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Smart Business Essentials

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Marketing and Advertising

Advertising is one aspect of marketing. While marketing is the overall approach to speaking to customers about your brand, advertising is usually a paid form of messaging designed to lead to sales. Advertising can be short-term for a special promotion or ongoing, but usually requires a financial investment. If you know advertising could help your business but you aren’t sure where to start, explore the marketing tips below to see which options fit your needs and budget.

Marketing and Advertising

Print Advertising

Business cards
Creating and passing out business cards can help get your name out there and build your network. You can use business cards to connect with potential customers and to give out at events or your place of business. Your card should include your business’s name, address and contact information.

Newspaper ads can appear in national, local or community newspapers. If your goal is to attract local customers, then advertising in a neighborhood or small local newspaper is a great way to reach your target audience. The price of your print ad will depend greatly on the newspaper's popularity and the size of your ad.

Magazine ads can appear in regional and national magazines. The price of magazine ads generally depends on the size of the publication and size of the ad itself.

Posters and banners are great advertising options for small businesses because they don’t cost much to make. These can be printed and hung at your place of business or around your community to promote your company or a specific product or service.

Consider creating, printing and passing out flyers in your community as a way to promote your business. You can place them on windshields, insert them into newspapers or hand them out at local markets or businesses.

Social media
Social media is an online social networking tool that you can use to show your brand personality, engage with customers and communicate product benefits or offers. Through social media, you can make announcements, interact with customers and advertise deals without paying for advertising or hiring a web development team.

Depending on the social media platforms you use, you can create ads that speak just to a specific audience. For example, you can target women with a promotion on women’s scarves just as weather is expected to cool. You can also test out different ads to see what works best.

Start by creating a profile (account) for your business, choosing words carefully to describe your business. Stay active by posting often and answering consumer’s questions quickly. This will help them begin to trust and believe in your brand. Other tips to keep in mind:

  • Decide how often you want to post. Similar to emails, if you post too frequently you may risk becoming a nuisance, while not posting enough can make your audience lose interest. To begin, try posting weekly. If people are liking and engaging with your posts, begin to post more often.
  • Consider your brand’s voice, or the type of words you use to connect with your customers. Is it authentic, friendly, formal, down-to-earth or business-like? Keep it consistent and make sure it lines up with how you talk about your company on other platforms. Help keep consumers engaged by sharing your knowledge, asking for opinions and posting responses to others’ ideas and comments.
  • If you have an in-person store, you can encourage customers to share posts about your store by setting up part of the store for selfies, or offering a discount to those who post pictures of your store. If you try this, include a hashtag on the display so customers know how to tag your business when posting the image.
  • Track performance by counting your number of followers, views and visits over time. Facebook and other social media sites have access to this information built in.
  • If possible, consider investing in a paid ad campaign on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Both offer options to help you reach a specific audience based on their location, gender or interests. Testing a small, inexpensive paid advertising campaign can help you refine ads and create more successful campaigns. Sharing pictures of your products, customers and events on Instagram and other social media sites can also be effective ways to get new followers.

Digital Advertising

Pay per click (PPC) advertising
PPC refers to advertising on internet search engines or other websites. You pay a PPC service to have your ad appear when users search a certain keyword or phrase, or alongside related pages and content. Then you are charged each time someone clicks your ad. The ads normally appear under a heading, such as "Sponsored Links."

Cost per mille (CPM) advertising
You can also create digital advertisements that will be displayed on websites or social media channels. With CPM ads, also known as cost per impression (CPI) advertising, you pay a fee per thousand views your ad gets, whether or not the people who viewed your ad clicked on it.

Cost per action (CPA) advertising
With CPA advertising, also known as cost per conversion/acquisition, you can be certain that you get something in return for your money. That’s because you only pay when someone takes a specific action, such as signing up for your email list or buying your product.

Social media ads
One of the best ways to reach potential customers and grow your sales is to create paid social media ads. Creating these ads gives you the option to target website clicks and offer deals, ways to respond to an event and more. Depending on which social media platforms you use, you can create ads that speak just to a specific audience. For example, you can target women with a promotion on women’s scarves just as weather is expected to cool. You can also test out different ads to see what works best.

Radio ads
Radio is another way to reach a large audience. You will want to consider the best local channel for your audience, as well as the time of day and how often your ad will play.

Digital Marketing

Whether through printed or online materials, marketing is an essential part of running a successful business and a great opportunity to stand out from your competitors. Consider these marketing options for your business.

Connect by email
If you have an online presence, try communicating with your customers through email. Here are a few methods to get started.

  • In-store: Use a simple, printed template or point of sale (POS) device to collect customers’ email addresses. In exchange, they’ll get emails with special offers from your business. You can also take the eco-friendly route by offering to email or text customers their receipts.
  • Online: If customers are able to purchase your products through a website, give them the chance to sign up for emails from your business after checking out. In many cases, you can get more customers to sign up if you offer a discount code in exchange.

For some small businesses, frequent, ongoing emails can make customers aware of your product and remind them to shop with your business. To send regular emails, start by building an email calendar, with messages, topics and deals related to the season. Email topics may include details about special sales, contests, event invitations or reminders to connect on social media. Here are some tips for creating emails that are sure to get your customers’ attention:

  • Provide exciting content that speaks to your customers’ needs; this will encourage them to click.
  • Keep your email communications short, clear and well-organized. Your subject line should be short and catchy, and your email should end with a call to action that tells customers what you want them to do.
  • Use marketing apps and programs, such as Campaign Monitor, Aweber or MailChimp, to test how well your email campaigns are reaching customers, then adjust them as needed to make them more successful. You can determine if you want to track how many people opened the email, clicked a link or made a purchase. With online metrics, you can easily see how many consumers opened, clicked on or unsubscribed from your emails.
  • Send emails no more than a few times a month, and only send emails when there is important information to share. Too many emails can frustrate customers rather than attract them.
  • Protect yourself by speaking with an email marketing professional to make sure that your opt-in, use and unsubscribe practices comply with local laws.

Register on review sites
You can also reach new customers by creating a profile for your business on a variety of review sites, such as Angie’s List, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Facebook and more. Remember that your company profile should be easy for customers to find, and should cover your overall business and the main products or services you offer. Include your business website and links to social media if you have an online presence, and keep your business’s information up to date. If a review site allows photos, include them whenever possible. The more places your business appears, the easier it is for people to find you.

To stay competitive, you’ll want to seek online reviews that are positive, original and current. Use the opportunity to show that you respond quickly to reviews and comments and that you’re dedicated to making sure customers have a positive experience with your brand. New clientele will notice, and if done well, this can help build your reputation and make more people aware of your offerings.

Encourage current customers to review your business and your products. People you know who are fans of your business, and your social media friends and followers, are the perfect audience to ask for a quick review. When customers leave a review, remember to thank them for their feedback. Showing you’re thankful for your customers and keeping communications friendly can do a lot to build your reputation.

Launch a website
If you’re looking to reach more customers, increase your business’s income or offer your product or service for purchase online, creating a website could be an affordable option. For many businesses across a range of industries, having an online presence is an important way to keep existing customers and attract new ones. With a range of low-cost website building tools available, there’s never been an easier time to build your own high-quality site. Here are tips to consider when taking that step.

Choose your domain name carefully

  • When setting up your business website, you’ll need to choose a website address, or URL. You can choose from several domain registration websites; all are dedicated to making the process easy. Just remember that the address, or domain name, you choose should be easy to say, spell and remember. If your first choice of domain name is already taken, choose another that’s different enough to avoid any confusion with similar businesses.

Choose a host and platform

  • A "host" connects your website to the internet and provides the technologies and services necessary for your webpage to be accessible online. When comparing hosts, do your research to make sure your site won’t crash and that you can make changes to your content quickly and easily.
  • Most hosts offer several service plans so you can choose the best option for your business size, site traffic and budget. If the cost of web hosting is too high for you at this stage of your business, free web hosting services are available. Just note that these sites usually show customers advertisements, such as banners and pop-ups, which can mean a less positive experience for users.
  • There are also many platforms that allow you to create your own DIY website, such as WordPress and Weebly. You can use these tools to design and build a site that fits your product and personality. Most use templates and offer tips on creating a more effective site.

Create a dynamic site

  • When people visit your website, you want them to understand what you offer and how your business stands out against the competition right away. It should be easy for them to navigate the site, find pricing, learn how to buy your product and get answers to their questions. A successful site will also include clear calls to action, like "buy now," "make an appointment" or "contact us."
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and think about what will appeal to them in a website. Keep in mind that you need to grab their attention quickly and make them want to stay. Exciting imagery and short and catchy descriptions are important aspects of a successful site. When developing content, you’ll also want to create content that is search engine optimization (SEO) friendly. This means it includes many words that customers are likely to use when searching for products like yours online.
  • Business websites usually include the following pages: Homepage, Products/Services and Online Ordering, About Us and Contact Information. If you have a retail shop, be sure to include your business hours as well. You should also consider including links to your social media pages and review sites, if you have them, along with any disclaimers regarding the use of your website.
  • Consider formatting your website so that it is easy to navigate on mobile devices. With more people around the globe now using mobile internet versus desktop internet, it’s important to make sure customers have an equally good experience with your site when viewing it on a mobile device.

Promote your website
Once you’ve set up your website, consider how to best promote it and bring customers to your store or site.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the act of adjusting your website content to ensure that customers looking for businesses like yours can quickly find you when they carry out an online search.

One approach you can use is to make a list of keywords related to your product and weave them into the content, especially the headlines. Because search engines, like Google, identify and rank websites according to this content, using keywords can help searchers find you more easily, and it can increase the number of clicks your website gets.

Search engines analyze the content on your website to see if it will match what searchers are looking for. To help them find you, use a variety of keywords rather than repeating the same ones over and over. For example, if you’re selling shoes, you may weave in words like "stylish shoes," "footwear" and "discount shoes" across your site.

Track your website’s metrics to help ensure you’re reaching as many people as possible. You can do this using online analytics tools, such as Google Analytics; there are many options available. Setting up key performance indicators (KPIs) is a great way to begin tracking your website’s performance, as it requires you to set goals that you’d like to achieve.

A common KPI that businesses track is conversion rate. This measures the number of people that come to your website and also take a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up to receive emails. Seeing this information will give you a clearer picture of whether your website is keeping visitors’ attention and inspiring them to act.


Disclaimer: No Legal Advice Intended
This site provides general information related to creating and running a business. The content of this site is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal or tax advice or opinions. The contents of this site, and the viewing of the information on this site, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal or tax advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. No action should be taken in reliance on the information contained on this site, and Visa Inc. disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this site to the fullest extent permitted by law. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal or tax issue or problem, including those relating to your current or potential business.

The contents of this site have been developed for a U.S. audience.