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Donít Waste Your Small Business Advertising Dollars

By John Thomas

Small businesses with annual sales less than $2 million, employ over half of all of the work force in the US. There are well over 10 million small businesses.

One thing that they have in common - they have few dollars to spend on advertising, and I seem them wasting these dollars every day.

As a business advisor, I have met with hundreds of small business owners. Many confide that they do not do much advertising.

While they seem to feel guilty about it, when I press, I find that they have tried a number of different ideas. Tried is the keyword here. They typically try for a while then realize there is no way to tell if they are getting their moneyís worth. Then they drop it until the next ad sales person shows up.

Small businesses owners typically spend at a rate of 3-6 % of sales marketing their business. They tend to spend more when they open a new business. They also spend closer to the high end of the range if they believe they can maintain margins by finding a regular supply of new customers.

So why do most waste these precious dollars? They do nothing for a long time, then something happens and they take a shotgun approach.

They often donít want to invest the time it takes to be systematic about marketing Ė they donít acknowledge that advertising is just part of an overall marketing strategy. But many admit that doing a better job of marketing would pay off even though it requires an investment of time and money.

If you spend an hour a year with the yellow pages sales rep and rerun your favorite ad in the local paper, youíll get the same results.

Here are three starting points that can help you grow your business by 10% to 20% this year.

Get to know your market better. Ask more often - what can you do to give them better service? What brings them in? How can you get them to come back more often? What else can you do to help them? Make note and think about the information that you gather.

Spend some time on the internet. See what your competition is doing. When you find somebody using the internet to promote their business (and they are not your direct local competition) - send them an e-mail. Arrange a call to discuss their efforts with you. See what you can learn.

If you are in the service business, ask your clients for their email address. Send them some helpful related information on a monthly basis. Occasionally add special offers that will get them in more often or possibly get you a referral within their network of friends. Keep in mind that your small, local papers are always looking for local authors. Put them on distribution for your newsletter and include reprint rights.

You will never be a top business performer if you wait to measure your business performance using their bottom line. You need to have a few key ways to measure on a daily or weekly basis. This is especially true of your marketing efforts. I guarantee that the bottom line will start to look a lot more attractive if you find ways to track the results that you are getting from each advertisement, listing or ad that you place.

About the author:
John Thomas is an author, mentor, and business consultant. He works exclusively with entrepreneurs and owners of small and mid-size businesses. He also provides advice on web site promotion at

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