SBDC: Reopening your small business? Advertise!
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SBDC: Reopening your small business? Advertise!

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Hopefully, we are beginning to make our way up the long, steep slope to “normal” life in the wake of the pandemic. Our small businesses are reopening with enthusiasm for getting back to what they do best, with a desire to take advantage of pent-up demand for their products and services.

It’s only natural to want to use advertising to quickly grow your client base and boost your cash flow and profits. At the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of McLean County at Illinois Wesleyan University, we are advising our clients that, yes, it’s a great time to consider launching an advertising campaign, but more than ever it’s essential to practice disciplined business fundamentals and to expend valuable resources with an appropriate strategic foundation.

You want to build awareness about your brand. “You’re back and better than ever!” But, here are a couple of things to remember before you commit your first dollar:

1. Who is my customer? It’s time to revisit the profile of your target customer. Not only is it good practice to do this periodically, it’s conceivable that the impact of COVID-19 has changed the environment in which you’re operating.

Perhaps your existing base is now looking for something different, and perhaps there is a new group that now will desire your product or service. You must determine if you’re going to “play to your base” of existing customers, or if you’re going to try to grow your sales by bringing in new prospects.

2. Where is my customer? Once you know who your audience is, it’s fairly straightforward to put your message where it will reach them. Traditional mass-media advertising like print, broadcast, and outdoor, can provide you with the demographic profiles of their consumers.

In our modern age, it’s also critical to maintain a presence in new media including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube. You may wish to dedicate funds to actually advertising through these platforms and to purchasing Search Engine Optimization to ensure someone looking for your product electronically will find your business. Don’t forget you can ask your existing customers what kind of advertising they consume.

3. How do I know if it’s working? It’s essential that you evaluate the performance of your advertising so you can efficiently spend future marketing budgets. One advantage of new media is that it provides on-the-spot analytics of how many clicks, shares, and likes you get. But even with traditional advertising you can assign for customer responses unique URLs, email addresses, or even phone numbers to measure how much response the specific advertising is generating.

If you’re a small business owner and want to talk about advertising, reach out to the SBDC at www.mcleancosbdc.org (request a meeting tab) for a virtual or telephone appointment. Be safe and be well!

Bussone is director of the Small Business Development Center, Illinois Wesleyan University. SBDC is available to support small businesses. Visit www.mcleancosbdc.org and press the “Request a Meeting” tab, fill out the brief questionnaire and submit. A team member will contact you for an appointment.

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