A lot of things about opening a business are difficult, but you never really realize how hard advertising new business is until you try it yourself. Don't get me wrong - there are many simple techniques for business advertising. The problem is that not all of them work. We live in a pretty small town, so we thought that we would do it in a pretty low-key way. I was opening a new restaurant downtown, and I figured that enough people would see it whenever passing by to scare up some customers. Just to be sure, we painted a big sign in front of the place, had a sort of grand opening ceremony, and even put up an ad in the newspaper.
The turnout, I am sad to say, was dismal. I knew that it would be an uphill battle to start a restaurant, but I didn't realize how bad it would be. For the first week or two, almost no one went in there. Then we got smart about business advertising.
Being smart about business advertisements doesn't always mean the same thing to different businesses. I have a cousin who is involved in business online, and he has to use some pretty sophisticated tricks. For him, it is all about maximizing Google hits and improving search results. He uses keyword lists, business articles, and links to popular websites as a way to promote his own business ventures. In my case, however, we do need to bother with that kind of high-tech business advertising. We are a local business, after all. People out here don't really use the Internet that much - at least for dining.
No, the key was to maximize outdoor exposure. That meant buying a billboard on the highway, first of all. We live pretty near to the interstate, so it baffles me how I never thought of this business advertising technique until I had been in business for a month. Oh well, live and learn as they say. That billboard definitely got a lot of customers from out of town into the restaurant, but we also wanted a local clientele. To do that, we invested in some snazzy neon signs. My brother is a designer, and he was able to hook me up with a good deal on business signs. We also handed out coupons at the local grocers, good for one free meal. Although we lost a little bit of money in the short term doing this, in the long term it got us a lot of repeat customers.
Graham Winmill has written a series of articles about Business Advertising. Find further information on this subject at Business Consultants and Business Review Books