If you are a small business, you are likely paying too much for your advertising, regardless of what medium you use. In 2012, more than 1.8 trillion display ads were paid for but not seen. That is more than 57,000 ads per second every day all day that are not being viewed and cannot have an impact if no one sees them.
The way the industry is set up today, advertisers pay for ads that are served – regardless of whether they are viewed or not. The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) measures a viewable display as an ad where 50% or more of the ad loads onto a page and is present for at least one second. But view-ability is hard to determine. And even using this standard how much value do you get from a 50% loaded ad displaying for only 1 second?
How about an ad that loads fully but is buried beneath the fold (BTF)? What happens if the site visitor does not scroll down to see it? The ad is displayed and maybe for quite some time, but the site visitor did not see the ad. Doesn’t matter. It was displayed and you as an advertiser still get the “view” you paid for. Ok, so you circumvent that by paying a premium for ATF (above the fold) placement. What happens when the user immediately scrolls down the page? Ad displayed, and counted as a view, but not seen. According to a recent study only 44% of the ATF ads were actually viewable – not necessarily viewed, just viewable.
Though I have been referring mostly to electronically served ads for website, social media, etc. The same applies to other media as well. A radio ad played while no one is listening provides no value to the advertiser. Advertising on a popular time slot on TV where a significant quantity of viewers are not watching live, does not help the advertiser whose audience is away or fast forwards through the commercials.
Why is search engine advertising so valuable? It can be tracked, not just for views, but for actions taken. A paid listing with Google, Bing, etc. will display but you do not pay for the display, you pay for the action a user takes. If they click your ad, you pay. This guarantees that the reader at the very least viewed your ad. Whether or not they took any action is dependent on their current needs, where you directed them once they clicked, and how effective your offer is.
Someday, I expect that most forms of advertising will be judged this way, based on pay for performance. If no action is taken the advertiser is either not charged or is provided a significant break in the cost of the ad. It is time we hold our partners accountable for results in our advertising dollars spent.
The goals of our advertising need to be defined. The strategy put into place and the results measured. Only then can we determine whether or not our advertising is effective, where to advertise and how much to spend. For many companies a 20% net profit is considered a good return. Some have much higher and some much lower depending on industries and volume of revenue generated. But if we assume you are in an industry where a 20% bottom line profit is good, and you could guarantee that for every dollar you spent on advertising you got a 20% net return, how much would you spend?
When I pose this question to most small business owners, they give me their text book answers of I would spend 15% of my revenue on advertising or whatever their industry says is the average. This is because they view advertising as an expense and not an investment. And rightly so; for most businesses advertising is an expense. It does not show much if any return-on-investment (ROI).
The reality is that if I could guarantee that for every dollar of advertising I spent, I would be guaranteed a 20% net profit why would I not invest all the money I could get on advertising until my capacity to deliver was reached?
The reason we do not do this is because advertising is generally broken and media resistant to change. They will not offer guarantees and say it’s because they cannot control the sales process. And I get that. But I am not asking for a guaranteed sale, just a guarantee of action.
And let’s not forget about the consumer. They have changed as well. We can thank the Internet for that. Now, I am no longer restricted to my local suppliers to get products. I can order from almost anywhere at almost any time and have it delivered right to my door. But what the consumer today wants, is no different than what they have always wanted. They want value. They want knowledge. They want to know the provider has their best interests in mind. They want a partner who understands their needs and will do their best to provide solutions to their problems.
The best way to communicate with your customers is one-to-one. An effective email marketing and social media strategy can go a long way in providing relevant and timely information. These tools also allow for easy forwarding and posting to friends and family, encouraging both brand awareness and referral business. These communications should be both informative and targeted with links to more information on your website or blog.
With a bit of foresight and discipline, you can make your advertising go from an expense to an investment paying good dividends.