So uh...how do you advertise?

Background: My friend and I have been running a legit (read: tax paying LLC) business for 5 years now. Our general description is “Web design and Web-based software.” We have some very large accounts, some small ones, and we do hosting.

In this 5 years we have also been developing a web-based software program. We’ve actually done about $100k in sales with it with a $0 advertising budget and have quite a good number of clients using it. We’ve just been posting blurbs on script sites and people find us. Actually, about 50% of our customer base has been from Europe, for no particular reason we can see.

Finally we’re on v7 of the software, have changed the entire look and feel, put a bazillion hours into fixing bugs and greatly improving performance and usability and now have a seriously kickass product to sell.

The software is one such that any business or organization can benefit from it (we have levels of service for different sized organizations.) So we don’t have a really specific market other than “people who need to reach other people.”

Half of the folks that buy it are IT guys, and the other half just a representative from some small business (or the owner) that is going to be the main person using it.

Problem is, we’re really just a coupla programmers. We need to ADVERTISE and right now we’re just winging it. I need some advice.

So far we have a nice Web site that had ads and features and online sales and realtime chat.

We’ve done Google AdWords (still feeling that one out).

We’re looking in to buying ads on “developer networks” like Aspalliance.com and internet.com, and premium sponsorships on above-mentioned script engines. But like I said above, anyone is our target - not just Web developers or IT personnel.

We’ve also looked in to using local resources - we’re a member of the large NE Ohio small business organization - and doing press releases and general blurbs about us to establish us in the “community” and get some free exposure. And also paid direct marketing opportunities with them.

We are still working up a budget. Funds are limited yet paying for advertising is completely necessary, so we’re willing to pay whatever will make us some money.

I’m looking for all the help and wisdom I can get right now. Good books, good websites, useful personal anecdotes. Heck, even emails from Dopers who really need this “wonderfully priced, uber-functional product that no business or organization can do without!”

Help?

Just wondering: will more orders increase your business more than you can handle, or would it just be a matter of producing more copies of the established product?

Whatever you do, don’t do what a place just up the road from me did.

It’s a small new graphic-design shop advertising web design, signs, business cards, etc. On the way to the bus stop, I noticed the new sign and went over to the closed shop to investigate.

In the window were many colourful samples of their signs, but nowhere could I find:[ul][li]Hours of business.[]A web address.[]A phone number.[/ul] Since my first instinct upon seeing a web-design business is to check out their website, this was rather little frustrating.[/li]
I forgot about the place and went to invstigate the UPS Store down the road for my business cards.

Nope. It’s a pre-packaged product, ready to go out the door.

Reason we didn’t advertise before was that we didn’t have the time/means to support a ton of users. Now there’s hardly any more bugs (been in “beta testing” for 5 years now) and we DO have a sales/support guy.

So yeah, big sales can come rollin’ in if they will. And if they come in faster than we could ever possibly imagine, we’ll forego those beach houses in Aruba for another support person :slight_smile:

Don’t want to cross any lines here.

However I am a sales rep that works with computerselect.com you should check it out and if you think that might be the place for you we can chat. Otherwise feel free to ask me anything as I am an ad rep.

e-mail me at Carriec@selectpub.com
Barrels

(Advertising mogul hat /on)

The first thing you need to do is get rid of the idea that “anybody” is a target for your product. I seriously doubt that I am a target for your product. If you advertise to me, your money will be wasted.

What companies have bought your product already? What do they have in common? Size, type of business, employees that can be dedicated to using your product, people that want something decidedly different from your competitors?

Once you have worked out who IS using your product, you can decide whether that’s the audience you want to advertise to, or whether you want to expand beyond them.

How much can you spend on advertising? Can afford $2.6 million for a TV spot in the Super Bowl, or can you afford a few thousand dollars for an ad in a trade publication?

Do you have a business plan? If not, it’s a good time to develop one. You can ask the Small Business Administration or even your local chamber of commerce for help on how to do one.

Once you’ve figured out who you want to advertise to and how much you can afford to spend, then you can start searching for an advertising agency. Interview them the same way you’d interview for a new employee. Look for someone with some experience in reaching your target audience, and someone who will respect your budget and be willing to work within it.

(Advertising mogul hat /off)