How much does advertising cost for a small business

We often get asked how much does advertising cost for a small business, and the reality is that it will depend on the platform you choose, your product, the market and who you partner up with, below we give you some indicators of cost and things to look out for.

Article Info

December 19, 2023 16 mins

What we will cover

How much does advertising cost for a small business per month?

We often get asked for a finger in the air idea of how much it costs to advertise, the reality is that it is different for every business, we have tiered our pricing model to bring clarity to digital advertising and set manageable caps for small business to manage their cashflow effectively.

If you are looking to start advertising, here’s a few tips to get you started.

What types of digital advertising are there?

When you explore all the placements and campaign types, there are hundreds of different types of digital advertising. The easiest way to understand it is to break it down into real-life digital advertising experiences and online interactions.

For example, a real-life example may be a digital billboard, an online example may be a Google Ad, and some even span both, like a QR code or Geolocated Ad on your phone.

As consumers, we seamlessly move between the real world and the digital one now, with big brands becoming smarter at merging or augmenting our experiences.

But most small businesses we talk to don’t have the budgets or tech knowhow to create these complex experiences, mostly choosing advertising within online interactions (Google or social ads for example), because they are relatively affordable and easily trackable so they can measure the effectiveness.

Real life Examples

  1. Digital Screens in Public Transport: Screens in buses, train stations and airports. Display ads are targeted at commuters and travellers who can’t escape them.
  2. Digital Signage in Retail Stores: Slightly different as they are brand specific, we are commonly seeing screens or displays within stores that promote products, offer information, or engage customers with interactive content.
  3. Interactive Kiosks: These kiosks placed in shopping centres offer interactive experiences with ads or information about products/services.
  4. Augmented Reality (AR) Ads: AR technology overlays digital content onto the real world. Advertisers can create AR experiences accessible through smartphones, allowing users to interact with ads in specific locations or through specialized apps.
  5. Projection Advertising: Projecting ads onto buildings, sidewalks, or other surfaces in high-traffic areas to capture attention.
  6. NFC/QR Code Advertising: Using Near Field Communication (NFC) or Quick Response (QR) codes in physical locations to engage customers with digital content or offers when they scan or tap with their smartphones.
  7. Bluetooth/Wi-Fi Beacon Advertising: Utilizing Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals to send targeted ads or promotions to nearby smartphones in specific locations, such as retail stores or events.
  8. Geo-fencing and Location-Based Ads: Sending targeted ads to users’ devices when they enter a specific geographical area, such as a particular city.

Online Interactions

  1. Search Engine / Text based Ads: We are all familiar with using a search engine, Google or Bing Ads are examples of paying for a text based advert.
  2. Image based Ads: An expansion of the above, images can be sized and uploaded to then be delivered to a network of websites with high traffic that keep defined spaces for Google to pop adverts in.
  3. Video Ads: Either a video version of the above, or videos that appear on common video viewing platforms like YouTube.
  4. Audio Ads: Old radio ads were very popular before the internet, now, the likes of Spotify merge the widespread appeal of audio ads with demographic information to make it more targeted.
  5. Social Media Ads: Depending on the platform it could be any of the above ad formats but held entirely within social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.
  6. App based Ads: Apps are now heavily used that they have their own ads within them, again this is commonly delivered by the app makers creating a banner area and the App stores selling the ad space.
  7. Metaverse Advertising: Like apps, we are now seeing such a rise in numbers of communities existing within popular games or digital events that they command their own advertising. With price pots now in the millions, online gaming is more popular and sponsored than some real sports.

Here’s a breakdown of what you might expect to pay for common types of advertising.

How much does TV advertising cost?

According to the cost is anywhere from £250 – £15,000 per 30 second advert, depending on small audience or niche timings up to ITV/Channel 4 at 6pm.

How much does radio advertising cost?

You can expect for a slot of 30 seconds to cost around £250 – £1000 per week, says workspace group.

How much does billboard advertising cost?

According to 75media, traditional billboards typically range from £200 to £2,000 per week, while digital billboards on average will cost £1,000 per week.

How much does Google advertising cost?

We have a range of clients spending from £300 – £10,000 a month. This is scaleable depending on the range of products/services, types of ad and demand for clicks. You can find out all about the various Google Ad types here.

How much does Social Media advertising cost?

It depends on the platform and advert type, again they are often scaleable like Google ads, starting from as little as a few pounds a day. According to the Guardian, over the course of 2019, the Trump campaign spent nearly $20m on more than 218,000 different Facebook ads.

What else is important to factor in when it comes to advertising?

It isn’t just the ad space you have to pay for. Whatever ad you choose, you have to fill it with your content, producing audio or video based ads will be more expensive than text based search adverts. And platforms like the TV will demand a higher production value than YouTube.

Obviously, your audience and the ad placement is the most important thing to get right, you don’t want to be selling sand at the beach, so getting to know your audience and honing the right message and placement is key.

As a small business you’re going to need to pick your placement well to meet your budget, but likely also going to need to resource a team of advertising socialists and content creators. More on how to do that later, first let’s just see why this should be a priority…

Why is advertising important?

When we think of advertising, there are two sides of the coin, we often come at it from either the idea of “our thing getting more sales” and the pound signs rattle over our eyes, this is a distraction from the other way that we look at it, which is that we all personally hate being sold to.

Advertising frequently uses psychological pressure (appealing to enhanced status and encouraging feelings of inadequacy) on the consumer. Over time advertising, both, as a term and the content, has come under huge social pressure and scrutiny leaving it as seen as a dirty word by some, remember, it has both built and broken global brands.

As a customer-centric marketing agency, we would advise that the more can you do to understand your audience, their needs and pains, the more you will be able to create a mutually beneficial buying experience.

If you value your customers and go above and beyond then you will create something unique and an experience worth paying a pretty penny for, a fair exchange for your increased wealth.

Where it becomes unethical is when the promise isn’t met and the customer only finds out about the poor service, quality, false promise, (insert scallywaggery here) after the transaction. Sadly there’s been enough of this behaviour in the advertising throughout history for us to be guarded about parting with our assets.

I personally feel that the positive news story should rise to the top on social media, the do-gooders should win the awards, the best companies should get the best clients, however, the world isn’t perfect and it is a very busy place.

The do-gooder can win the award, but they need to be able to be seen by someone to tell their story.

The positive news story can rise to the top, but it might need to be engaged with its social media community.

And the best company can get the best client if they position themselves in front of them.

The point is this, in all of the busyness, we might all might need to advertise sometimes.

What is the difference between marketing and advertising?

Marketing is about communicating the “why” of the brand, the value of the transaction and the wider impact it will have. Advertising is about reaching and informing (often persuading or worse) others of the above.

The lines between marketing and advertising are often blurred, in fact, when researching forms of digital advertising I saw loads of references to marketing activities. I was stunned, even the supposed experts on the subject are unsure.

Unsurprisingly, I hear lots of small businesses equally confused, mixing terms around digital advertising and marketing, and its not surpeing when search engines and social platforms try to disguise adverts around earned content.

Our article PPC vs SEO may be useful, and this will serve as a useful point of differentiation for this…

You can find organic search results or paid ones when you use Google, and as a business, you can get to the top of Google by choosing to create adverts or content.

In order to rank top organically though you need to think about what the searcher is looking for and answer their question. This involves empathy, care and an understanding of the value you bring.

In order to rank at the top with an ad, you only need a large wallet.

This is perceived by customers too, often a fraction of people will say they click the ads, but there’s still huge demand for advertising. Consider this perception when you create content, for example, your social media posts, are you engaging with those around you or pitching the same old sales message? Your engagement statistics will tell you…

How to create an effective advertising message

Creating a compelling advertising message begins with understanding your brand’s core values, and identity. To craft an impactful message, delve into what makes your brand unique—its core values, mission, and the promise it delivers to consumers.

By aligning your message with your brand’s ethos, you create authenticity that resonates with your audience and separates you from others when your potential customers are choosing between which ad to choose.

Making a great message involves not just knowing what your brand offers but understanding the emotions and aspirations of your audience, but again, only if the brand delivers on them.

Be sure to think about the next step in the journey before you start, the message must form the preamble to the landing page they are about to see.

And of course, be sure to highlight clearly what you want the user to do next with a clear Call To Action (CTA).

Running Adverts – Introducing Advertising Sprint Tests

Those in the IT industry will know all about the principles of agile project management. In a nutshell, agile development is a flexible, collaborative approach to change which focuses on lots of little tweaks (or iterations) as opposed to expensive and time consuming mega projects.

The agile paradigm has proved to be so successful in smart workplaces that it has expanded from software development into other areas, we have combined the principles of agile/lean marketing with established digital marketing testing processes (e.g. A/B testing) and a flexible, low cost advertising platform (i.e. Facebook).

When our customers want to try out a new product or service on their existing market or test the response of a new market segment they don’t want to be spending vast amounts of money in long-term advertising campaigns.

Our advertising sprint tests aim to save them time and money while collecting rich market data. We follow the six step process below (which can also be adapted to other types of project and marketing platforms).

  1. Define your Metrics

The first step is to decide what we want to measure. Based our customers’ goals we might choose to measure the number of page followers, post shares or revenue earned.

Of course, we’re looking for the metric of choice to improve after the test. The ultimate goal is to gauge the response of the target market to the promotion.

  1. Set your Sprint Time

So why do we call it ‘sprint testing?’ Just like a running race, we are not interested here in implementing a test for the long ‘marathon’ haul.

The flexibility and low cost of Facebook advertising allows us to run a test for a small amount of time, certainly no more than a month.

  1. Get Creative

We also need to pick our tests carefully. For this we bring together the team as a whole and come up with ideas about the types of Facebook ad campaigns that might deliver results.

Some of these ideas may be crazy (as you will understand when you meet the team!) but they all get recorded (even if it’s only so we can mock them later).

  1. Choose your Test

Next we need to prioritise the tests we are going to run. We tend to favour A/B tests and landing page tests but there are no hard and fast rules. What is important is that the tests we run first are those most likely to have a positive impact and cost the least amount of time and money.

A points system can be valuable here but intuition shouldn’t be ignored if a test really appeals to the team.

  1. Run and Analyse

Then we run the test, collect data from different sources and evaluate the results. Has the test led to a clear conclusion about market reaction?

Can we confidently tell our client that ad A is appealing to a certain segment they are targeting or do further tests need to be done?

  1. Repeat

After we’ve drained all of the juice out of the first test we go back to step 3 and repeat the process. We also reflect on the process itself to make sure we are serving our customers in the best way possible – that is gleaning the most information about the market for the least cost.

Advertising sprint tests are just one tool in our toolkit. Have a go, and if you think it all sounds a lot of hard work then here’s some tips to help you outsource.

Reasons to think outside of your team

It is natural for businesses to be hesitant when it comes to handing responsibility for critical business areas to outside parties.

However, there is a time in every business’s growth cycle where the core team have to expand beyond the confines of their own circle.

Building a relationship with a good advertising and marketing agency helps a business to focus the bulk of their time and money on improving their operational efficiency. For example, there are plenty of guides on how to increase efficiency, negotiate better deals, develop personnel, build processes and incentivise teams.

The role of the advertising agency is to tap into the unknown potential sitting outside the business.

Isn’t your team in the best position to advertise your products and services? For a small business, not usually. The right external advertising agency will act as an extension of your marketing team – but one offering many extra advantages:

A Fresh Perspective

An internal team can be too close to a product or service. Like a tree, a business needs not only healthy roots and trunk (for stability and sustenance) but also healthy leaves to breathe and capture sunlight. Finding the right, local advertising partner can bring bright new opportunities for expansion.

Dedicated Time

Let’s be honest. An internal marketing team is rarely allowed to focus solely on their job of researching markets and creating ad campaigns. Every extra task assigned to these personnel will dilute their effectiveness in their main role. In contrast, an agency will be working only on delivering successful campaigns that improve your bottom line.

Cost Effectiveness

A full service agency will bring multiple skills together under one roof. Rather than frittering away your budget on one-trick ponies, you can make sure every penny is spent solely on your campaigns.


Dedicated advertising agencies know the tools and techniques needed to measure campaign performance and report them in clear, plain language. Internal teams often track the wrong metrics or fail to measure results at all, driven mainly by belief and ‘group think.’

Experience and Connections

Although every advertising campaign is unique, an experienced advertising agency will have come across familiar challenges to the ones you are facing. Whether it’s tapping into a new market or selecting the right social media platform, a good agency will draw on past lessons to reduce the time spent on trial and error.

Experience also brings contacts and connections. An advertising agency will always have an expert on the end of a line who they can turn to for advice or support.

Herding freelancers?

It can be tempting to manage a team of freelancers, we’ve spoken to many small business owners over the years who do this, it can be more affordable but you may find that you don’t get a joined-up approach to marketing and advertising that an agency will bring.

Of course you will have to manage not only the strategy but the people, often leaving doubt that you are going about it the wrong way if it isn’t working. There is always the risk of freelancers disappearing, struggling to manage time effectively and there being no backup for holidays – not that we’re biased!

The Vu Tribe was born because of this very scenario, it’s a close relationship or numerous marketing and advertising activities for an affordable monthly fee.

So, how much does advertising cost for a small business?

So if we’ve established advertising is a good idea (not a capitalist monster), we’ve drawn the lines between marketing and advertising, highlighted how to craft a message and try ads as well as useful criteria for choosing an external partner.

Hopefully, we have helped with how much advertising costs for a small business, making the right decision when working with an advertising and marketing partner can bring your business the best of both worlds: a fresh and vibrant marketing strategy and lean, efficient business systems.

But in terms of spending, what should you be budgeting? We always advise that you do what you can afford, if you have a marketing or advertising campaign bringing in more business than it costs then scale it up.

Don’t be put off if the initial investment doesn’t quite do that, with digital marketing you can study the data and tweak campaigns over time.

We always advise businesses to investing 10% turnover on marketing, for advertising to be effective it should be at least that again.

If it isn’t bringing a return it is often down to needing to go back to the marketing drawing board to understand your audience and marketplace better than it is to throw some money at something and say “adwords don’t work”.

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