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How Small Businesses Advertise in 2014


As a leader in digital and direct marketing, we’ve learned a thing or two about how and why small businesses advertise. We also know the value of going straight to the source, so recently we did just that in order to discover more about how small businesses are advertising in 2014. What we found out was pretty interesting, so we thought we’d share it with you and see if you relate.

The Decision Process

It may come as no surprise that advertising for a small business is a collaborative exercise rather than an autonomous activity. Nearly six in 10 small business owners and decision makers reported that they make advertising decisions with at least one other person, if not a team. It appears the think tank is more desirable for sound advertising decisions.

Do you have an advertising team to help make decisions for your business?

The Budget

More often than not, decision makers use internal benchmarks to guide advertising budgets. Things like the past year’s performance trump outside influences like the published industry trends and future outlook. Seems logical enough, right? But don’t forget the importance of competitive intelligence!

We were somewhat surprised to discover how commonly small businesses failed to establish a link between annual revenue projections and their advertising budget. They did not establish their budget as a percentage of revenue goals, choosing instead to use previous years or other factors as benchmarks for the next year.

This may be due to the fact the small business owners and decision makers consider their advertising budget to be flexible rather than fixed. Why? 39% of respondents stated they make adjustments throughout the year based on advertising performance and 33% stated they make adjustments in response to market conditions.

Do you look at advertising costs as flexible or a fixed investment you’ll make each year?

When They Advertise

It’s common knowledge that business fluctuates due to seasonality. Do you know what the big seasons for advertising are? It turns out for small businesses, it’s the second quarter, followed by the last three months of the year. Clearly, small businesses are attempting to ignite customer sales during critical times of the year.

More granularly, we discovered that “high ticket, low frequency” (HTLF) businesses have peak sales days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. However, “low ticket, high frequency” (LTHF) businesses have peak sales days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As you build a business plan, do you take into consideration when busy days typically happen?

The What

Finally, we wanted to know what channels small business owners pursue for their primary advertising. We discovered that most small businesses have repeatedly chosen digital, some form of event marketing and solo direct mail as their top forms of advertising. HTLF advertisers, with bigger budgets remember, tend to use more expensive magazine and event marketing channels. Meanwhile, LTHF advertisers chose more affordable and traditional channels such as cooperative direct mail and newspapers – where consumers often look for new ideas.

How does your small business compare? Keep an eye out for our findings related to small businesses and digital advertising!



Valpak, one of the leading direct marketing companies in North America, is owned and operated by Cox Target Media, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Media Group. With nearly 170 franchises throughout the United States and Canada, The Blue Envelope® delivers savings and value to nearly 40 million households each month.
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