Ever wonder how to get the biggest bang for your buck? Where’s the best place to spend your hard-earned dollars? With all of the claims out there, to whom should you listen? What really works? What will work for me? How can I measure the success of my investment? Will I really increase sales by advertising?

These questions come up any time you ask a client to spend money and move outside his or her comfort zone. For small businesses, we have to do more with less. We have to be effective in our spending, and we have to be strategic in our planning. There isn’t one plan that’ll work for everybody; we have to tailor the plan to the objectives and the mindset of the business owner.

I have a prospective client who builds portable ramps for the disabled. Its clients include accident victims, people who have had strokes and can no longer walk, the elderly who’ve lost mobility, and anybody else who needs assistance accessing a home or business. The potential customer list is extremely large. The owner wants to grow his business nationwide but doesn’t know how to go about spreading the message.

How would you get the word out to potential customers? What would you use? Yellow Pages? Television? Radio? Newspaper? Flyers? Inserts? The Internet? Search engine marketing? Websites? Craig’s List? EBay? Press releases? What would be an effective investment? How many wrong turns could you make if you guess wrong? How much would that cost you?

Before you determine where to spend your advertising dollars, you need a plan. A good way to start is to do a SWOT analysis. Examine your strengths, weakness, opportunities, and potential threats for your business as they relate to sales and marketing. Rank them in order of importance in each of the four categories. Identify your customers; are they B2B, B2C, or both? Determine where these customers spend their time. Decide how best to reach these groups. What methods or tactics would you use?

If you haven’t done so already, eliminate any Yellow Page display ads. Display ads are extremely costly and generally produce poor results. Sure people see them, but the reason a person goes to the Yellow Pages, is to find a phone number, they don’t shop in the Yellow Pages. Research has shown that many people throw away their Yellow Page books after they receive them. A bold listing in your selected categories is all you need in the Yellow Pages book. Take the balance of your YP budget and devote that towards other areas.

In the case of this potential client, the budget is small and we need to get the word out. We have considered Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and a website facelift and optimization. By purchasing the right keywords, we can cost effectively promote this business across the country or locally, providing that we make the web content relevant to the keywords and provide a lead capture tool within the website.

Another thing we can do is take advantage of free Internet listings. Even if it isn’t productive, it doesn’t cost you anything, and if it brings you any business, it has paid off. Make sure you have your business listed on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines. In most cases, these are free listings. Make sure that your website has relevant content and it has the right keywords built into it so customers can find you.

Utilize social media PR to get your message out where potential customers can see it. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are excellent tools for this purpose. Don’t neglect traditional PR as it still has merit and it’s cost effective if executed properly.

Look to cost effective flyers, newspaper inserts, brochures and door hangers (depending on local laws). You can also leave brochures under the windshield wiper blades of cars in the supermarket parking lots. Ask the store manager for permission before you do. Don’t neglect traditional marketing and advertising to bring your message directly to your potential customer.

If you have interest in increasing your reach, but you don’t have the expertise to do it yourself, contact a marketing professional to assist you. I’m available to assist you in your marketing efforts. If you need a consultation or a complete strategic marketing plan, feel free to call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, PR, social media, and lead generation strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and startup companies find their voice in an ever increasingly crowded market by do more with less($). Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the website www.fracicaenterprises.com.