How does small business compete online?
Before the age of the internet, marketing and advertising for small businesses was difficult. Commercials were expensive to produce and airtime was at a premium, as larger competitors saturated the signals. In the last decade, we have seen juggernauts such as Google and Facebook make advertising more accessible to the mass market. With a few minutes of forethought and some new age tools, any business owner can create an advertisement and target their key demographics (location, age, interests, etc).
Even here in Edmonton, you can advertise across the planet with just a click. Sometimes the response is great and other times a complete failure. So why does one advertisement succeed and the other fail?
It comes down to creativity and quality.
Creativity is important. With the right message, you will have a positive outcome. With the wrong message you could have no outcome or even worse, you could have a public backlash.
In the days when traditional media ruled the roost, advertisements needed to be generic enough to appeal to all segments of the population to improve reception. In the days of digital advertising, messages can be custom tailored and delivered to only those who are most likely to respond. This is the reason why I receive advertisements for beard oil and my wife does not.
The “big players” are constantly battling in the marketplace with creative ways to communicate their products and services. They spend significant resources to develop and market test ideas even before they commence video production or purchase ad space. They have standardized the process and created a semi-scientific process to marketing. The great thing about marketing, however, is that the rules are constantly changing as new technology and creativity interrupt the status quo.
In 2015, 2016, and 2017 Nordic Media partnered with the City of Edmonton to promote their “Front Yards in Bloom” campaign. You likely saw this advertisement at the movie theatres and online. In 2016 Edmonton won 1st place out of all international competitors in the large city category.
Quality is the second component. With the age of Facebook and YouTube we have become accustomed to seeing a viral video shot from cell phones garnering millions of views. Many of us think we can replicate the viral video concept and even apply it to our business
If you are thinking this way, then I commend you, as you are ahead of the game. You understand today’s audience wants entertainment mixed in with their advertisements: they want to laugh, cry, and be motivated with your message.
What comes next is usually the part that fails: the execution. Out comes the cell phone video camera, along with a script that no one else vetted. Maybe the script wasn’t as good as once thought or maybe it is just too long considering anything over 45 seconds is going into the “danger zone”. Attention spans are incredibly short in today’s world. That small cell phone microphone was not invented to pickup audio from across the room.
Did you know even in Facebook Advertising each advertisement gets a relevance score? If your score is low, you are paying many magnitudes higher for every engagement you get. Facebook doesn’t want poor ads clogging up their news feeds, so if they are forced to show a low quality advertisement, they will charge a premium for it. A good advertisement should be costing pennies per engagement, while a poor advertisement is costing dollars.
In short: good creative and a quality production is actually pretty tough to master. It does not matter if you are hiring a professional company to do your marketing or if you are doing it yourself. You must research, get critical feedback on your ideas, and produce quality content. Quality marketing doesn’t just help keep market share, it grows the base by attracting new eyes to the business.
In this example the advertisement received a relevance score of 8, meaning the advertisement is having a strong clickthrough rate and the content is resonating with the demographic we targeted.
To finish answering my original question: small businesses compete online through good ideas and quality content. Anyone can have a website and a virtual presence instantly, but getting people to give you their time, attention, and money is much harder.