Traditional media vs. online marketing. Direct market flyers vs. tweets and blogs. Brochures vs. websites. Does someone starting a new business need to do address all of these options in the overall marketing plan? How much time will it take to engage all of these options? How much will it cost? Where should you start? The answers to most of these questions begin with a common sense approach and knowing what exactly it is that you’re wanting to achieve by developing a solid plan.

If you’re the local convenience store, its unlikely you’ll ever need a website or be concerned with online competition, being found under the right keywords or need to hire an SEO (“Search Engine Optimization”) company.

However, if your small business needs to reach beyond its local community for customers to survive, then local signage, flyers and community newspapers may not drive enough traffic. So, just like every other component of your business plan, knowing the options is key to making good decisions.

Newspaper advertising, has lost a lot of its profitability because the internet has taken a lot of their core advertising away and this can be to the advantage of a start-up business. If you determine that newspaper might work based on a cost per thousand people basis, you can now get better deals than ever before. Newspapers are getting more and more creative about their advertising offerings, so when you’re ready, contact the paper’s ad salesperson to learn about their current packages.

By purchasing the right media that targets your customer, you significantly increase your opportunity to reach your sales goals. But target is the key word.

The internet offers many opportunities. Consider how you found this article for example. You may have arrived here through our website, an online magazine, a specific search you initiated through Google, one of our online ad campaigns, a referral through facebook… the list goes on and on.

These articles and our products were specifically designed for the internet and promoted through a myriad of online initiatives with the very specific efforts of an expert SEO organization. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, the various search engines, and all of the other online tools each have their own purpose and an opportunity to reach millions of people - but you have to apply the same logic used in selecting the right radio or tv station. Define and find the demographic that you are trying to reach. Discuss the goals and targets of your small business with an SEO company in the same way you would communicate with an ad agency. The internet is not just about having a website anymore. Being effective and profitable online can mean having a complete online presence that takes time to establish, and is supported by traditional forms of advertising.

The promotional materials that you hand out such as brochures or that which you deliver by mail or by other means, are also an important reflection of your business. The image and the professionalism of that product can go a long way, and if someone is searching for a product such as a home or new electronics, they might hold on to that brochure until they buy.

Direct mail and flyers. Small businesses like a local repair shop or a coffee shop or restaurant, can get a lot of mileage out of this method where the postal authority will deliver your announcement to a very specific group of streets in your neighbourhood. This can be very effective if targeted properly because you are paying only for the local buyer, as opposed to a newspaper where you pay for the whole city.

Customer Service and referrals also falls under marketing because if you do a poor job in customer service, you’re going to have to spend a lot more on marketing, since you'll be paying to reach a first-time customer every time. You've heard the saying, “A happy person tells two or three people and a disappointed person tells hundreds.” With today’s social media, an unhappy customer can tell thousands – within minutes.

To win the battle, put your mind in the buyer's place and think it through. What do they need to hear to be convinced to buy your products and how will your business meet their expectations right from the start?

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