Not Your Father’s Advertising!
We have looked at some of the main reasons why even small businesses should be online. But it’s a big, complex world out there and not every small business owner has the inclination or belief to invest time and effort in online efforts. While SiteBagel believes that this can be a significant opportunity wasted, some of these opinions come from the relative simplicity of advertising “back-in-the-day”.
In the past, the primary way to promote and advertise a small business was through print media, such as magazines, local papers and maybe the Yellow Pages. This “big blast” effort was based on reaching large numbers of readers, in the hope of reaching potential customers. It was something of a one-way street – create your ad, pay your ad fee and hope that you are reaching the right people.
Oh, how times have changed! Today’s online world offers opportunities to reach customers that can be dramatically more effective and cost-effective than traditional channels. But what are the advantages? And how can the small business owner take advantage of them fully?
This article introduces the advantages of an online advertising strategy. We look at the incredible power of ad targeting and how this can help with concepts like conversions and funnels. And we look at why these options may be just right for your business – as well as where they may not be the best choice.
At the end of this article you will have an understanding of why online advertising can be such an essential part of any marketing strategy, for businesses of all sizes, as well as some practical advice for how to get started in this exciting world.
Advantages of Online Advertising
Perhaps the most dramatic difference between traditional, print-based advertising and online advertising is how you can very carefully choose the target audience for your ad campaign.
Print advertising uses something of a scattershot approach. A particular print outlet is selected and the ad appears for ALL readers of that publication. At one level that may be considered advantageous. However, depending on the size and scope of the publication, this may result in your ad being seen by many with no interest in your product or service. Print publications generally charge by reach i.e. the larger the number of readers, the more you pay – regardless of how likely those readers are to have an interest in your business.
Online advertising, however, offers the chance of highly granular targeting, based on location, gender, age, behaviors, interests and so much more. For example, you might target men over the age of 40, in Oregon who have an interest in gardening. Or young women under 25 who rent their home and like Italian food.
Apply these ideas to your own business. If you are selling hot tubs in Bellingham, WA you can target your ads at folks to local zip codes and with the demographics suitable to your target market. These are very powerful benefits of online advertising.
But there’s more.
Let’s say you have a beautiful web site selling your hot tubs. You bring in good business but now you are looking to extend your marketing efforts. You want to advertise online. The aforementioned targeting capabilities afford you considerable control over how you spend your ad dollars.
When you advertise online to folks in your zip code of the appropriate demographic, you raise awareness of your business. Let’s say 1,000 folks see your ad. That’s a good thing. But this is still a “cold” audience. They have just discovered you and, to far, have not indicated any specific interest in your business – they simply saw your ad.
But consider this. Depending on the effectiveness of your ad, let’s imagine that 100 of those 1,000 people actually click on your ad and visit your web site. These folks represent a “warm audience” – they have taken an explicit action that indicates they have expressed at least some level of interest in your ad.
Now think how valuable it would be to target another ad at just those 100 people. You can! That’s precisely what retargeting delivers.
There’s a key and valuable difference between a “cold” audience and a “warm” audience – and it can save you a great deal of money if you leverage this in your ad strategy.
In a nutshell, retargeting is the ability to target an ad at people who fall into some “bucket” defined by their behavior. The definition of this bucket is very flexible. But, in our example above, let’s say we have such a bucket (often called a “custom audience” in technical terms) comprised of people who clicked on your ad. People in this group are MUCH more likely to have a true interest in your product and your company than the 900 folks who didn’t respond to your initial ad.
So, the more enlightened online advertiser doesn’t just create ads to send to cold audiences. They also follow up, with retargeting campaigns. For example, we might create an ad that specifically offers a 5% discount to those folks who have already visited your web site.
This is very, very powerful stuff!
You can target ads with great focus. You can start small and scale. You can target based on behaviors. What else does online advertising offer?
As well as all these benefits, there is also a tremendous degree of flexibility. For example, if you have an audience that is likely to be online at particular times of the day, that’s fine. Target your ads to appear only between 7am and 10am and then again between 6pm and 10pm. Or maybe only show them on weekdays.
Want to test out different types of ad? Or maybe test specific wording within your ads. No problem. Through the magic of techniques like “adsets” and A/B testing (think of this as just geek-speak for “tremendous flexibility”!) you can offer many different flavors of your ad.
And if something isn’t working as well as you would like, you can turn it off in an instant. Or, better, maybe your ad is working great – you can increase your ad spending to bring in even more customers, based on the evidence of proven ads.
As discussed above, traditional advertising channels are “broad reach”. The incredible flexibility and targeting of online advertising creates an entirely new world.
Online ads can be created at an incredibly low cost! For the small business, it’s not particularly unusual to start advertising with just a few dollars a day. Think about that for a second. For an advertising budget of, say, $3 a day you can create and target ads to a much more relevant audience than is possible through print media.
Of course, our $3 per day will only get you so many eyeballs! But, as we will see below, the data you will start to gather will allow you to be even more effective in how you target your ads. This can then lead to better decision-making when you come to scale your budget.
Reporting and Testing
But how can you decide what ads to disable and which to increase? Enter the power of ad reporting – another almost-magical aspect of the online world.
Placing an ad in the online world is the exact opposite of “set-and-forget”. When you publish that ad, you set in motion a series of events that one could only have dreamed about in the past, especially as a small business.
There is an extraordinary level of information gathered when you advertise. You will discover their location, age, gender and much more. This is just scratching the surface and in subsequent articles we’ll be looking at the incredible richness of all that is available to you and how you can use that to your benefit.
The Magic of Funnels and Conversions
So what does all this mean? Why are all these characteristics and features valuable to the small business? Let’s talk “conversions” and “funnels”!
We’re going to introduce some vital concepts here, at a high level. In reality, they are simple ideas but, true to our ever more sophisticated world, they have now been stretched and pulled in so many directions that they sometimes seem incredibly complicated. More on how SiteBagel can help with that below! But let’s take a closer look.
A conversion occurs when a visitor or customer takes a desired action.
That’s a rather broad definition, but that’s because there are many types of conversion.
Many new small businesses not familiar with this terminology might consider there to be just one important “conversion” – a purchase. Indeed, a purchase is one of the most important types of conversions. But an Internet-savvy business will recognize and seek to achieve numerous other types of conversion.
For example, you might wish to encourage visitors to sign up for your eMail newsletter. Or maybe you are want to deliver a webinar (we’ll cover that in detail in future posts, by the way) and having visitors register for that webinar is an important conversion for you.
These are just simple examples and every business will define and target its own unique set of conversions. It’s also easy to locate complex and sometimes overwhelming information about conversions. But don’t fret about that – at their core, conversions are simple and are there to help you define and achieve your business goals.
At SiteBagel, our goal is to remove the mystery about online services and marketing. We will be covering conversions in glorious detail in other posts. But, for now, just remember that a conversion is merely when a visitor or customer takes an action you have identified as desirable to your business objectives.
The word “funnel” has been used by marketing professionals for many a year. You may well have heard of marketing funnels or maybe it’s new to you.
But what is a funnel and why is it important? And why does getting your business online provide you with access to funnels in a way you might never have imaged?
Let’s take a look.
First, a simple definition. A funnel is a visitor “journey”, in the context of your business. The stereotypical funnel imagines someone who has never even heard of your company from initial awareness through a series of steps, to the point where they place a first order – and beyond. A well-defined funnel defines these steps in a logical, consistent manner, increasing the chances of a visitor taking the whole journey.
There are many ways to define funnels but let’s take a high-level view of a somewhat generic instance.
- You want to raise awareness of your business, so you place online ads to draw attention to your brand.
- On your site, your want to encourage visitors to sign up for your eMail newsletter, so you have a signup form on your web site.
- You want to alert your signed up subscribers to special deals for some lower-cost items in your store, so you mention these in your eMail newsletter
- For your current customers, who have already placed orders, you want to alert then to an important product you have just launched, so you send them a discount coupon
Let’s stop there and take stock. The journey here – the funnel – isn’t by accident. Each step of that journey is an increasingly bigger commitment. In order they are:
- Click on an ad to visit your site
- Provide an eMail address
- Buy a small item
- Buy a big item
Again, this is somewhat simplifying the process but note very carefully the increasing level of commitment made as the visitor – and eventually the customer – takes this journey. That’s an essential characteristic of the funnel. There’s psychology at play here too. And technology. And sales copy. And discounts. And much more….
SiteBagel understands the notion of the funnel and takes the mystery from seemingly complex concepts, to help you focus on your business goals. In subsequent posts we’ll be looking at many of these ideas, including how we can help you build and benefit from your own funnels.
Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords
We have looked at the myriad reasons to consider a well-considered and strategic use of online advertising in your small business. But what are the primary channels through which you can deliver your ads?
This is a large topic and it won’t surprise you to know there are many, many ways to advertise online. SiteBagel can help you understand which of these makes sense to you and you business niche. But the most common choices are Facebook Ads and Google AdWords. These are truly immense platforms, serving millions of ads every day from businesses worldwide.
The bad news is that, due to their incredibly flexibility, they CAN be complex and overwhelming to the small business. Whole agencies exist simply to create, manage and assess ads placed through these platforms on behalf of their customers.
But underneath all the options and the sophisticated technology is one simple truth – both Facebook Ads and Google Adwords are there to help businesses, of all sizes, promote their services and products.
So how can these platforms help you? And which of the two makes most sense? This and other questions are answered in our next blog post, which covers the use of Facebook Ads and Google AdWords by the small business.
So watch this space…