Advertising: the basics


Advertising is an important component of your marketing strategy. The aim is to promote your business and communicate the information you want to send to your intended audience, usually with the aim of increasing sales or making your audience aware of your products or services.

Until a customer deals with you directly and actually buys your products or services, your advertising may help to form their first impressions of your business. Advertising can certainly attract new customers – but only if it’s done properly. Otherwise it can deter potential customers.

This guide gives advice on where and how to advertise, and what advertising can achieve. It also shows you how to manage the advertising process and ensure you get value for money.

How advertising can help your business

Advertising can be anything from your shop sign or a website, to an advertisement in a trade magazine or a 30-second radio slot.

Advertising can:

  • provide basic information such as your contact details and website address
  • increase sales by telling potential customers about your product or service
  • tell customers about changes to your service, new product launches and improvements
  • increase your short-term sales with a specific one-off message – informing people of a special offer or a particular benefit of your product
  • prompt specific action – perhaps getting customers to visit your premises or website, or use a discount voucher by a specified time
  • remind existing customers about your business
  • change people’s attitudes and perceptions of your business
  • help to create or develop a distinctive brand for your business to help you stand out from your competitors
  • make your business first choice for customers, ahead of your competitors
  • generate awareness of your business
  • develop a particular market niche or position

Advertising doesn’t always need to be about sales and marketing. You can also use it to:

  • recruit staff – a recruitment advertisement should also be a chance to promote your business
  • source suppliers and contractors – this also helps to position your business as active and expanding

Target your customers

Decide whether your target audience is local or regional, national or international, or a mixture. Remember that a local business might benefit from national advertising, particularly if it is looking to expand into new territories.

You can advertise in a wide range of different media. Using a media mix can help to reinforce the message or information you want to communicate.

Before selecting a particular type of media, you should find out from the media business and other independent sources about their circulation or audience figures and what the audience penetration, or ‘reach’, of their product is. Basically, you need to know how many, where and who to. Figures can normally be broken down into age groups, average income and other useful indicators.

Also remember you have a duty to ensure that your advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful. You can find information about advertising codes on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website.

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