Advertising has been around since the days of the town crier. Today, advertising takes place over a wide range of media. Done properly with the right strategy in mind, advertising can be very effective in reaching a variety of consumers of different ages, socioeconomic status and geographical locations with the goal of driving sales of your products and ultimately increasing profits.

Knowing the different ways to advertise and how to use creative ways to promote a product can pay huge dividends in the long run and lead to a successful business.

While print may be a dying media due to the advent of the internet and declining sales, there will always be an audience that prefers the feel of a newspaper or a magazine in their hands over digital media. Do not ignore this group of consumers, who tend to be older professionals and consumers with more disposable income.

Community newspapers are great ways to advertise to local populations (and a great way to support local journalism).

Trade publications offer an effective way to reach a niche audience that needs very specific goods and services and their affiliations with trade organizations can be a great way to take advantage of their wide network of suppliers and vendors.

Direct Marketing Strategies

Sometimes one of the best ways to advertise is to go right to the target. Many businesses still use direct marketing tactics such as blind emails sent out to mass marketing lists, or pieces of mail sent out to a mailing list of prospective customers. In recent years, cellphone text messaging, online advertising, catalog distribution and contacting consumers directly by phone have all been tactics employed by businesses.

While many consumers find this way of marketing to be annoying, the advantage is that it’s easy to track results and can be effective. This type of advertising has been estimated to be responsible for billions of dollars in U.S. sales.

Guerilla Marketing Tactics

This is a different type of advertising that targets a captive audience and often tries to implement surprise or unconventional interactions with the public to create buzz about a product. It can be one of the most creative ways to promote a product. National Geographic created bus decals that look like shark jaws. When the bus doors opened, a person walking into or out of the bus appeared to be walking through a frightening pair of jaws. To advertise the hit show “The Sopranos,” HBO ran a campaign in New York City that featured a suited arm that appeared to be hanging out of the trunk of the city’s cabs.

Social Media Marketing

It’s impossible to ignore the reach of social media today. If you are a business owner, you are setting yourself up to fail if you are not including social media as one of your ways to advertise. As of 2017, some 2 billion folks – almost one in four people around the world – had a Facebook account. It’s been estimated that roughly 62% of people in the U.S. use Facebook.

Don't neglect Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms that allow you to reach millions of people with one simple post, tweet or photo. These can generate interest in your brand and allow you many creative ways to promote a product.

Self-Publish a Book

Are you an expert in your field? There’s nothing that screams “expert” like your photo and name front and center in bold type on the cover sleeve of a bestseller. It can be one of the most effective ways to advertise, as next thing you know, you’re being interviewed by Oprah and people want to know how to buy your product or service.

Think of people like Dale Carnegie, that made millions marketing his self-improvement skills in best-selling books. Suze Orman started her career with losing money as a restaurateur and later used the lessons she learned to become one of America’s most popular and most published financial advisors. These people sell books and services through the pull of their name and photo.

Publicity Stunts and Humor

Well-planned publicity stunts can be creative ways to promote a product by putting your name and business on the morning news and right in front of consumers who might want to buy your product or services. Virgin Atlantic Airlines founder Richard Branson, worth about $5 billion, is known for his adventurous publicity stunts, such as multiple attempts to cross oceans in a hot air balloon.

His stunts sometimes come close to tragedy but they won him worldwide popularity and brand recognition.

In the summer of 2018, Domino’s Pizza ran a less risky campaign when they donated money to U.S. cities to repair potholes. They did this by running a series of commercials featuring their efforts and stenciled their logo onto the finished surfaces along with their tagline: “Oh Yes, We Did.”

Sponsorships of Local Groups

Think of how much visibility can be gained from sponsoring your local Little League baseball team. Your name and logo can be printed on team uniforms and caps. Whenever the team goes out for pizza or ice cream to celebrate a victory, you get advertising in the form of walking billboards.

In addition to sports teams, your business could sponsor fairs, charitable events or professional trade conferences.

The idea is to get your business name splattered on as many surfaces as possible – think duffle bags, coffee mugs and other marketing materials - for as little of your own investment as possible.

Be careful with this form of advertising, however, as it can backfire. You want to make sure your brand fits the event you are sponsoring and that your effort, especially in the case of charitable events, is genuine.

Outdoor Advertising Methods

The old-school tactics employed in outdoor advertising are still very effective. Small businesses slap magnetic signs on the side of vehicles or cover them entirely with special advertising wrap. Flyers under windshield wipers can get the attention of many people in a parking lot quickly, as can door hangers on doorknobs. Billboards and signs on the sides of buses and trains grab the attention of captive audiences.

Online Content Marketing

Content marketing has in recent years gained popularity as the use of the internet and social media has grown.

It’s a different type of advertising that generates interest by creating and sharing valuable information, usually in the form of informative videos or emails sent out to consumers to help build brand loyalty and drive sales at a later date.

Think of a shoe company sharing important information about the proper shoe construction, or a tire company offering informative videos about proper vehicle maintenance and travel tips.

Virtual Business Showrooms

As internet commerce becomes more commonplace, many businesses are turning to virtual showrooms that can showcase their wares. Think of a furniture store that allows you to shop for a new sofa from the comfort of your computer – and will show it to you in different colors and placed in your living room with the click of a mouse. Automakers allow shoppers to “build” their vehicles without ever having to set foot in a dealership or speak with a salesman.