Navigating Internet advertising

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By Earl Starkoff, MarketServ™

Spend money to advertise to promote sales. Seems pretty basic – whether your message is delivered in print or online.

For most small and medium (SMB) businesses, however, advertising online is like navigating uncharted waters. Most are still staying in their safe havens casting about for sales by spending most of their hard-earned dollars in direct mail, magazines, and newspapers – and too little online where their prospects live their daily lives.

And they’re leaving the online opportunities to the Big Brands.

It’s time for the SMB’s to weigh anchor, and spend more of their time and money out where they can catch more fish.

The two well-charted marketing channels for angling online for new business are Search Engine Optimization and Display. Both use targeting that focuses on their prospects’ online activity.

First priority: recognize that you have to be properly outfitted. Search Engine Optimization and Display require spending real dollars – just like your print campaigns – so you have the right gear, go to the right space, and commit to a fishing trip or expedition, not a day cruise on the water with some nice gear.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) puts your line in crowded places like the Google Gulfstream or Bing Bay with lots of other fishermen. Search engines are where hungry, ready-to-bite prospects are looking at lures. It’s called “optimization” because your dollars are used to angle your way to the top of page one of a search. That way, you avoid getting tangled with all of other lines.

From there, you’ve got your best chance to hook the fish. With SEO, you’re line fishing for single catches – the more, the better.

Display advertising puts you out on the open waters where all the fish live. You set your course with companies that hold vast data files of user online action and behavior files to target your ads to just the prospects you want when they’re online.

It’s fishing on a much bigger scale than SEO. You’re going from single line fishing to using the Net (literally, sorry) to catch your customers.

By scale, think of your net as your ad campaign. Lots of fish will swim past your net and never click to your web site, but – like commercial net fishing – it’s not a matter of the ones that got away. There are so many more, you’ll catch plenty.

Display advertising requires time, patience, and scale. You can’t just buy a few display ad spots on a search engine, show it to a limited audience, and expect to land much – if anything. That’s single line fishing in sparse waters.

Which is best? Only results will tell. Like the Big Brands, a combination is the way to go for most businesses.

Watch your Bottom Line Metrics, and chart the course that keeps your business sailing along.

Balancing the target to audience size continuum

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Advertisers have lots of choices for parceling out precious ad dollars.

The challenge is to focus on the best-qualified targets while delivering in scale to an audience large enough to impact top line sales and bottom line results.

Online display advertising has unique advantages over direct mail, print, and broadcast media in meeting this challenge.

  • Hyper-targeting can identify audience more precisely than generalized readership, zip codes and delivery zones demographics.
  • Online activity is so pervasive that ad exposures are delivered in scale.
  • Real-time analysis can deploy campaign assets to optimize for results.

Consider what hyper-targeting can mean for your marketing strategy.

  • Messaging differences to your customers and prospects.
  • Targeting messages by behavioral and purchasing characteristics.
  • Cross-device targeting to find the right users as they migrate throughout their day from PC to smartphone to tablet.
  • Re-targeting to readers that have not yet completed the desired result.
  • Messaging sequencing to build on what your targets actually view.
  • Focus campaign dollars to reduce wasted broadcast, print, and direct mail dollars on unqualified viewers.

Enterprise-size organizations have had an exclusive hold on these tactics for years because of budget commitments. Smaller companies are now re-evaluating their budgets. Instead of a series of one-shot expenditures, online display creates a continuous presence that keeps your ad dollars available to be directed towards your defined targets.

Data sets, software, and delivery mechanisms are the cornerstones to successful online display campaigns.

Look for resources with data sets that are huge in both the sheer number of individuals, and the scope of information on file for each of them. With that much data, they’ll have invested in the data management platform technology to create your hyper-targeted audiences. Key features and capabilities should include:

  • Extensive 1st party data, not just cookie tracking histories.
  • More data points for precise audience targeting.
  • Full-scale market reach to create the targeted audience in scale for your campaign.

And besides defining your audience, these resources will have the means to deliver your message so you’re on a level playing field with the big advertisers.

  • Thousands of publishers’ web sites for message delivery.
  • Real-time Bidding so your dollars will win the ad space.
  • Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn social network access.
  • Integration with mobile and tablet apps to expand your reach to those users.

These are some of the reasons that Internet advertising is pulling ahead as the number one – but not exclusive – choice for businesses that balance the risk to their ad dollars.

These businesses use a mix of Internet display with the traditional 20th Century media to capitalize on the targeting to audience size ratios that these media offer while minimizing the waste.