“What’s the best SME marketing tip for my small business?”
Have you ever asked that question? This guide is going to tackle, the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the complete guide to SME marketing.
By the end of this post, you should have a better idea of what you should use and what you can take a pass on.
What’s in this SME Marketing Hack Guide:
- The 7 times 7 Rule
- How to make newspaper advertising work for you?
- Are flyer drops worth doing anymore?
- Best VFM* Print Ads | *Value For Money
- Cheatsheet for producing a great ‘Print Ad’
What is marketing?
“…the action or business of promoting or selling products or services.”
That’s direct from the Oxford Dictionary.
When can I afford to do marketing?
Let’s get this squared away, marketing is not a luxury. It’s worth me repeating this throughout this post, but marketing is seriously something you can’t afford not to do. What you can’t afford though, is bad marketing.
Got it? Good. Marketing is how you can ensure a sustainable supply of new customers for the long term. Without it, you will rely on luck, hope and churning your existing customers. Also known as ‘waiting for bankruptcy’.
Let’s Start with Print Marketing Advice
In ‘Print Marketing’ we are going to cover anything that comes off of a printer. That means newspaper ads, billboards, flyering, ad vans, that kind of thing. Let’s kick off with newspaper and magazine ads.
1. Newspaper/Magazine Advertising
You see those big full-page spreads in the nationals or a cover wrap around a major magazine publication and you think: “Imagine if that was us?”.
Hold the daydreams, this kind of marketing is generally brand awareness based.
This means, it helps people get to develop an awareness of your brand, but one hit, won’t truly do that. For a start, is your ideal customer even reading it – and if they are, are they reading that copy?
That’s a lot of money for a stab in the dark. Also, consider this:
The 7 times 7 rule
What is the 7 times 7 rule? It is an old rule of marketing, that says, your potential customer, needs to see your message seven times before they will take notice. No SME marketing tip guide would be complete without diving into this a little more.
For you, taking notice may mean they check out your company’s menu, your website etc. If it takes 7 times or 7 touchpoints, then one newspaper advert won’t cut it. So if your marketing was simply going to be an advert in a newspaper, you’re better off saving your money.
- Mass audience – prestige
- Able to regionally target
- Good for brands that can’t use digital ads
- Generally expensive
- Low visual impact if not in a cover spot
- Not able to target in a segmented way, unless niche magazines
- Not trackable to prove viewership
- Declining audience
How you can increase value from newspaper or magazine advertising?
Okay, so supposing you have landed a really cheap deal for it and you want to give it a shot. That’s fine. So, lets try and make it a little smarter for you. After all, what’s an SME marketing tip guide without Yoda level smarts?
Firstly, consider what you want from the advert first. A lot of people don’t consider the end result when they spend money on ads. You only know what you know and I must have spent years before I realised I should do this.
This means, think about how the advert will help you achieve that goal. We aren’t talking about saying to yourself:
“I want this advert to be seen by lots of people and then shop with me.” We are talking a little more astute than that. Here’s an example:
I would like to collect email address for young mothers who may be interested in using my South London based spa treatment centre.
Reciprocal Marketing Value
So you want to ensure that alongside this advert, is some easy way for the viewer to give you that information. Now, we all know they aren’t going to give you that for nothing, so promote a competition or an item of value.
The advert needs to give them an easy route to that point, either through a QR code, short URL etc. At that destination online, do not just send them onto your homepage. If they have never been to your website before, they won’t be at ease navigating it. Make a landing page for the occasion, using a site like Instapage or Unbounce.
What’s a landing page now??
A landing page is a custom webpage that is geared up to promote a specific offer or service in a comprehensive and clear way. When Apple launches a new iPhone, you aren’t just sent to their product catalogue. Instead, they direct you to a bespoke one-page site with lots of clear information.
This one-page brochure sells you the product in a way a simple product description won’t do. But the page also ensures there are calls to action across it. Here’s an example of one for Our Remedy CBD for women, when they were trying to sign up wholesale customers.
The page featured an email capture box, a compelling offer, contextualised with a billboard and some additional reasons to get involved. This is a landing page. Yours may offer a free trial or cash voucher etc. Importantly ensure you are putting together something like this to capture prospects emails and give them something to read that immediately relates to why they are there.
It takes a little bit more time to do things like this, but not much more. This landing page was built on Instapage and took a couple of hours tops. Importantly, you aren’t making the journey difficult.
Why do we want emails? Well once you have them, you can re-market back to them in the future if the first time around, nothing came of it. That means no additional newspaper adverts to get them to see your offer.
If your project is involved in online retail, then make sure to check out this guide below:
SME Marketing Tip 2 for newspaper/magazine adverts
Why do you or I read one? We read it for what we can read. We become a little immune to adverts, but then that’s the case for all adverts that don’t resonate with us. If adverts were 100% effective, we would pay a lot more for them. But the key word here in all of this is: ‘Read’. We read newspapers and magazines. That means if you offer to pay for an advert ask if it can be done as an advertorial or a written piece.
Entrepreneur Magazine in 2007 quoted a ‘Reader’s Digest’ study that showed, ad orders for an advertorial were 80% higher than for the same product promoted in a traditional classified ad format.
This is likely due to a number of factors, but not least because it was considered an article before an advert. That means more people spent time looking at it and taking it in than they could with a conventional advert.
Where there is declining demand for advertising in newspapers, use this to negotiate a smarter option.
2. Flyer Advertising
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So I came home from work about a year ago and saw a flyer on my doormat. You might think that isn’t a particularly remarkable thing to say, but where I live it is. I hadn’t seen one in months. Where I used to live a few years back, I was being inundated with food menus. Then it dawned on me, many takeaway companies now just use deliveroo or just-eat as their outreach. Flyers are seen less.
This presents an opportunity. Marketing is all about getting attention. Getting attention when you are in a sea of spam isn’t easy. This is what was happening with local flyer drops.
Why flyering WAS bad
Firstly, you couldn’t always be sure that they were being delivered, secondly, they would often be delivered in bulk with others. The only way to ensure your flyer being delivered was done on its own, was to pay for ‘Solus’. Solus means solo. But if another company come by and drop a flyer through the same letterbox, paying extra for Solus, was pointless.
Ultimately, flyering has been a dead loss for a while. That was until the world went digital.
Now, its absolutely game on with this classic SME marketing tip.
It was a while since that flyer came through my letterbox, but I still remember what it was for. I still remember it! It was a fencing company. I remember the text was large enough to be read from head height to the floor. Whether they did that on purpose or not, I don’t know, but their timing was on the money.
Does flyering have a low success rate?
I don’t know the exact science in this. That said, I’m confident that the customer acquisition rate is skewed when the flyers don’t even make the letterbox.
It’s happened to me, but no-one can ever truly prove the fraud. So you suck it up and never do it again. That could be a real shame if what you had were a great design, a great offer and the right audience.
Imagine closing your business, simply because you had one bad employee?
That’s exactly what we all do though when it comes to flyer drops.
What’s good about flyer marketing?
- Can be done by anyone
- Scaleable – can be done on a low budget
- Able to target specific locations
- Good for building local awareness
- Less saturated
- Hard to ensure campaign delivery
- Labour intensive
- Not able to know if put in front of your target audience
- Limited information presented
Flyer Costs per 1000 (UK 2020) Rates:
Print Costs £15-25 Delivery £0 – 95 | Total max ave £120 per 1000 homes
So how do you make flyer advertising work?
So back to where we spoke about attention. You want your flyer to be seen. In fact, that goes for any marketing you do. It’s about what medium get’s your message across for the least cost and in the most effective way.
You also need your flyer to be able to be read. This means it needs to be clear, bold and to the point, while looking professional and able to be read as someone walks through their front door. You have the time it takes for them to bend down and screw it up to try to resonate with them.
A top SME marketing tip we give our clients is to make sure there is context to their printed design. Below you can see we made these flyers work with the pandemic lockdown in the UK.
Sales is not about converting ‘No’s to Yes’s’, it’s about sieving for the ‘Yes’. Many people will screw up your hard thought design and marketing copy. Accept that. It’s just not what they need at that point in their life. But there will also be many who could be interested in your service, don’t blow it.
The how not to blow it small business advice…
Well for a start accept that the medium DOES work, but your message may be wrong. Once you accept that the medium DOES work, ensure you get the message out there. But first, test the message with customers and get them to tell you what is more likely to get their attention.
With emails, you can do A/B testing on the subject line. For example, we can send an email with one subject line to 1000 people, then another to another 1000, and so on. Until we have covered perhaps 10% of our email base. Then in an hour or two, we look at which email has been opened more. Then we send the winning version to the rest of our database. You can do a version of this with flyers, but it’s going to require many flyers being made, and a lot of time.
So what’s the solution?
Ask your customers and create a focus group. Find out what works to them and use that as your prototype flyer. If you want to know why perfect preparation is a good idea, check out our blog:
NEXT: Offer value. Don’t just tell people you’re open, give them a chance to try a small but compelling piece of your service for next to nothing.
10% off flyers are an abso-f******-lute waste of your time. Don’t be stingy to people who aren’t already your customers.
You are trying to take people out of their comfort zone and step into your space. This means you need them to make a decision, something they will be annoyed they don’t do. FOMO – Fear of missing out.
Retail podcast plug
If you want to check out a podcast devoted to this. Listen in here:
- The Retail Podcast – Underpriced Attention | SME Marketing Tip 101
Another super important aspect to consider if you are going to outsource flyer delivery is to do some of it yourself. Why would you do that? Two reasons.
- Great Exercise
- You can know what the true response rate is. If you get 30-50 back for every 1000 you drop and an external company’s locations return 5 or less. You know something is up.
BONUS SME MARKETING TIP: For maximum exposure, deliver on roads with no driveways and lots of terraced houses. You get to deliver to far more houses in a much shorter space of time. This tip won’t work for every business offering, but if it’s a run of the mill product, avoid the detached roads.
EXTRA BONUS TIPS: I am going to reference a good post we came across while researching this blog. Two more great tips for improving your chance of impact – from ‘Business Man to the Rescue‘
- Stiffen up your act. Crumpled flyers are a bad reflection of your business. Go for a thicker flyer to ensure your message doesn’t lay in a heap. It also feels higher quality too
- Shapen up your act. Interesting shaped flyers have the potential to stand out more too and attract curiosity.
3. Outdoor Advertising: Posters | Billboards
Like all the SME marketing tip ideas we will cover, we have tried 99% of them. To be honest, there is only one we haven’t tried and that was radio ads. But that is more due to compliance issues. We didn’t have a product they could put on the air. But outdoor advertising, tick.
- Opportunity for repeated touchpoints for viewers
- Seen by a large number of people
- Able to target small regions
- Cheaper than shop rent and rates
- Can target areas by competitors without having a physical presence
- Hard to get a call to action over sometimes
- Requires long term contracts to see savings and impact
- Difficult to know viewing figures
- Expensive to change the message if not working
- The ideal spot may not be available often if at all
What type of out of home advertising exists?
- Bus Panels
- Train Stations
- Mobile Ad Vans
- Sports arena hoardings
- Street bills
- Shop window posters
These are some of the different ways, you may have seen a piece of printed media in an out of the home environment. This, by the way, is the technical term for billboard ads. ‘Out of home’.
You and I call it posters.
How much do billboard ads cost?
Depending on the size and length of the contract. Look at paying around £400-800 per month for a 6 month to 1-year term. The longer-term, the better the monthly discount.
Many offer monthly options too.
This means for less money than rent and rates, you could have your brand become known in a target town.
This right there is one of our secret SME marketing tip hacks.
The designs above were put together to promote an online vape shop positioned on the walk to Wembley Stadium. The client has seen new business from customers in the HA postcode, where they have no other physical presence. Cost for this location: £500 per month.
So, do billboard ads work?
Like any form of advertising, it comes down to what you are offering, where you are doing it and whether your message gets people’s attention.
If you are running a billboard campaign to promote pork sausages in a vegetarian village, it will fall on deaf ears.
Don’t promote pork sausages to a vegetarian
On the same vein, if you promoted a great new dog toy on a billboard outside the entrance to Crufts, you will probably get the right attention.
Very simply, deliver the right message, to the right people at the right time.
You will see a lot of dog lovers visiting a pet cemetery too, but they don’t want to see your advert.
Got it? Good!
Just as we spoke about the newspaper ads, the 7 times 7 rule applies. Here the bonus is that a static poster is likely to be seen twice a day by a commuter. That means if you have a billboard or poster ad on a commuter route. It will be seen ten times in a week by that individual.
Your brand will begin to register. But billboards are notoriously hard to deliver enough information that someone can act on.
If you see it, while driving at 70 mph, you aren’t about to jot down the telephone number. So the location is super important.
Location of adverts is a matter of success or failure
We have tested motorway ads and street road ads and seen far more success where the traffic moves slower and the pavements get footfall.
If your advert is on a walking route, viewers have a chance to see the message and the call to action.
If it’s on a smaller street with slower-moving traffic, a well-placed billboard is as effective as a shop front for developing awareness. Think about this stat:
“In the electronics retail sector, online stores with a physical presence saw a 154% uplift in e-commerce sales from those regions.”
This is called clicks to bricks. And fundamentally why we think, correctly priced outdoor advertising could have a place in an online SME marketing plan.
Do Advertising Vans Work?
Just as a well-placed billboard can help to register in a targeted area’s conscience, so too can a mobile ad van. We aren’t talking about, doing it for one day and then done. But a repeated trawl day after day for a sustained period.
Cost of Ad Vans: £250-£500 per week.
Cost to buy an Ad Van second hand: £3500-5000
You know the solution here 🙂
Too often ego gets in the way
We try to tell ourselves that we have advertised in a massive region. But if we are taking a scattergun approach, doing lots of small bits, we miss lots of people. Far better to pick a region, a town, a community. And saturate it with all you have.
For most small businesses, if you truly won over every potential customer in your town, you would be happy right?
So, do that. That should be your aim. Win a town and then move on to the next one. The best thing about doing the adjacent town is you will have social proof from a local family. A happy shopper may have mentioned you to their friends who live in Town 2.
When they see your ad, you are already in a stronger position. You or I know more people who live within 10 miles of ourselves, than 200 miles.
Don’t let the ego of a pretend national campaign get in the way
Get a billboard in a good spot in the town, and then buffer that with a mobile ad van campaign. Then on the days it’s driving around, go hand out flyers in your local town, or outside offices, or even through letterboxes.
The result of committing to that style of approach is far more powerful than staggering it all over a year.
People won’t fail to know about your brand. It’s up to you to make the messages similar, and the offer compelling.
Shop Window Posters – The Starting Point
The easiest place to start print marketing is in your own shop window, or on the street with an A-frame.
The mistake many make is thinking more posters means more opportunity. In one way that is right. But it is only more opportunity to put people off.
Decision fatigue is the reason why Gordon Ramsey suggests menus should be smaller and slimmed down.
Too much choice can mean customers don’t make any decision because they can’t distinguish between the products.
Stop going HAM on your storefront with lots and lots of posters. Stick to one clear message per window panel. Customers want to see in your store, and they also want to know exactly what your brand is quick.
I see small businesses let every local event stick a poster square in the window. You are giving away the most valuable retail space you own to a circus. For free. It’s insanity.
I know, I know. It’s hard to say no to local events, but in truth, they will understand if your brand has a store policy.
You can still foster good relations but letting them position a nice flyer stand in the store somewhere inoffensive to your customer’s experience.
Less is more
A nicely branded, clear message, either backlit or displayed on a monitor in the window is your aim. Whether its the estate agent style hanging panels, or a ceiling bracket with a flatscreen tv in portrait hanging down.
Both options will make your window display stand out on a gloomy afternoon. They will also put you above your peers who ignore the minimum poster advice.
How much do illuminated shop window screens cost?
- An LCD Screen on Ebay + TV bracket : £250-400
- Illuminated LED A1 or A2 Hanging Poster : £200-300
NOTE: If you use an illuminated poster frame, you will need to use a different type of print material. It’s called Lumatrans. It has lots of pixelated holes and allows light to shine through.
Do not scrimp on that. It will be a wasted piece of kit otherwise.
Is there a cheaper option?
Yes, and it works well. Many shops use posters with suction cups. These are quick and easy to move around. Some use sellotape, which looks cheap and nasty.
If you get one thing from our SME marketing tip list, it’s that first impressions count.
First impressions count – don’t let cheap be it.
But what is this better than a poster option? Static Clings. These are brightly coloured sticky material posters, that can be easily removed and fit on the glass.
This means they stand out stronger than a poster with a slight gap between the glass and the glossy front of the poster. They cost approximately £15-20 for an A1 or A2 poster and look great.
Here’s a recommended supplier we have used in the past:
Is Outdoor advertising worth it for SMEs?
So lets sum this end section of Part 1 for the SME marketing tip guide up. Outdoor advertising has a place as part of a wider marketing plan, definitely.
Maybe it’s just a window poster matching your A-Frame, partnered with a local flyer drop and your car pulling a banner stuck to a trailer. But as parts of a wider picture, it can be very effective.
Want to steal your competition’s customers?
As with any outdoor or billboard ad, think about the right location. We wanted to help a client win new vaping customers, so we targeted a competitor’s store. Outside their shop were two phone boxes we could advertise on. We leveraged the fact that obvious potential customers would be walking by. We also knew the key sellers they had, so targeted a price promotion around that.
For a flexible period, we could essentially open up shop on the competition’s doorstep. That is a lot cheaper than opening a shop, getting staff, kitting it out etc.
Perfect your message first
If you are going to layout on an outdoor advert, get terms that work for you, but also test on a focus group, the message that resonates most.
You really have only one shot, so it has to be your best effort.
Saturate your local town first
Also, stick to the saturation approach. Don’t scatter-gun. Work on one location and hammer it into the ground. Most of us, haven’t won all of the business around our office or own shops yet, so leave the remote spots for later.
Plus, if you win a ton of business around your home base, you can even save on shipping costs for online orders. Win-effing-win.
That’s an SME Markting Tip wrap
So that is the end of Part 1, for our SME marketing tip review bible. Send us an email below to get part 2 sent to your inbox.
I have a strong background in offline and online retail and love talking all things 'Start-up'. I've failed more times than most will ever begin. Co-founder of The Skinny Kitchen, Vape & Juice and CBDStar.
I'm not just an SEO guy, I'm a business owner for hire. If you have a problem and no-one else can fix it, contact me here or on Fiverr @seofairy