Advertising online should be simple, not complex

When investigating online advertising small businesses often go through the whole process with an online ad network – defining the look, method and targets of a campaign – before becoming frustrated and annoyed at the final question: ‘What’s your budget?’. Small businesses need transparency. They need to know how much something costs and exactly what they’re going to get for that price – simple. None of that ‘what’s your budget?’ nonsense.

Many owner managers have been put off by the endemic lack of clarity in the online ad industry. Budget is where it’s vaguest and most time consuming – even search engine marketing asks business owners to manage a changing daily budget. But online ads have also become so overwhelmingly complex that they’ve forcibly rooted many SMEs’ marketing activities in traditional forms like flyering, direct mail and print advertising.

Business owners and managers don’t have the time, money or expertise to keep pace with the rapidly evolving online ad technology. It’s asking too much of small businesses to work out whether they should go for a CPC, CPA, CPM, behavioural or contextual campaign – or how to measure return on investment from the mountain of variables the online ad industry throws up.

Just understanding the meanings of these terms is time consuming in itself, never mind the constant budget management and attention such campaigns require.

The small businesses that shy away from online ads often resort to mediums they understand – telesales or direct marketing via the ever expensive postal service, or simply hoping that advertising in the local phone directories will offer some leads. This isn’t their fault – the online ad industry has become so clever in its targeting and so various in its options that without in-house expertise, it effectively shuts out small businesses.

Technology is supposed to make life easier. Online advertising should be no different, but ad networks’ services are now based on so many variables that time poor executives can just want to give up before they even start. Ad Dynamo’s research shows that three out of five SMEs are concerned that they don’t have the expertise or resources – both in terms of time and money – to invest in online advertising. After all they have a business to run.

The basic steps small businesses need to take to run an effective online ad campaign are:

• Define a marketing strategy that works for their business: will people seeing the online advert be enough, or do they need to drive visits to their website?
• Define a corporate identity to run through all the ads
• Design and make a banner that’s not just clickable, but compellingly clickable
• Work out their budget commitment – how can they really know how much it costs them for success until they experiment? How long will it really take them to achieve success?
• Define a daily budget and login every day to manage that budget
• Figure out where to place their banners so that they reach their target audience
• Incorporate social media marketing, to really hit people who are local and relevant to their business

Those are just the basics. But the skills needed for each of these steps are often beyond the capabilities of – or at the very least the time available to –the typical small business manager. A good online ad company removes the worry about all the variables that prevent SMEs from advertising online.

Design and delivery decision-making expertise should be part of the service. Small businesses need to have guarantees on what they’re going to get and for what price.

Whilst improving, targeting and getting more granular has incredible benefits, Britain’s small businesses don’t need online advertising’s complication, vagueness or time commitment. Small businesses have normally already decided on their online marketing needs: they generally want more people to visit their website or more people to see their ads.

The only other decision they really need to make is how big they want their campaign to be. That’s it. Online ad companies should take care of everything else. The industry needs to be straight up with SMEs about how much a campaign costs and exactly what results they’ll get. Small businesses need to be free to concentrate on what’s important – selling their products and services and making a success of their business.