The accelerated development of web technologies has brought a set of new opportunities for small businesses, especially in terms of marketing strategies. Online promotion and advertising activities are seen as a cost-efficient way for this market segment to present their products or services to the widest possible audience.
Therefore, it’s unsurprising that more and more small businesses work on expanding their online presence, most notably through social networks. As presented on the Swipely timeline, there is an increased tendency to use social media for business, from 25% of companies in 2009 to an astonishing 90% in 2013. However, when it comes to online ads, only a small portion of companies seem to be using the opportunity, which may point to the lack of awareness of the benefits of online advertising.
The state of online advertising in small businesses
As opposed to the use of social networks, online advertising spend in small businesses is surprisingly low. According to a bcg.perspectives research that surveyed 550 small businesses in the US, only 3% of respondents dedicate parts of their budgets to online advertising. The authors of the study give a set of suggestions regarding the challenges that may be preventing small businesses to make the step towards expanding their online presence this way. As pointed out in the report,
“Small businesses haven’t yet found their digital-marketing footing, and they have neither the time nor the capabilities to invest in doing so.”
Types of online ads and how they can benefit SMBs
The unfortunate implication of the bcg.perspectives research is that small businesses might be missing out on significant growth opportunities, especially given the fact that they are a primary target for most publishers. Certainly, planning the budget for online ads, tracking their performance and measuring ROI are the activities that may require additional workforce. Yet the benefits may be huge and some of these are listed in Google’s online marketing guide for small business. Gain ideas for your business reading some of Google’s case studies.
- Search advertising – Cost-per-Click rates allow easy budget planning and immediate performance tracking
- Contextual ads – targeted to the right market segment, contextual ads are placed on websites related to a specific industry
- Display ads – easy to design and optimize with intuitive ad builders
- Geotargeting – for businesses that target a specific region
- Group buying – the possibility to engage customers by offering them purchase deals
Offline advertising as a branding strategy
Even though online marketing is on the rise, a certain potential still lies in the offline promotional channels and ads. Out of these, TV advertisements and local newspaper ads seem to be quite popular, with the latter being one of the most efficient forms of branding. A recent cross-media study showed that newspaper and magazine ads perform great in terms of ROI since they enable confrontation at a suitable moment.
However, there are many other forms of offline advertising that may be more affordable to small businesses. For example, different forms of printing solutions allow companies to distribute branded materials such as self adhesives or shelf wobblers across target channels to drive offline prospects. Branded packaging and pull-up banners are typically convenient for local businesses that can target their audience by strategically placing these resources on the defined points of purchase. Considering the fact that such solutions are substantially cheaper than most other forms of offline advertising, they can be efficiently integrated with other strategies that require lower investments.
Depending on their target market and budget, small businesses certainly have a range of options to choose as their preferred advertising channels. As many studies show, the right combination of online and offline advertising strategies can bring notable results, which implies that small companies should consider implementing different approaches.
This post comes to us from Sarah Green. Sarah is a web analyst and a blogger who covers the stories from the tech and online marketing world. Follow her on Twitter.