Section Five: Promotion

The Importance of Promotion

Advertising is essential to any business’ survival. With a very few exceptions, it is impossible to develop and maintain a healthy business without some form of advertising. Effective advertising is not a guarantee of success but the lack of it is a guarantee of failure.

Advertising should be treated as an investment not an expensive. Advertising is as important an investment in your business as is equipment, rent, and employees.

The new business also faces many challenges compared to existing businesses. Not only are you faced with having to attract customers, but also with the task of letting people know that you exist. Established businesses, through an established clientele base, are already known to potential customers. As a new business, you do not have this benefit. Therefore, it is essential that you consider some way of letting your potential customers know that you have opened!

All promotional efforts start with identifying your target market. Without knowing who your likely customers are, you cannot focus your promotional efforts on where customers are going to learn about your business. Without an identified target market, you will be taking a shotgun approach and wasting a lot of money in the process.

Your target market is a customer who is most likely to purchase from you. Your market research and knowledge of your business will be the important tools to help you determine who comprises your target market.

Some businesses have different target markets for the products and services they sell and, therefore, must tailor their advertising to meet those specific target groups.


The Four M Approach to Advertising and Promotion

There are many approaches to planning your promotional strategy. However, every strategy must cover four key elements: Market, Message, Method and Money.


The customer most likely to purchase from you is your target. Your market research will give you this information. Advertising must be directed towards your target market to be successful.

Click on Worksheet 4.9 (Word Document) to identify your market.


The better you know your target market, the easier it will be for you to develop the appropriate message to convey your thought or idea. Determining the right message to use involves some creativity. It is often at this stage that a “creative” advertising agency is retained to develop and design the right message to meet your objective.

The most important element of any message is to respond to the customer’s question: “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM). Every consumer is constantly evaluating all advertising materials to determine how the product or service will benefit them. Unless you clearly and simply portray the benefits of your product or service over against similar products or services offered, the consumer is not going to give your advertisement any attention.

There are two basic themes followed in developing advertising messages. One is institutional advertising and the other is promotional advertising.

Institutional advertising promotes the business name, reputation, commitment to service and quality, location and corporate good will. Usually, this form of advertising is critical in the start-up of a new business in order to establish its existence and name within potential customer’s minds. Therefore, frequently new business owners focus their advertising on grand opening announcements and other similar promotional efforts in order to gain public recognition. Promotional advertising is more focused and intended to create sales by bringing in potential customers. These ads are usually promoting some form of sale or special product to entice customers to make a purchase or to take some other form of action towards making a purchase.

Designing An Effective Message

The message you use will be determined by the advertising medium you select. Due to cost concerns, most new business owners will be using some form of print advertising – newspaper, magazine, flyer, or direct mail.

The following outline provides a guideline for writing and creating an effective ad. By completing Exercise II at the end of this module, you can practice designing your own advertisement.

Start With:

An Attention Getter

Headline or visual image for attention
A headline should explain the main benefit of your product/service
An illustration that visually captures customers’ attention by illustrating the product/service is helpful. Use pictures of people using and enjoying the product/service to attract more attention


Sub Headings

Sub headings are a useful means of guiding the reader’s eye and explaining important product/service benefits.

Customer Testimonials

the body of your ad or flyer proves to the customer that they should take the “action” requested by quoting past customers’ satisfaction.

Data to Support Benefits

The body of your ad addresses the readers’ WIIFM principle – What’s In It For Me? Use statistics, facts, figures, tables, and graphs to support your statements

End With:

Call to action

The flyer/ad must get the customer to act – phone call, come to store, etc.
Coupons, discounts, something free, quote, call today, limited time offer, etc. all help encourage immediate action

Always includes your business name, address (if appropriate) and telephone number

Design Considerations:

Keep It Simple & Short (KISS)

no more than 6 words to a line
lots of “White” space

Benefits of the product/service must be stressed NOT the features.

Click on Worksheet 4.10 (Word Document)  to complete an advertisement for your business.


Choosing the method or medium to promote your business is one of the key decisions affecting the amount of money you are going to spend on advertising. The choices are unlimited! Newspapers, radio, television, flyers … the list of the different methods available to promote your business goes on and on.

In this section we will explore some of the different methods you can use to promote your business and analyse their advantages and disadvantages. We will also take a look at money saving tips for distributing and printing flyers.


Forms of Promotional Methods

Print Media

Print media communicates with specific markets at relatively low costs. Often, newspapers will publish stories or news releases – particularly in smaller communities. Weekly papers are often looking for news of local interest. Unless your new business is unique or unusual, it may be difficult to interest a daily paper in your new business.

Newspapers (daily, weekly, neighbourhood, ethnic)
Magazines (national, regional, local, specialized, business, professional, trade, special interest)
Programs (sports, cultural, school)
Telephone Directories (white pages, peach pages, yellow pages)
Business Directories (specialized industry directories inform specific markets about your business).
Broadcast Media
Radio (local, regional, national, talk show)
Although local, regional, ethnic, and public interest television is often now a feasible option for most new small businesses; community cable television programmes and talk shows are useful for unique businesses with broad public appeal.
Business Cards

Your “calling card” can be left with associates and potential customers as a reminder of your business and as an easy way for them to contact you. Business cards should include your name and title, business name, slogan, logo, address, and phone number(s). If you can be reached at home make sure that number is on your card.

Outdoor Posters and Billboards

Full and directory-size billboards, bus and taxi cards, handbills, and lawn signs usually generate interest at a reasonable cost.

Specialized Media

Any form of unique promotion, such as sandwich boards or skywriting, is effective because of the surprise impact.

Direct Mail

Direct mail, which takes several forms, is a highly selective method for reaching a particular audience. Flyers can target the specific geographic area where your customers live, but generally only yield a 1% response rate. Letters can communicate a detailed message announcing a new product or service with great success. Unfortunately, people often apply the term “junk mail” to all forms of direct-mail programs, discarding it without ever reading it. Canada Post and the Canadian Direct Marketing Association are recommended for further information and seminars.

Point Of Sale Promotions

Point of sale promotions, which may take the form of a sign in the window or of a specialized display located at the sales desk, focus on impulse purchases.


Specialty advertising with a small value, such as matchbooks, pens, key rings, and so on, provides the potential customer with both an advertising reminder and a token gift.


Promotions also include any activity which convinces the consumer to purchase your product or service over your competitors’. They usually offer a benefit to the customer, such as discount coupons, contests, prizes, bonus products, or lower prices for extra quantity.

Word Of Mouth

The best and least expensive form of advertising is the message which your satisfied customers communicate for you. If there are pleased with your product or service they will tell their friends about your business. When customers have a positive experience in a business they share the information with ten or more people. Each of these people tell a few more of their friends and relatives. By encouraging your customers to tell everyone they know about your business you are actively broadening your potential customer base.

The best and least expensive way to guarantee the failure of your business is to make sure that your customers are not satisfied with your product or service. Consumers who have a negative experience share that with anyone who has time to listen. This includes anyone they come in contact with whether they know them or not. If the disgruntled customer know of anyone who might be in need of your product or service (your target market) they will make a point of sharing their experience with this person. The “trickle down” affect is even more effective with a negative experience than a positive one.

It is important that you recognize any concerns or questions which your customers have so that you can deal with any negative experiences. Do not be afraid to ask their opinion as to what they think about your business.


If you are in the service industry, or provide a product where your clientele base is relatively small, entertaining might be the best form of advertising for your. Entertainment might include everything from going out for coffee to taking a perspective or existing customer out to dinner.

Pro-active Networking

Make a list of all the people who you know. How many do you think you could come up with? Include all your family, friends, and acquaintances who live in your target market. Make sure you include all of your ‘worlds’, i.e. your relatives, community friends such as any clubs or organizations which you belong to or volunteer your time, church or religious contacts, people who belong to the same ethnic group, people you went to high school with, your children’s friends, and your former employers and co-workers. Once you have completed this list you will be surprised how many people you know. Numerous individuals can list over a thousand people on a first name basis.

You must remember that not all of these people will be in your target market. The key to remember is that each of these individuals also know a large number of people, some of who you will not know. Therefore, it is important that you spread the work that you are now in business. Do not be shy about telling people. Many of these people may need your service or product and never call you because of the simple reason they did not know you were in business. Remember the old saying, “It is not what you know, but who you know!!!”. Everywhere you go make it a habit to tell everyone about your new endeavour.

Click on Worksheet 4.11 (Word Document)  to identify the methods of advertising that are best for your business.



The final step in your advertising and promotional strategy is to determine the amount of money it will cost.

Most business owners may start planning with a pre-set budget. However, if we are to truly treat advertising as an investment, it is better to establish the best forms of advertising and then determine what the cost. We can then factor these expenses into cash flow forecast and start up finance requirements.

In determining how much your advertising and marketing plan will cost you will have to investigate printing costs and advertising rates. Most printers and newspapers, radios and televisions stations are extremely pleased to provide you with quotes on their prices. Alternatively, advertising rates or major radio, newspaper and television stations are contained in the Canadian Advertising Rate Directory (CARD) in your local library.

It is important to consider the size and frequency (number of times) that you will be using each of the methods you have identified. This will certainly affect the amount of money that you will need to budget for advertising expenses.

Click on Worksheet 4.12 (Word Document)  to complete the Four M advertising and marketing planner for your business.