If like me, you operate a smaller business, you are likely to have encountered a competitor’s advertising campaign which has made you more than a little green with envy.
Because like me, you are likely not to have had the financial resources required to plan, create and execute an effective mass media advertising campaign like your larger and deeper pocketed competitor.
And cringed as your prospective customers undoubtedly took them up on their offer, bypassing your undoubtedly superior one.
But like many things in the digital world, technology is not only changing the advertising itself, it is also changing previously insurmountable barriers to entry.
Nowadays you literally need only invest petty cash to be seen – perhaps not as widely, but certainly in the same manner and effectiveness, as much larger competitors.
Nowadays, for just a few dollars, and a matter of minutes creating and programming a passable advertisement, you can be sitting right out there with those big bad competitors.
The first inkling of this came with the ‘pay per click’ advertising pioneered by Google amongst others.
Now instead of paying for the unavoidable wastage of people flicking past your print ad, or missing your radio ad, or rushing to the bathroom during your TV ad, you need pay nothing until a prospect actually acknowledged your ad by taking the action of clicking on it.
In advertising, return on investment (ROI) terms, this development was gold, because it immediately eliminated not only those that missed your ad, but those who saw it and didn’t take any action.
Unprecedented advertising accountability
Reading between the lines, it also meant that you paid absolutely nothing even if a prospect saw your ad. In a massive leap in accountability, the pay-per-click advertising vendors decided that they would let you display your ad for no cost at all, only charging you when it was clicked on to move through to your website or landing page.
Having worked in both traditional and digital advertising, it struck me as a particularly decent deal for smaller business. Because the traditional response to ‘performance based’ advertising was that the advertising medium could not be held responsible for the advertiser’s failure to incite a response. Their job was to ‘serve’ the ad. It was up to the advertiser to make the recipient take action.
So pay ‘per view’ (or impression) was the way it was done.
But that’s not all…
But the revolution didn’t stop there. Unlike traditional media, you could spend as much as you like – the technology was smart enough to ‘cap’ your expenditure as soon as your budget, no matter how miniscule, was reached for the day.
What’s more, instead of having to pay through the nose to create your advertisement, anyone with just a modicum of creativity could create an ad, in just minutes!
How good was this? Accountable, completely measurable, affordable, immediate and flexible advertising. No wonder smaller businesses flocked to it.
But like the steak knives that preceded it, that wasn’t all either. Facebook and its ilk took it to a whole new level by introducing ‘branding’ to the digital marketing mix, along with astonishing new targeting capabilities.
While Google allowed you to target your audience by harnessing the keywords your customers would look for, Facebook did it by mining the data that its users freely volunteered to them to deliver exactly the age, gender, location and interest (and more) of your target audience.
If 20-something female professionals living in the south eastern suburbs is what you wanted to target, 20-something female professionals living in the south eastern suburbs is exactly what you got.
No more, no less. And certainly with no wastage whatsoever.
And it could tell you exactly how many of them there were and how much it would cost you to reach them.
Better still, you could set it up in your pyjamas!
This paved the way for advertisers to spend as little as $5 (yes, just five dollars) if they wanted to, to boost a Facebook post they wanted to promote.
Leveraging your local advantages
So to your audience, your ad – provided it was created with a little spit and polish, could look and feel just like the one created by the multinational advertiser.
But in some ways it was even better. Small businesses have an ability to be far more ‘in touch’ with a local audience, reaching out to them in a way that only a small local business could really understand.
And generally, many consumers tend to want to do business with a local small business person rather than the employee of a local branch of a multinational.
What this means for you, is not only that you can now afford to advertise like the big guys, but you can use your local knowledge and insights a multinational may well not be able to match.
Are you tapping into the benefits of these natural advantages you have over your much bigger, richer competitors?
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.