As a former advertising sales rep, and current champion of digital for small businesses, I am constantly getting questioned on what online advertising actually does. I consistently hear things like "I put an ad online and didn't get one phone call" or "How do I know if this is really working?"
Since the digital environment entered the advertising playing field, the way marketers and small business owners quantify a return on their investment (ROI) has changed. No longer can you place an ad on a website (or in any other passive medium like radio, TV, print, etc) and expect the phone to start ringing or people to start walking through the door the next day. Consumers are getting smarter about their purchases. They understand the steps to take to see if you really do have the best product available, and will no longer take your word for.
Search engine giants like Google, Bing and Yahoo, review platforms like Yelp, BBB and Angie's List, and social media endorsements from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have completely changed the game on how we consume products. We no longer wait to find out about new products through commercials or figure out how they work by visiting the store and asking an associate. Interested in a new gaming console? Google your different options, visit the maker's website to learn the specifications and features of each console, check out some reviews from other purchasers, and hit up social media to ask your friends their opinions instantly. Then order it directly from the manufacturer to be shipped within the week. You didn't need to leaf through the papers for advertisements or ask the Best Buy associate how they work.
Does this mean that advertising is useless? Not at all. How would you have known that you wanted to buy a gaming console if there weren't ads reminding you that you wanted one? If all your friends had Playstation, how would you know that Xbox was another option for you to play? Passive display advertising is all about branding a product or service in the minds of the consumer. Is it ultimately going to make their final decision? Probably not. But it reminds them you exist and are there to fill their need when they have it. That is called branding. Staying relevant and consistent in the mind of the consumer. Keep repeating the word "branding" over and over again when looking at your display ad results!
So how do you make display advertising work for you? Don't just rely on it alone as a singular way to bring in business. Combining more aggressive strategies like social media marketing, blogging, lead generation outlets and referral programs can help you bring together all your efforts on a unified front. Make display advertising a piece of the puzzle, but know that you need to put some time and effort into creating content, getting reviews and promoting your brand on a variety of outlets to really have a strong presence online.
Also, learn to change your expectations of display ad's performance. Instead of focusing on how many clicks you get (National average click-thru rate on banner ads is only .05%!) look at how many impressions your ad is getting. These translate to real life people seeing your brand and the product or service you can offer them. While you may not feel the immediate effects of a sale, these impressions are valuable! They are chances for people to see your name and what you have to offer, who may not have ever heard of you before.
To feel even better about those impressions, find an outlet where you can target your ad by demographics and geographic location. Now you're not just getting people looking at your brand, but people even more likely to purchase from you. Knowing realistically what display advertising can do for you business will help you make better purchasing decisions, and feel better about spending your hard earned dollars.
Amy Levesque is a young professional in Rhode Island, digital marketing expert and owner of Hub Digital L.L.C. Hub Digital offers digital marketing services for small to medium size businesses ranging from SEO, social media marketing, blogging and consulting.