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How to advertise
Reading time: 8 minutes
Updated 29 January 2024

How to advertise your business?

Once you have finished the planning and design phase of your startup, in order to bring your winning idea into the spotlight, you need to promote it as best you can: that is, you need to advertise your enterprise. In this very regard, it is fitting to quote even now the words of Neil Patel, considered one of the world’s leading web influencers:

“In a startup, advertising is the primary means of conveying your message to the world. Without effective advertising, your startup risks obscurity.”

But how to advertise? And where to do it? These (and other) questions will be answered in the next few lines.


Paid advertising: the choices beyond PR

In addition to promoting your startup through PR Marketing activities, to get the word out about your products or services and find new customers, you also need to know how to best advertise yourself.

First of all, it is necessary to dispel some false myths on this subject: in the world of entrepreneurship, there are those who believe that advertising yourself is the “desperation move” to use when you are in a sales slump, while still others think that to advertise you must necessarily invest tens and tens of thousands of euros.

While the first belief has always been far from the truth, in the second case it should be clarified that perhaps once upon a time (i.e., when the only, or almost only, channels of promotion were radio and TV) this could be considered plausible. But no longer today. Today, in fact, there are many more channels for getting publicity, also and especially thanks to the Web.

One of the main advantages the Internet offers to those who want to advertise online is the ability to combine multiple strategies (without one undermining the results of another) and to acquire traffic in many different ways. Remember, however, that it is essential to use the right media to communicate with your target audiences.


Advertising on social media

For a startup that wants to publicize its brand and its products or services, the social networks are, by now, an indispensable channel because they offer the possibility of intercepting, at the same time, a very wide but also (if used in the right way) very specific audience. Not only that: social networks foster interactions and the creation of solid and lasting relationships with users.

You will not be surprised to learn that, to date, the most popular social networks include Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly known as Twitter) and TikTok. As already pointed out, choosing the right channel is crucial: the logic that should guide you is to think about where your potential customers are. Each social network, in fact, has its own target more or less defined (just think of the age difference between Facebook users and TikTok users), as well as, of course, peculiar characteristics.

Deciding which platforms to preside over is important, but knowing how best to use them is crucial: on social networks you can, for example, tell the behind-the-scenes story of your startup, new projects and all your other news, engaging users with the aim of creating a cohesive community around your brand.

Not among the social networks mentioned above is LinkedIn: this platform deserves a separate mention because it can prove extremely useful for your startup, as it allows you to analyze the behavior of your competitors, network with other professionals in your field, and potentially even find new investors interested in funding your business.


How to advertise on Google

Optimizing your site content from the perspective of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a great way to gain popularity by leveraging that of Google and other search engines on the web. If you want to announce the birth of your startup and make your products or services known to the widest possible audience in a short period of time, however, it may prove more useful to use (also) SEA (Search Engine Advertising).

Placing paid ads on the search engine allows you, in fact, to increase the visibility of your site on the search engine, increase qualified traffic to it and maximize conversions in a shorter time.

It is important for you to know that, on Google, advertisements must be clear and complete (that is, they must describe exactly what will be found within the linked page) and must contain the keyword and a Call-to-Action.


Traditional advertising vs Online advertising, which one to choose?

As we have already had occasion to point out, the Internet has exponentially multiplied the answers to the fateful question, “How to advertise a company?” Before delving into the main differences between traditional and online advertising, however, it is necessary to shed light on some general principles of advertising.

Linking to what was mentioned earlier for Google ads, you must keep in mind that an advertisement must always be clear and never generic. But not only that, an advertisement must always end with an offer, and the latter must have an expiration date. It is not necessary that the advertisement be particularly creative, but it is essential that it follow a precise communication strategy. Finally, wherever possible, advertising should be tracked (so that its results can be monitored).

Those stated above are general “rules” for advertising, but these rules can translate into practice in many different ways. It is now time to examine the main differences between traditional and online advertising.


From TV commercials to billboards all the pros and cons of traditional media

Until a few years ago, for a company to advertise essentially meant making flyers or buying space in traditional media, such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television, or movies. Let’s analyze the pros and cons of each option.

  • Direct Mail

For a locally based business, so-called “direct mail” (flyers and the like) is useful in effectively reaching the target audience. Often, however, the response rate is low. There is another disadvantage: this type of advertising can be considered unwanted.

  • Billboards

Billboard advertising can also have a very good impact at the local level because it allows the target audience to be reached quickly and inexpensively. Because of this, there is a lot of competition for the most prominent spaces, resulting in higher costs.

  • Newspapers

Placing an advertisement in a newspaper gives you access to a potentially very large audience with relative ease (the publication process is quick). You must also consider, however, that there is no possibility of control over the placement of the ad itself and that you have to “vie” for the reader’s attention with many other ads. In addition, advertising through newspapers has a short shelf life (like the newspapers themselves, which also have now increasingly low circulation).

  • Magazines

Thematic magazines allow for targeted advertising aimed at a specific target audience and, no doubt, have a longer shelf life than newspapers (they remain in circulation for weeks or even months). When compared to newspapers, however, magazines are more expensive and target a smaller audience.

  • Television

Television is a very popular tool with local, national or potentially global reach. Advertising through this media has great impact and is capable of adding great brand value. That said, however, it is also more expensive than other channels (in some cases, MUCH more expensive) both in terms of making the TV spot and acquiring the advertising space.

  • Radio

Radio is suitable for those who want to reach a targeted audience and can generate immediate sales. It should be considered, however, that to achieve good results, ads need to be broadcast frequently. In addition, again, costs can be high.

  • Cinema

Finally, a special mention among the traditional media on which it is possible to advertise should be reserved for cinema: commercials in theaters can be very striking and impactful, but they are inevitably aimed at a limited audience.


Digital media marketing: all that glitters is not gold!

Having concluded the overview of traditional advertising, it is now the turn to explore the advantages (and disadvantages) of Digital Media Marketing.

Let’s start with a clarification from a theoretical point of view: digital marketing makes it possible to achieve a wide variety of objectives through the tools and media that the Net offers today. The main differences from advertising carried out through traditional media are flexibility (both in terms of publication – much faster – and budget, not to mention the possibility of editing ads even after they have been published) and precision (new media offer sophisticated targeting methods to intercept the audience potentially most interested in viewing the ad).

Digital advertising spans different media formats, from text to images, audio to video, and takes advantage of different channels. In the next few lines we mention some of them, with their relative pros and cons.

  • DEM

Advertising emails (Direct Email Marketing) consist of e-mail messages sent to a more or less large list of contacts, with a frequency that varies depending on the objectives set.

Modern Email Marketing tools have now made it extremely easy to personalize these types of messages, as well as also to determine the response rate to emails. In this regard, keep in mind that DEM ads do not always reach the audience because they can be deleted or automatically moved to the spam box. Building the contact list also takes time (the alternative is to buy one, but it is an expensive and not always effective alternative).

  • Search engine advertising

Search ads are those shown on the search engine results page (the so-called SERP), usually in text form, above or next to organic (non-paid) results.
Paid search engine advertising only pays out the moment a user clicks on the ad but that this click happens and, more importantly, that the click actually translates into a purchase, however, is certainly not assured. Finding the most effective keywords around which to build the advertisement, moreover, can take a lot of testing.

  • Display advertising

Display ads are online ads in various formats that appear on websites, apps, and devices, within or alongside content.
These are advertisements that target specific interests that can attract the user’s attention. Another advantage is that, like search ads, display advertising pays only when a user clicks on the ad. The click-through rate, however, is lower than with search engine advertising. Not only that, users can also block display ads.

  • Social media advertising

Social media ads are those shown on social platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram or X (Twitter). It is a cheaper type of advertising than traditional advertising and is able to intercept even very specific audiences. A major disadvantage is that other posts and continuous updates on social pages can divert the user’s attention away from the ad, undermining its effectiveness.

  • Online video advertising

Online video ads are divided into out-stream (videos shown on sites, apps, and devices like display ads) and in-stream (ads shown before, during, or after another video content). Also worth mentioning, however, are so-called OTT or over-the-top ads (which are shown in streamed content).

Regarding video ads that are broadcast before, during, or after other content, you should consider that users often have the option of “skipping” the ads, without seeing them in full. There is one other aspect you need to consider: although these ads can be precisely customizable to users’ consumption habits, they can sometimes be unwanted because they interrupt (or delay) the content they are interested in.

  • Online audio advertising

Last (but not least) in this guide dedicated to those who want to know how to advertise a business are audio ads. Similarly to video ads (and with similar limitations to those just mentioned for the video format), audio ads can also be played before, during, and after online audio content (e.g., music or streaming podcasts).

Nicola Zanetti

Founder B-PlanNow® | Startup mentor | Startup consulting & marketing strategist | Leading startup to scaleup | Private angel investor | Ecommerce Manager | Professional trainer | Book writer

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