How To Create A Small Town
Advertising Campaign


by Tom Egelhoff

As I have said many times, the focus of this site is for the business owner (includes homebased businesses) in small towns and/or small markets. As much as the so called "marketing experts" would like to disagree with me, you and I both know that operating a business in a small town or small market is nothing like a large city.

Take away their multi-million dollar advertising budget and many Fortune 500 CEO's would have a hard time creating an ad campaign for the average small business.



Start By Knowing What Advertising Is

This is going to sound like a broken record to some of you who are regulars, but advertising has to be an investment, not an expense. It must produce more business revenue than it costs. Advertising can never be an expense.

Does advertising work immediately? Not always. Studies show that your customers must see your ad at least 9 times before they consider you a credible business. And, since they miss every third ad, you must run 27 ads in order for them to be exposed to the 9. Depending on the size of your town, and the media available, you may be able to get by with less. Use it as a rule of thumb until you know for sure.

Also keep in mind that we are not as interested in the "cost per thousand" that advertising costs as we are in the "cost per customer" is produces in revenue. You don't want an expense, you want an investment.

You want to create a plan that is tailored to your business while at the same time tailoring it to your individual small town or market. There are a thousand things that make each small town different. What works great in one may fail miserably in another. You must know the answers to the following questions.



The Four Basic Advertising Questions

Begin developing your advertising plan by asking yourself the following four questions.

• Why are you advertising?
• What do you expect to happen?
• Who is your target market?
• Who are the customers most likely to buy your product or service?
• What is your advertising message?
• Where and how often should you advertise?

By answering these four questions you will develop the direction your advertising may take. If you have a direction you can set the necessary goals to make your campaign a success. Let's deal with each question one at a time.



Why Are You Advertising?
What Do You Expect To Happen?

Here is where you establish your advertising goals. What do you want your adverting to accomplish? For example, you might be a new business and you just need to get the word out. Or, you may want to attempt to "steal" customers from your competition. You may want your advertising to re-enforce your business in the minds of current customers and retain their loyalty. And last but not least, you may want to promote a sale for immediate profits.

You may want your advertising to do all of the above or even more that I haven't listed. The point is -- before you can create any ad campaign you need to have a goal of what you want that advertising to accomplish.

Once you have your goals, prioritize them. Advertising works best when you develop these goals one at a time.



Who Is Your Target Market?
Who Are The Customers Most Likely To Buy Your Product Or Service?

Once again, advertising has major advantages in small towns. Advertising that is directed at everybody rarely succeeds. Great advertising is directed at one person. Pick your very best customer and tailor your message directly to that person. They should tell you, "When I heard your ad I thought you were talking directly to me."

Who is your ideal customer? Where do they fit in the following categories?

  • Age, gender, income, address (good side of town vs. bad side of town).

  • Are they aware of your business? Your products? Your services? Are they loyal to you or your competitors?

  • Needs and desires. What specific benefits do they want that you provide? How can you fill their needs better than someone else?



What Is Your Advertising Message?

Here is where advertising in a small town becomes more complicated. If you are a new business you have some work ahead of you.

In small towns, if people don't know you, they are sometimes a little "skeptical" at first. It takes a little time for them to warm up to you.

If you are an established business, people in your town have formed a "perception" of who and what they think you are. Unlike big cities, people in small towns talk to each other. They will carry your message, right or wrong. If you want to make a change in your business, that may be tough. It's not easy to change a mind that's already made up.

Broken record time again. People do not buy products based on comparing the facts and making a logical decision. People buy products based on emotion and create a logical argument for that position. See: "Understanding Why Customers Buy."

If your advertising only presents the logical facts about your product with no emotional benefits--your advertising will be an expense. See: "Here's Why Your Advertising Isn't Working."



Where And How Often Should You Advertise?

Perhaps a better question would be, "Where should I not advertise?" The answer to that question is -- Don't advertise anywhere unless your target market is there. If you aren't reaching your target market you are wasting your advertising dollars. See: "Checklist Of What Works In Print, Radio, TV, Direct Mail and Outdoor Ads."

How often will be determined by the success of your ads and your budget. If your plan is done correctly then advertising should pay for itself. It should produce more income than it costs.

If it is done incorrectly you won't be able to do it for long because it becomes an expense.



The Last Word On Small Town Advertising Plans

As you can see, small town advertising is a little different animal. It's like an aquarium. The larger the aquarium (i.e.-the large city), the more mistakes you can make and the fish survive. The smaller the aquarium the fewer mistakes it will tolerate and the fish die.

The other small town problem is testing marketing or advertising. In small towns your competitors are very aware of everything you do. They can react to advertising very quickly.

The most important areas: know your target market and customers, know your town and its idiosyncrasies, know our product and its benefits and know your local media and how to use it. No one said it would be easy.


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