If you want your business to be successful, you may need to advertise online.
When people consider using a new product or service, one of the first things they do is check a company's Facebook page for reviews and to see if they're active. Digital advertising is where it's at—and where your marketing strategy should be.
But digital ads can be daunting to the small and midsize businesses because, if done wrong, a lot of time and money could go to waste.
How can you reach potential new customers effectively? Consider the following five methods.
1. Search Ads
A great way to help drive traffic to your site is to use search ads. Used in conjunction with search engines like Google, these ads are displayed on the top and sides of search pages and show ads that are directly related to what users type in. For example, if you live in Chicago and searched Google for different types of flowers, you might get ads for flower shops in your area.
Google is king when it comes to search ads, which is why it usually comes with the heftiest price tag. The average cost for running search-ad campaigns is high, but they're great because they allow you to target people who are clearly interested in what you have to offer. An effective search campaign starts with the right keywords to target. There are many strategies when it comes to keyword selection, but as a rule of thumb, try focusing on the longer tail (long search strings with several words) versus one or two word keywords that are much more competitive.
2. Display Ads
Display ads appear all over websites and they come in different sizes and styles. They can include text, images, animation, videos and beyond. These ads are displayed in areas that are specific for advertising. Sites that encourage advertising will typically have an "Advertise With Us" section or something similar. If you reach out, account managers or sales reps from the site can get in touch with you to help you purchase ads.
If you are a little more experienced, you can use third-party sites which allow you to advertise on many different websites at once and set your own bids for what you are willing to pay for the traffic—sometimes called Real Time Bidding (RTB) or Programmatic Advertising. You can purchase an ad and be guaranteed 10,000 impressions, but once you hit that mark, your ad is no longer displayed. The hard part for SMBs is that you typically need to have your creatives designed already. Hiring a designer can be pricey, but potentially necessary if display ads are the way you want to go. Average cost for display ads are high, so running these campaigns may put a fairly large dent in the wallet of a business owner who's budget-cautious.
3. Email Marketing
Reaching potential customers by emailing them is a tried-and-true way of getting your message out there. In order to have a successful email campaign, you should have a fairly large database of people that you want to reach. You can go about getting these lists several ways. You can create them yourself by asking people to sign up for updates about your product or service, join your newsletter or have them enter a contest where they need to provide their email and opt in for correspondence from you. (These are typically current customers.) You can build your database by asking your current subscribers to share your emails with friends and family. You can also create an offer that people need to use their email to sign up for, like a percentage off your services or a free e-book on a topic related to your product or service.
The emails you send should specifically offer a service, special promotion or ask for some sort of engagement with the company, typically on social media. That being said, the most important piece of advice I can give is to provide value in your emails. It is also best to make sure your emails look professional and have impressive graphics. You don't have to spend a lot of money on getting these graphics done—many college students or recent grads are looking to add to their portfolios and can work with you for a very affordable price. Or check out freelance sites like fivver for some quick $5 custom designs.
Once your emails go out, you can track how they're doing by monitoring open rates, clickthrough rates, etc. For example, you can send an email to 500 people and you'll be able to see that, say, only 160 people actually opened it. There are several SaaS options that will help automate your email-marketing campaigns, like Intercom.io, HubSpot and Constant Contact. Monitoring your stats will let you play around with things like subject lines to try to get to as close to a 100 percent open rate as you can. The average cost of email marketing campaigns is relatively low, so it's definitely worth a shot for the budget-conscious entrepreneur.
4. Social Ads
Advertising on social media is one of the most important places you need to be advertising online. People spend countless hours staying on top of what's happening on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds. People are constantly asking others in their networks to recommend good hair salons in their city or where they should eat on their trip to Boston. Being a part of these platforms can make your customer acquisition a lot easier—especially because people's profiles provide so much data. Once you tackle social ads and incorporate platforms that will automate your campaigns, you may see a big return on investment, as the average cost to advertise on social media is low.
People that visit your website are your most valuable potential clients. The above four methods of digital ads work exceptionally well when implementing retargeting as well. Simply put, retargeting lets you keep your brand in front of the people who visited your site before but quickly left. You know that they showed some interest, so you're trying to reel them back in, trying to pique interest again so that they convert into paying customers. For example, let's say you were on a big-box retailer's website looking for a new rug and didn't end up pulling the trigger on any that you liked. You'd then notice that ads for the same rug will show up on your Facebook feed, local news site, etc. Retargeting can help you reach potential customers who fall into your targeted demographics, or people that have already shown interest.
When I started my first business, I was extremely overwhelmed when I thought about digital advertising, but by doing a lot of research and then testing different options, I was able to teach myself the basics—and then continued to grow my skills. I now co-own a digital advertising startup, needls.com, where I help many business owners solve the same problems I had when starting out.
Don't let digital ads scare you, folks. Once you get the hang of it, you may see a huge increase in sales—and you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner.