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5 digital advertising tips for SMBs

5 digital advertising tips for SMBs

Are you using digital to fuel your success?

If you’ve been in business awhile, you likely remember a simpler time when SMB marketing meant placing ads in newspapers, direct mail envelopes, the Yellow Pages or on bus-stop benches and shopping carts.
Today, with the continued expansion of digital media, there are far more options available to small and midsized businesses (SMBs). Figuring out which ones are right for your company can be tough.
In fact, despite the fact that just about everything is online now, 45 percent of SMBs don’t even have a web site, according to a CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business survey. The likely reasons? Every SMB owner is busy – sometimes too busy to spend time or money on new technology. And only a small percentage in an outside agency to handle building a web site or driving a digital marketing campaign.
Studies show advertisements influence 90 percent of consumer purchase decisions, which is why digital marketing budgets are still growing and why SMBs should not ignore these marketing tactics for long.
On average, industry pundits say SMBs should be setting aside anywhere from 1 percent to about 4 percent of revenues for digital marketing. That’s certainly sound advice, but where should an owner begin? What options are available? What do other SMBs favor?
Here are 5 digital advertising opportunities and a few tips to get started:

1. Social Media

Social media should be considered low-hanging fruit for any SMB since it’s relatively painless and free to establish a page on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. But that’s just table stakes, akin to having a Yellow Pages listing.
To effectively reach customers, SMB owners should consider social media ads. They can be relatively inexpensive, starting around $5 per week, and they are easy to create. Indeed, these social media sites have very user-friendly tools available to design ads on almost any budget.
Start by deciding who you want to reach, the types of ads you might want to run and then explore each site’s business-dedicated pages, which can walk you through the process of creating ads for your needs.

2. Pay-Per Click

Pay-Per Click (PPC) ads are one of the most common ways that SMBs break into online advertising. With this model, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Google Ads (formerly AdWords) and Microsoft Bing Ads are two of the better-known examples of PPC options.
One important thing to know about PPC ads is that they’re sold on an auction basis, which means you bid how much you are willing to pay per click for specific phrases associated with an ad. The more you bid, the better your ad’s position on a page. While you can pay nominal amounts for these clicks, observers recommend setting aside a budget of $1,000 to $10,000 per month for maximum results. That may seem steep, but the payoff can be well worth it. For example, Google says businesses make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 spent on Google Ads.

3. Native Ads

Ever been to a web site, started reading an article that looked like it belonged, then noticed a tag at the top saying you were seeing “sponsored content?” This is an example of native advertising, which is becoming commonplace on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
According to a Sharethrough/IPG Media labs survey, which used eye-tracking technology, consumers looked at native ads 53 percent more frequently than display ads and registered an 18 percent higher lift in purchase intent. While such ads might initially appear to be normal editorial content, the survey found consumers actually appreciated the informative content they provided, with 32 percent saying they would share the ad with a friend or family member compared to 19 percent for display ads.
When considering whether to pursue native ads, keep in mind that they should inform in a non-marketing way and fit with the content and format of pages where they will reside. Most importantly, they should not over-hype, over-sell or over-promote. They need to be forthright and honest. Also, cost structures vary – they can be per-click, CPM*-based or a flat fee. Research to find the best option for you.

4. Retargeting Ads

If you’ve been window-shopping online for a specific item – say a new car or a pair of snazzy sneakers – you may have noticed related display ads popping up later when you visited a social media site.
This can be a very powerful tool for to convert ‘almost’ sales into completed sales by enticing consumers to have another look at your wares. Indeed, some sources claim previous site visitors are two to three times more likely than other visitors to click on your ad.
Facebook and Google retargeted ads will involve inserting a small piece of code into your web site, but don’t let that deter you. The process is actually simple, quick, and each site has very clear instructions on the process. Costs are also SMB-friendly and tend to be much lower than search ads in highly competitive markets.

5. Mobile Advertising

According to estimates we touch our phones many thousand times per day. Not surprisingly then, mobile ads are booming. Google says appearing in mobile search ad results can increase brand awareness by 46 percent.
So where can an SMB get started on the path to mobile marketing? A good first step would be creating a mobile app using a tool such as or You’ll want to brand the app, just as you would any web site, so it stands out from the competition - and including a loyalty component would be a nice addition. You can also create opt-in campaigns enabling customers to receive special messages, alerts and offers from your company. One other thing to know is that some companies that rely heavily on smartphones as part of their business model have programs for pushing ads to their clients. For instance, ride-sharing giant, Waze, offers a tool to easily push local ads to its users.
There are numerous tools available to help you get started, and they are changing all the time. Price points vary, but many fit within an SMB’s budget.
So, there you have it: the 5 digital advertising tips for SMBs. There are plenty more, but starting with this group will put you on the path to transforming your brand for the digital age.
*Cost per thousand impressions (“cost per mille”)

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