When it comes to promoting a business, a common question is, “Which medium is best?” Some options are quite expensive, especially for a small business. Furthermore, some media work better than others depending on your business’s specific situation. Nielsen recently released its 2013 Trust in Advertising Report. Though online promotion shows an increase in consumer trust, word-of-mouth is still No. 1 for attracting new customers. Before choosing a medium to attract new business, it’s important to know who your ideal customer is and how those people tend to find out about your products—Facebook, Google, TV, word-of-mouth, etc. Once you know those things, it will be easier to choose from among these methods: 1. Recommendations from people customers know. Recommendations or reviews are the most trusted and probably the most powerful form of promotion. How does a business owner tap into it? An easy way is to request testimonials from current customers and make sure that they are posted online and used in all your marketing materials. You could also implement a referral campaign. One auto shop owner I know gives certain customers half-price oil change certificates to hand out to their family and friends. 2. Branded websites. A website is a must; however, far too many business owners will put up a website and then ignore it, leaving up outdated information. Your website is your 24/7 sales associate and thus an extension of you. It should be current, high-quality, and credible. (Don’t forget to have a mobile-friendly version as well.) 3. Online reviews. Take caution when requesting online reviews. Most online review portals such as Google and Yelp do not allow you to compensate people for leaving reviews, so never offer an incentive such as a free service for leaving a review. If it is discovered that you have done so the reviews will be flagged and, in Yelp’s case, filtered. Also, some review sites like Yelp frown upon solicited reviews. 4. Editorial content. This can be a huge credibility builder and a consistent lead generator. Editorial content can take the form of a guest blog post on your local newspaper’s website or an article in their paper. Editorial content shows authority and expertise that boosts potential customers’ confidence in their decision to contact you. 5. Ads on TV. Television advertising can be expensive, but it can also be effective if you have a broad geographic customer base. 6. Brand sponsorship. Brand sponsorship includes sponsoring an event (such as a golf tournament). Brand sponsorships in my opinion are expensive and, for most small businesses, not as effective as other forms of promotion. 7. Ads in newspapers. One of the most effective forms of promotion for some businesses is also one of the oldest. It’s proven that the bigger the ad, the bigger the results. 8. Ads in magazines. Magazines have a long shelf life, meaning that people may see your advertisement more often and for a longer period of time than a traditional newspaper ad. Make sure that the magazine that you advertise in is one that your ideal customer reads. I recommend for all advertising (except for your website) that you use a separate tracking phone number to track the effectiveness of your ad. 9. Billboards and other outdoor advertising. Billboards, business signs, sandwich boards, and more can be effective attention getters and lead generators. 10. Ads on the radio. Radio ads can work very effectively in the automotive industry. We prefer ads on talk radio, as people who listen to talk radio are often more engaged listeners than those who tune in for music. We use real customers giving real testimonials in our radio ads and have seen tremendous results. In addition, a celebrity endorsement can also be a huge lead generator.
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None of these media will work if you don’t understand who your ideal customers are and how they find out about new products and services. So, do your homework. Wendy Kenney is a small business and automotive marketing consultant, as well as owner of Phoenix-based PR and marketing firm 23 Kazoos. A version of this story originally appeared on the Automotive Digital Marketing blog. (Image via)