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Advertise to Survive: Why Every Business Needs to Invest in Marketing

You’ve just launched your own business and fulfilled a lifelong dream. You spent long hours crafting a business plan, worked tirelessly to pitch yourself and secure financing. And you’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into finding your location and building it up. Now, you’re ready for customers. If part of your business plan included a marketing budget with pre-launch advertising to introduce yourself and build excitement, you may have clients lining up to check you out. But, if you decided, like many businesses, that advertising was an expense you could skimp on or defer until later, you may be fighting an uphill battle right out of the gate.

It’s understandable to try to hold on to every dollar you can when starting a company. But nowhere is the concept of spending money to make money more evident than advertising. We’ll look at why it’s so important, and how to get started on a limited budget.

Creating Awareness

Let’s begin with the obvious. Whether you’re marketing a straight to consumer product or buying law firm advertising, people need to know that you exist! In the marketing world, this is known as “creating awareness” where the purpose of your initial advertising campaigns focuses on introducing your business to your audience of potential customers and explaining who you are, what you do, and how they can buy or learn more from you.

An effective advertising placement strategy has two components: reach and frequency. Reach is defined as the size of the audience who will see your messaging, while frequency is the number of times they see it. With very slight variance between mediums and platforms, research generally agrees that in order for an ad to influence a buying decision, you must reach a frequency of three to seven, meaning that the potential customer must see it three to seven times.

Brands that have earned the top space in their product category enjoy a special kind of awareness known as TOMA (top-of-mind-awareness.) That means when you think of their product or service, their brand is the first you think of. Some examples include people thinking of Coca-Cola first when considering sodas, or Band-Aids when considering bandages. A good product alone almost never earns your company TOMA. It comes from a combination of great product and a smart advertising strategy.

Differentiating from Competition

Let’s say that you have a great product and people know your business’ name and what you do. You’re off to a good start but the next step is just as important. Let’s say your competition has a product of similar or equal quality. Why should a potential customer choose you over them? As the saying says, “Differentiate or Die.” You need to be able to easily communicate to your audience, through advertising, why they should pick you.

Focus your marketing messaging on what sets you apart. Maybe your product has a feature your competitor doesn’t. Make that the centerpiece of your advertising. Maybe you can offer a better price, warranty, financing, or service after the sale. When you’ve moved from the awareness phase to the differentiation phase of advertising, you need to consistently hammer what you can offer that the other guys don’t. If you can’t think of anything, developing a new feature or offer should be your top priority. In cases like this, it’s best to find a long-term solution, but sometimes a temporary discount can get customers to sample you and pays off.

Building a Repeat Customer Base

If you’ve graduated past awareness and differentiation, you have one crucial marketing aspect to focus on: repeat customers. A loyal customer base will keep your lights on, and people who enjoy the experience of buying from you will tell their circle of friends, neighbors and family. That’s great, but you must realize that the same is true with customers who have a poor experience. They’ll be quick to badmouth you to anyone who will listen to them, and you will have a nearly impossible task to win them back.  

Customer service is the number one in-store consideration for repeat business, but it must be supplemented by advertising that encourages or rewards loyalty. Offer to price match, if you can. Create rewards programs that offer discounts or perks. It can even be as simple as inviting people to be part of a closer Facebook group and offer incentives or discounts in exchange for feedback.

Without advertising, the prospects of effectively creating awareness, differentiating, and generating repeat business are all daunting tasks. If you invest in advertising and plan out a great strategy, however, you may be surprised at how easily they work out.

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