Business-to-consumer (B2C) advertising is when your business uses advertisements to persuade the general public to buy from you. Advertising to the public is daunting and if you try to talk to everyone it can be expensive. Big companies have multi-million pound advertising budgets to communicate with general consumers. Smaller companies are unlikely to have big budgets so they usually opt for a targeted campaign to ensure the advertising is cost effective.

Picking the right media

There are thousands of magazines, newspapers and websites aimed at the general public. They can provide a cost-effective advertising solution but you need to choose them carefully. If most of your customers live or work close to where your business is based, then a local campaign is all that is required. You might consider running an advertisement on your local radio station, although this can be expensive. Television advertising is also very expensive and calls for a lot of specialist help so is unlikely to be an option for smaller businesses.

Your strategy

You need to find your target market and identify your customer base. Look at who normally buys from you, or who is likely to want your products or services. Use this information to develop a picture of typical people in your target market. Perhaps they are families with small children on a high income?

Message – Use your analysis of your target market to develop a message that will motivate customers to buy from you. Customer satisfaction survey information and market research can help you get an understanding of their attitudes and values. Once you know why people buy from you, devise a central message that reflects that and use it throughout your advertising. It is advisable to test the message using market research or a focus group to be sure you've got it right.

Goals – Define the aims and objectives of your advertising campaign and set goals. These goals should be measurable so you can gauge the success of your campaign and update it if necessary.

Media audit – Shortlist the media your customers are likely to read or listen to. Speak to their advertising representatives and ask them to send you a full description of their customers. Assess whether or not publications or local radio stations are reaching your potential buyers.

Value for money – The cost of advertising space varies enormously. Assess the value for money that your preferred media options offer by calculating how much it would cost to reach 1,000 readers or listeners. This will help you compare your options.

Schedule – When you've decided which media you intend to use, draw up an advertising schedule. Map out who you are going to advertise with and when. It is unlikely that you can afford to advertise everywhere all the time so the schedule should reflect your business needs. When you book advertisements your media schedule will give you negotiating power with advertising sales people.