Today, businesses face greater competition than ever before. And for small- to mid-sized businesses, it can be difficult to compete with larger companies and their loftier marketing and advertising budgets. Fortunately, thanks to the emergence of digital advertising, even the smallest of businesses can their mark. By understanding what a sound digital advertising strategy can do for your business—as well as learning how to build and implement a strategy of your own—you can begin leveraging the endless power of digital marketing to meet your goals.
Before the days of the Internet, the most effective means of advertising were print, TV, and radio ads. Typically, these advertising channels can be pricey, which means they are often reserved for larger businesses with hefty budgets. Today, however, things are much different. Digital marketing in the form of banner and search ads, search engine optimization, and social media advertising has opened up lower cost per impression options to reach your target audience.
Today, digital advertising campaigns allow small- and medium-sized businesses to spread brand awareness, target their audiences, and compete with larger corporations on a realistic budget.
Benefits of a Great Digital Advertising Strategy
There are many ways in which your small- to medium-sized business could benefit from a digital advertising strategy. From the ability to hone in on a specific audience and track results, to making the most of a limited marketing budget, the advantages are huge.
Track Results Like Never Before
Digital advertising and marketing platforms now make it easier than ever to track results of any given ad campaign, providing better insight on how it’s performing and what your marketing dollars are buying you. Digital advertising platforms like Google, and Facebook allow you to track a number of useful metrics, including:
- how far your ads are reaching
- how many people are viewing them
- click-through and conversion rates
- average return on investment
All of these metrics are readily available to you—without the need to crunch any numbers. You can then use this information to make informed decisions about your ad campaigns.
Hone in on Your Target Audience
Digital advertising also makes it easier for you to target a very specific audience in ways that TV, print and other traditional forms of advertising simply cannot. Digital advertising platforms offer the ability to target users based on their online behaviors, like what sites they visit, what searches that have made, and past purchase history. Additionaly, it offers the ability to target based on demographic and psychographic characteristics and show ads in sites that contextually make sense. There are also many geo-targeting options, which can be key for small businesses looking to connect with a local or regional audience of prospective customers. Examples of criteria and characteristics that are available for targeting include:
- marital status
- …and many more
Retargeting, or remarketing is one of the most powerful uses of digital advertising because you have the ability to show ads to a pre-qualified audience who have already shown interest in your product offering or service. Remarketing technology usually includes placing a pixel on your website which then sets cookies in your users browsers, allowing you to show banner ads to these people when they visit different website elsewhere on the Internet. Retargeting ads typically yield much higher click through and conversion rates than pure acquisition campaigns.
Make the Most of Your Marketing Funds
Because of the complex metrics and tracking options available through today’s digital advertising platforms, as well as the ability to target specific audiences like never before, digital advertising is hands-down one of the best ways to maximize your company’s marketing budget and turn those dollars into new customers and sales. Not to mention, with a sound advertising strategy, this can all be done in a relatively short time period.
Building Your Digital Ad Strategy
Now that you have a better understanding of why digital advertising matters and how it can benefit your company, it’s time to start building your digital advertising strategy.
Decide on Advertising Channels
The best way to start is to decide on which advertising channels are best for your company’s needs. There are dozens of options to consider, and some channels will be more effective than others. Therefore, this is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. Test, test, and test some more. You might want to think about your options in 3 buckets.
- Display Advertising, including banner ads, video ads, etc.
This is great to bring awareness of your brand by utilizing different ad networks to purchase space to target your audience. Your audience then has the opportunity to learn who you are and recognize your business as one they will think of when they are ready to purchase your product or service.
- Social Platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
Many of these platforms offer the ability to use display banner and video mechanisms but can also be great for more targeted direct response sales as well. Each has their own offerings and audience nuances, but can be highly effective depending on who you want to target.
Social platforms also offer the ability to take your organic posts that are highly relevant and promote them. This allows more of your followers (and others you’d like to share the content with) to see the content.
Search is so important. First you want to be found organically when your target is searching for you. Creating a solid strategy around content helps support this goal. Well written content that talks about what you do and what is relevant to your audience will rank high and thereby get more people to your site.
Secondly, when someone searches for your brand, by using paid search you can dominate the real estate and this is especially true in mobile. You can also develop a keyword strategy that supports how people search for your products or within your industry.
Target Your Specific Customer Base
Each channel you choose offers different targeting capabilities. Consider, for example, Facebook’s tool, which can help you narrow down your target audience via interests, likes, plus demographic information with guided assistance. LinkedIn, can help you target by job title or level, for example. Through a display network, you can use third party data sources to dive into all types of targeting, for example, people who are in the purchase process for a car, or home. Or people who have recently researched a certain product. You can target someone geographically who is at a particular location. The opportunities are really dizzying.
Always Test, Test, Test
Perfecting your digital advertising campaign is going to take some trial and error, which is why testing can be so useful. A/B testing, which is a relatively simple way to create your learning agenda, refers to creating two ads, both similar in nature but with a few key differences, and running them both to see which performs better. For example, you might run two ads that are identical except for their headline or colors; using metrics to determine which ad performed better can teach you a lot about the kinds of ad content that your target audience best responds to. From there, you can tweak and change future ads for a better return on investment. Testing never ends, you can always continue to learn about your audience and what works best.
Don’t Overlook Social Media
When most small- and medium-sized business marketers think about digital advertising, they tend to think immediately of platforms like Google Display Network and AdWords. And while these are both viable and often-effective platforms for any business, it’s important to think about your whole ecosystem. Coordinating your organic social presences with your advertising can help add reach and frequency as well as context to your messaging. When you have a coordinated campaign all boats rise, as they say. And while organic content is important, considering a budget separate from your social display budget to boost certain posts can be very effective. This allows you to pick and choose which posts are garnering engagement and you want to ensure more people see.
Calculate Your Marketing ROI
And of course, don’t overlook establishing your KPIs and reviewing your metrics on a regular basis. You will need to take the time to track and reflect on each campaign in order to make the most of your funds. One metric you’ll definitely want to review is your ROI. You can calculate your ROI by taking your net profit from a particular campaign and subtracting your investment from it. By comparing ROIs between campaigns, it’s easy to see which are performing the best and which you may want to reconsider funding in the future.
Tips and Tricks for Digital Advertising
Feeling a little more confident in your ability to develop and implement a digital ad campaign? Good! Now it’s time to consider some specific tips and tricks for creating individual ads.
Avoid Boring Photos in Ads
First and foremost, if you’re going to use a photo in an ad, avoid stock photos or photos that feel very stock-like. These days, audiences expect personalized and customized content. In an ideal world, you’d invest in a quality camera (or hire a photographer) so you can use your company’s own photos of products, services, and the like in your ads. If you need to use stock imagery, take the time to look for imagery that feels fresh or invest in a designer to edit the image to make it feel less stock-like.
Appeal to the Emotions
Generally, the most successful ads out there are ones that appeal to the emotions of your target audience. Just by glancing at your ad, your viewers should be able to understand the message, and the ad should elicit a personal response or connection.
Understand Color Associations
Taking the time to study and understand color associations can also make a big impact on the success of your ad campaign. Study after study has shown that difference colors can elicit different psychological responses from your audience. For example, yellow is generally considered to elicit optimism, whereas black is often associated with luxury products. A little research here can go a long way in the creation of successful ads.
The Bottom Line
There’s simply no overstating the impact that a quality digital advertising strategy can have on your growing business. With the right resources and know-how, you can take even a limited advertising budget and use it to convert new customers and improve sales. Of course, it will take some trial and error on your part—especially if your experience with digital advertising and marketing is limited. This is where it can also be useful to bring in a digital marketing professional, who will be able to get to know your company’s needs and maximize your budget to yield the best results. Regardless of the route you take, keeping these tips and tricks in mind can help you grow your business and compete with even the biggest companies within your industry.
Posted by, Lisa Rogerson, VP of Digital and Operations at initiate-it, a digital first, full-service agency located in Richmond, VA.