Topic overview


Designers at small business designing an advert

Advertising offers a way to spread the word about your business to large numbers of people in targeted groups.

Local newspapers, directories, billboards or media advertising could provide the right audience for a small business operating in a specific catchment area. Business-to-business firms can use industry websites, publications and events to advertise to specific target groups. Advertising on social media sites and online can also be used to drive sales.

Why advertise in newspapers and magazines?

Magazine and newspaper ads allow you to reach an engaged audience. Special interest and trade titles have specialist readerships that may be ideally suited to your product or service. Local newspapers offer the chance to reach large numbers of people in your area - ideal for local businesses.

There are thousands of publications in the UK, most of which offer both online and print versions. These include: national and regional newspapers; freesheets and local papers; special interest magazines; trade, technical and professional magazines; and in-house magazines.

Even if your advertising budget is tight, it can go a long way. Media planning is about looking beyond top-line circulation figures and website statistics to find the publication that best meets your needs; media packs can give you useful information and BRAD Insight is an excellent source of data. It’s also worth finding out your where your competitors advertise. Always negotiate - advertising rates are rarely set in stone.

Advertising in local directories can also be very effective. Online directories such as Yell allow you to link directly to your website. If you do business in a particular trade or sector, it's essential to make sure you're listed in the relevant trade or business directories. As with any directory, you will be listed alongside your competitors, so it pays to advertise to ensure you communicate what is special about your business. Make sure your business is also registered with Google as this is the first place that most people will look for a business like yours.

Writing an advert

The key to writing a successful ad is knowing your audience and understanding what will motivate them to buy. You should already know what makes your target market tick before you even consider writing an advertisement. The look and feel of your advertising should be in line with your brand values.

Clarity is key. A successful advert must highlight your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) - what does your business offer that no-one else does? Any online advertising copy must include the keywords and phrases that people are most likely to use when searching for a business like yours. Every advert also needs a call to action to encourage prospects to take the next step.

Online advertising

There are many opportunities to advertise online. Google pay-per-click advertising helps businesses to get to the top of relevant search results. You can also advertise on social media sites including Facebook and Instagram. Online advertising can be highly targeted and it is easy to measure the results and adjust your strategy to reach more people. It can also be costly however, so it’s important to set budgets and ensure you’re getting a good return on investment.

Measuring the response to your adverts

No matter what type of advertising you do, you can measure the results. Media advertising can be measured by using response mechanisms - such as dedicated phone numbers, website landing pages, email addresses or QR codes.

An enquiry from an ad is often just the first step towards making a sale, so make sure you and your sales staff are ready to make the most of the leads that your advertising generates.

Promoting your business using sponsorship

There are many sponsorship opportunities for small firms and it does not have to cost the earth. Many small firms provide free goods and services in exchange for the exposure that being a sponsor brings. The chances are that there is something useful you could bring to the negotiating table when you are working out a sponsorship deal.

Sponsoring a good cause can improve your standing in the community, whether you support a charity, a local sports team or a community event. Sponsoring an industry event is a great way to get top billing at a trade show, helping you stand out from the crowd in a competitive market.

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