The Laws of Small Business Advertising Success

Businessman sitting at desk working on computer
••• Thomas Barwick/ Stone/ Getty Images

Small business advertising is a science and an art. Companies often miss the fundamentals of advertising. Regardless of the size of your business, an understanding of the laws of advertising can reap huge rewards.

My understanding of these fundamental laws came years ago when I had the privilege of working for one of the all-time advertising success stories; NordicTrack. NordicTrack's advertising was based on flawless execution of fundamentals.

According to Small Business Administration, 5% of an entrepreneur's gross sales should be budgeted for advertising. A 5% small business advertising budget can only help if you understand the laws of advertising.

1. Use One Message

A high response rate ad usually conveys a single message. NordicTrack's message of the "World's Best Aerobic Exerciser" was simple and compelling. Your small business advertising needs to quickly communicate its core message in 3 seconds or less. 

2. Add Credibility

It has become human nature to distrust advertising. Claims need to be real and credible. Roy H. Williams, best-selling author of the "Wizard of Ads" says, "Any claim made in your advertising which your customer does not perceive as the truth is a horrible waste of ad dollars."

NordicTrack added enormous credibility from a University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse research study, ranking the cross-country ski exerciser first in the areas of weight loss, body fat reduction, and cardiovascular fitness. 

3. Test Everything

Large businesses have a greater margin to waste capital and resources without testing advertising. Small businesses do not have the luxury. Use coupons, codes, and specials to measure the headline, timing, and placement of your ad. Test only one item at a time and one medium. Testing can be as simple as asking every customer for several weeks how they heard of your business.

4. Be Easy to Contact

Every single brochure, box, email and all company literature should have full contact information including: website and email address, phone and fax numbers, and company address. It seems simple but is forgotten by most companies. At NordicTrack, every box a ski machine went into had full contact information and the "World's Best Aerobic Exerciser" tagline. Be everywhere.

5. Match Ads to Target

Successful business advertising speaks to one target market only. At NordicTrack, the ads were tailored to each market. An ad in a medical publication preached the cardio-vascular benefits of cross-country skiing to heart patients. Ads in women's magazines discussed the weight-loss and calorie burn from cross-country skiing. Focus the message to the target group.

6. Create Curiosity

Successful business advertising does not sell a product or service. NordicTrack's ads sold the free video. Once a potential customer watched the video, they contacted the company for more information. The end result, millions of dollars of sales. Create ads that generate interest and make the customer want more information.

Having a poor response is not the medium's fault. Often the problem is the message. Small business advertising is not a quick fix solution to marketing your company. It takes planning, testing, and constant exposure to have an impact on your small business. Done correctly, small business advertising can be a winning strategy.