Advertising is hard--REALLY hard, and, unfortunately, the only way to figure out what works for your business is to try different methods. When I first opened my store, I would lug my wares around and set them up at events to try and recreate a micro-version of my gift shop. These displays produced a lot of "oohs and aahs" on the spot, but they didn't do much in the way of bringing people to the actual store. Once the event was over, me and my beautiful shop weren't even a distant memory.
I also went the classic route of newspaper print advertising. Here, repetition is the key, so those with long-term commitment issues (like me) are going to squirm a bit. This is a relationship that you don't know is going to work out until you're well into it, having spent more time, energy, and money than you want to for an unsure thing. Admittedly I didn't have the stamina to give this a good go, so I did a few ads here and there without any real continuity. Wrong or not, when my uncle commented that he'd been doing a crossword puzzle for a week before he noticed the ad for my shop above it, I yanked all my print ads immediately.
Enter the television commercial. This one, I have to take full responsibility for its failure. I focused on the completely wrong products, and the commercial did essentially nothing to promote the gift shop. I still want to revisit this with a brand-new commercial because I do believe I had the right target audience to make this work. I'll probably roll this out next year.
What I have found from all of my experimenting, however, is that there is one advertising model that works 100% of the time--the glorious word of mouth. The problem with this method, however, is that you have to have the patience and funding to wait out the time it needs to take hold. As any small business owner will tell you, these are typically two things they do not have in abundance. Here's where YOU, yes YOU can help. There's a lot of chatter about shopping local, supporting small businesses, and how small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Well, it's time to really do something about promoting the small businesses you love--the ones owned by your family, friends, and neighbors. Does anyone remember the Faberge Organics Shampoo commercial? You know the one I mean:
"When I first tried Faberge Organics Shampoo with pure wheat germ oil and honey, it was so good I told two friends about it. And they told two friends. And so on, and so on…”
THAT'S what your small business owner needs from you--RIGHT NOW! So do it--it takes TWO SECONDS to tell a friend how much you love the coffee at Demitasse, the great stocking stuffers you got at The Toy Tree, the fabulous clothing you got at Fun Kids Consignments, that gorgeous dress you purchased at Sabrina Style, or the perfect gift you found at my shop, Wishing Well. You really do have the power to boost our economy, one comment at a time--Who's with me?!?