the most under-utilized of these resources. While it doesn’t have to be complicated and showy to produce great results (and in fact getting rid of flash and other elements can actually make the site more “findable” by search engines and also be more favorable to target prospects), it does have to be really effective, regularly updated and also say something about your business in a way that is going to directly address your ideal prospects’ biggest hot button issues. As you mention, tracking is important and absolutely imperative if you want to get the best results from any marketing campaign, and you need to set up efficient ways of doing this with every single marketing technique.

Mon Mar 24 14:49:45 2008: 3884   SmallBusinessComputerConsultingBlog

Something you touch upon right off the bat is the importance of asking people how and where they found you. That’s a really critical part of marketing that a lot of people starting their own computer consulting businesses miss. How else will you know which marketing strategies are working and which are not? Keeping track of your strategies and where your leads come from lets you do more of what is working and LESS of what is not working so you can maximize what you get out of the limited time you have (because time is at a premium in the computer consulting business!). Thanks for these helpful tips!

Mon Feb 16 04:06:40 2009: 5436   anonymous

I enjoyed reading your article. Good information. FYI - for your own marketing efforts, I found your site doing a google search for "small business advertising advice." I thought your readers may be interested in a new ad buying website that is the first we know of built specifically for small business owners. Your Blogger and websites owner readers can post their ad opportunites for free on the site as well. Here's the link www.myadbuyer.com

Sat Aug 1 23:49:04 2009: 6714   Jackie

To help you to promote and advertise your business, would like to recommend this site (link)
Offers text and banner advertisement options to advertise your business opportunities and services. Check it out.


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