Advertising is one of the most difficult investments a company, particularly a small business, has to make. Choosing a method of advertisement for a business often feels like gambling. Don't do it at all, you get nothing. Roll your dice by investing in one type of ad placement, you get nothing. Roll your dice by investing in the same placement next year, you hit the jackpot. There's got to be a better way of selecting advertising methods that have the highest potential to work, right?

Target Consumer.

The target consumer is a complex combination of persons. It includes the person who ultimately buys the product, as well as those who decide what product will be bought (but don't physically buy it), and those who influence product purchases, such as children, spouse, and friends. In order to identify the target consumer, and the forces acting upon any purchasing decision, it is important to define three general criteria in relation to that consumer, as discussed by the Small Business Administration

  1. Demographics Age, gender, job, income, ethnicity, and hobbies.
  2. Behaviors When considering the consumers' behavior an advertiser needs to examine the consumers' awareness of the business and its competition, the type of vendors and services the consumer currently uses, and the types of appeals that are likely to convince the consumer to give the advertiser's product or service a chance.
  3. Needs and Desires Here an advertiser must determine the consumer needs—both in practical terms and in terms of self-image, etc.—and the kind of pitch/message that will convince the consumer that the advertiser's services or products can fulfill those needs.

What Should You Write in Your Ads?

It's almost useless to review lists of alternatives for advertising if you haven't developed well-written ads. Writing ads is a skill. There are important aspects to think about, including the wording, graphics, arrangement of wording and graphics, coloring, how your audience will interpret the ads, their placement, etc. Poorly done ads can hurt you worse than not having ads at all. Therefore, very carefully consider getting help to write your first ads. The answer to this question depends almost entirely on the reading and listening habits of your current and potential customers.

Before you write your ads, you should give careful thought to your unique selling position so you know what unique features and benefits to convey and to whom. Note that a common mistake among inexperienced ad writers is to write the ad to themselves, rather than to their current and potential customers. Your ads should clearly the benefits (of products and services) to customers, not the benefits to you -- clearly state the ads in terms that the customer will value, for example, easy access, low cost, easy to use, reliability, etc. Your ads should answer the customer's question: "What's in it for me?" Your ad should also specify what they are to do next. What action should they take and how do they take it, for example, who do they call and how.

Advertising Message.

An advertising message is guided by the "advertising or copy platform," which is a combination of the marketing objectives, copy, art, and production values. This combination is best realized after the target consumer has been analyzed, the product concept has been established, and the media and vehicles have been chosen. At this point, the advertising message can be directed at a very concrete audience to achieve very specific goals. Hiam and Schewe listed three major areas that an advertiser should consider when endeavoring to develop an effective "advertising platform":

- What are the product's unique features?
- How do consumers evaluate the product? What is likely to persuade them to purchase the product?
- How do competitors rank in the eyes of the consumer? Are there any weaknesses in their positions? What are their strengths?

Methods of Advertising.

Small business owners can choose from two opposite philosophies when preparing their advertising strategy. The first of these, sometimes called the push method, is a stance wherein an advertiser targets retail establishments in order to establish or broaden a market presence. The second option, sometimes called the pull method, targets end-users (consumers), who are expected to ask retailers for the product and thus help "pull" it through the channel of distribution. Of course, many businesses employ some hybrid of the two when putting together their advertising strategy.

- PUSH METHOD. The aim of the push method is to convince retailers, salespersons, or dealers to carry and promote the advertiser's product. This relationship is achieved by offering inducements, such as providing advertising kits to help the retailer sell the product, offering incentives to carry stock, and developing trade promotions.
- PULL METHOD. The aim of the pull method is to convince the target consumer to try, purchase, and ultimately repurchase the product. This process is achieved by directly appealing to the target consumer with coupons, in-store displays, and sweepstakes.

However, today the advertiser has a vast array of choices. The Internet alone provides many of these, with the advent of branded viral videos, banners, advertorials, sponsored websites, branded chat rooms and so much more.

Fortunately, every single tactic available to the advertiser falls into one of the following buckets. Although a few of these are relatively new to the field, most go way back to the very beginnings of modern advertising.

Print Advertising
If an advertisement is printed on paper, be it newspapers, magazines, newsletters, booklets, flyers, direct mail, or anything else that would be considered a portable printed medium, then it comes under the banner of print advertising.

Guerrilla Advertising
Also known as ambient media, guerrilla advertising (or marketing) has become prominent over the last 20 years. It is a broadly used term for anything unconventional, and usually invites the consumer to participate or interact with the piece in some way. Location is important, as is timing. The driving forces behind guerrilla advertising or marketing are creative ideas and innovation, not a large budget. Quite often, you will ask for forgiveness rather than permission with these campaigns, and they will spread via word of mouth and social media.

Broadcast Advertising
A mass-market form of communication including television and radio, broadcast advertising has, until recently, been the most dominant way to reach a large number of consumers.

Outdoor Advertising
Also known as out-of-home (OOH) advertising, this is a broad term that describes any type of advertising that reaches the consumer when he or she is outside of the home.

Public Service Advertising
Unlike traditional commercials, Public Service Advertisements (PSA) are primarily designed to inform and educate rather than sell a product or service.

Product Placement Advertising
In a nutshell, product placement is the promotion of branded goods and services within the context of a show or movie, rather than as an explicit advertisement.

Cell Phone & Mobile Advertising
A relatively new form of advertising, but one that's spreading rapidly, uses cell phones, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, and other portable electronic devices with Internet connectivity. Current trends in mobile advertising involve major use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Online Advertising (aka Digital)
Online advertising, also called Internet advertising, uses the Internet to deliver promotional marketing messages to consumers. It includes email marketing, search engine marketing, social media marketing, many types of display advertising (including web banner advertising), and mobile advertising. If you see an advertisement via the Internet (World Wide Web), then it is classified as online advertising. In fact, there are ads on this very page, and most other websites you visit, as they are the primary revenue driver for the Internet.