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Recently, while bouncing around some local news websites, I stumbled upon a banner ad for a now defunct local business, and it reminded me that small businesses need to be absolutely ruthless with respect to how they spend their (limited) advertising dollars. Whether you’re in the process of launching a new business or transforming a business that is currently small into something larger, success is about marketing prioritization.
Since there will always be more marketing strategies than you have time or money to test, you must initially invest only in those advertising strategies that produce tangible results (of course, you’ll have to run some tests in order to find out which ad channels have the best potential and you need accurate tracking in place as well). For most small business owners, tangible results will likely be some combination of web or store visits, leads and sales. Branding and name recognition should be viewed as a cherry on top – not the principle goal of the test / campaign.
Back to banner advertising…
There are a number of advertising options available on the Internet and the list is expanding every day. In the past, many local service businesses – flooring companies, HVAC contractors, plumbers, roofers, etc. – relied on yellow page advertising and cable TV ads to generate leads for their business. As a result, many service business owners have come to rely on their cable TV or yellow page sales reps for advertising and marketing advice – even as those mediums have become less effective.
Most cable TV and yellow page sales reps are unsophisticated when it comes to putting together effective online marketing campaigns.
How do you know if your ad sales rep is unsophisticated?
If your ad sales rep pitches you banner ads (standard, re-targeted, etc.) without:
- Knowing your website’s true visit-to-lead conversion rate or
- Getting you “all-in” with online lead generation strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) or opt-in email marketing
Your rep is both unsophisticated and doing you an incredible disservice.
Think of online advertising strategies on a continuum from “Lead Generation” on the left-hand side to “Branding / Name Recognition” on the far right-hand side. Search engine marketing (SEM) strategies like pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) fall on the left-side. Both PPC and SEO are heavily geared toward lead generation.
People don’t go to Google and search top DC plumbing companies just for kicks. When people search for a service company, they have a need or a problem and whichever plumbing company’s website comes up at the top of the first page of Google search results (no matter whether it’s a paid ad or an organic listing) is likely going to at least get a shot at earning their business!
Opt-in email is when someone chooses to receive emailed information from you – whether it’s a monthly newsletter or special promotions. Opt-in email marketing is a completely different animal from buying an email list and sending random messages to people who did not ask for your information (purchased email lists are less effective than cold calling random people). Opt-in email marketing falls somewhere on the left side of the marketing continuum. It’s not as lead generation oriented as PPC or SEO, but it’s still very much a lead generation strategy.
Banner ads (whether traditional or re-targeted) fall on the far right hand-side of the marketing continuum – the “branding / name recognition” side of things. Very few people click on banner ads. Often, they are sold by “impression” – every time your ad displays for someone, you are charged. Think about that for a moment…
You don’t even know whether the person looked at or saw your ad(s)… you only know that it was displayed on their screen. When you’re cruising around Comcast.net checking your email and trying to figure out when the next season of Entourage starts, you don’t necessarily need a Maryland hvac company. So, when an HVAC ad pops up as you’re logging into your email account, you’re highly unlikely to notice it. In fact, our brains are wired specifically not to notice the routine and unimportant.
Let me be clear, banner ads aren’t worthless.
They have some function and value, but not for small businesses interested in growth and operating with a limited marketing budget.
If you own a small business and you want to stay in business or take things to the next level, you need to focus your marketing efforts exclusively on the strategies and channels that produce tangible results and banner ads will not outperform SEO, PPC or opt-in email for any of these metrics!
Think I’m wrong?
Run some tests of your own and use your marketing analytics service to analyze the results. Don’t have a marketing analytics service (or don’t know what it is)?
Then you shouldn’t be advertising!
Without tracking in place, you’re flushing at least 50% of your company’s marketing dollars down the drain! Remember – marketing analytics (a system or service to accurately track your advertising and marketing results) is a pre-requisite for advertising. Without tracking, you won’t have any idea as to what’s working and what should be changed or eliminated!
You’ll have to do some testing in order to find out which marketing strategies generate the best results in terms of leads. Let the failed tests build up your company’s branding and name recognition. Once you have a marketing system in place to reliably generate leads at an acceptable cost per lead, only then can you start to shift some of your company’s ad dollars to branding and name recognition.
However, you may find your need “to get your name out there” subsides when you have a half-dozen cost-effective lead generation marketing strategies to play with and continue to optimize and improve!
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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