Startup Series: A Guide to Advertising Your Business


You need to look at your advertising in the same way that you look at other areas of your business - that is, set clear objectives and goals. Continuing our Startup Series, here's a guide to advertising your business:

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Questions to guide your advertising goals and plan

  • Are you aiming at a certain location? This will dictate the type of media and the type of presentation/communication that is used.
  • Or are you going for numbers i.e. quantity of leads generated by the advertising?
  • Are you zeroing in on specific age groups or income groups with your campaign?
  • How much are you going to spend? Deciding how much to spend on advertising means thinking about your costs and cash flow, as well as your intentions in the market.
  • One of the most important questions to ask is, 'What do you want to do in the market this year and in the longer term?' As you plan your spending to suit your goals, think about last year's budget, what you can afford to spend and your plans for expansion in the future.

Some businesses take a different approach and devote to advertising only what they can afford to lose. Although at first glance this policy may seem safe, it can lead to a waste of money because:

  • the amount is too small to make an impact in the marketplace
  • your expansion is so slow that competitors have time to outmanoeuvre you.

This approach leads to cutbacks in advertising when business declines - often with the result that sales only decline further.

When considering your budget, remember to cost the goods or services you intend to advertise to ensure you can make a profit on them. Remember, if you're not making a profit on those products, then the more you sell, the more money you're going to lose.

Recommended reading: 10 Low Cost But Effective Marketing Strategies for Startups

What type of advertising?

Once you have finalised your advertising goals and have settled on the budget, you then need to look at what type of advertising to use. Some people call this the promotional mix, which can include:

  • media advertising - which includes newspapers, magazines, television, Yellow Pages, billboards, radio, your local community papers and the internet
  • direct mail advertising - which includes letters, newsletters, brochures, fliers, inserts into newspapers or magazines and email.
  • digital advertising - which includes all of the new media online

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The type of media that you finally end up using can depend on your type of business as well as the audience you are trying to reach.

Develop an action plan

Once you have finalised the tools that you will be using for your promotion and are satisfied with the promotional mix, develop an action plan and a timetable. This plan is intended to set out the time schedule as well as what you intend to do, how you intend to do it, when you want to do it and who can do it.

Special promotions

Most advertising campaigns include provisions for special promotions throughout the year for occasions such as Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day and special sales. Include these in your action plan.

Advertising checklist

Once your advertising campaign is ready, use this checklist for a final review before you put it out in the market.


Does your advertisement have either a dominant illustration or a powerful headline to instantly telegraph your message and capture attention?


Is your advertisement designed to reproduce well in newspapers if this is the tool you're using?


Have you created a distinctive and recognisable format for your advertisement?


How do you sign your name, i.e. have you a logo that is easily recognisable?


Is your advertisement well organised and easy to follow?


Does your advertisement have a clean and uncluttered look?


Does the main illustration demonstrate a benefit or show the merchandise in use?


Is your main illustration big enough?


Does the advertisement have your contact details and any other information your potential clients may want to know?


Have you used simple and direct language with everyday words that are easily understood?


Are your prices clear and visible so that they are easy to find and easy to remember?

Monitor results

During and after the advertising campaign, measure and analyse what has been achieved and whether you are obtaining the maximum advantage from the cost involved. You can calculate whether sales have increased, whether your business image has improved, whether the marketing goals have been met and the feedback and reaction from clients.

Consider using an advertising expert

In the same way that you would regularly seek help from your accountant and solicitor, it can be helpful to obtain the services of someone with knowledge and experience in marketing and advertising. If you don't have time or lack expertise, ask for recommendations from other business owners for a good marketing/advertising person or company to use. 

Over to you now. What's your experience with deciding on advertising for your business? Tell us in the comments below. 

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