SMB Digital 2012: Focus on Many Ad Mediums, or Die

Rounding out the first day of our SMB Digital Marketing Conference in Chicago was a panel well versed in the realities of working with local and regional advertisers.

Darnell Holloway, Manager, Local Business Outreach, Yelp
Shawn Riegsecker, Founder and CEO, Centro
Brian Costello, CEO, Maple Farm Media

Though there’s been an uptick in excitement over the past few years about the long-tail local ad opportunity, it’s fragmentation and other challenges aren’t discussed often enough. When it comes down to it, SMBs are often unsavvy (tech speaking), and time starved.

That equates to low rates of self service and high churn rates for things like search advertising. Those realities compel best practices specific to SMBs, getting even more granular in different categories like doctors vs. restaurants vs. pet grooming, etc.

Moderator Peter Karasilovsky kicked off the discussion about the classic question of search versus display advertising.  Search has remained an easy stepping stone for SMBs, says Riegsecker, because it’s highly trackable and it doesn’t require ad creative.

But this is shifting he says, with the introduction of better tools to build display ads, target campaigns, and new formats. Brand advertising (usually correlated to display) is forecast to outpace direct response (correlated to search) by 2 to 1 in the next three years, he says.

“When you think about how people have been marketing over the years, display has been getting a pretty bad knock,” added Costello. “As the targeting becomes more sophisitcated, I think it has a role for SMBs, especially when you start looking at the cost of search.”

That cost is largely tied to bid pressure from deep-pocketed national advertisers that has increased CPCs. Display is going the other direction though: previously being cost prohibitive for many SMBs, but coming down in price as a function of targeting smaller defined service areas.

“In the past, you had a shotgun approach,” said Costello. “But there are now better targeting methods, we see lower cost per [customer] acquisition.”

Yelp believes that both search and display are important and can even cross promote each other.  Offering both search and display, Holloway asserts that many of its advertisers see exponential campaign performance by adding one or the other, thus doing them in combination.

Costello adds that this goes beyond ad formats to include different touch points, such as mobile. There you can not only reach new users but create a “whole is greater than the sum of parts” effect through campaign cross-promotion and seeding activity from one medium to another.

“If you focus on just one thing, you’re going to die,” he said.

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