Advertising has long been thought of as a tool for big businesses. We think of big flashy ads in the Globe & Mail and National Post costing thousands upon thousands of dollars. However, advertising as a tool has changed dramatically in the past 10 years. Today, advertising is more cost-effective than ever before, bringing it within reach of small & medium sized businesses as a legitimate tool to build their website traffic, increase brand awareness, and generate leads.
Why is advertising more cost effective than before?
One of the major drivers of this change is of course online advertising. Online advertising enables companies to advertise to very narrow segments without wasting money on readers from outside of their target audience.
The ability through online advertising to target very specific market segments or target audiences dramatically lowers the cost of advertising. Today, most online advertising tools enable you to define your target audience in great detail based on:
- Geography – where they live
- Company – their industry, company, company size
- Personal demographics – gender, age, marital status
- Profession – role, title, seniority
- Personal/professional interests
For example, using pay-per-click advertising, you can place an advertisement online that would be seen only by the University of Toronto educated, Waterloo, Ontario based Vice Presidents of a specific company that you are targeting, during a particular time of day. This is of course an extreme example – and in most cases it would be challenging to segment your advertising this narrowly – but it can be done.
Similarly, the nature of the internet is that there are millions and millions of forums online, most with very specific target groups. Many of these online forums or sites offer advertising or PR opportunities for small and mid-sized businesses interested in attracting their readership. No matter who you are targeting, I’m pretty sure there is a particular website out there offering advertising opportunities targeting that exact audience, nothing more and nothing less.
Tight segmentation of course leads to lower advertising costs because you are no longer paying for people outside your specific target audience to see your ad. There are many companies that place ads in big daily newspapers, and pay for the million people that read it, when they’re really only interested in a couple thousand readers – not a terribly efficient way of getting your message out there.
Ads more results oriented
For smaller businesses, placing ads for the sake of general brand awareness is often a luxury they cannot afford. Again, pay per click advertising suits these organizations to a tee. With pay-per-click, you are literally paying for results. If nobody clicks on your ad, you don’t pay anything. Beyond this however, it is important for businesses to be very cognisent of who is clicking on their ads. One way to do this is to combine some website analytics with your pay-per-click statistics to gain a better idea of who these people are. It doesn’t matter if you drive people to your website if they have no interest in doing business with you.
I’m not suggesting that every small business should rush into advertising online. There are clearly some businesses where this makes sense more than others. As well, online advertising and pay per click in particular does require active ongoing management. You really shouldn’t just expect to set it up and walk away. You need to monitor your progress and set up systems to ensure that you are achieving your objectives.
However, every small business should at least have an open mind to advertising and stop thinking of it as something for only big companies. The reality today is that it is a viable option for many small businesses.