Why Small Businesses Don’t Advertise Enough

Actually, the ‘why’ here is not hard to divine –many independent small businesses don’t think they can afford to advertise these days.  Yet, this belief is a self-fulfilling prophecy: they cannot afford it precisely because they do not do it.

As consumers, we are all aware of those businesses which do a great job with marketing, because they come to mind when we think of something they sell that we need.  Pizza delivery joints, car dealerships, and banks come to mind as businesses that understand how important it is to keep messaging their local communities.  Sometimes they are so prolific at it that we get annoyed, but that works to their advantage — they won’t let us forget about them.

But other small businesses, particularly specialty retail, really struggle with marketing and advertising.  If it was ever true, the days are far behind us when people usually stayed within a few blocks of home or “went into town” and knew of every business who had a shingle hung out — even when it was new.

Beyond affordability, another big hang-up for small business owners is trying to figure out which of the many, many advertising avenues available to them they should use and how much to invest in each.  To the inexperienced, this is truly a daunting task of guesswork — and guessing gets expensive indeed.

I’ll treat this in more detail with additional posts on the topic, but the one I wish to introduce here is who to advertise to.  A savvy small business advertiser might think about this like being in an information war.  How do you outflank your competitors?

If you happen to be in an industry that under-advertises and your competitors are asleep at the wheel, you almost cannot lose.  It’s like they aren’t showing up to the battlefield.  But for the rest of us in our various industries, we’re usually playing a game of hopscotch, leaping over each other trying to get to the customer first.

Don’t fight the way the British did in the Revolutionary War.  Conventional wisdom says to do what the rest of your industry does.  How do you expect to stand apart this way and get uniquely noticed?  You need to be different — after all — being different has always been the foundation of creating unique value and convincing customers that you are the right choice.

I recently treated this subject in detail in the bicycle industry.  For a more in-depth understanding, read here: Ad Strategy is Unimaginative and Tired

Jeff Koenig