This one is for the small shops. The mom and pops. 

By ‘small’ we are talking maybe 3 million or less in annual revenue. Any amount you spend on advertising basically comes right out of your pocket. 

You have to be cautious because if you spend this money and don’t get anything back, you are just burning cash.

You are the Chief Marketing Officer in addition to everything else. If you are going to advertise, it’s up to you.

So, we have a small Mom and Pop that wants to advertise with very limited risk on a relatively small annual budget. Check.

Here are 6 things to think about as you hammer out a winning strategy with the precious few shekels you have to gamble on your ads.

1. Buying Cycle

The rate at which most people typically buy what you’re selling. If you understand your buying cycle, you have the keys to setting your own expectations about your ad investment properly.

For example:

Home Services If you sell, fix or install nearly anything in people’s homes, you have a fairly long buying cycle. Even if you are in the gutter cleaning business, one of the shorter examples of buying cycles in home services, you may only see a customer 2-3 times yearly.

Bakeries Faster than our gutter guys, but slower than a restaurant. The entire human population gets hungry 3 times a day. Restaurants and Grocery Stores enjoy some of the absolute shortest (fastest) buying cycles of them all.

Understanding the buying cycle helps you set performance expectations appropriately. Gutter Guys will see results build more slowly, restaurants should expect to see new faces more quickly. Longer buying cycles require more patience. If you understand this concept, you will have the courage to give your plan time to work. See “Stamina”.

2. Customer Experience

This is basically how well people think of you after you get their money. There is a lot to it. But a simple way to think about customer experience is to ask yourself this question after you close the cash drawer, “did you live up to only minimum expectations or did you delight your cash providing human’s being?”

Careful. Nearly every business misses this. My good friend says, “it’s hard to read the label when you are inside the bottle”.

If you think that satisfaction is the same thing as delight, you just whiffed. Complete miss. Satisfaction is what the others promise and don’t always achieve. Delight is indelible and rarely forgotten. Delight is a force multiplier for your advertising spend. Are you, your operation, your people, your products delightful? If you are not sure, don’t advertise until you are.

3. Stamina

There is nothing more deadly to a small business ad plan than the “test”. You must have stamina and decide right now that you are going to pay this out like the electric bill.

Oh, it is still very possible to screw it up. When your ads don’t deliver what you want them to, it’s usually your fault. Fix it. Stick with it.

Hold your nose and pay the bills. Your ad plan should be as long as your business plan. Eternal. Forever. Unceasing. The plan can change, grow, maybe even shrink (gasp), but if you paid the power company this month, there should be a bill from the media company right next to it in the hopper.

Once you begin, never stop advertising. Persuasion is like erosion, drip by drip, day after day, even a small budget can move mountains. A 3 month test ensures failure most of the time. Plant your crops, tend them, and let them grow. Be patient.

4. Media Type

Understand what you are buying. Relational media is different from transactional media.

Relational media is radio, tv, newspaper, outdoor. Relational mass media mostly touches people who have no want or need for your product or service – at the moment.

Now you see why the buying cycle is important. Even a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, delivers ad impressions to people who are not ready to buy RIGHT NOW.

Transactional media, like Google AdWords or direct mail, can deliver customers ready to buy because the customer was already ready to buy. That’s why she searched what she searched or called your number from the post card you sent her.

And you are thinking, “Hey, Dum Dum, if relational media reaches the masses who won’t buy from me today, and transactional media reaches ready buyers, why would I use relational media?”

My answer is, use both. Budget for 60% relational media and 40% transactional. Just be clear what’s what. When properly done, relational media, particularly radio, is both the single most efficient and persuasive use of your dollars. Period.

Transactional ads can never convince anyone to do anything they weren’t going to do anyway. Relational messages reach people before they need you. But, using relational media and expecting instant results is like using a sledgehammer to chop wood. Wrong tool, wrong application.

5. Media Strategy

Own something. Now that you are using relational media properly, dig in and spend your money in a highly concentrated manner.

I like radio. In the smallest towns, even the biggest stations can be very affordable. But never believe you must be on the biggest and most expensive station to win. Not at all.

Buy the station that lets you deliver lots of ads, every single week, every week of the year, for the budget you can afford. This is usually in the range of 20-50 ads per week.

In big expensive markets, start out with lots of ads in cheaper time periods like nights and weekends. Many of the people you reach Saturday morning are the same ones you pay a lot more for on Monday morning.

And, in big markets, do not be afraid of ‘over-night’ spots that air from 12am – 6am. In a city of millions, there are thousands listening at 3 am. Not bad reach for a buck or two per ad.

Whatever you buy with your precious resources, dominate. Try to run a spot every hour from say, 7p-12am, Monday-Sunday, if that is all you can afford. In my experience, stations are looking for long term partners and you will have better negotiating power by using 52 week a year schedules, even if its only nights and weekends.

6. Ad Writing

This is the single most important consideration: Demand excellent creative.

Roy H. Williams, best selling author, and the driving force at Wizard of Ads, says that “entertainment is the currency of influence.”

Your ad sucks if it sounds like an ad should sound. Your ad sucks if you tell people your phone number, hours of operation, how much you care, and what amazing discounts they should hurry in to get TODAY! Nobody believes that BS. Nobody. Nobody. Nobody.

Paul Simon, the great American songwriter, said, “If you want to write a song about the moon, write a song about the heart. If you want to write a song about the heart, write a song about the moon.”

If you want to write an ad about your drug store, write an ad about a mountain. No, seriously. If you want to write an ad about your bakery, write an ad about a cloud. Entertain the listener. Draw them to your message in ways unexpected. Never approve an ad that sounds like an ad. Either pay money for great creative or learn to DIY. Here is an amazing resource:

Great ad writers are made or paid. You can do it either way. But if your ads stinks, the whole plan stinks.

Ok, mom, pop; Get to it.

Buy what you can afford, have the courage to give your ads the time they need to deliver for you, use the right media and use the media right, dominate wherever you plant your cash, never run an ad that sounds like an ad.