Business Growth Series: A Beginner’s Guide To Offline Advertising For SMEs


In the early days of getting an SME off the ground it can be easy to forget about advertising altogether. The chances are that whatever your business revolves around is something that you feel a degree of passion about, and it’s only natural that you devote all of your time to honing, refining and providing the goods or services which you started the business to focus upon. Add to this the day to day firefighting of chasing invoices, updating accounts, dealing with enquires and the million and one other tasks which comprise running an SME and it’s easy to fall into the trap of supposing that a concerted advertising campaign is a luxury which only larger companies can afford. It is a trap, however, and one which could prove fatal for your business. Even the best and most well run enterprise in the world will run into trouble if not enough people get to hear about it, and that’s why it’s vital, at the earliest possible opportunity, to sit down and draw up a concerted and integrated advertising campaign. As the world of digital communication comes to dominate more and more business practices, it’s tempting to ignore offline advertising in favor of the online options available. We’ll examine those in depth elsewhere, but the truth is that offline advertising channels still have much to offer, particularly for SMEs with a limited budget. 

A Word on Printed Media

  This can cover anything from stickers and posters to larger banners and leaflets - offline printed media can be a truly effective form of advertising if done correctly. Firstly, make sure you find a good designer who you can trust. There are innumerate freelancer platforms which will allow you to sort through the talent. Hiring a designer needn't be expensive either - again freelancer platforms like PeoplePerHour and Upwork will allow you to find someone within your budget and who can work to your deadline. A word of advice; a clear brief goes an awful long way. Make sure they know what you want and you communicate it clearly. Copy should be proofed and the design should capture your branding and ethos.  

Leaflets and Flyers

  When it comes to the likes of leaflets, make sure that you do some market research before posting them through letterboxes. A thousand flyers offering children’s services posted in an area with a largely retired population, for example, will be a waste of time and money. It may sound obvious but trust us, we've seen many businesses fall into this trap. Ensure your message is clear and you create a call to action which will prompt potential customers into taking the next step. Once printed, leaflets could also be handed out at trade fairs and to customers in person, as well as being pinned to local notice boards and included in any produce which you deliver via the post.  

Business Cards

  Business cards may have a slightly old fashioned image, but they offer a direct and affordable route into the lives of your customers. The next time they need the service or goods which you provide, or meet someone else who does, the chances are that they’ll reach into their wallet or purse and pull out your card. Even in the age of smartphones and tablets, there are few online search methods which work as quickly as this. It’s vital that your card ties in with your brand and boasts the quality that will encourage custom, so, if possible, have it designed by a professional. If this is beyond your budget, try asking a graphic design student to create something for you in return for perhaps a small payment and the chance to hone their skills and build their portfolio. There also are online tools and websites which allow you to create your own business cards should that be more within the range of your budget: Moo and Zazzle offer DIY services.  

Utilise Local Media

  Advertise in local free sheets and on local radio stations and, if possible, come up with a reason for them to interview you. It could be something as simple as you or a member of staff taking part in a charity fund raising event or a particularly novel special offer or window display. Anything positive which provokes interest and gets your name out there will work as effective advertising for your business.  

Sponsoring An Event / Sports Team

  If there's a local even which is synchronous with your business, then step up to the plate and get your name on all their promotional material. The event will likely offer various levels of sponsorship and therefore varying degrees of exposure for your business. Check carefully what is included and ensure that the audience attending said event is the one you want to be targeting. Sponsoring a local team can also be  a great way to get your business's name known in the local community.  


  There are a number of different ways to advertise your business - but don't forget you shouldn't put your eggs in one basket and rely on this method of promotion alone. Another you should consider is marketing. Fortunately we've written a couple of handy guides to help which you can read here and here.