What is advertising?


Advertising is attempting to influence the buying behavior of your customers or clients by providing a persuasive selling message about your products and/or services.

In business the goal of advertising is to attract new customers by defining the target market and reaching out to them with an effective ad campaign.

Target Market

Establishing the target market is the critical first step in any advertising campaign – you need to know who your intended audience is before you can reach them. If your target audience is senior citizens, for example, an advertising medium such as Facebook is a poor choice. Similarly, Millennials are much less likely to read newspapers or use the Yellow Pages.

Defining the target market involves building a demographic profile of the prospective customer by taking into account criteria such as age, gender, marital status, lifestyles, shopping habits, etc.

It is also important to check out the level of competition for your product or service with your target audience as you may need to compete on price and/or service.

Common Advertising Methods

There are many different types of advertising that are typically used by small businesses:

  • Online marketing 
    • Local website advertising – Many municipalities and Chamber of Commerce chapters have websites that provide listings of local businesses.
    • Business web pages – Creating and maintaining a professional web site with clearly outlined descriptions of business offerings, optimized for search traffic.
    • Email – Requires a customer email list and adherence to anti-spam regulations. Email newsletters can be useful for keeping in touch with existing customers and passing on information about new products or services.
    • Facebook – Taking advantage of social media by creating a business Facebook page and using it to regularly promote products and services. A common advertising venue for businesses such as restaurants who use Facebook fan pages to promote new menu items or specials and to receive feedback from customers. There are also a number of available 3 for doing business on Facebook.
    • Twitter – Assuming the business has Twitter followers tweets can be used to send out short promotional messages.


  • Newspaper advertising – While on the decline (U.S. newspaper ad revenue dropped by over 50% between 2006 and 2015) newspaper ads can still be an effective way to reach customers. Many municipalities have special interest newspapers which can used by businesses for local advertising.
  • Yellow Pages – Usage of the printed pages is also in decline. However, there is an online version.
  • Direct mail – Can be very useful. Can be costly if sent via post, but even without a mailing list brochures, flyers, etc. can still be delivered directly to residences and/or businesses in targeted geographic areas. Unfortunately statistics show that nearly half of direct mail ads are unread by recipients and tossed away as “junk mail”.
  • Cable TV and radio – Cable companies often have local info channels that offer affordable advertising for small businesses.
  • Cold calling – By phone or in person can still be surprisingly effective. As an example, while on a call a service company can take the opportunity to visit neighboring residences/businesses and mention their services (or drop off flyers or brochures).  Phone solicitation is now illegal in Canada to numbers registered in the National Do Not Call List unless the business has an existing relationship to the customer.
  • Vehicle (wrap) advertising – Turning a vehicle into a “mobile billboard” is an excellent way to maximize business exposure. Vehicle ads are eye catching and in a major metro area can be seen over a million times a month.