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Smart Business Essentials

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Marketing and Advertising

Advertising is one aspect of marketing. While marketing is the overall approach to speaking to customers about your brand, advertising is usually a paid form of messaging designed to lead to sales. Advertising can be short-term for a special promotion or ongoing, but usually requires a financial investment. If you know advertising could help your business but you aren’t sure where to start, explore the marketing tips below to see which options fit your needs and budget.

Marketing and Advertising

Whether through online or printed materials, marketing is an essential part of running a successful business and a great opportunity to stand out from your competitors. Consider these marketing options for your business.

Social media
Leveraging social media to promote your business can help improve your brand personality, engage with customers and communicate product benefits or offers. Through social media, you can make announcements, interact with customers and advertise deals without hiring a web development team.

Start by creating a profile (account) for your business, choosing words carefully to describe your business. Stay active by posting often and answering consumer’s questions quickly. This will help them begin to trust and believe in your brand. Other tips to keep in mind:

  • Decide how often you want to post. If you post too frequently you may risk becoming a nuisance, while not posting enough can make your audience lose interest. To begin, try posting weekly. If people are liking and engaging with your posts, begin to post more often.
  • Consider your brand’s voice, or the type of words you use to connect with your customers. Is it authentic, friendly, formal, down-to-earth or business-like? Keep it consistent and make sure it lines up with how you talk about your company on other platforms. Help keep consumers engaged by sharing your knowledge, asking for opinions and posting responses to others’ ideas and comments.
  • If you have an in-person store, you can encourage customers to share posts about your store by setting up part of the store for selfies, or offering a discount to those who post pictures of your store. If you try this, include a hashtag on the display so customers know how to tag your business when posting the image.
  • Track performance by counting your number of followers, views and visits over time. Facebook and other social media sites have access to this information built in.
  • If possible, consider investing in a paid ad campaign on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Both offer options to help you reach a specific audience based on their location, gender or interests. Testing a small, inexpensive paid advertising campaign can help you refine ads and create more successful campaigns. Sharing pictures of your products, customers and events on Instagram and other social media sites can also be effective ways to get new followers.

Digital Advertising

Digital advertising is a great way to introduce new people to your products or services. There are a few different options when choosing how to advertise online. Considering these different choices can help you create a specific digital advertising plan that works for your company.

Pay per click (PPC) advertising
PPC refers to advertising on internet search engines or other websites. You pay a PPC service to have your ad appear when users search a certain keyword or phrase, or alongside related pages and content. Then you are charged each time someone clicks your ad. The ads normally appear under a heading, such as "Sponsored Links."

Cost per mille (CPM) advertising
You can also create digital advertisements that will be displayed on websites or social media channels. With CPM ads, also known as cost per impression (CPI) advertising, you pay a fee per thousand views your ad gets, whether or not the people who viewed your ad clicked on it.

Cost per action (CPA) advertising
With CPA advertising, also known as cost per conversion/acquisition, you can be certain that you get something in return for your money. That’s because you only pay when someone takes a specific action, such as signing up for your email list or buying your product.

Digital Marketing

Engaging with consumers online is a useful way to market your company and further your brand image. A website can be a central place for customers to interact with your business online. It can include valuable information and can give your business a noticeable online presence. In addition to this, email and review websites are other meaningful ways to connect with customers online. Email can further the relationship with previous customers while review sites can help bring new attention to your business.

Create a website
Having an online presence for your business can be important for maintaining current customers and attracting new ones. A website is a great and low-cost way to promote your business and track how many customers you’re reaching. Learn more about creating a website.

Connect by email
If you have an online presence, try communicating with your customers through email. Here are a few methods to get started.

  • In-store: Use a simple, printed template or point of sale (POS) device to collect customers’ email addresses. In exchange, they’ll get emails with special offers from your business. You can also take the eco-friendly route by offering to email or text customers their receipts.
  • Online: If customers are able to purchase your products through a website, give them the chance to sign up for emails from your business after checking out. In many cases, you can get more customers to sign up if you offer a discount code in exchange.

For some small businesses, frequent, ongoing emails can make customers aware of your product and remind them to shop with your business. To send regular emails, start by building an email calendar, with messages, topics and deals related to the season. Email topics may include details about special sales, contests, event invitations or reminders to connect on social media. Here are some tips for creating emails that are sure to get your customers’ attention:

  • Provide exciting content that speaks to your customers’ needs; this will encourage them to click.
  • Keep your email communications short, clear and well-organized. Your subject line should be short and catchy, and your email should end with a call to action that tells customers what you want them to do.
  • Use marketing apps and programs, such as Campaign Monitor, Aweber or MailChimp, to test how well your email campaigns are reaching customers, then adjust them as needed to make them more successful. You can determine if you want to track how many people opened the email, clicked a link or made a purchase. With online metrics, you can easily see how many consumers opened, clicked on or unsubscribed from your emails.
  • Send emails no more than a few times a month, and only send emails when there is important information to share. Too many emails can frustrate customers rather than attract them.
  • Protect yourself by speaking with an email marketing professional to make sure that your opt-in, use and unsubscribe practices comply with local laws.

Register on review sites
You can also reach new customers by creating a profile for your business on a variety of review sites, such as Angie’s List, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Facebook and more. Remember that your company profile should be easy for customers to find, and should cover your overall business and the main products or services you offer. Include your business website and links to social media if you have an online presence, and keep your business’s information up to date. If a review site allows photos, include them whenever possible. The more places your business appears, the easier it is for people to find you.

To stay competitive, you’ll want to seek online reviews that are positive, original and current. Use the opportunity to show that you respond quickly to reviews and comments and that you’re dedicated to making sure customers have a positive experience with your brand. New clientele will notice, and if done well, this can help build your reputation and make more people aware of your offerings.

Encourage current customers to review your business and your products. People you know who are fans of your business, and your social media friends and followers, are the perfect audience to ask for a quick review. When customers leave a review, remember to thank them for their feedback. Showing you’re thankful for your customers and keeping communications friendly can do a lot to build your reputation.

Print Advertising

Business cards
Creating and passing out business cards can help get your name out there and build your network. You can use business cards to connect with potential customers and to give out at events or your place of business. Your card should include your business’s name, address and contact information.

Newspapers
Newspaper ads can appear in national, local or community newspapers. If your goal is to attract local customers, then advertising in a neighborhood or small local newspaper is a great way to reach your target audience. The price of your print ad will depend greatly on the newspaper's popularity and the size of your ad.

Magazines
Magazine ads can appear in regional and national magazines. The price of magazine ads generally depends on the size of the publication and size of the ad itself.

Banners
Posters and banners are great advertising options for small businesses because they don’t cost much to make. These can be printed and hung at your place of business or around your community to promote your company or a specific product or service.

Flyers
Consider creating, printing and passing out flyers in your community as a way to promote your business. You can place them on windshields, insert them into newspapers or hand them out at local markets or businesses.

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Disclaimer: No Legal Advice Intended
This site provides general information related to creating and running a business. The content of this site is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal or tax advice or opinions. The contents of this site, and the viewing of the information on this site, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal or tax advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. No action should be taken in reliance on the information contained on this site, and Visa Inc. disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this site to the fullest extent permitted by law. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal or tax issue or problem, including those relating to your current or potential business.

The contents of this site have been developed for a U.S. audience.