Advertising sale sign in a window with a person walking past

Advertising for better sales

by Angus Jones

Maybe you are starting a small business or maybe you have been in business for a while.  How do you reach new customers or let more people know you exist?  Ideally, when someone is in the market to buy your offering, they come to you.  Advertising is a way to let people know what you have to offer and we will cover your options in this guide.

Advertising is a marketing tactic involving paying for space to promote a product or service. The actual promotional messages are called advertisements, or ads for short. The goal of advertising is to reach people most likely to be willing to pay for a company’s products or services and entice them to buy.

f you have not already done so we highly encourage you to read our guide on marketing before you read this guide.

WHY should I advertise?

How do potential customers know that you are running a special this month that makes your offering very attractive to purchase?  Unless you or one of your staff tell them they probably don’t know. It is not possible for you to personally look for and speak to every new customer in most circumstances so you have a few options:

  1. Word of mouth – a happy customer tells a friend
  2. Having the right location – people walk by your shop
  3. Be on a directory – You are found on Google or Yellow page
  4. Advertising – you spend money to be found or promote a message

Advertising has a cost to it and the key is to spend the amount of money that you can afford to drive the greatest number of people to your business. Successful advertising would mean that you generate more profit from any additional sales (sales you would not have had if you did not advertise) than the cost of the advertising.

Beyond increasing sales, advertising can help establish your brand and increase the likelihood of someone recognising your brand. It can help you reach customers much further away than your place of business and position your offering as better than your competition.

WHAT do I need to know about advertising?

There are two types of adverting:
  1. Traditional – TV, radio and newspaper, mailbox flyer, cold telephone calling and door to door selling
  2. Digital – Internet-based including social media and digital ads (see our guide on digital marketing)

All forms of advertising have advantages and disadvantages, but in most cases, trial and error will help you decide which is best.  Digital advertising can be targeted to just the right people but will those people just scroll past your ad?  What sort of ads do you notice?  An important lesson here is to ensure your advertisements are relevant to your audience and they see some sort of benefit.  Thus, the messaging and the creative of the ad can be just as important as the type of advertising you pick.

As a small business, it is unlikely that you will go out and buy TV advertising, at least not before you are already a success or have deep pockets. 

Some ideas as to what might be most effective include:
  • Letterbox flyers – design and print a flyer that can be distributed to letterboxes in targeted areas.
  • Local newspaper – delivered free, targets people in the area your business operates and is relatively inexpensive.
  • Product Review – Look for a journalist or blogger who is prepared to write about your product or service.  This may require you to provide something for free or pay a fee.
  • Google AdWords – investing in keywords can drive more traffic to your website.
  • Google Maps – ensure you have your business listed at Google My Business so it will appear on searches (no cost).
  • Social Media – Facebook ads can be very targeted and also allows you to create a following for your brand.  Note, most followers will not see your post unless you pay Facebook for them to be seen.

HOW do I create an Ad and get it in front of people?

Simple 10 step process to advertise:
  1. Research who your audience is – who is most likely to buy.
  2. Decide who you want to reach – location, demographics, interests etc.
  3. Set a budget and a targeted outcome – if I spend this much, I hope to get this result.
  4. Choose an advertising type – you may wish to get some advice from a marketing agency.
  5. Develop a message to suit your target audience – resonate with the customer and show a benefit.
  6. Design creative assets with a call to action – you want to catch people’s eye in a sea of advertisers and give them a clear next step to purchase from you.
  7. Work out how you will measure success – yales will be your goal but consider what else you can measure.
  8. Launch your Advertising – directly with the medium like Facebook or through a media buyer.
  9. Track and analyse the performance – consider changing your advertising mid-way through if it is not working.
  10. Decide if you will do it again and how you could improve your advertisement.

To learn more about design see your guide on getting graphics done.

Picking the right type of advertising will be dependant on many factors. Watch what your competitors are doing as well as what you see working for other industries.  You will find that more than one type of advertising is better than just doing one thing.  For example, a newspaper advertisement is well complimented by doing some Google Ad words.

As a small business, buying advertising is best done directly with the vendor. If you wanted to advertise in a local newspaper go directly to the local newspaper. In the advertising world almost everything is negotiable so don’t just accept the first price they give you.  Note when buying digital advertising like Facebook or Google assets the price is based on an auction system so you will pay depending on what others are prepared to bid on the same assets.

Beyond sales, measuring results can be the number of clicks on an ad or to your website, calls received, the number of opens of an electronic direct mail, or website traffic.  However, remember only sales will mean an improvement in the bottom line.


Any advertising of your products or services should be accurate, true, and able to be substantiated. Advertising practices are governed by law and there are fines for businesses that mislead consumers, whether intentionally or not. Ensure you read our guide on Australian Competition and Consumer Law.

Be ready to respond to your advertisement.  Make sure you have the product or service available.  Ensure your call to action is clear and respond to enquiries quickly, for example, make sure someone can answer the phone or respond to emails. Does your website duplicate the offer and what is your plan if the advertisement goes better than expected?

Unfortunately not all advertising works.  Learn from your failures and don’t make the same mistakes next time.

SUMMARY – advertising for more sales

Advertising is great when it increases your sales but finding who to advertise with and where to advertise is a trial and error approach. Newer forms of advertising like social media competes with older forms like a letterbox drop each with their advantages. Pay special attention to your creativity as it not only represents your business but also enables your advertisement to stand out from your competitors.  Always measure your advertising results and adjust any future advertising based on what you have learned.

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