Lead Generation

Advertising options

written by Tim Berry of Palo Alto Software https://www.paloalto.com


It’s amazing to consider how many different ways there are for you to advertise your product or service. We can only scratch the surface in this discussion. For more promotional and advertising ideas check out Jay Conrad Levinson’s series of books including “The Guerilla Marketing Handbook” and “Guerilla Marketing Online.”

The Internet

Online advertising includes pay-per-click listings, email campaigns, banner ads, affiliate marketing, and what seems like a new form of advertising every week. The targeting capabilities of the Internet, combined with its affordability, makes it a powerful marketing resource. People are even turning to search engines, instead of phone books, to find local resources. If you aren’t already advertising on the Internet, you are missing an enormous number of potential customers.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is an industry itself, one of the bastions of old-fashioned hard selling. Direct mail is the junk mail envelope with printed brochures and order forms, asking you to call a toll-free number and order something. It is also the coupons and catalogs in your mailbox. It has fallen from favor recently, and to some extent, been replaced by the Internet, but the postal bulk rates are still there and some companies still swear by direct mail.

Direct mail response rates have fallen in recent years, often producing results below one percent. But targeted direct mail, which goes only to highly qualified prospects, and catches their attention with a call to action, can be one of your most effective marketing tools.


In many businesses, the sign outside the door is a vital part of communication with your customers. A retail store, restaurant, coffee shop, tire store or whatever, the sign says who you are, and in many cases what you sell and how you’ve positioned yourself. For walk-in businesses, signage can be vital.

Yellow Pages and Directory Listings
The telephone directory is probably the first and most important advertising program for a majority of local businesses looking for local customers. Are you a retail business? Do you have your ad in the yellow pages?

Articles and Columns

The best columns and articles are free, and nothing has greater credibility than coverage in magazines, newspapers, radio, or television. Sometimes public relations can help.


Demonstrations work best when crowds are already gathered, such as at a trade show. Have you ever seen the airplane toys flying around a toy store? A video of the product in use? One of the biggest uses of demos these days is in the software market. The Internet has made demo software an excellent tool for selling software.


A regular newsletter keeps your company name in front of your customers, or potential customers, and can be an excellent fit to stimulate repeat purchases and customer loyalty.

Newspaper Advertisement

Newspaper ads are the mainstay for advertising by local retailers and local services. The Wednesday paper is normally full of grocery ads, and weekend papers are full of ads for consumer electronics. There are also newspaper classified ads. Newspapers are a key medium for time-sensitive local advertising.

Personal Letters

Some companies still advertise via personal letters (a variation on direct mail), but this is rarer every day. Select and high-ticket items may justify this approach.

Classified Advertisements

The classifieds are not just your first advertising experience, and the marketplace for used cars, houses, and apartments; some companies use classifieds as an important part of their marketing mix.

Consider the classifieds in Inc. Magazine, Business Week, Sunset, or USA Today; these are major marketing opportunities for certain kinds of specialty products and services.

The local newspaper’s classifieds are one of the best places to advertise services such as hauling, painting, and gardening.

Coupons in Newspapers, Magazines, and on Receipts

Are you looking to get customers in the door? Coupons can generate local business and new customers. Offers an attractive deal to get customers in the door once, and gives them reasons to come back. An effective technique for years and years, and for the right kinds of businesses, it still works. A significant advantage of coupons is the tracking they offer, with each coupon dated and identified by the source.

Trade Shows

Trade shows are vital in some industries. Buyers and sellers get together in one place, the sellers put up booths, and the buyers wander the floor. A trade show can be the best place to introduce a new product, and line up distribution, and impress potential buyers:

Event Marketing can be huge for certain kinds of businesses.


Not for everybody, billboard advertisements are usually extremely local (a motel, restaurant, or event at the next exit) or for cigarettes or liquor, whose advertising options are limited. The Yahoo! listing on billboards is a good place to look for more information.

Brochures and Circulars

Sales literature, brochures, circulars, and other so-called “collaterals” have their specific place in a marketing mix. This is a huge topic, a place where people spend their entire careers, yet others will design their own brochures on their computer. They are used mainly as informational supplements, a take-home sales accessory, rather than to generate new leads. People judge your company by the brochures, so unless you are very local and have specific information to pass on, like a price list, make sure they look very good.

For an Internet view, consider the following websites:

  • Desteo lets you search among thousands of already-published free travel brochures, and place online orders.
  • Auto Sales Literature lets you look at automobile brochures.


Design, print, and distribute your own catalog and, if you can get people to read it and buy from it, you have a powerful marketing tool. The mailing list is a critical component in the successful use of catalogs. Catalogs boomed in the 1980s and early 1990s, but a lot of the same effort is now going into the Internet. Yahoo! lists several online Catalog Directories.

With luck, hard work, a good product, and a marketing budget, you can also get your product into somebody else’s catalog.

One of our sample marketing plans, the Willamette Furniture plan, involves a company that enjoyed huge growth prospects after winning spots in office supply catalogs.

Most of these catalogs charge the manufacturers hefty fees for placing their products on the catalog pages. With the right audience and products, it can be a hit.

Direct-response Radio

You’ve heard these commercials, offering a product and a toll-free number to call. Repetition is critical here.

Direct-response Television

This is the venue of the so-called infomercials, which take 30 minutes or more to sell exercise machines and cosmetics. It also includes advertisements that urge you to call a telephone number to order a product, whether they are 30-minute infomercials or 30-second commercials. Here’s the Yahoo! search page.

Exhibits and Fairs

A relatively old-fashioned way to promote products and services, but still effective for some products in some targeted markets.

Free Samples

Free toothpaste in small packages, cosmetics, cheese and crackers, demo software. Free samples work as advertising, particularly at the point of sale.


Envelopes, boxes, and other packaging is vital for retail sales. Boxes make a difference to customer impressions, and many companies advertise on the outside of envelopes.

Magazine Advertisements

One of the stalwarts of advertising, magazine advertisements offer excellent audience targeting and a good medium for communicating a message.

Postcard Decks

These are common in the electronics industry. In theory, the target person receives a deck of complementary advertising cards in the mail and looks through them. The goal is to generate leads and sales by making it easy for the potential customer to order the product, receive a discount or request additional information by simply mailing back the postage paid reply card.

Radio Advertisements

Radio advertising is a strong and effective medium, vital to many businesses. As the world spends more time in cars and offices, it spends more time with radio, too. Again, frequency of exposure is critical to the customer receiving, retaining and acting on the message.

Seminars or Educational Settings

Be careful. You can’t turn seminars or educational events into sales or advertising mediums without risking serious backlash from some of the audience. Still, there are businesses that sponsor informational seminars that are based on exercise programs, investment strategies, child raising, and other topics, as part of their advertising strategy.

Statement Stuffers

Statement stuffers advertise products in small pieces that come with your telephone bill, credit card bill, cable bill, and other regular mail.


Telemarketing involves telephoning people to offer them products, services, or information about products or services. Telemarketers buy lists of phone numbers, and pay people to deliver their message. More and more, people view this as an invasion of their privacy, and increasing resistance to this approach is making it a less efficient promotional tool.


A 30-second spot on a national television show costs tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars for placement, in addition to the production costs of the ad. This equates to big money for a big audience.

Television advertising also includes fringe ads on late-night cable and daytime cable that cost a lot less, and be more targeted, than the major national airings.

Advertising Specialties

  • Pens and pencils
  • Pads of paper and sticky notes
  • Mouse pads
  • Magnets
  • Coffee mugs

Consider these more for branding and overall awareness than for generating sales leads. Specialty items like pens, calendars, and coffee cups are good for keeping your name in front of your customers, as a reminder.


Door-to-door selling? Good luck! The political advertisers and nonprofit fund raisers use it effectively, but has anybody seen a Fuller Brush man recently? One of the most famous door-to-door sales organizations in the U.S. has now become the Fuller Brush online catalog.

Amway was once famous for door-to-door selling. But just Google “Amway” and you’ll find dozens of anti-Amway site links. It doesn’t look encouraging, does it?

The cost of operations, and subsequent customer irritation combined with home security fears have made door-to-door an almost obsolete sales approach.

Fax Marketing

Faxes sent to lists of fax machines. Does anybody buy from these? A list of qualified and repeat buyers will be necessary to make this work.

Tim Berry

about the author

Tim Berry

Founder and President of Palo Alto Software and a renowned planning expert. He is listed in the index of "Fire in the Valley", by Swaine and Freiberger, the history of the personal computer industry. Tim contributes regularly to the bplans blog, the Huffingtonpost.com as well as his own blog, Planning, Startups, Stories. His full biography is available at www.timberry.com. Follow Tim onGoogle +


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