12 Small Business Advertising Ideas You’ll Want to Use Over and Over

For many small business owners, the word “advertising” brings to mind billboards, radio ads, tv commercials, snail-mail flyers, and lots of dollar signs. In 2018, however, small business advertising ideas don’t have to involve a huge budget. The popularity of social media means that you can easily reach your target audience from the comfort of their computer of cell phone.

According to one recent survey, 11 new people join social media every minute. And more than 70% of North Americans use social media daily. If your business isn’t making the most of that captive audience, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity.

In addition to the impressive potential audiences, there are many advantages to social media marketing:

  • Relatively low barriers of entry: If you have a computer or cell phone, you can make social media accounts for your business. Advertising prices vary across different platforms, but when you compare the price of a Facebook ad to the price of a 30-second TV commercial or radio spot, it’s obvious which is more affordable, especially for a small business with a smaller advertising budget.
  • Easily customizable to your business: Social media is made to be customized. Incorporating your brand standards (including consistent fonts and colors) into your photos is a simple way to make sure that when customers see your content, they immediately know where it’s coming from, and are able to associate great content with your business.
  • Can be as simple or elaborate as you like: Whether you’re working on implementing a year-long, multi platform campaign or just want to place a few ads – social media can accommodate your content and advertising strategy. There are tons of small business advertising ideas out there, and it’s easy to build a strategy that works for your business by picking and choosing which advertising ideas will best connect with your target audience.
  • Targeting is easier than ever: With digital marketing, you have a lot of control over who sees your ads. Demographics based on age, gender, and location are only the tip of the iceberg. So you know that the ads and content you’ve worked so hard on are going to be seen by actual potential customers!

If you’re ready to start taking advantage of social media marketing, or if you’re struggling to come up with new and creative ways to advertise, read on to learn about our top 12 small business advertising ideas that you’ll want to use over and over again!Image courtesy of Curalate

  1. Make the Most of User-Generated Content: Sometimes the best advocates for your brand or business are your current patrons! Be sure to check the “Community” tab on your Facebook page and see what your customers are saying. Are they taking pictures of their favorite dish at your restaurant, or showing off the results of your skin-care products?

It’s time to share the love! Be sure to get permission from the person who posted the photo first. Then find creative ways to show it off, such as a collage of happy customers. Or like this women’s boutique did with a series of Sunday Shoutout posts to let their customers know they are loved and appreciated!

  1. Answer The Questions Your Audience is Asking: Do a quick search of your business online: what questions are people asking? An important thing to remember when brainstorming small business advertising ideas is that providing value to your audience creates loyal customers. And there’s no easier way to do this than to simply provide answers to your customers most frequently asked questions.

If one person is asking a question, it’s likely that others are as well. Yelp reviews, Amazon reviews, and Facebook are great places to check for questions. Write a list of the best questions. Then create simple, branded graphics to answer them and post on the appropriate social platforms.

  1. Put Those Reviews to Good Use: A social media page filled with rave reviews is great! And if you have one, good for you! But are you repurposing those reviews? You should be!

Studies show that more than 80% of customers read and trust online reviews when it comes to making purchases. Turn those hard-earned five star reviews into marketing materials that show off how happy your customers are! Pair your favorite product or location photos with your best reviews to create a simple, customized graphic that spreads the word about your stellar customer service and awesome events in a new, eye-catching format.Image courtesy of invesp

  1. Teach a Skill with Video: Let’s face it; the reigning content format for most social platforms is video. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Video is predicted to account for 80% of internet traffic by 2019. And 90% of viewers say that video content is a factor in their purchasing decisions. Take advantage of this knowledge and create video that provides value to your customers.

Live venue tours and product demos are always popular! But one of the best small business advertising ideas for video is to use it to teach a new skill. Chances are that the phone in your pocket already has the ability to take pretty great video. So grab an employee or a tripod, find a quiet place to film, and show what you know!

How-to videos or quick advice videos bring more eyes to your business, as well as establishing you as a source of knowledge in your industry. Which leads to trust, brand loyalty, and more sales.

  1. Contests Are a Win-Win in the World of Small Business Advertising Ideas: 

Running a sweepstakes orgiveaway contest is a great way to drive business to your social media platforms and website. The key to a successful contest is to make sure that it results in a win-win situation. The winner of the contest gets an awesome prize that turns them into a loyal customer and brand ambassador. And it generates audience growth for your business as well.

Even better, contests that ask your audience to take photos or leave reviews have the added bonus of generating content that you can continue to use in your advertising strategy in the future. A local Manhattan pizza restaurant did just that and used one of our small business advertising ideas with their Snap-a-Slice Instagram contest.

Instagram makes for a great platform for small business advertising ideas that involve contests. Because it is a visual format, it makes it easy to gauge audience interaction and response to your contest. You can also use hashtags to track the success of your giveaway and any user generated content that might be created in the process.

  1. Be a Guest Blogger: Establishing yourself as an expert in your industry is imperative to a successful marketing strategy. And guest blogging is one of our favorite small business advertising ideas because it allows you to spread that expertise to a wider audience than you might usually reach.

The trick to successful guest blogging is to partner with an individual or company that is complementary to yours, and not a competitor. A guest blog should be informative, have a unique voice, provide value to readers, and be accompanied by a call to action that drives traffic to your website and encourages sales revenue. It’s also important to share your guest blog on social platforms that have the largest audience. Don’t forget sites such as Pinterest and LinkedIn if the blog is appropriate for that audience.

  1. Re-capture Your Audience: Sometimes all your potential customers need to become current customers is a little reminder. Remarketing servicestarget users that have already interacted with your brand by visiting your website or clicking a link on a digital ad you have running. It’s a simple way to remind your an audience that has expressed interest in your content that you’re still around.The key to effective remarketing ads is consistent and recognizable branding across every platform and in all of your advertising materials. A great ad is one that your customers will know came from your business at a glance.


  1. Show Off Some Data:They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And when it comes to small business advertising ideas, an infographic can pack a serious punch. You’re an expert in your industry, and you probably have tons of data in your back pocket that could be valuable to your customers. Take advantage of all that know-how and create some infographics to use in your marketing strategy.

An infographic is a great way to show off that data because it highlights the important information and saves a reader the time and energy of sorting through tons of extra details to find the most important facts and figures.

Our attention spans are shorter than ever, so information that’s easy to digest and easy to share is becoming increasingly important. Studies show that 65% of people are visual learners, and infographics that share ideas, facts, and solutions are sure to stick in the minds of your audience better than more traditional advertising tactics.

  1. Incentivize Engagement:Everyone loves a giveaway! Whether you’re running a contest entirely online, or giving away swag at an event or in-store. The key to making giveaways an integral part of your advertising strategy is to make sure they’re beneficial to both parties.

If you’re running an online giveaway, ask for participants to enter the contest by submitting photos that you can continue to use in your marketing. And take the opportunity to gather contact information for those all important email lists. An in-person giveaway is also a great chance to capture pictures to use on social media. Be sure to designate a photographer and snap some shots of your giveaway winners posing with their prizes. Everybody wins!

  1. Create a Refer-a-Friend Program:Word of mouth is often the best advertising around. By channeling the enthusiasm of your current customers, your small business has the potential to increase it’s following and customer base exponentially. While many small business advertising ideas  revolve around creating and distributing content to your audience, a referral program puts your customers to work for you!

Refer a friend programs work well because consumers trust the point of view and opinion of their family and friends. By incentivizing that relationship, you create a cycle in which current customers are encouraged to spread the word about why they love your business, and they are rewarded for their loyalty.

Rewards for a referral program don’t have to be elaborate; it can be something as simple as a percentage off their next service or purchase. This also encourages return business from those customers. Make sharing simple for your customers by incorporating social media share buttons onto your website wherever necessary.

  1. Host an Event: Nothing creates a buzz around a business quite like an event. And with the emergence of social media it’s really easy to spread the word, build excitement, and gain a larger online audience from an in-person occasion. We create content for event pages and promote them for clients all the time. The key to success is to deploy digital tools to accomplish these tasks.

Create a Facebook event to share the details with your audience, and encourage them to share and invite their own circle of friends and family.A Snapchat filter that shows off your business and branding is an awesome way to encourage customers who attend your event to share their excitement. And hashtags on both Instagram and Twitter are useful in finding all the great photos and nice things people are saying about your event and your business. Be sure to tell your guests what hashtag to use!

  1. Give Back: It always feels great to give back to the community that your business operated in….and sometimes it’s good for your advertising strategy as well. There’s no shame in bragging about the good work your team is doing.

Whether it’s organizing a food drive, sponsoring a sports team, or running a charity 5K. Start talking about your volunteer project on social media ahead of time to drum up excitement and get your customer involved and invested.

Tag your charity partners in social posts to share the love, and consider guest blogging and collaboration to further engage with the audience you’ve collectively built.

5 smart ways to promote your business online

Imagine that you have an amazing product or offer a service. What value does it have if nobody knows about it? Not very much, isn’t it?Getting the word around about your business is not an easy task. Consumers have short attention spans, and the way they absorb information has undergone a face-lift. When you look around, what do you see? People staring at their smartphones, scrolling the screen at a rapid pace. That’s your potential customer. So, what are you going to do about it?

Digital Marketing is the advertisement of products and services through electronic media. Age old methods of product promotion just don’t cut it anymore. You simply cannot ignore the world wide web.

How can you use digital marketing to promote your business?

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan:

Before you venture into anything, you must have a proper outline drawn out about what you hope to achieve. Strategize and prioritize your business goals for optimum results. A clear vision and solid targets can work wonders in the business world.

  • Plan Your Budget
  • Plan Your Channel and Reach
  • Plan your Return on Investment (ROI)
  1. Identify your audience:

As a business owner, you should know why customers are coming to you. Online tools like Keyword planner, Google Analytics, and Search Console will give you crucial information about how people found your business. Facebook Insights and Ad Manager are tools in the social media world which will define the demographics of your consumers. By recognizing the reason that consumers seek your services, you are empowered to direct your attention towards marketing that particular feature.

  1. The big deal about SEO:

SEO is the “it” word in digital marketing. What is it exactly? SEO or Search Engine Optimization makes your business visible by bringing traffic to your website. These are various techniques applied to get good rankings on search engines.It is about understanding what your ideal customer wants. What is he searching for? What words would he use to make his search? Make it your business to know, and incorporate those keywords into your website content.With Search Engine Marketing, you can make sure that your website is on the first page of search results by paying. You will have to pay the search engine for every click you get for your website. This is a great way to stand out in the crowd.

  1. Much ado about content:

This is an important way to attract new customers and retain old ones. What your website says reflects who you are, and what you stand for. Content on your website should be engaging, interesting, narrative and human. Yes, content is the King! People are smart enough to spot when you are trying to over-sell and they do not appreciate it at all. Content should be reader-friendly yet professional. Blog posts, articles, e-books, and videos are good ways to get the message across. Hire a content creator who is an all-rounder and knows the pulse of your customer.

  1. Poke, tweet, snap, click:

Everyone talks about social media marketing, but it can be tricky to get it just right. When it comes to strengthening your customer base through social media, it’s not a one-size-fits-all for all businesses. Take a look at how other successful businesses in your realm are garnering popularity. For example, if you’re an event management company, share details of upcoming events and countdowns for special shows in your social media posts. Meanwhile, if you have a restaurant, drool-worthy food photography would be the way to go.

Digital marketing has never been more relevant to the success of a business than it is today. Advertising your product is not guess-work any longer. There are brilliant online tools that can tell you what you should do, what you are doing right and where you are falling short. Move forward with the times or you risk falling behind. Invest in digital marketing now!


How to start a business with zero investment

No money to start your own business? In this day and age, everyone wants to feel financially secure and self-sufficient. From homemakers to students, everyone is juggling with ideas to build a business that gives them the freedom and flexibility to work and earn at their own pace. Creating and sustaining a business is more than just becoming rich. It is a way to pursue your passion and fulfil your dreams, while contributing to the society.

These days, starting a business has become a cakewalk, provided you know how to hit all the right strings. Your dedication and passion to move ahead should keep you afloat even if you don’t have the funds at hand. If you’re prepared to work hard and learn from your failures, here are a few tips that will help you start your own business without any investment.


Start with social media

This seems like an obvious choice, but it can go a long way if you know how to strategise your content in the right manner. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram cater to a wide audience. Understanding your target market and planning your posts accordingly can give your business a head start. You may even start making money sooner than you had expected. All you need to do is display your products and services that you have to offer in a way that entices your target audience enough to raise some eyebrows and generate some interest.

Find free selling platforms

There are multiple platforms that allow you to list your products free of cost. This gives your brand better exposure and services without spending anything on marketing. Websites like Amazon, Ebay, Etsy and many more are great platforms to sell products. They only charge a minimum amount as commission on each sale. It is important, however, to make sure your inventory stays updated on all sites at all times.

Barter to get what you want

It is understandably hard to start a business with no funds. But you can always collaborate with agencies and companies that can help you market your products in exchange for your products and services. For instance, if you want to reach out to celebrities to promote your brand of apparels, you can always send them your products as gifts with a note of gratitude.

Utilise low-cost services

Unfortunately, there are a few services that you’ll need to pay for to ensure your business gets the necessary feed to nurture and grow. However, you can always scout for business management applications and software that are available for a negligible monthly amount.

For example, if you want a design software to create brand presentation material, you can always look for web apps that offer a professional set up for a monthly fee of just about $5 to $10, or maybe you can hire an intern looking to build a portfolio.

In a nutshell, starting a business requires passion, dedication and ingenuity in what you are doing. If you have found your passion, there’s nothing that can stop you from achieving your goals. If you put your mind to it, you’ll start finding ways that bring everything together, even if you don’t have sufficient resources to start with.


How do You See Your Business

Many marketers decide that they require extra cash and that the net is as good a place as any to yield the additional income that they require. But simply having a vague notion that taking in some extra cash from the net may be nice idea isn’t the basis for beginning a business. And, whether you’ve realized it or not, if you’re going to market on the internet in an effort to yield additional money, then what you’re doing is running a business, nothing more and nothing less. Now, realizing that marketing is a true business might not seem really crucial but it is in fact a vital notion to accept on board. If you don’t accept and comprehend this and approach your internet marketing activities as a hobby or interest, you’ve directly made it endlessly harder to accomplish success. Trying to make cash from the net is a serious business and ought to be treated per se. It is not a hobby or pastime, as if you treat it as a hobby, then what you wish get in return for your work is a hobby level revenue. Even if you’re running your internet marketing business on a half-time basis, it makes no difference. It’s a business and must be treated as such from the very start.


How You See It

It’s utterly vital that you comprehend and follow this apparently simple guideline as if you do so, you’ll set yourself apart from the majority of would-be internet marketing millionaires who merely don’t get it. If all the same you treat your marketing actions as a hobby or pastime, then the chances of accomplishing success are almost zilch for lots of different reasons. Consider it this way. If you were assembling a business in your local shopping center, you wouldn’t treat that as a sideline or interest, nor would you go into it with nothing more than some faint idea about ‘making cash’. After all, arranging a business of this sort is going to cost you many thousands of dollars, so naturally you’d take the whole thing real, very seriously. All right, so when you arrange a business, you don’t need to spend 1000s of dollars on getting going. Nevertheless, that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s still a genuine business in precisely the same way that it would be if you open a store in the shopping center. When you accept that what you’re doing when you begin generating an internet income is running a business, then an awful lot of additional factors ought to fall into place pretty much directly. When you comprehend that your internet marketing actions constitute a true business, the next step ought to be obvious. There’s no successful business on the face of planet that’s ever accomplished success without having a business plan in place, and there’s no reason to expect that you may buck the trend by trying to run your net business without having such a plan in place. Now, the thing here is that before you may put such a business plan in place, the beginning thing that you have to know is how you’re going to make revenue. And deciding how you’re going to gain revenue on the internet is a different hurdle or pitfall that will frequently cause issues for a newbie who is not yet really sure of what they’re doing. The issue here is that there’s simply too much choice. There are gobs of different ways of making cash from the internet, and 1000s of products that at least in principle teach you how to do so. The issue is that a lot of these products are contradictory, as they frequently relate the writers or creators own personal techniques of making revenue on the net. Whilst this means that presuming that the product creator is telling the truth, you may follow their techniques and make revenue, this isn’t always the case. Moreover, as there are so many different products available a lot of which tell a different story, it may become incredibly confusing if you’re attempting to find a way of making revenue that suits you. Take as an illustration the idea of making cash by selling ‘stuff’ on eBay. Given that this is the world’s number 1 auction site, you’d think that making cash by selling something on eBay would be relatively aboveboard and that there would be a reasonably widely agreed, standardized process for making cash doing so. If however you search Google for something like ‘make cash from eBay’, you’ll discover that there’s an awful lot of data available with over seven a half million results indexed. Take a look at any of the eBay results brought back and you’ll discover the big amount of data and advice, but a lot of this advice will seem to be contradictory. Consequently, it’s very hard to know to do for the best. Because there is so much data available, many fresh internet marketers suffer what is known as ‘analysis paralysis’, or an excess of data in other words. As they’ve too much data available, they get confused as to what works and what doesn’t, with the outcome that they do nothing because they’re scared of making the wrong selections. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that most fledgling marketers are occasionally a bit gullible when it comes to internet marketing products. As a outcome, many individuals who have just began marketing on the net seem to have complete trust that the next ‘latest and greatest’ product is the one that they’ve been waiting for, the one that’s finally going to shoot them to marketing super stardom. As an illustration, they may see an info product that promises to show them how they can make $9,000 a day utilizing Google AdSense, so they purchase it. They study it and maybe they begin to put into action the plan about which they’ve just read. If so, the chances are that they’ll not stick with it very long as they wish to begin making money fast and this particular way of doing so doesn’t appear to be working for them. And naturally, they’ve already signed up for the e-zines of all of the big names in the industry, so a few days later, data about the next wonder product, the one that’s utterly guaranteed to make their fortune, arrives in their e-mail inbox. And naturally, they purchase it and try it, only to discover that they make no more cash with this product than they were with the prior one, therefore they cast it away and purchase something else that’s a ‘assured winner’. It’s incredibly typical for internet marketing newbies to jump from one product to a different in this way. As they get sucked in by the hype, it’s all too simple for them to trust that the latest product on the market is the one that they have to have, so they purchase product after product in a ceaseless search for something that truly doesn’t exist, and naturally they waste a huge sum of money in their futile search. And equally obviously, whilst they’re jumping from product to product, they’re not centering their efforts and attention on merely one business plan or technique, which further deepens the calamity. So, having painted a fairly blue picture of what you shouldn’t be doing, now let me provide you an idea of what you ought to do. The beginning thing is to do a little research so that you may make an informed decision about the sort of online business that you’re going to run with. Whether this is making revenue from eBay, affiliate marketing, producing niche targeted blogs that you monetize with AdSense or whatever, you have to choose one business model and stick to it. What you’re seeking is a step-by-step guide to doing one thing well, because if you may discover a business strategy that’s proven to work and stick with it, you’ll make revenue. Once you’ve a technique that you’re going to utilize, you’re almost ready to begin producing your business plan, but not quite as there’s still one crucial factor that you have to crystallize before pressing ahead.


The Absolute Easiest Way to Get Started

When you are just beginning affiliate marketing and you haven’t even gotten started yet all the information coming at you can seem completely overwhelming. But there is an easy way to get started and it is important that you do get started because you will learn more by doing than you will ever learn by reading. So I believe the absolute easiest way to get started in affiliate marketing is to do the following four steps:


1) Go to Amazon and pick a product.

This product can cost any amount of money, but it might make more sense for it to be between $40 and $200. This is a good price range to get you a decent commission but not cost so much money that nobody is buying it. If you can pick something that is trending right now even better. By trending it means something that people are buying now or will be buying soon – for example if Christmas is coming up then maybe pick a toy that is popular. Or, if it is the end of spring, then pick a product like a portable swimming pool or a certain color of swimsuit or maybe even some fancy summer sandals.


2) Go to squidoo and sign up

Create a lens on squidoo about the product that you have picked.  When you first start you may not be able to use the Amazon module. If this is the case, link to the product on Amazon in a regular link and then do whatever you have to do to get enough points to be able to use the Amazon modules. Once you can use Amazon modules, go back in and add at least one.  Add an eBay module also. Write in the first person with a conversational and friendly tone.  Don’t copy reviews from anywhere.  Tell a little story about the product and paraphrase the reviews that are already on Amazon if you don’t know much about the product. Look around at other people’s lenses to get an idea how  a lens should look. Put a link to your product in the very top intro module if you can.  Title your squidoo lens like this: Buy Product Name Online.  Title all your module titles with a variation of the product name.

If you want to get an idea of what a good sales lens looks like at squidoo look at this lens:


Don’t copy the topic but do you structure your lens in a similar way if you aren’t sure what else to do.


3) Post your published lens at squidu.com and in the Facebook group related to squidoo.  Participate in the community and visit other people’s lenses so they will visit yours.   Build a back link to your lens at loveblinks, webnuggetz, and hubpages.  You can also start your own free blog at blogger and send a back link to your lens from there.







4) Over the next few weeks pay attention to your stats and see what kind of keywords people are coming into your lens on

If it is a keyword that is not actually present on your lens, if you think it is related you can add it into your lens in the content. If you don’t think it is related you can create another lens about this keyword and sell whatever the keyword is about on it.


5) Repeat the process

You are trying to get a feel for how promoting products that aren’t yours works online.  Try to take what you have learned about creating lenses and apply it to your own blog.


Getting started in affiliate marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time and work. But this is the absolute easiest way to do it because squidoo has a built-in community of friendly people who will help you with your lens and who will help you get some attention to it. Also, squidoo makes it easy to put up pages that are designed to make money.



There may be some good plays in the market in 2015 based on trends.

Sometimes you can capitalize on market trends directly, sometimes peripherally, and sometimes you have to see what they bring.  Here are some trends I think are interesting for 2015.


Craft Beers

It is obvious that the major brewers like BUD totally misjudged the craft brew movement and now they are scrambling to catch up.  First, let me tell you why this trend will continue.

The argument against craft beer ever grabbing significant market share was that the higher alcohol content and full flavor would limit the volume consumers would drink.


Drinkers quickly build a tolerance to the ABV (alcohol by volume) and end up drinking as much of their new craft beer as they did their old, lower alcohol beer. More significantly, after you savor the complex taste of an IPA, Saison, or Oatmeal Porter, you NEVER want to go back to the Bud/Miller/Coors triumvirate.  Even a Heineken tastes like water.

Keep an eye on SAM and BREW as they may be buyout candidates.  Also expect at least one of the larger craft brewers (possibly New Belgium Brewing) to file for an IPO.


Integrated Fitness Programs

Now that corporations are starting to realize that they are going to be on the hook for a lot of healthcare insurance costs, it finally donned on them that healthier employees will be less costly employees.

Companies like Vitality are partnering with big companies to get their employees on reward based fitness programs where you get points for company walks, quitting smoking, completing a body-fat analysis, or any other number of healthy lifestyle choices.

Points can be exchanged for all sorts of goodies and prizes.  Look for this to benefit stocks like NKE, UA, and other sports/fitness/health related stocks.


Video Mining

When iTunes came along it enabled a whole host of semi-obscure back catalogs to instantly become monetizable (is that even a word)?  Removing the physical constraints – CD’s, packaging, shipping, shelf space, etc.

— made a Rolling Stones song just as profitable as one by Sham 69 (Google them).

There was the same possibility with video but the server capacity and pipeline into consumer’s homes was not big enough. Now it is.

And out there exists a treasure trove of content going back at least to the 50’s, maybe even the 40’s, yet to be found, curated around a theme or subject, and packaged for the public.

Just one example; how many clips are there of Jimi Hendrix out there that most people have never seen?  A Dick Cavet Interview, A performance on some local TV show in Cincinnati, or a song he did on BBC2?  Would Hendrix fans pay to get a burn-to-order DVD of those clips or subscribe to a “Hendrix Channel,” perhaps on YouTube or a yet to be created competitor?

Two obstacles stand in the way; a discovery method — most of this stuff was rarely cataloged, and if so, very haphazardly — but more importantly, a cost effective mechanism to locate the rights and negotiate the legal releases needed to distribute said content.

For a great example of this, read the “Subsequent Distribution” section of the Wiki entry for Urgh! A Music War.

As technology seems to be able to disrupt everything, I am hopeful that some exotic algorithm will be able to solve this issue.

Not sure how you profit from this trend but it is an area to keep an eye on.

A couple more trends to watch…..

Howard Lindzon, CEO of StockTwits thinks that mass customization will be the axe in 2015.

Michael Parekh (one of the smartest guys you can every meet) thinks  Google and Samsung butt heads.


Investment Objectives Help Stock Market Investors

Investors can use a variety of tools and strategies, but without clear investment goals, they might not achieve as much as they would like. Investment objectives give you a target to aim for, and the right investment product is the tool that will help you reach your goal.

My grandfather was a carpenter and he and my dad impressed upon me the importance of using the right tool for the job — don’t use a wrench to hammer a nail.

Matching your investment objectives with the proper investment tool is an important part of a clear strategy and will help you better reach your goals. Investment goals generally fall into two categories: long-term and short-term goals.


Long-Term Objectives

Long-term objectives are at least five years in the future and for most investors fall into two major categories: funding a college education for the children and building a comfortable retirement fund.

We are not a society that easily works towards long-term goals. We are much more comfortable and familiar with goals and objectives that are immediate or in the near future, which may account for why so many retirement accounts are under-funded.

You can finance a college education if you don’t have enough saved, but you can’t borrow your way through retirement. Accomplishing this goal takes commitment and a willingness to sacrifice something now for a benefit in the future.

Rather than picturing a bank account, picture yourself in retirement doing what you want to do. If your dream is to sail to the Caribbean, go price the boat you want, start planning your trip, find out what it will cost to live on the islands, and so on.

Come up with a number to make your dream a reality and figure it will cost more by the time you retire.

The point is to put some emotional energy behind your objectives rather than sterile numbers.


Short-Term Objectives

Short-term objectives are less than five years away, and maybe in three years or less. These might include saving for a down payment on a house or a second home, buying a new car, or some other major expense.

Short-term objectives have an immediacy that may draw your attention away from far-away objectives such as retirement. You must find a balance between those short-term needs (or wants) and your long-term goals. It’s too easy to put retirement funding, in particular, on hold while other, more immediate (and fun) objectives are met. This is a mistake you will pay for in later years.


Appropriate Product Selection

Your best chance at reaching your long-term objectives is through stocks and bonds (either individual and/or mutual fund ownership). Historically, these vehicles working together have produced the best results over long periods.

However, stocks are not appropriate for investment objectives that are less than five years away. The volatility in the markets makes them too unpredictable for short-term objectives. Long-term bonds (10 years or more) offer higher yields but have higher risks.

Intermediate bonds in the five to seven-year range may be the best approach.

In the short-term, bonds and timed bank products such as CDs offer the best and safest way to meet investment objectives. Bonds of less than two years may not be competitive with bank products, but this is easy to check before investing.

If you have some small portion of your assets in real estate, you can target them at long-term objectives. This gives you a big window so you can choose when conditions are best to sell. That window may come in five years, or seven, or 10, or never. The point is, you can’t count on selling at a specific time because the real estate market operates on its own schedule.

The Solution

It may seem simple, but matching the appropriate tool with your investment objectives is often a problem.

What happens is changes in the stock market and/or interest rates may cause investors to jump in or out of their choices either through fear of loss or the perceived opportunity to make a quick profit (crudely stated: greed).

The solution is to set your objectives (short and long-term), make the appropriated investment selections and stick with your plan. Re-evaluate quarterly (or so), but don’t abandon your strategy on daily market changes.


Learn How to Invest in the Stock Market Successfully

You must expend some effort to be a successful investor in the stock market – there’s no getting around that fact. Investors who buy or sell on their “gut or feeling” about a security may be right once in awhile, but most of the time they will be wrong.

Being right once in awhile is not a winning stock investment strategy. What is required to be a successful investor in the stock market? You can find lots of answers to that question and many of them involve paying money for a seminar, software or some other product.

The steps to successful investing in the stock market are simple – it’s the execution that is not so easy. In this article and coming articles, I will explore more of these steps in upcoming. Here are two of the top-level steps to being a better investor in the stock market:


Set Some Financial Goals

It’s a cliché, but it is true – you must know where you are going so you will know you are there when you arrive. The goals should be specific and focused. For example, “I want to retire in about 20 years or so and have a nice, fat nest egg” is not a good goal.

A better goal might be: “I am 40 years-old and want to retire by age 65. At age 50, I will have built my nest-egg (not including 401(k)) to $250,000. At age 55, it will be $350,000. At age 60, it will be $500,000 and at retirement, it will be $600,000.”

These numbers may be off for you and you probably have other goals, such as a college fund, but the point is you need to focus on specific goals with specific deadlines if you are going to be successful.


Pick an Investing Strategy

There are three basic investing strategies: value, growth and blended. You will hear others mentioned, but these three are the basis for all others.

Value investing may be the most difficult, but may also offer the best return over the long term. Value investors find companies that are trading at prices significantly below their true value.

The companies may out of favor with the stock market because they are not in the currently hot stock sector or they are in an unglamorous business that investors find dull.

The difficult part of value investing is identifying and analyzing candidates. Value investing requires some deep diving into the company’s financials to find out what the true or intrinsic value is and why this value is at odds with the stock’s price.

However, the payoff can be significant when the stock market discovers the stock and bids up its price from the low point when you purchased to a much truer level. This may require you to hold the stock for a long period and require you to update your assessment on a regular basis.

Growth Investing

Growth investing is the sexy part of the stock market. It involves finding companies with strong future growth potential. You want to avoid the shooting stars that shine brightly in the market for a short period, then disappear. You are looking for solid companies poised for continued growth.

Growth investing can involve more risk if you focus too heavily on small-cap stocks that have the potential for rapid growth, but also face tremendous odds for long-term success. There are large-cap stocks that are in strong growth positions.

Your job is to find those that match your strategy, goals, and risk tolerance.

Blended investing – also called balanced investing – is a combination of growth and value investing strategies. By combining the two and practicing good asset allocation, investors in the stock market can hit the best of both. You can adjust the mix to increase or decrease potential return (and risk) to fit your particular goals and timeframe.


The Stock Market and the Economy Are Two Different Things

For most investors, the stock market and the economy are inextricably linked. This idea can be forgiven because the financial news media goes to great lengths, on a daily basis, to tie the movements of the market to economic events.

But the fact of the matter is, there is little relationship between the health of the overall economy and that of the stock market according to a research report released by LPL Financial in 2013.

It said, in part;

Contrary to conventional wisdom, and what may be a surprise to those who see low single-digit rates of gross domestic product (GDP) growth as incompatible with solid double-digit stock market gains, GDP does not have to be booming to produce solid gains in the stock market — as 2013 can attest. In fact, there is little relationship between the magnitude of GDP growth and stock market performance.

There are perfectly logical explanations for this counter-intuitive fact. Strong GDP can be a sign of an overheating economy that may be due for a recession, and weak GDP may be discounted by the stock market ahead of an actual turnaround. As evidence, over the past 35 years, the S&P 500 posted gains in half of the 16 quarters that GDP was negative. Also, over the same time period, the S&P 500 posted gains in only about half of the quarters when annualized GDP was stronger than 6% and booming.

One of the main reasons that stocks and the economy are able to move independently from each other is that one is micro and one is macro.

The US economy is enormous, and includes thousands of companies, millions of workers, and billions of dollars.  The factors that go into moving it forward or holding it back are numerous.

But a stock is dependent on one very specific, micro factor — supply and demand.

For each publicly traded stock there are only so many shares available to be traded.  The more in demand those shares are, the higher the price of the stock.  So, you could easily get a situation where the economy as a whole is stagnant, but the shares of a moderately successful company are in short supply.  That would cause the stock to go up, despite what is happening in the overall economy.

Of course, the most important correlation between stocks and the economy has to do with time. The shorter the time frame the weaker the relationship.  But take it out to an extended time frame, for example, years or decades, and the performance of both will actually converge.

Basically, stocks can move independently of the economy for a while, but at some point, if the tide is going out in the economy, all ships will go lower.  Historically, this is why buy-and-hold usually worked — because over time the US economy consistently grew larger and stronger, and thus stocks were bolstered by it.

But for the vast majority of stock market investors, it is better to focus on the specific fundamentals and/or technicals of a stock when evaluating it for purchase instead of what may or may not happen with the overall economy.

Besides, divining the economy is tough.  You know what they say, “An ‘economist’ is a trained professional paid to guess wrong about the economy.”


How to Get Over Your Fear of the Markets

About half of Americans (52 percent) say they currently have money in the stock market, according to Gallup. That may sound good, but it’s the lowest ownership rate in nearly two decades. And millennials are particularly market-averse, with a Bankrate survey finding that just one-third of Americans aged 18-35 have their money invested in the markets.

What’s behind the slide? Among other things, fear:

  • Fear of the political climate.
  • Fear that that stocks have soared too high, and that markets will eventually correct.
  • Fear that, as an individual investor, there’s simply no competing with the pros.

Add them all up, and you’re really talking about one big fear: Fear of losing money.

The problem is, if you don’t invest, you’re losing money anyway! If you’re stuffing your money into a bank savings or money market account, you’re getting about 0.5% interest; a 2-year CD might get you annual returns around 1.3%. Either way, it’s not enough to keep pace inflation and taxes: The purchasing power of your socked away money will be worth less next year than it is this year, and even less the year after that.

That’s why this is one fear it literally pays to overcome. Here are a few suggestions on how to get over your fear and start seeing some real returns.

Put your money in little by little, and don’t check on it too much.

Say you invested $100, and the next day you lost $4.

It’s a letdown. Then, the next day, you gain $4.30. The gain of 30 more cents doesn’t compensate for the feeling of losing the original $4. That’s a phenomenon called “loss aversion,” which behavioral finance experts have documented to show that humans hate losing more than we enjoy gaining (twice as much, in fact.) For that reason, it’s important to remember that the market experiences ups and downs, good and bad days.

If you look too much at your losses and gains, it could discourage you.

There are a few ways to avoid getting discouraged by losses. Mark your calendar to check in on your portfolio once every quarter or six months. Besides that, keep calm, carry on, and trust in the historical long-term gains of the market. And take the plunge little by little — this is called dollar-cost averaging. If you had $1,000 to invest, by this strategy, you’d invest $100 every week for 10 weeks, instead of $1,000 all at once (you can also do it on a monthly basis). This way, you wouldn’t constantly be comparing the stock’s current value with the value it had on the one day you bought it. “You won’t have that specific number in mind, so you won’t feel as bad,” says Duke University Professor Dan Ariely, author of Payoff.


Consider the cost of waiting.

“There’s never a good day to say, ‘Let me go in [to the markets] today,’” says Ariely. “So [if we put it off], we never go in.” That has a huge cost.


Think about it this way: Consider the cost of not investing. Say you invest $500 a month from the time you’re 30 years old until retirement at age 65. If the money grows at an average 8% return (tax-deferred), you’ll have a $1.15 million stash.


But if you wait until you’re 40 to get started? You’re looking at less that half that amount — $479,000. (And, if you’d been smart enough to start at 25, well, hats off: That extra 5 years brings your total to $1.8 million.)


So the longer people put off the “someday” they’ll finally start, the more they’ll have to contribute later to catch up. “Every dollar you earn through your investments is a dollar you won’t have to earn at your job later on,” says millennial money expert Stefanie O’Connell, author of The Broke and Beautiful Life.

Take the easy way in.

Investing isn’t reserved for “market wizards” who know how to pick and trade individual stocks, says O’Connell. For most people, succeeding is a matter of putting as much as you can into your retirement accounts on a regular basis, then putting that money to work in a diversified portfolio.


You can get diversified by putting your money into a combination of a total stock market index fund and a total bond market index fund, with the ratio of bond holdings increasing as you get closer to retirement. Alternatively, you can go with a target-date retirement fund, which re-allocates your investment dollars for you as time goes on; just pick a fund with a target date close to when you think you’ll retire. You can also opt for a managed account offered by your brokerage firm or retirement account provider, or a robo-advisor like Wealth front or Betterment, which will put you into a mix of investments based on how you answer a few questions about your goals.


Think about the end result.

Finally, to get yourself excited, picture what you’re growing your money for. It’s one thing to think “retirement,” but it’s another to think of the place you’ll live when you’re retired. It’s one thing to think about sending your children to “college,” but another entirely to visualize them hanging out on the quad at your beloved alma mater. The idea is that no matter what your future goals are, the more tangible you can make them, the more appealing investing to make them happen will be.