By definition, marketing is the process of creating, distributing, promoting, and pricing goods, services, and ideas to facilitate satisfying exchanges between buyers and sellers. We’ve witnessed many business owners use the terms “advertising” and “marketing” interchangeably. While both are meant to achieve the same goal there can be a substantial difference- cost.

Let’s drill down a little farther. To me advertising is a part of marketing as a whole. It’s where you pay some form of media outlet to blow your horn. Think of the traditional newspaper, radio, television, magazine, billboard, coupon book, or yellow page advertisements. While each of these can be an effective tool if used properly to help drive customers to your small business, they can also prove to be expensive. In any advertising campaign, it’s essential to monitor the client activity and measure the results. If not, you’ve wasted your time and money, and not paying attention will probably cause you to waste more advertising dollars in the future. Understand that various forms of advertising work differently from business to business. Your goal is to find what works for you and eliminate what doesn’t. The only way to accomplish this is by carefully measuring the results.

So how can you measure advertising results? It requires effective communication with your customers. If a client walks through your doors, the first question your staff should ask is “how did you hear about us”? Many will remark they saw your newspaper ad or heard your radio spot, while some will say it was from a positive recommendation from their neighbor or Uncle Joe. Other measurement techniques would be to use a coupon that must be redeemed in order to receive the sales price or requiring the customer to mention the ad to the clerk when making a purchase. The important thing is to keep track. Why spend money on advertising if most of your clients are coming to you as a result of word of mouth? Advertising MUST pay for itself.

There are dozens of marketing techniques a small business can employ to reach customers that are free or very inexpensive but may require some of your time. These strategies have often been called “bootstrap” or “ guerrilla” marketing.

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