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Ten Keys to Small-Business Creative Advertising

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Owners and managers of small businesses are always searching for effective creative advertising that will attract new and existing customers and increase profitability. How can small-business decision-makers come up with effective ads without spending all their children’s inheritances — especially if creativity has never been a strong family trait?

Expand your creativity

Psychologists and educators used to believe that either you were born with creativity or you weren’t, but nowadays they’ve learned that you can expand your ability to be creative, to come up with innovative, effective ideas. Sites such as Mind Tools offer techniques for developing creativity. Here are just four:

  • Escape to the future. Spend some time imagining a distant future. If you think only of yesterday, today, or even next year, you’re just processing what “is, not what “is possible.” If you imagine life 50 or 100 years from now, you’re in uncharted territory. Your ideas will be entirely your own, and that creativity will transfer into your approach to advertising your small business.

  • Practice metaphorical thinking. Compare the product or service you’re advertising to something completely different. If you’re selling cars in your ads, for example, think of the car as the heart of the family. Where does that image take you? The “surprise” that results from that unusual linking will make customers remember the ad.

You probably thought you’d left the term “metaphor” at the door of your last English course, but here it is again. A metaphor is a term used to label the action of referring to an object as something entirely different. For example, “time is money” is a metaphor.

  • Take a break. Believe it or not, a change of scenery or an adventure can open up new ways of things. Don’t feel guilty when you take breaks; they are powerful tools for opening your mind to new ideas.

  • Brainstorm. Either on your own or in a group, list ideas on a piece of paper, whiteboard or computer without criticizing those ideas. This brainstorming can produce some off-the-wall ideas that you may want to toss out or develop into a phenomenal Super Bowl-worthy ad for your business.

When you begin with a creative mind, your path to innovative advertising is much smoother, especially when you use the following nine remaining keys.

Grab the customers’ attention

Does your advertising get customers’ attention? The most obvious way is through the eye, visually — a beautiful woman, an adorable animal, a totally off-the-wall scenario, like Salvador Dali’s wilting watches, or an unexpected twist that surprises viewers.

If your advertising is just like your competitors', don’t be surprised if viewers are confused or bored.

Arouse emotions

Will viewers have an emotional reaction to your advertising? Sympathy, desire, surprise, and even fear are just a few emotional reactions resulting from effective advertising. Sometimes the viewers’ aroused emotion is simply relief that they have at long last found a solution to their persistent problem.

Appeal to new and existing customers

Will your ad draw customers to your small business? Creative advertising demands that you know your customers and the new ones you want to attract. With that knowledge, look at your ad through the eyes of customers and make sure that they will be drawn to your small business and its products or services.

Create memories

Will customers remember your advertising or immediately forget it? Creative advertising is effective when customers remember the advertisement long after they first experience it. How long? Long enough to get them to the point of taking action.

Aim for brand identity recognition

Will your advertising clearly identify your small business? You don’t want viewers to remember the ad but forget (or not even notice) the company offering the product or service. Make certain that the brand is prominent in the ad.

“Never say never” applies to creative advertising. For several weeks, a small business ran a series of creative ads that caught viewers’ attention but didn’t identify the company. The ads kept viewers wondering what company would leave its name out of their ads. The revelation came during the halftime of a Super Bowl game. Some customers remember the company and its nameless ads better than they remember who won the sports event.

Present the benefits of your product or service

Will your viewers know what they’ll gain by purchasing your product or using your service? Do you know the benefits? Your ad is the vehicle for sharing that information or for drawing customers to sites where they can learn more.

Keep the advertising simple

Is your advertising clear and simple? It’s effective when the customer “gets” your message and is not overstimulated or inundated with too much information.

Generate the sought-after response

Will your advertising change attitudes? Create desire? Establish a preference? If your ad is on-target, customers will know what the advertising is asking of them and be willing — even eager — to act.

Make sure your small business fulfills its advertising promises

Promises, promises, promises. Does your advertising include promises? Make certain that the promises in your advertising are valid. Nothing will hurt your small business more than unfulfilled or misleading advertising.

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