Advertising Agencies – Do Small Businesses Need Them?
I recently had a discussion with an SEO client about their offline marketing efforts and the inbound leads it was generating. They were doing some print in local papers, had a 30-second radio spot running in their local market, and were active with mail campaigns. The offline marketing that the advertising agency is doing is attached to a different phone number than the one we are using for online marketing. When we brought them on as a client we agreed that we would attach a trackable number to the web properties we were building and optimizing so that we could truly track how effective our efforts were. The conversation was cut and dry, the number attached to the online marketing efforts far exceeded that of the offline marketing. I was not surprised, online marketing is so much more targeted and trackable. The question then came up, “do I even need an advertising agency“? I think that’s a great question and one that will have valid points on both sides of the aisle. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, I think every business is different and every budget is different therefore it differs from business to business.
Who Benefits From Offline Marketing?
Before proceeding, understand that this is my opinion based on my experience servicing thousands of different clients over the years. Offline marketing is extremely effective and should be considered by every business at all phases of growth. For this example, though I’m going to about startups and small businesses in the local market. Many times budgets are thin for these businesses and growth isn’t as rapid as those companies with large startup capital. So where is the budget best spent? In my opinion, digital marketing is hands down the most effective way to promote your products and services on a budget. Offline marketing is more of a shotgun blast for driving awareness. Let us take billboard advertising, for example, there are thousands of cars traveling the freeway everyday driving by these giant billboards and none of those drivers are in need of those services at that moment in time. What it does do is leave an impression, drive brand awareness, and get people thinking about the product or service. The difference with online marketing is that (the information highway) consists of hyper-targeted traffic. That same volume of traffic that passes by those billboards online is actually looking for the products and services you offer. With optimized web properties, you can get your products and services in front of the internet traffic that is actually looking for you. So how does that happen?
Search Engine Optimization
SEO is the process of optimizing your web properties for search. This is a long process of creating content and building branded social profiles that engage and convert audiences into paying clients. Any URL can be optimized, this means you can optimize websites, social properties, videos, images, PDF files, and anything else that has a URL. You can learn detailed information about Search Engine Optimization here.
There are other ways that you can send referral traffic to your site and one of the most affordable and effective ways to increase visitors to your site is to buy into a Facebook ad campaign. Facebook offers a cost-effective way of getting your business in front of a very targeted audience. You can specify your target market based on user interest, likes, and social activity. This makes it very easy to identify who you want your ads in front of. Facebook isn’t the only one that offers paid advertising through social media feeds, but they have one of the largest audiences and that is worth spending.
Video Production – Youtube
Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google. More and more people are turning to Youtube to find answers and learn new trades. Especially in this digital where so many people are making money online with websites and services, there are thousands of instructional videos on Youtube that will walk you through graphic design, video editing, content writing, web design, SEO, affiliate marketing and everything else under the sun. Promoting your products and services with video on Youtube can give you an opportunity to get in front of a very targeted audience. You can also buy display advertising on Youtube.
Online Marketing Vs Offline Marketing
To conclude with a solid answer to the question that was asked of me, “do I even need an advertising agency?” Yes, you do. I don’t believe any business owner has the time to learn the ins and outs of marketing and apply the strategies effectively. It comes down to budget and if you have one or not. Anyone with a budget for an ad agency will benefit from what they bring to the table. Both online and offline marketing has its place and everyone can benefit from both. But if you are a small business and funds are tight, this is what I have to say. Learn some basic online marketing strategies, set up a few social profiles, and get some content out there. Getting content out to the internet is never a bad idea, and learning a little bit about the digital world before you hire a digital marketer will only benefit you. Starting with online marketing before offline marketing would make more sense for a small business with a small budget. The opportunity to generate leads online is abundant and there are a thousand places online to promote your products and services. This is clearly the place where smaller businesses can gain a competitive advantage over larger competitors in their market.