How to advertise my business

If you don’t have the money to hire an ad agency, here’s how to start creating your own ads?


Mostly paid searches or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on Google and other sites.


National and provincial.


Newspapers and magazines.


Each medium requires a different approach, and you will need to decide your objective at the outset of a campaign.

  • Are you targeting a trade or the public?
  • Is your market in a small geographic area, national or international?
  • Are you announcing a special offer or sale?
  • Are you soliciting enquiries (e.g. to send a brochure)?
  • Are you recruiting new employees?

These objectives will determine the tone and pace of your advertising content, and how detailed it is. Once you have your objective clear, you will be able to develop your ideas and write a compelling ad. Remember the classic advertising mnemonic ‘AIDA’:

  • Attention: It must stand out.
  • Interest: It must be relevant to the consumer.
  • Desire: It must make the customer want it.
  • Action: It must persuade the customer to act.

Online campaigns

Paid search campaigns are widely used by small and medium-sized businesses. For example, Google AdWords places ad copy above, below or to the side of any particular set of Google search results. In this way, companies can create their own advertising wherever they feel it will be most effective. For instance, a home improvement retailer could pay for ad space any time a search for ‘flooring’ is made.


It’s simple. You write a brief ad for your business using strong phrases and keywords. Whenever a customer searches Google for those words and phrases, your ad will appear along with a link to your website, and you are charged by Google for each customer that visits your site. 

  • Brevity is vital, as the whole message can be no longer than 95 characters (about two-thirds as long as a tweet). This is structured as 25 characters for the headline hyperlink, 35 characters for your two-line message, with your URL on the fourth line.
  • To stand out, it is important to choose phrases and words that will attract the customers most likely to do business with you. Because you pay per click, you want quality rather than quantity.
  • Offer a specific product or service, highlighting what is special about your offering. Repeat keywords if you can.
  • Always include a call to action, such as ‘buy’, ‘get’, ‘see’, ‘order’.
  • Ensure the URL takes the customer to the specific offering, not to your home page.

Below is how a Google AdWords advert will look. The one on the left is far stronger, as it tells you just why you should hire that plumber and offers the customer something extra. The third line calls the customer to action and again adds an incentive. The URL is also more useful for the customer.


Reliable plumber in Cork                                      Handyman for hire

I guarantee all work for one year                           Available for jobs in Cork only

Book online for 10% discount                               See details in website below                                   


Be aware that all search engines have strict guidelines on what they will and will not allow. Google, for example, does not allow exclamation marks, repeated words (e.g. ‘low, low prices’) or claims of being the ‘best’ or ‘No 1’ unless they can be verified.

Radio campaigns

The typical radio listener is working around the home or driving their car, so it can be a challenge to engage them.

It is best to start with the most important part of your message, like ‘Now on sale in Ireland for the first time, the famous Kiwi widget’. Introduce your business name, and don’t be afraid to repeat it, or the product name.

Keep your focus, and don’t spend your valuable 20 or 30 seconds giving a laundry list of products or services you have on offer. You will only be able to use 60-70 words in a 30-second ad.

A good technique for radio is to write for the eye as well as the ear. Try to entice your customer with the benefits of your service e.g. ‘sit back and enjoy a nice glass of wine and a movie, because our firm is looking after you with our ABC burglar alarm’.

Finish off with a call to action, either to phone or visit your premises or website. Read a phone number or address twice if you have time. Remember that you may have to include a disclaimer at the end, depending on the sector in which you operate.

Print campaigns

Of all print media, your business is most likely to want space in a national or local newspaper, or in trade magazines. Examine the adverts in previous issues of your preferred publication to get a sense of what works. Ask the publication for its guidelines and assistance if you need it.

Focus on a single, clear message you want your ad to relay. Use the headline, and the illustration or photograph, to grab the customer’s attention. Perhaps it’s time your business had a slogan? Work on it!

Keep your approach simple and tightly written. You know what your customers want, so use the space to tell them you can fulfil their needs. Always give your contact details, and social media links.

In trade magazines you can afford to give more detail about your product or service, and even allow a little jargon.

4 Action Points

  • Decide what you specifically want to advertise. It is important that you are focused.
  • Research the options between online, radio and print. Each medium has its advantages. Make sure you know what is best for your business.
  • Check out plenty of ad examples, including those of your competitors. There is inspiration to be found everywhere.
  • Come up with a slogan for your business. This is an essential part of getting your advertising strategy off and running.