Joe Johnson, Ph.D.
Entrepreneur. Investor. Startup Expert.

If you build it, they will come – right? Not exactly. Getting heard and seen as a new company will have its issues.

Unless you already have an established brand, a new product or service alone probably will have trouble getting heard and won’t draw the masses to your door. Marketing and advertising are necessary in order to inform your target audience about your amazing new doodad or service. Even a retail location with a giant “Grand Opening” banner can’t be relied upon to draw consistent traffic. You need more.

To draw attention to your startup, you must utilize advertising. Although it needn’t be a thirty-second spot in prime time, you’ll want to ensure that the message you’re crafting will be heard by the right people at the right time and in the right way.

So, what does that mean? Well, it’s complicated. Ultimately, how you approach advertising will depend on your industry and your target audience. Here are some points to keep in mind:

If a startup owner remembers that the sole purpose to business is service, there will be no problem getting heard.

The Goal of Advertising; Getting Heard

Yes, the primary goal of advertising is selling, but, beyond that, it’s about making a connection.

First, your message should highlight your customers’ needs and then, share your solutions. Everything with your company’s name on it must be consistent in message and representative of your organization’s values and goals. You also want to draw new customers to your product or service and retain old ones. So, how do you achieve this? Well, to begin with, you need to answer one question:

Who Are You?

Before you can decide how you’re going to market your products and services, you must have a thoroughly cohesive understanding of your business. What is your brand? How do you engage with your customers or clients? What tone do you use?

If you’re planning on hiring someone else to figure this out for you, that’s fine. However, you still need a general idea of how you want your company to be presented. If you’re planning on doing everything yourself, there’s a lot of good information out there to help you get started. There’s also a steep learning curve to negotiate, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice on the road to understanding and sharing your brand.

For more information about brand voice, take a few minutes to peruse these two articles:

A Simple Tool to Guide Tone of Voice
4 Steps to Finding Your Brand’s Voice

While both articles were intended to help users of their respective sites, they also reach a larger audience by virtue of being freely available. Not only are they about brand voice and marketing, they are marketing done in a brand voice. They demonstrate that each site cares about its audience and is willing to share tips to help them on their business journeys. That seems like effective marketing to me.

Now, let’s talk about where you’ll be advertising.

Physical or Digital?

There are numerous ways to getting heard or seen, but not every method is right for every business or every customer. If you’re selling luxury goods, a photo of a yacht on a shopping cart probably won’t bring you any new leads.

Physical and print advertising is large in scope. Popular items include business cards, brochures, sell sheets, flyers, mailers, coupons, and more. Other non-digital advertising methods include billboards, bus stop posters, shopping cart signs, newspaper and magazine ads, and radio and television spots. These days, there are even ads on the backs of some register receipts.

Digital marketing is also wide in scope. It includes websites, search engine optimization, social media, pay-per-click campaigns, content marketing, and more. Digital marketing is increasingly important as many consumers search for and vet businesses online.

Many businesses require a mix of both physical and digital advertising. Quality information about your target audience can aid you in making the determination of which ads are right for your business. There are some selections, however, that are useful for everyone. A website is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Currently, only about half of small businesses have a website – a figure that represents a lot of lost leads.

DIY, Hire Staff, or Outsource?

Once you’ve decided on the sort of marketing you want to do, you’ll need to determine how best to accomplish it. Will you be doing everything yourself, hiring staff to handle it, or outsourcing to a freelancer or agency?


If you’re determined to handle it yourself, be prepared to navigate a significant learning curve. Marketing isn’t simply a matter of words on paper. It’s about crafting a message to which potential customers and clients will respond in a desired fashion. You’ll need to focus not solely on the words in that message, but on how they’re presented and when. Every aspect from graphics, font choice, and layout can have an effect on how your message is received.

For those going the DIY route, keep in mind that you’ll need a strategy to tie your various efforts together. Take a look at these articles for some inspiration:

The 6 Best Advertising Strategies For Small Business
4 DIY Marketing Tips for Empty-Wallet Entrepreneurs
Moz Academy: Inbound Marketing


Depending on your budget, you may consider hiring dedicated staff to fulfill your marketing requirements. The exact format this takes within your company, as well as the many related costs, will vary depending on the options you select.

Hiring a dedicated person (or team) to handle marketing is frequently one of the priciest options. These two articles should help get you started:

5 Tips for Hiring an All-Star Marketing Team
12 Marketing Job Descriptions to Recruit and Hire an All-Star Team

Getting heard first comes with many planning sessions and a few meeting to get your small business startup growing.


Outsourcing can be a less-expensive option, depending on the agency or freelancer you select. Just remember: more often than not, you get what you pay for.

These two articles will provide some insight into how you might proceed with an agency:

How to Hire an Advertising Agency
7 Tips For Hiring an Advertising Agency

Contracting a freelancer is another way to outsource your marketing needs. Many freelancers offer web-based services such as graphic design, web design, content creation, SEO, and more. For example, a freelancer might help you create a brochure that could be readily produced at your local print shop. Before you get started, however, you’ll need to be clear on your expectations.

Alternatively, you could create your own hybrid solution. One possibility is that you might hire someone to create your website, but write all of the content yourself. The possibilities are endless.

Prepare to Analyze and Reanalyze

How will you know if your campaign is successful?

If you’re working with an agency, they may provide some analytics for you. Many digital marketing agencies function on a retainer and aim to increase certain metrics like pageviews and conversions. In order to do this, they often participate in A/B testing to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

For physical advertising such as mailers and brochures, the inclusion of a unique coupon code will help you track which ones are driving traffic and which aren’t. With digital advertising, you can very easily determine the most effective keywords and learn exactly what people are viewing on your site, among many other metrics.

But don’t stop there. Once this information has provided you with some insight, you’ll want to use it to hone your next campaign and then re-analyze the results. After that? Do it again.

Advertising isn’t just another expense. It’s a necessary investment in and a commitment to the growth of your business. Make sure that the right people are hearing about you and what you can do for them – before you ever open your doors for business.

About the Author

Dr. Joe Johnson is an entrepreneur, investor, and startup expert. He is the founder and principal of GoodField Investments and the GoodField Foundation (

Joe has a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurial Leadership and an MBA. He is the author of the upcoming book on The Science of Why Most Entrepreneurs Fail and Some Succeed.

Most importantly, he is the incredibly blessed husband of one amazing wife and father of six wonderful children. He resides in Bradenton, Florida. For more information on Dr. Johnson and his work, go to