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The Best Advertising Mix For Small Businesses

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We often get this question; Where should we advertise? The small business owner is looking for a silver bullet, a single channel to catapult their business to the next level.

Having the right advertising mix is crucial to attracting and keeping customers. Most owners want their businesses to do well and often consider advertising a way to grow. 

The problem that most business owners face is that we have been fooled too often, trying new channels and advertising ideas. We are not saying all business owners are fools. We are constantly looking for the most effective way to do things. We need to; otherwise, we get burnt out.

It’s not that we are looking for free stuff but rather what is the best way to do this specific task. The task being to attract and keep customers.

Peter Field and Les Binet, two advertising goats, discover that the best brands use a similar advertising mix. They classified this mix as Brand Building and Sales Activation.

Brand-building activities are any marketing activities that build the mental structures of customers to think positively about the brand slightly. They tend not to be call-to-action ads and are highly emotive. Brand Building can create demand and capture much of it.

Sales activation activities are marketing activities that evoke a short-term or immediate response. Sales activation helps capture the demand that already exists.

Short-term sales activities are usually highly efficient. However, long-term brand building generates a higher rate of return in the long run. See Figure 1 for an illustration.

After 12 months of conducting these two activities, they found that businesses that allocated roughly 60% of their advertising budget to brand-building activities and 40% to sales activation did better than those that didn’t follow this breakdown.

Another discovery that Peter and Les made was that the mix would change if you were starting. If you are 1 to 2 year-old business, the mix is flipped- 60% sales activation and 40% brand building. The mix slowly reverts back to the original 60%-40% split as time progresses.

The Real Profit Drivers

A caveat to having the right mix is having the right message or creative. Paul Dyson, an advertising research expert, ranked ten key factors that drove the impact of advertising profitability. He stated that creative quality is the second most important factor in driving profitability in your ads. Echoing the great adverting legend, David Ogilvy, “Shi* that arrives at the speed of light is still Shi*.” As you can see from the image below, multimedia is ranked as number 1 among marketers; however, it only accounts for a 2.5 profitability multiplier. 

So let’s assume that your creative quality is spot on. We still want to extract as much value from our creative messaging.

To help alleviate some of the stress in figuring out what is a brand-building activity and sales activation activity is, here are a few examples small businesses can use immediately.

Advertising Activities Examples

Brand Building Activities (Assume highly emotional message, non salsey, no call-to-action)Sales Activation Activities (Assume there is a call-to-action)
TV – local and national (run for 12 months with little creative change)TV – Local and national with a call to action. (Run for 2-6 months with an offering)
Radio – local and national (best campaign 21 ads every week for 52 weeks)Radio – local and national (32-42 ads per week for 12 weeks)
Out of Home – no call to action (Keep up for at least six months)Out of Home – Need an offering (Switch board/offering every month)
Skipplable in-stream YouTube ads – with “reach” as the goal and not tightly targeted (Shoot for a cost-per-view between $0.03-$0.05 and view thru rate of 50%)Non-skippable and in-stream YouTube ads – with “conversions” as the goal and very tightly targeted. (cost-per-view between $0.06-$0.10)
Podcasts – Host your own with guests and no call to action.Podcasts – borrow an audience from someone
Facebook Ads – with “awareness” as the goal and not tightly targetedFacebook Ads – with “traffic or leads” as the goal and very tightly targeted
Instagram Ads – with “awareness” as the goal and not tightly targetedInstagram Ads – with “traffic or leads” as the goal and very tightly targeted
LinkedIn Ads – with “brand awareness” as the goal and not tightly targetedLinkedIn Ads – with “lead generation” as the goal and very tightly targeted
Blog Posts – sent to your list to provide insightsEmail Offer – sent to your list to buy.
Facebook Organic postsFacebook Organic posts
Instagram Organic PostsInstagram Organic Posts
LinkedIn Organic PostsLinkedIn Organic Posts
Relational Sales or “farmer” sales processTransactional Sales or “hunter” sales process
Google Ads – branded keywordsGoogle Ads – product-specific keywords
Display ads – product offering
GEO Fence Ads – need a strong offer

So how do you pick which channels to start? In marketing, 1+1 = 3, meaning the more channels you have, the better off you’ll be. Analytic Partners conducted an impressive study examining how many media platforms benefit businesses. They uncovered that multimedia campaigns have a higher ROI than the campaigns that doubled down on a single campaign.

The idea here is to be known and liked. 

To choose your band-building activities, decide on the channel that will reach the most people cost-effectively.

When choosing your media channels among sales activation activities, select the ones that will provide the fastest rate of return, the channel that will generate income quickly. Once you make a dollar, return and add another layer and then another.

Evaluate the success of your campaign using different metrics for each type of advertising category. Measure conversion rate, and click thru rate in your sales activation activities. Measure your brand’s perception among customers and non-customers. Ask them what three words come to mind when considering <insert your business>. Are these the three words you choose to focus on in your messaging? If not, you didn’t reach them or didn’t advertise for long enough. If they are spot on, double down on the channels you are using.

Hopefully, this will guide your advertising decisions this year and clarify your path to growing your business.

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