Small to medium businesses (SMBs) looking to connect with local customers are finding internet marketing to be crucial for this purpose. Although some SMBs have been slow to adopt the idea of Web marketing, this lag is fast disappearing. In fact, according to a research report by BIA/Kelsey, SMBs will be allocating up to 70% of their marketing budgets to digital and online advertising by the year 2015.
Think about the last time you surfed the Web. Think about the numerous pay-per-click, daily deal, product review, banner and display ads that you viewed. Many of these ads were targeted for your local area. Such locally targeted ads enable SMBs to generate customer awareness about the products and business as well as notify customers of sales and various promotions. Such ads are also informational vehicles for SMBs, helping to gather customer demographics, entrance keywords and paths, conversion rates, etc.
If you are an SMB looking to expand your advertising reach, the following are three methods through we can help you can take advantage of local Web marketing. Depending on your comfort level with online media, these methods range from the standard to aggressive, with more time and involvement (as well as risk) required at the aggressive than at the standard (i.e., passive) level.
Search engine-based advertising
According to Bizreport, at least 97% of consumers research a product online before making a purchase. Because consumers are using search engines to find product information, SMBs can increase the functionality of these searches by working with local search platforms such as Local.com or Google Places. These online platforms not only help drive local traffic to the SMB website and/or sales landing page, but they can also help increase foot traffic at the SMB’s “brick-and-mortar location. Best of all, both of these listing services are free.
SMB owners that are looking to increase their traffic levels even more can do so by using Google’s Adwords Express, which offers locally targeted advertising with increased exposure for an additional fee. The SMB can also upgrade its standing on Local.com by purchasing a premium listing. In addition to Google and Local.com, there are many additional local search platforms such as YellowPages.com, CitySearch and SuperMedia. Such directory-based advertising venues are both useful and cost-effective methods of generating additional exposure and visitor traffic.
Social media advertising
With social media platforms like Facebook boasting over 750 million active subscribers, it makes sense for SMBs to both use and advertise on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. SMB social media profiles can include information on the business’s geographic location, hours of operation, weekly/daily specials, news, events, etc. Besides being used to address customer inquiries and issues, SMB social profiles can gather customer feedback about and overall perception of the products and the business.
For SMBs wishing to increase their exposure and gain new customers, ad campaigns can also be initiated and tracked on social media platforms. Facebook ads and promoted tweets are just two methods by which the SMB can advertise itself and track ad ROI. Ads can also be targeted to a particular customer demographic, including specific geographic locations. This enables the SMB to gain local customers even as it utilizes an international social platform.
Online daily deals
Although recently there has been doubt in the future of this medium it has been utilized as a more aggressive Web marketing approach for SMBs who are advertising in local daily deal marketplaces such as Groupon, Thrillist or LivingSocial. These sites offer daily deals, flash sales and instant deals to consumers as a way of promoting a local SMB. BIA/Kelsey estimates that consumer spending on deal sites will increase from $873 million in 2010 to $4.2 billion in 2015, especially if the economy continues to stagnate. Because customer purchases and repeat purchases can be easily tracked, SMBs instantly know if their promotions are working. This makes ad ROI easy to calculate, as opposed to print or radio ads which require a lot of guesswork.
Daily deal promotions are not always a good fit for the SMB, however. Some SMBs report being overwhelmed by coupon-wielding customers and unable to meet their demands. Other SMBs are challenged by low long-term customer conversion rates. In a story published by the Wall Street Journal, 40% of merchants who had used a Groupon-based promotion stated that they would not use it again. Because including daily deal promotions in the SMB’s Web marketing portfolio is riskier than advertising via local directories or social media, the SMB should first evaluate if it is willing to take that risk and whether the potential rewards outweigh the costs.
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- BIA/Kelsey Revises Deals Forecast Upward Slightly, Due to More Entrants, Rapid Market Expansion and Growing Consumer Adoption.
- Digital Advertising, Performance and Retention Solutions Will Be 70% of SMB Marketing Budgets by 2015, According to BIA/Kelsey.
- Groupon Satisfaction Rate Not So Hot, Study Finds.
- User View: 97% of consumers research products online.