Business & Career Center

Business Resources: Effective Advertisement

"Advertising is the ability to sense, interpret . . . to put the very heart throbs of a business into type, paper and ink." -- Leo Burnett

A strategic part of developing your business is advertising. There is nothing like "good word of mouth." However, one has to develop a clientele first and this is done through effective advertising. There are a number of affordable or even free ways to market your business. For the small business owner who would like to create an effective advertising campaign, here are some tools to help get your campaign up and running.

The first step is researching the demographics of the population you are trying to attract. The more narrowly you define your targeted market, the better. To help you do this, we suggest the Source Book of Zip Code Demographics and/or Source Book of County Demographics. (See our Market Demographics subject guide.)

It is also equally important to know your competitors on a local and national scale. By doing a combination of industry and consumer research, you will get an idea of your competition. (See our Industry Research subject guide.)

You may also look at what your competitors are doing by using the Standard Directory of Advertisers. This is a multivolume set broken down by business classifications and geographic location. These volumes provide a comprehensive overview of more than 12,500 companies within the United States that spend at least $200,000 on national or regional advertising campaigns. This directory is useful for tapping into information on the advertising practices of companies. An easy way to get data regarding the advertising expenditures of specific brands and product categories is on the Brandweek website under Brandweek's Superbrands. Use this site to find detailed assessments of major advertising agencies, as well.

Your next step is to set up an advertising budget. In order to do so, you will need to set aside a percentage of your projected gross sales to spend on advertising. There are two ways to determine your budget: the cost method and the task method. The cost method means that you cannot spend more on advertising than you make in a year. The task method is based on a projection of what you think you need to spend to attract customers or sell your product.

Once you have determined your target market and your budget, it is much easier to decide what to say and how much you are willing to spend. Depending on the type of product or service that you offer, you should then choose the media/format that will best suit your need. Based on your product, customer and budget, your advertising campaign can run the gamut from media publicity to personal networking. You have to create your own niche. The Standard Rate & Data Service (SRDS) is a very helpful resource on advertising media that will help you choose the best kind of ad to reach your customers.

Finally you need to know what to do and what not to do in creating your ad. The helpful Do's and Don'ts in Advertising, compiled by the Better Business Bureau, is available at the Business Library. This is a loose-leaf directory of advertisers, advertising agencies, broadcast and print media.

You may also want to consider books and periodicals when creating your advertising plan. Using the online catalog, do a subject search under "advertising." The Business Library also has a wide range of periodicals that deal with various aspects of advertising such as Mediaweek, Journal of Advertising Research, AdAge, etc.

The Business Library also offers free one-on-one consultations with SCORE counselors. You can call the library to set up an appointment to meet with a representative.

If you do not wish to do the research yourself, you can hire a firm to do the work for you. The Standard Directory of Advertising Agencies provides information on advertising agencies in the United States and detailed profiles of the advertising industry. This guide is helpful if you are seeking information on agencies and their clients or advertisers and their products. Another helpful source is the Worldwide Directory of Marketing Research Companies and Services: GreenBook.